Colin Channer launches Providential
On Tuesday night, Colin Channer dedicated the launch reading from Providential, his debut poetry collection, to Miss June, who is indelibly associated with the Calabash literary festival, which he co-founded.
Miss June is a consistent presence at Calabash in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, and host Kwame Dawes made another Treasure Beach link with Channer's poetry for the audience at Redbones Blues CafÈ, New Kingston.
Dawes, who edited Providential, said when Channer started sending him poems, they would typically be a homage to various persons. Then when Perry Henzell (father of Calabash producer Justine Henzell) who lived in Treasure Beach died, Channer wrote a poem celebrating him.
"It marked the beginning of a journey that he would take on," Dawes said of Channer, whose novels include, Waiting in Vain and Passing Through.
That poem for Henzell, Revolutionary to Raas, is at the start of Providential, and Channer began his launch reading with it. It was not the first reading from Providential on the night, as Dahlia Harris and Alwyn Scott combined to deliver three poems from the book.
And before them, Dr Sonjah Stanley Niaah, senior lecturer, University of the West Indies (UWI), analysed Providential, written by someone who is like her, the child of a policeman and which includes an extensive probing of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
Stanley Niaah, noted that while 'informer fi dead' is said in Jamaica, what is not said is that the creative must live. And it is the creative that holds sway in "... this bold new collection by Channer".
It covers the personal, the public, the family, and much more, yet is rebellious in outlook.
And she pointed out Channer's shifts from quiet to stinging humour, from sexual braggadocio to violence. However, Stanley Niaah said, "I don't expect this book to be included with any degree of haste in the secondary -school curriculum in Jamaica."
"Channer is a real rebel," she concluded.
Channer followed the opening poem with Clan. Funeral, was preceded with the background that it is about one of the c harismatic policemen one looks up to as a child, "then you grow up and see him in a more complicated way".
Music was not to be left out, intersecting with the police in the killing of deejay General Echo, along with Mafia and Fluxy.
He said that "policing in Jamaica is not an easy thing. We are not an easy people." Still, Channer said that while there is empathy for the police who go out and work hard, there should be accountability for all.
The launch reading ended with a poem sculpted from a conversation Channer had with a policeman on an aeroplane coming to Jamaica.
It stayed with him for a decade before becoming the poem, Advantage, about a woman coming into a police station to report being raped twice by a man who then fell asleep in her bed.
The policeman did not even bother to wake the rapist up.