“Poetry is democratic and the most readily available form of art, readily accessible and available to most but yet this is often the most neglected or overlooked form of art”. Words from Olive Senior, renowned poet, author, educator, researcher, teacher who was speaking at her ceremony of investiture as Jamaica’s Poet Laureate 2021-2024 at King’s House in Kingston on Wednesday.
According to Senior, poetry seeks to engage persons and creates a deep connection with history, heritage and culture which should never be neglected by any nation. She adds that poetry engages it readers, gives new ways of seeking and enabling , and also gives new perspective on social issues. Regarding social issues, Senior spoke of what she coined as “eco-poetics”, who seek to develop environmental awareness and protect the resources that we as a people and nation have at our disposal.
Senior said that one of her missions as Poet Laureate is to create an avenue for upcoming young poets and to help youth to appreciate the art of poetry with the aid of the National Library of Jamaica. She aims to seek sponsorships and assistance from creatives in other industries such as writers, musicians, videographer and photographers.
The Poet Laureate also intends to continue creating literary works on both the local and international scene and also seeks to use the art form to: bring persons together, to keep the art alive, help more persons find a creative means to express themselves and to help Jamaica preserve its rich history and culture through this beloved art form.
Senior is a past student of the Morant Bay High School in St. Thomas, and grew up in rural Jamaica when times were “much simpler and not as technologically advanced as now. I grew up with handcrafts and pen and paper much simpler than these unprecedented times we live in.” She is the author of 18 books including titles such as “Summer Lighting” and “Gardening in the Tropic” and has had her works published and translated into many languages including French.
Senior is the recipient of many prestigious awards throughout her career, and thus was rightly praised for her outstanding cultural contribution by Governor-General of Jamaica, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen; Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, The Honourable Olivia Grange; and veteran broadcast journalist Fae Ellington who was the master of ceremonies. Minister Grange noted that cultural identity is Jamaica’s greatest and most valuable asset and spoke very highly of Ms. Senior’s contribution to recording Jamaica’s history.
Reported by Dominic Townsend-McLeod