During this year, GOFAD has received poems from a number of its readers. It occurred to us that we should share these from time to time, since some among you may find them a diversion from the trials and tribulations of the COVID era and indeed soulfully fulfilling.
Highlighting the work of three poets: Pearl Williams, Maralyn Ballantyne and Kevin Isaacs
I have chosen three poems among many from the GOFAD Collection. The first “The Mirage” by Pearl Williams. It is one of the 40 odd in her first publication, of poetry, The Spaces between the Dots. The second is "Pandemic" by Carmen Maralyn Ballantyne, one from a collection that is currently in process of being produced as a book of poems. The third is a haunting rendition of “Before You Go” by Kevin M. Isaac, High Commissioner of St. Kitts and Nevis to the United Kingdom, who has just launched Chasing Footsteps, his fourth collection of poems which according to the Director of the Commonwealth Foundation is “as complex, compelling and intriguing as his others works”. The poem is being presented in his trade mark podcasts that he labels 'verbal photography to take readers on a journey of discovery, love and renewal'.
Before sharing these three poems, I take the opportunity to pay two tributes.
Saluting two amazing young poets
We recognize how the inspirational messages of these two young poets resonate. First, is Amanda Gorman’s electrifying and historic poem “The Hill We Climb,” read at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, at the beginning of the year and her newly released book of poems on December 7, 2021 titled Call us what we Carry. This was preceded in September 2021 by a lyrical picture book Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem. The other, Cyndi Celeste a young Barbadian poet , my new acquaintance. Her performance of an imaginatively profound poem, “We ain’t Done”, at the event to celebrate Barbados’ Republican status on November 30, 2021. It was absolutely as brilliant as Amanda Gorman's. Its refrain -- we ain't done -- is about passing the baton of change from Bussa (slave rebellion leader) to Barrow (Prime Minister of Barbados at Independence) to ‘WE’. It is a charge especially but not exclusively to the youth. Oh how we need to hear that rendition about the true meaning of being a Republic over and over again. Cyndi Celeste certainly conjures up great expectation. -- About Cyndi Celeste: http://barbados.loopnews.com/content/cyndi-celeste-using-her-poetry-inspire-others-and-challenge
Congratulating Guyanese Grace Nichols: 2021 Recipient of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry
In announcing the award on Friday December 10, 2021, poet laureate, Simon Armitage chair of the Poetry Medal Committee, said “Over the past four decades, Grace has been an original pioneering voice in the British poetry scene. Her poems are alive with characters from the folklore and fables of her Caribbean homeland [Guyana] and echo with the rhymes and rhythms of her family and ancestors. They are also passionate and sensuous at times, being daring in their choice of subject and openhearted in their outlook.”
This University of Guyana Alum is being honored for her body of work, in particular her first collection of poetry I Is a Long-Memoried Woman, her prose, and several books for younger readers. https://newsroom.gy/2021/12/11/guyanese-poet-wins-queens-gold-medal/
NOW LET THE POETS SPEAK
"The Mirage" by Pearl Williams
Positively decked out
Seeking untold fame
Do they know the pitfalls
As they forge ahead
Can they see the dangers
So they’re not misled
What if every twist and turn
Another challenge brings
Will they have the stamina
To cope with life’s stings
What about those folks
Who do not wish them well
Who go about their business
Decrying them like hell
Will they spend a lot of time
Scheming to harm them
Or will they spend a lot of time
Seeking to disarm them
Interestingly you look around
Not quite sure what their game is
But you vow to press ahead
Determined to confound them
"Pandemic" by Carmen Maralyn Ballantyne
Pungent Bay Leaf aromas
Bless and enjoin the salty sea air,
Each silky green leaf
An earth-born message of fervent hope, healing, rebirth
Gifted to all, seekers and non-seekers alike
Who in sweet communion grasp nature’s offerings
Regarding them as superior to any material momento
Of the pre covid world.
And a woman’s smiling eyes speak to us
Over-ruling the vital mask,
Poignant reminder of the difference
Between just being and complying.
And if we didn’t know
Now we know!
Covid demolished hypocrisy,
Covid stripped bare the burning inequities,
The disparities endured for too long.
Covid provided the bulletin board that tells us how not to do it.
Covid reminds us that challenges
Are not to be hoarded on the dusty shelf
But must be dealt with head on
With great urgency!
Covid made us not only see but feel deep in our gut
The issues that really matter.
Unveiling the truth,
It laid disparities and social injustice bare.
As the pandemic unfolds
Active demons are let loose.
With our thought process dominated
By the real issues on replay,
Tigress Mia Motley calls for strategic global governance.
Some uncertainty as to where solutions lie,
No uncertainty as to the need to
Search conscience in every village
In every boardroom
In the corridors of power.
Mankind’s threads of interconnections, interdependence,
Like finest tightly hand-woven tapestries of intricate patterns,
Represent the permanent backdrop to our global agenda.
As the stage curtain is drawn
There stands our world population,
Players gasping for an opportunity to breathe.
In dual roles, as audience, as actors, may we keep the backdrop in view.
May its symbolism fire our collective imagination crater,
Eject streams of 'laval' creativity
Stir a boiling cauldron of resourcefulness.
Essential ingredients for global reconstruction.
"Before you go" as verbal photography by Kevin Isaacs
About the Poets
Pearl Williams is a writer of poetry and short stories. In the last two years, her poems have appeared in Canadian Stories print magazine (Toronto) and as part of David Hamilton’s Behind the Willow: a poetry collection. She is a member of the Ottawa Independent Writers (OIW) group and contributed to the Ottawa Ethnic Media Forum’s, Covid-19 Chronicles, a collection of stories, poems and articles published in 2020. A former Canadian diplomat, she is currently working on a travel memoir for publication in 2022. Find Pearl and other writers at https://www.ottawaindependentwriters.com/
Carmen Maralyn Balantyne LLB is a Vincentian, educated at universities in the Caribbean, England and USA with extensive experience in freelance radio, newspaper journalism, private sector management, tourism, teaching, law and working at the UN. Now semi retired, she devotes a tremendous amount of time to poetry writing and has joined her daughter in carrying on the philanthropic work of the late Sir Frederick Ballantyne, cardiologist and Former Governor General of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. .
Kevin Isaacs is the St Kitts and Nevis High Commissioner to the UK. He is no stranger to GOFAD whose readers were introduced to his poetry in the blog Enjoy Verbal Photography with Kevin Isaacs (9/24/2021). While being a Diplomat is his designated occupation, he has a passion for poetry and is quite accomplished. On November 15 Chasing Footsteps his fourth book of poems was launched in London. His previous works include Whispers of Silence, Memories in Serenade and Breakfast with my Fathers.
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.