Poet Laureate Morris honoured at King's House
Marcia Rowe, Gleaner Writer
It is official. Jamaica now has its first officially proclaimed Poet Laureate. The position was formalised in a splendid investiture ceremony on Wednesday at The King's House Ballroom.
And, as expected of a function of its ilk, the programme was brought to life with the spoken word.
His Excellency the Most Honourable Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica, gave a history lesson to specially invited guests, telling them about all the many important events that have taken place inside the ballroom.
"Today we carve our own face on these walls and we want them to declare to future generations how, in this one act, we pay tribute to the immortals of Jamaican poetry." said Allen.
Subsequently, through the gesture of sashing, the breast star, and pinning the lapel, Mervyn Morris, was officially proclaimed Poet Laureate by the Governor General.
It was a deeply grateful Mervyn Morris, adorned in the symbols of his title and position who addressed the gathering.
He expressed gratitude, described his responsibilities and shared some of his plans.
"I am especially grateful to have been chosen in a process that requires nomination from the general public, and I am happy that a great many persons seem to have approved of the selection," said Morris.
Morris explained that he will be assisting in the promotion of Jamaica's poetry at home and abroad, as well as facilitating contact between Jamaican poets and potential audiences, and helping to improve appreciation of works from Jamaican poets.
"I say assist because there are a number of individuals already committed to doing these things, such as Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, the National Library, our schools, and poetry events." Morris explained.
During his tenure, Jamaica's third Poet Laureate hopes to involve some of the many whose work he admires.
"I am keen to arrange with some of them to visit schools and colleges as an activity not directly connected with preparing for exams. The poet will read for a short while, and then be involved in a dialogue, answering or failing to answer questions from the students. These sessions will be geared toward encouraging enjoyment of poetry, free as far as possible from the routine of literary devices."
He also plans to arrange a few poetry readings of the more traditional kind, perhaps three per year, in different parts of the island, especially outside of Kingston, as well as workshops.
But of all his plans, it is the visit by poets to schools that he cared about the most.
Poets Ralph Thompson and Ann Margaret Lim read poems. In Ode to the Laureate, Lim, who described Morris as her mentor and who encouraged her to write poems began her stint with the reading of one of his poems titled Pond.
She followed it up with an original written for the occasion. Titled Bearing Witness for Mervyn Morris, the poem speaks of the Poet Laureate's physical appearance, his writing style and his ability to communicate the beauty of poetry to his students.
Thompson was entrusted with reading On National Vanity, a poem written by J.E. Clare McFarlane, Jamaica's second Poet Laureate.
The first was Tom Redcam.