Love Affair With Literature 6
If the absence of the Kingston Book Festival, now a biennial event on the island, left literary enthusiasts wondering if the pleasurable predictability of life in the city was coming to an end, the Department of Literatures in English, at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus, was quick to settle and soothe the spirit of those disquieted lovers of literature. Last Sunday, March 5, the department kicked off its annual ‘March is Literatures in English Month’ activities with the sixth staging of Love Affair with Literature, which brought together four distinct voices from the Caribbean: Ifeona Fulani, Faizal Deen, Yashika Graham and Roland Watson-Grant, all of whom curated a savoury feast of poetry and prose for a full audience at the UWI, Mona’s Neville Hall Lecture Theatre.
In his introduction, the event’s host, Dr Michael Bucknor, head of the Department of Literatures in English, situated the month’s activities in light of author Erna Brodber’s recent win of the Windham-Campbell Prize, highlighting the importance of opportunities for writers to engage with the public. Jamaican-born writer Ifeona Fulani opened the morning’s readings with the short story, “Precious and her Hair” from her 2013 collection Ten Days in Jamaica which considers the politics of self-fashioning in the Caribbean and its diaspora, particularly through hair. Fulani humorously chronicled the travails of Precious, a young woman living in the diaspora whose insecurities about her hair leads to wild and dizzyingly spectacular outcomes.
Guyanese-Canadian poet Faizal Deen followed Fulani and invoked various lineages and journeys as he read from his latest collection of poetry, The Greatest Films and an earlier poem featured in Thomas Glave’s anthology Our Caribbean. He conjured the serendipity of life in his native Guyana and of the wider Caribbean through mangoes and the inevitability of hybridity in the region. Jamaican poet and executive member of the Poetry Society of Jamaica Yashika Graham followed Deen and similarly invoked family and food in stunning meditations on loss, youth and the rites and rituals central to experiences in rural Jamaica.
Colin Channer, the internationally renowned Jamaican writer who had been slated to bring an end to the morning’s proceedings, was unfortunately unable to make the event. In his place, the equally formidable Jamaican writer Roland Watson-Grant brought the event to a close with a light but powerful reading from his first novel, Sketcher.