Strong turnout for Kingston Book Festival event
When host Mel Cooke announced the start of the inaugural staging of Kingston Book Festival event Late Nite Lit, subtitled 'A Night of Searing Words', at the scheduled 8:54 p.m. last Thursday, he promised the audience a feast of variety. He said there would be intimate stuff, with sexuality, romance, curiosity, risquÈ approaches, spirituality and honesty intertwined. As the programme unfolded, Cooke's promise materialised.
The X-rated tales were delivered at Peppers Lounge and Grill, Upper Waterloo Road, St Andrew. In the dimly lit bar, the glistening silver chairs and whites proved to be a fine backdrop for the readers. Their concoction of craftily arranged words had the patrons - many of them academics - riding words set to the figurative beat of a drummer with glistening body, laughing at descriptions of intimate details, and lauding triumph over frustration and adversity.
Children's writer and publisher Kellie Magnus was first. "This definitely is not something I wrote." she said, before reading the humorous short story Go de R.....s to Sleep, a translation of Adam Mansbach's Go the F....k to Sleep. This was only the second book to be translated into Jamaican Patios, the other being The Bible, Magnus informed the ever-expanding audience, before painting a humorous word picture of the frustration of a mother trying to put her child to bed.
Kalilah Enriquez also began with a disclaimer, saying all her poems are not in celebration of Eros and she has written on other themes. Among her works that night were the drummer-inspired poem titled 'G. Drum' and 'Sonnets of Surrender'.
Riddim and Riddles
With the bar now overflowing with people, Owen 'Blakka' Ellis made his way to the podium with the night's strongest applause. Before reading from his recently launched poetry collection Riddim and Riddles, he shared his anxiety in his new role as a writer and gave some background to creating the works in the book.
The poems were graphic, humorous and narrative in form. Among the poems he read were Man, Objectified, Small and After Marley's Kayah.
Not one who enjoys reading his own works, this compounded by his emotional connection to the poem At Auntie's Funeral, Ellis called on friend and veteran thespian Tony 'Paleface' Hendriks to read it. Hendriks was flawless as he articulated the dialect piece with fervour and gusto.
After intermission, Cooke resumed with another of his works, as he did between acts throughout the programme before announcing the readers. There were also three in the second segment. Tanya Shirley was the first.
After making herself comfortable and relaxed, the University of the West Indies (UWI) lecturer in literature said "I want to start off by saying I have other poems in this book. Tonight, you are getting the erotic ones, but I swear that your child will be able to read up to page 20-something before you take the book away."
Deciding to "come hard and done", Shirley jumped into the reading of 'Said by a DJ at a Downtown Dance'. It was followed by 'Said by a DJ at an Uptown Dance'. She continued her set with 'Kill im Wid it Eh, Eh' and closed her entertaining readings and anecdotes with 'Journey'.
Following on the heels of Shirley, Sharon Leach did not get the full audience courtesy shown to her fellow performers. The patrons sitting in the immediate front followed the story of the trained teacher who decided to convert her college-acquired skills into a full-time profession in Leach's Confessions of a Whore.
Closing act Dingo recaptured the attention of the now-reduced size audience. His opening poem 'Auto Correct', a satire, was a welcome deviation from the Eros carnival. He proceed with another metaphorical piece called 'Shopkeeper' and, like a true storyteller, had the audience participating. It was not surprising he was recalled to the stage on the completion of his act. Obliging, he delivered another metaphorical poem in 'Peaches', before DJ Chad voiced his endorsement of an event that the organisers promised will be held annually.