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Jamaican Poets by Shermaine Anderson-Gayle
Posted: 11/22/09

The saying "we likkle but we tallawah" can be applied to many aspects of Jamaican life, not the least of which is Jamaica’s contribution to poetry.

Worldwide, Jamaica is known for its many talents and poetry is do different. Our poets helps to preserve our rich heritage. They are the voice of our island’s culture at home and abroad.

They have contributed greatly in the area of education, both locally and internationally. Many have received numerous awards and honours.Some of the most revered Jamaican poets are :

  • Lindsay Barrett,
  • Edward Baugh,
  • Louise Bennett-Coverly,
  • Jean "Binta" Breeze,
  • Kuame Dawes,
  • John Figueroa,
  • Honor Ford-Smith,
  • Lorna Goodison,
  • A.L. Hendricks,
  • Thomas MacDermot,
  • Claude McKay,
  • Roger Mais,
  • Pamela Mordecai,
  • Mervyn Morris,
  • Dennis Scott,
  • Oliver Senior, and the list goes on.

The following are brief biographies of a selected few, highlighting their achievements and accomplishments:

  • Edward Alston Cecil Baugh
    ... was born in Port Antonio Jamaica and began his writing at Titchfield High School. Baugh’s studied both locally and abroad where he earned his Ph. D in 1964.

    He taught at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, from 1965-1967, then at the University of Mona Campus from 1968-2001, after which he was appointed professor of English in 1978 and public orator in 1985.

    Baugh’s poems appeared in various magazines and anthologies years before the publication of his first collection, A Tale from the Rainforest (1988) which was followed by It was the Singing (2000).

    Baugh publications were even used for educational purposes in schools. Baugh’s scholarly publications include: West Indian Poetry (1900-1970) and A Study in Cultural Decolonization in 1971.

  • Louis Bennett-Coverly, OM, OJ, MBE
    ... was known worldwide as "Miss Lou". Miss Lou was a celebrated and much loved Jamaican folklorist, writer and artiste. Miss Lou appeared in leading humorous roles in several Jamaican Pantomimes and television shows.

    She travelled both locally and internationally promoting the culture of Jamaica. In 1974, she was appointed the Order of Jamaica. Miss Lou's poems, by the way, are some of my favourite Jamaican poems.

    On Jamaica’s Independence Day 2001, the Honourable Miss Louise Bennett-Coverly was appointed as a member of the Jamaican Order of Merit for her invaluable and distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.

    Her poems were written in the Jamaican language known as patois (pronounced patwa) or creole, thus earning its recognition as a language and influencing other writers to do similar things.

  • Jean "Binta" Breeze
    ... is a Jamaican dub poet and story teller. Her first book of poetry, "Ryddim Ravings", was published in 1988. She wrote screen plays, released several albums and recorded several tracks.

    She suffers from schizophrenia and has written poetry about what she calls "madness". In 2006 on a BBC interview she gave her perspective on mental illness and advocated increased attention to the needs of schizophrenics who do not have a talent like hers.

  • Lorna Goodison
    ... is one of the leading West Indian writer. She began writing poetry since her teenage years and has published 11 collection of poems such as Tamarind Season (1980), Heartease (1988) and trevelling Mercies (2001).

    In 1999 Goddison was awarded the Musgrave Gold Medal by the Institute of Jamaica for her contribution to Literature.

  • Arthur Lemiere Hendricks
    ... was well known for his contributions to the Christian Science Monitor and as a columnist and literary critic in The Daily Gleaner (one of Jamaica’s leading newspaper) and BIM (Barbadian Literary Magazine).

    Some of his works include: The Green Islands and other Poems (1971), To speak simply: Selected Poems (1961-1986).

Return to Famous Jamaicans from Jamaican poets.

For a little humour, here's a great Jamaican Poetry Joke :-)

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