Glowing words for poetry fest
A section of the audience attending the Jamaica Poetry Festival at AC Marriott Hotel in Kingston on Sunday. (Photos: Garfield Robinson)

YASUS Afari, conceptualiser of the Jamaica Poetry Festival, says the 13th staging, held at the AC Hotel in Kingston on Sunday, surpassed previous stagings.

"If we were to compare this year to last year, then the year before, which were both held in studio because of the pandemic, those would be different. Overall, this one would've outdone all the others. Based on the new elements and components that we incorporated — the arts and craft, jewellery… helping the deaf community. [The] modalities of presentation, and the ambiance of the AC Hotel which is creating a buzz around Kingston, everything really added to the experience. They fit together like fingers in a glove," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Poets from 10 countries were scheduled to perform. There was also a Jamaica 60th anniversary dinner — Voice For The Voiceless — proceeds from which will be used to purchase the PlayGate, an apparatus that helps the deaf send text messages to report crime.

According to Yasus Afari, the 60 meals that were prepared for sale were all sold. Additionally, all elements of the production were executed.

"Our objectives were to present an empowering, inspirational event; the first time after the pandemic. We also wanted to get things like the sound and light and the content and stuff right. This was the first time we were doing a dinner and proceeds went to the deaf community. All our objectives were met and all the performers did well, so it was successful," he said.

The evening's performers included jazz legend Monty Alexander, Skip Marley, Poet Laureate of Jamaica Professor Mervyn Morris, pianist Marjorie Whylie (who was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award), poet Dr Michael Abrahams, American-Ghanaian Ebony Payne, 16-year-old Sammoya Banton, nine-year-old Jazmin "Jazzy" Headley, poet Kai Falconer, violinist Mark Stephenson, master drummer Calvin Mitchell, and Poet Laureate of Canada George Elliot Clarke.

There were also two interpreters for the deaf.

There was an art exhibit featuring the works of several artists, including Neville Garrick and Professor Clinton Hutton.

Yasus Afari said consideration will be given to making the event more accessible to locals.

"During the pandemic years, we captured a wider international audience using digital technology so we want to look at how we can maximise on that for next year. We also want to sell tickets at the location. Some people didn't know about it before the day, so we could revisit that. We always do very well and so we don't want to be over-critical of ourselves," he added.

Dr Michael Abrahams
Yasus Afari, conceptualiser of the Jamaica Poetry Festival
Hearing impaired poet Marissa Philips
Jazz legend Monty Alexander performing via video*** big ***
Skip Marley in his video presentation
Musician Marjorie Whylie
Poet Laureate of Jamaica Professor Mervyn Morris
Violinist Mark Stephenson
American-Ghanaian Ebony Payne
Sammoya Banton, 6th form student at Hampton High
Kai Falconer
George Elliott Clarke, poet laureate and Parlimentary poet of Canada
Nine-year-old Jazmin "Jazzy" Headley
Dr Christine Hendricks (left) of the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities accepting a charity cheque from proceeds of the Jamaica 60th Anniversary Dinner, dubbed Voice for the Voiceless, from Sherrie Johnson of SenYAcum Entertainment.

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