Right Steps & Poui Trees

Still We Sing: Independence Poem

August 6, 2021, the 59th anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence Day. Always a good day for reflection on how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Jamaica, my home.

Today I post a poem that was published in 2012 in a collection edited by Kwame Dawes, “Jubilation! – poems celebrating 50 years of Jamaican Independence”.

                                                STILL WE SING 

                                       from a hill above the stadium
                                       we watched the lights go down

                                       seeds of fear already planted
                                       in my grandma's heart
                                       kept us away that night

                                       the lights came on again
                                       then fireworks greeted independence

                                       such hope

                                       even now, such hope
                                       the country still a bone
                                       that stray-dog leaders grip
                                       in the garbage and gully water
                                       of politics' narrow streets

                                       this independence
                                       one more hill for us to climb
                                       and people still know
                                       that while we sing, we work  

                                              - Susan Goffe


Love Affair with Literature on a Sunday Morning

The prospect of continuing a love affair may indeed rouse you early on a Sunday morning, and cause you to wend your way expectantly to the UWI Mona Campus. Love Affair with Literature 5. IMG_8908

And once there, poet Tanya Shirley welcomes you on behalf of the Department of Literatures in English, assuring you that this is one love affair that is okay, with no risk of fornication, sin or hell!

(Kellie Magnus then reminds you that this is the start of Kingston Book Festival 2016.)


A-dZiko Simba Gegele reads from her novel “All Over Again”, and you enter into the world of a young boy carrying home his school report to his mother. IMG_8916

This envelope full of bad things.

Look, you tell yourself. You just have to explain that not everyone can be good at everything. Surely she will understand. You are good at climbing trees, and swimming in rivers and making bingys and you can hit a cricket ball right over the school fence and you know where to find sweet guavas….

IMG_8917Mel Cooke reads a number of his poems, having you follow him as he highlights social issues, individual and collective pain, ending with the first poem in his collection “11/9”, reiterating that he is indeed a “Word Terrorist”:

Me a no no writa

no poet, no journalis’.

No rhyma, no chanta

no Gleana Tursday columnist.

Me? Me is a word terroris’ –

Olive Senior reads a poem from 30 years ago and a more recent poem, both to do with the environment, and then reads from her new collection of short stories, “The Pain Tree”, which is to have its Jamaican launch this Thursday.IMG_8922

That was fine with Mrs. F, for she loved to explain things to foreigners. One of the reasons – perhaps the only reason – she liked going to her Book Club – she hated reading – was that it was full of foreigners, many of whom were attached to embassies. She was frequently asked to their little do’s, and she and her husband to some of their big parties celebrating this Day or that Day – something that gave her one up on those poor souls who never got invited to Foreign Missions, as Mrs. F loved to call them. (From the story “The Country Cousin”)



Vladimir Lucien, St Lucian poet who is currently Writer in Residence at UWI Mona, reads from his collection “Sounding Ground”, and you are entranced when he reads the poem “Tjenbwa: Protean” – from the Tjenbwa series – first in Creole and then in English.

                                                                    The moth that enters

                                                                    your house at night is a grudge

                                                                    that somebody is holding

                                                                     against you.

Then it is over. You feel good, as you leave, perhaps taking a book or two with you to preserve the love…through till next year, when you hope…hope…the Love Affair with Literature will continue….


love affair with lit 2016


Where Does #APoemADay Take You?

I added a new morning ritual by chance this year. While sitting on the roof New Year’s Day, drinking a cup of mint tea, watching the sky lighten. I had taken a couple of books and my journal with me, as I often do. And I read aloud to myself the first poem in Lorna Goodison’s collection “Heartease”IMG_8597 – “I Shall Light A Candle To Understanding In Thine Heart Which Shall Not Be Put Out” – a longtime favourite.IMG_8600[1]




I enjoyed it so much that later in the day I decided to read a poem out loud to myself each morning. In January it was poems by Jamaican poets; this month it’s poems by African American poets. And I am having fun thinking of what my focus for future months might be: more Jamaican poets; Caribbean, African, Commonwealth poets; poems by women; poems translated into English; poems I first read in school; poems about love. The possibilities aren’t actually endless, though, as I am including only poems from books I own.

And just for fun, I tweet the title of the poem each day at #APoemADay and tweet a few lines from the poem @suezeecue. 140 characters from a poem can sometimes be hard to choose!

At the end of the year, I’ll see where #APoemADay has taken me….

By the illumination of that candle

exit, death and fear and doubtIMG_7463

here love and possibility

within a lit heart, shining out.

– Lorna Goodison, “Heartease”IMG_7378