Timeless lessons wrapped in Patois
Book: Mek Wi Laugh & Talk: An Anthology of Jamaican Poems
Author: Donna Hart
Reviewer: Dr Glenville Ashby
In Donna Harts Mek Wi Laugh & Talk: An Anthology of Jamaican Poems, readers are in for an unrepentant dose of counsel and discourse on right living and a clarion call for a more God-centred life.
This is as serious as it gets. But Harts work is not totally stripped of levity. Nostalgic musings and the rekindling of yesteryear can ease the most wrenching pain. And Hart delivers the right antidote. College Day, Wen mi was a chile, Di quak dentist, and Di duppy unda mannas reveal the witty and lighter side of Hart.
Mek Wi Laugh and Talk is laden with Patois, a linguistic hurdle that is surmounted with the aid of a glossary. It is written in a laissez-faire, pedestrian style that addresses key personal and social issues without a tinge of academic or theological depth.
This is a fluidly authentic undertaking, heartfelt and spontaneous. Hart addresses economic issues, beckoning her fellow nationals to resist a life that is dependent on credit. In Foreclosure, she writes, But like everyting else, all good tings mus come to a en, Soh mi a save mi money fi buy a ouse cash, soh mi woan hear bout foreclosure again.
Hart has so much more to share when it comes to social issues. She takes men to task for shunning their patriarchal responsibility. When yuh tun a Fada to yuh pickney, Yuh help fi keep di peace Fah some a di fadaless pickney dem, tun criminal at lease, she pens in Dead-Beat Man.
In Generation Curse, she lectures, warning the offspring of failed parenthood. Watevah soh terrible bout yuh family pass, Yuh noh haffi walk dat road, Bruck di curse mi sista an bredda, Doan carry dat evy load.
Hart unabashedly raises issues best swept under the carpet and is at her best with the biting Lef Married Man Alone. With words ringing true, she warns women, Di mose married man can doh fi yuh Is tek yuh fi a ride, As night follow day mi sure, mi chile, Yuh wi neva tun him bride. On this matter, she is relentless. Wen Valentine Day ar New Years Eve, Dem is nowhere to be found, Dat time yuk lick yuh woon, Like wen puss an dog a moan.
She assumes the role of social commentator, prophet, sage and provocateur. She punctuates and seals her admonitions with I have been there, as she ropes in readers, pricking their conscience at every opportunity.
Steeped in religious beliefs, Hart raises the bar on integrity and ethics, and proves compelling. Learn Fi Prophesy is evangelical, riveting and inspiring. She snatches the clerical gavel from so-called leaders and hands it to the people.
Her words resound, empowering those who take heed. Prophesy positive tings ova yuhself, An seh weh yuh waan tun. Prophesy ova yuh pickney next ... prophesy ova yuh community ... Prophesy ova yuh islan...prophesy over poverty.
SPIRIT OF THE PSALMS
In Mi Puppa God, her supplications conjure the spirit of the Psalms. Mi shepherd wen Him lead mi, In green pasture all di wile, Mi motivata wen mi feeling down. Mi encouraja fi goh di extra mile. Mi anchor wen mi need stability. Fi guide mi pan mi way. My Saviour wen mi need a fren. An all mi debt Him pay ... .
And taking a page from Martin Luther King Jr, she writes in I have a Dream, Mi dream seh wan day some people Naa goh Mek drugs an alcohol control dem life But dem wi fine a way out so dem tun good husban an wife ... Mi dream seh wan day di prison dem Wi be empty as can be, An all who doh wrang ah goh tap I Soh wu can finally live in peace ... .
Admittedly, there are banal, even controversial poems, especially those that hail Canada, the United States and Great Britain as benefactors of her people and region. But she manages to quiet any rumbling with the wholesomeness of her work.
Moreover, she reopens the discussion on the standardisation, significance and procurement of a vernacular that is yet to be fully appreciated and embraced. Solely on that basis, Harts offering is nothing short of brilliant.
Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby. Mek Wi Laugh & Talk: An Anthology of Jamaican Poems by Donna Hart 2014.Publisher: Eagle Soar PublishingISBN: -13 978-0-69-225909-2 Available: amazon.com.