Peta-Gaye Clachar/Staff Photographer
Joan Andrea Hutchinson (right) signs copies of her book 'Inna Mi Heart' for her many fans, like Ossie Harding (left) and Dr. Carolyn Cooper, at the book launch of love poetry at UWI, on Tuesday, December 18.
Mel Cooke, Freelance Writer
When Joan Andrea Hutchinson presented her latest poetry book, Inna Mi Heart: Jamaican Love Poetry, on Tuesday evening, she made it clear that it was meant to express feelings that could otherwise remain unsaid.
"Every book has a bookmark," Hutchinson told those gathered at the Undercroft of the Senate Building, University of the West Indies, Mona campus. "If you need to communicate a particular sentiment to a person, take the bookmark, ribbon it, put it at the parti-cular page," she said.
And there was laughter when she said that "just looking at the book, some people have said they will have to buy six, seven ...".
Communication between persons involved in or considering getting involved in an intimate relationship was also on the mind of Dr. Leahcim Semaj, guest speaker at the book launch. He said that Inna Mi Heart serves a very important purpose, specifying two words in relationships, communication and honesty. "These two words are foreign to a lot of people in Jamaica," he said.
He approached them from the perspective of a live and direct experience of what he dubbed 'Freak Week' at a hotel he visited for work purposes. Two couples struck him especially, one with the two between 75 and 85 years old who were dressed in full rubber and held hands constantly. Then there was another, where the man had a saddle on his shoulder, a dog collar around his neck, a horse tail around his waist and was being led around by the woman.
"I said, my goodness, what a wonderful couple," Semaj said. "First of all, these people were honest to themselves - I am a freak. And they went out and looked for a freak who complemented them," he said to laughter.
"They dealt the cards face up. What if the rest of us started being honest?" he asked.
Semaj recommended that until people get to the required level of honesty, they should "buy Joan's book. At least it will give you some lyrics to practise with".
And there are plenty of those lyrics, as Hutchinson said there are 60 poems in Inna Mi Heart, running the gamut of emotions. "It is not just the airy-fairy 'I love you, baby'. There is some of that," Hutchinson said.
And she read some of the poems at the launch, hosted by Professor Carolyn Cooper of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, starting with 'Ready Fi Love Yu' and continuing with 'Shy' and 'Kidnap', the last concluding "when me finally release yu mi know de note yu a go sen/why yu tekking so long to kidnap me again?".
The thug's way
There was a surprise, as a gruff-voiced, ruggedly dressed Winston 'Bello' Bell strode up to the podium to look at Hutchinson closely and expressed his emotions, though secretly, "'cause man a thug an' thug no show love". The laughter throughout peaked in cheers when Bello said "me a go gi yu sweet love till yu clide", and he closed with a guttural "rrrrr" to delighted applause.
"So you see there is something in the book for everyone," Hutchinson said. She continued with 'A Yu Mi Waan Deh Wid' and 'Me Jus Love Yu', poet Yasus Afari stepping up to read 'Rasta Love'.
The reading took a turn with 'Big People Game', an exploration of infidelity and 'Vex Ex' ("You know when you finish a relationship with somebody you don't want to see them with anybody?" Hutchinson asked, and there was a female "ah-hah" from the audience). She gave the background to her favourite poem in the book, 'Bad Advice', a case of her advising someone how to make up with his lady, though secretly hoping it would not work out ("me neva know yu woulda try so good ..."), then closed with 'Sorry'.
After presentations to various persons and organisations, there was music played by Mutabaruka.
Special thanks extended to her family
Before Joan Andrea Hutchinson read from her poetry book Inna Mi Heart at its launch on Tuesday at the UWI's Undercroft, she gave thanks.
"I feel good. I feel good. This is a really special evening for me," she said. "This is a really special evening for me."
And she called her parents, Emma and Gladstone Hutchinson, to the fore, dedicating the volume of poetry to them. There was applause when she said the couple had just celebrated 50 years of marriage.
"This is a working marriage. I have seen this marriage work," Hutchinson said.
"I want to thank my parents for teaching me love," she said, adding that, "I have never seen my mother and father quarrel." However, when Joan Andrea asked her mother about that, she said "anytime oonu see we disappear up under the mango tree ...".
The first copy of Inna Mi Heart was presented to them and, after the reading, the second copy went to Professor Mervyn Morris, who went over the poems and with whom there were "many battles".
"He has an eye. He does not miss anything. I think it is a much better product, simply because he worked on the product," Hutchinson said.
And she gave thanks to sponsors Jamaica National, whose representative had said earlier that "we also believe in fostering talent and Ms. Hutchinson has a wealth of talent".
Wanted to self-support
Joan Andrea said that she had wanted to self-publish Inna Mi Heart and wrote to several organisations seeking support, to no avail. "Everybody cuss the dancehall culture, but they will take up three million dollars and give to a dancehall event," she said they would not support a book like Inna Mi Heart that she was sure had something to contribute.
She was feeling down on the day she got the call from Jamaica National at work. They asked for nothing. "They just said, 'Joan, we want to sponsor your book'," she said.
There was also thanks for Digicel, which has committed to buying $100,000 worth of the book to give to schools and libraries islandwide. And after thanking Ray Knight, the photographer who captured Imani and Emmanuel, who were also presented on Tuesday night in their now much more grown phase, Hutchinson gave a general thank you.
- M. C.