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Poetry Society of Ja honours Dennis Scott

Published:Thursday | November 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Tribe Sankofa members Fabian Thomas (left), Darian Reid (second left), Waldane Walker (centre), Alexandra Gregory (second right) and Jamaal McKnight in performance at the Poetry Society of Jamaica’s tribute to Dennis Scott at its October fellowship, held at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.
Rachael Allen pays tribute to Dennis Scott.
Robert ‘Bobby’ Clarke, actor and teacher, reading one of Scott’s poems.

The Poetry Society of Jamaica honoured Dennis Scott in the 2015 edition of its Dead Poets Live Series, staged in its October Fellowship at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, 1 Arthur Wint Drive, St Andrew..

Scott, who headed the School of Drama at the college and after whom the Dennis Scott Studio Theatre is named, has written and directed a number of plays, including Terminus (1966), Dog, and An Echo in the Bone (1974).

He danced with the National Dance Theatre Company and was among their founding members. He is regarded as an important influence on Caribbean poetry, his collections including Uncle Time (1973), for which he won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, Dreadwalk: Poems 1970-78 (1982), Strategies (1989) and the posthumous After-Image (2008).

The tribute mostly featured Scott's past students and friends, among them Robert 'Bobby' Clarke, actor and teacher at the Jamaica School of Drama; Rachael Allen, student of the Jamaica School of Drama; Humroy Whyte, poet, Edna Manley alumnus and former student of Scott; and director of the School of Drama, Pierre Lemaire.

The Poetry Society of Jamaica's Yashika Graham said it was necessary that Scott be acknowledged and celebrated, reading with Scott's poem Marrysong. Clarke spoke of his first encounter with Scott, saying the latter had motivated him to enter the school, although he was late for registration. Clarke's spirited reflection closed with Scott's poem Grampa.

Rachael Allen, final year student School of Drama entered the stage with a dance-chant and read Scott's Epitaph, before exiting with dance.

London-based poet Humroy Whyte, who played Romeo under Scott's direction in Romeo and Juliet, did not enter the Edna Manley College until two weeks into the school year, encouraged by Scott. He recalled Scott's seriousness and his no-nonsense approach, saying he demanded only the best from his students. Whyte called Scott a friend and a most dedicated creator, reading his own poem, Poet ("the head is full of constant sounds").

Lemaire made perhaps the most moving presentation. The emotional reflection showed Scott from numerous perspectives, as friend, mentor, motivator. Lemaire said Scott was the reason he is still "in Jamaica, in theatre, at the Edna Manley College." Lemaire, who is originally from France, held nothing back in declaring that Scott had been a close friend and guide and played a vital role in many aspects of his life, saying Scott had helped make him, "a Jamaican man, a Caribbean man."

Lemaire, while honoured to be in the position Scott once held, jokingly said he is "fraid", always seeing a portrait of smiling Scott on the wall. While pointing at the night's full moon, Lemaire added that Dennis Scott didn't just write poetry. He said that when he danced, wrote, acted, he was poetry and continues to be so today.

The night ended a moving presentation by performing arts group Tribe Sankofa, opening with chants and included dramatised performances of popular Scott poems, Epitaph, The Ordering of Rooms and Uncle Time. It ended with a hymn to the strong applause of the gathering.

- I.R.