caribbean poets

[Image of an ocean with blue seas and mountains in the distance is covered by a hazy reddish film. The text is below.]

Your crystal banks
Your naked seas
Are not visible
Through the fold

Red desert sand
Soars thousands of miles
To veil your paradise body

It matters not
How immaculate you are
When the grit of another
Colors your sky

Caribbean Haze

June Jordan (1936-2002) was a Caribbean-American poet and activist, mostly involved in the civil rights and LGBT rights movement. Her poems and essays focus on the hardships of growing up in a family of black immigrants in New York, and being faced with everyday racism.

She published 28 fiction and nonfiction books in her lifetime, and was also a teacher at institutions such as Yale University or University of California Berkeley. In 1991 she founded the “Poetry for the People” programme at Berkeley, aiming to encourage students to use poetry as a means of self-expression.

Poetry is an Island

It was a beautiful morning at Becune Point, the Walcott home in Saint Lucia. We planned to do some poetry reading with Derek and went through his latest collection ‘White Egrets’.

Poem 44. Derek took a minute and started reading with his remarkable voice.

“ So the world is waiting for Obama” my barber said;

and the old fences in the village street and the flowers

brimming over the rusted zinc fences all acquired

a sheen like a visible sigh, and indoors,

in the small barber-shop, an election poster

joined another showing all the various hairstyles

available to his young black clients that cost the

same no matter who you were-President of the U.S.-

head smooth as a bowling ball my barber smiles.


Derek continued reading till the last line, looked up from his book and asked “Do you want to go there? ” What else could we possibly answer? So there we were, after a while, amid the little shop where Barber Polo received his famous customer, followed by a nervous camera crew. All hassle, made Polo a bit shy, but nevertheless curious. Derek decided on a scene in the barbershop. One of the walls of the place was covered by an old election poster of Barack Obama. Derek pointed at the poster as he strictly instructed me: “ I want him to see this scene!”

“ Eh… okay Derek… we’ll make sure that he does! ”

And off we went, filming the scene of the Laureate and his favorite barber Polo.

The poem in a life version, as an unplugged concert.


- Ida Does, talking about Poetry is an Island, a documentary about nobel laureate Derek Walcott and the island that inspires him. Directed by Ida Does, produced by Ida Does and Rebecca Roos. To be released early 2013.

Audre Lorde (February 18, 1934- November 17, 1992) was a Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist. In her own words, Lorde was a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. In an African naming ceremony before her death, she took the name Gambda Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known”

“What you hear in my voice is fury, not suffering. Anger, not moral authority.” - Audre Lorde

The Woman and the Flame

A bit of light that descends the springhead of a gaze

twin shadow of the eyelash and the rainbow on a face

and round about

who goes there angelically


Woman the current weather

the current weather matters little to me

my life is always ahead of a hurricane

you are the morning that swoops down on the lamp a night stone

     between its teeth

you are the passage of the seabirds as well

you who are the wind through the salty ipomeas of consciousness

insinuating yourself from another world


you are a dragon whose lovely color is dispersed and darkens so

      as to constitute the

inevitable tenor of things

I am used to brush fires

I am used to ashen bush rats and the bronze ibis of the flame

Woman binder of the foresail gorgeous ghost

helmet of algae of eucalyptus

                                dawn isn’t it

                                and in the abandon of the ribbands

                                very savoury swimmer

- Aimé Césaire, translated by Clayton Eshleman

From Solar Throat Slashed: The Unexpurgated 1948 Edition, published by Wesleyan University Press.

Pit Stops

Top-up on joy my friends.

Find the nearest stop and plug in.

Listen to the sound of gushing

filling our hearts

through the nozzle called living,

pumped by our breathing, hearing and seeing

the simple wonders of this moment spawning

The unthought treasures right where we are;

The covert pleasures of who we are;

The unsolved mysteries of why we are;

Take your eyes off the meter -

Let the numbers be rumours,

Ignore the whispers -

The zeros need not be aligned.

Leave these make-believe games behind,

where fate and fear arbitrate our minds.

Smile at the passers by and forgive

The offender now parked in the place we desire.

Let’s not waste fuel accelerating anger.

Cruise through the city;

The lonesome roads are approaching -

by-ways shadowed by a tunnel of trees,

shedding leaves like tears, for they must remain.

We must keep moving and rolling,

Only settling for the rest that precedes expectancy.

Stay fuelled for opportunity and top-up for adversity;

In reality there are no second chances just circumstances

like pit stops where we cannot think to stay.

                        — Philip Robinson, 2015

Eric Roach, 'Poem'

He plucked a burning stylus from the sun

And wrote her name across the endless skies

And wrote her name upon the waxing moon

And wrote her name among the thronging stars.

If the pale moon forgets, he will remember.

Lovers remember through love’s ghost sigh in the sun

Or whimper in despair in the large dark.

The seas are sorrows

and the seas accept the moon’s dark tragedies.

The seas reflect the yearning of the stars.

His heart is weary as the endless seas.

His soul is wearier than the flowing wave,

O dark tide of no hope,

O blood of tears still sings the sun.

No cloud can blind, the memory of the moon

Or blot the legend from the ageless stars.

- Eric Roach, ‘Poem’, 1950, 1951

The sheets still smell like cinnamon
from the spices we spilled
when you insisted on eating in bed,
and as I held you in your sleep
you breathed in
as if to sugarcoat your dreams; last night,
you dangled your feet out the window
and counted cars, wondering how many
Mississippis it would take to hit the ground
from the seventh story.
Your whole body shakes
with the restless excitement of being eighteen,
an adult who’s never broken a bone
but fancies herself invincible.
You’re too young to know
that sometimes scars form on the inside
and never quite heal,
and that no matter how many times you wash
the sheets, they’ll always smell like cinnamon.
—  You Talk in Your Sleep.
Day 3

Day 3- Find the nearest book (of any kind). Turn to page 8. Use the first ten full words on the page in a poem. You may use them in any order, anywhere in the poem.

Senescence is the great equaliser.

great men, average men,

men of faith, men of none

living life with the promise

that some of its secrets will be revealed

but all you will ever learn

are verbs like forgetting

and dying.

Trini Girl: for lynne

Trini girl
with your grandmother silence
twisted tight into the roots of your copper locks
the follicle a shade darker than the tips
wish you could tell me
exactly where the color hurts
when the great light of mornings
dark showers and see-through
tears are not enough to hold you
let me hold you
let us
mourn the loss of some lover or other
be dazzling beyond the lyric of rhymes we turn
like tricks to convince each other
we are surviving

I know you are surviving

I recognize the Toni gleam
in the slow pivot of emotion you carry in your mother’s
mother’s indifference
spine ramrod straight
backbone upright and unending
body perfect between us

I am grateful for the parallax
of wet in your eye

my own vision is frequently obscured
tears/island love song/ the rescue/the constant
the cooing “hush girl- everything go be alright”
too often you pull away too fast
but when you know my shoulders
have stopped the heaving the sloping
the need for things I have not learnt to say

I wish you would stay longer
wish I could ask how the night went
or how you swallow the sorrow alone
the clear uncertain saliva rushing
off your back

How do you stand the lack of warm
in your bed
your white sheets stained
only with the scent of memory

wish I could ask you the questions
we seem to raise
only in metaphors

But I have long learned to hold you
close with clever knots of dyed
hair tied into the known performance

I have accepted your grandmother’s silence

I have learned to recognize the gleam
in the tiny flash of light that no longer haunts me
it just makes me want to hold you
more now
because I know you cry

When the spinning stops

We have no way of knowing otherwise,

Otherwise we would have surely known

The fallacy of stability -

The relativity of silence in a life-long storm;

The truth resides in the stillness and the quietness -

Peace is but a privilege of perception.

I wake, I sleep, I wake to the pivotal question:

Steady churning yields butter but is it better than the infant milk with which we started?

On these days I feel as though I am too thinly spread;

Thoughts like falling stars in the universe of my head collide with the ground

As I fall from my bed.

                       — Philip Robinson, 2015