Monday, 3 March 2014

VERSE AND VERVE: Powerful poetry, delightful prose highlight 2014's Love Affair with Literature

WOMAN OF HER WORD: Brodber was among the five-member cast of this year's staging.

"It's been a lifelong ambition of mine to write a Mervyn Morris-style poem. I haven't achieved that yet, but this is the closest I've come," confessed Kendel Hippolyte ahead of reciting "Path," a succint gem from his wide-ranging oeuvre that is dedicated to Morris and leaps to life with rhythmic cadences that sing of the writer's deep island roots. 

On the occasion of this year's instalment of Love Affair with Literature (a UWI Mona/Kingston Book Festival endeavour), Hippolyte (who is in fact St. Lucian), a towering white-clad figure with whitish-grey locks, co-headlined a stellar cast of Caribbean voices (with Dr. Erna Brodber, Monica Minott, Richard 'Dingo' Dingwall, and Trinidad's Robert Antoni) in bringing a satisfying Sunday-morning feast of the written-spoken word to the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre, rendering works (poetry and prose) full of hyper-vivid imagery, uniquely Caribbean stories with universal resonance, and biting, entertaining humour. 

Antoni, for whom humour is admittedly the lifeblood of any great piece of fiction, delivered a hugely enjoyable passage from his award-winning debut Divina Trace, chronicling a perversely funny encounter between the book's clear-eyed narrator, a middle-aged doctor named Domingo and a male patient of his who's been lately having difficulty with hos bowel movement. (The idea of "thumbtacks" warranted a mention.) The piece elicited regular peals of laughter from those in the audience who could appreciate Antoni's sly, tongue-in-cheek style of narrative that boldly navigates that line betwixt the subversive and the sacred. 

Dingo, who interestingly describes poetry as his "salvation," also earned kudos through humour and clever wordplay, a signature mix that has long secured him a sizeable following within and around the Poetry Society of Jamaica. Putting his bass-heavy voice to proper use, he offered his take on Obama's election-night triumph before briefly exploring the fantasies and failings often attendant to being in a committed relationship. 

The ladies on the bill (the venerable Brodber, vivacious Minott) were content to keep it simple, lyrically paying tribute (in the case of Minott) to Shabba Ranks, family and the tireless fisherman, and (in the case of Brodber) eloquently spinning a folkloric fantasy epic that recalls Sleeping Beauty ("a black Ophelia sleeping for seven years") and her speedy Prince Charming. 

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