Poems are puzzles. You pick the pieces up over a cup of coffee or swimminon lazy days by the sea. You have to try many seemly right pieces that don’t fit, until it finally comes together. Writing exercises are great too. Mostly it is about writing everyday as a routine and editing mercilessly all the way to the publisher.
Summer’s persistent wings
flapped against the sombre clouds.
As a child I often dreamed of flying things.
Hummingbirds dizzily playing hop scotch in my mother’s garden.
Lemon-yellow butterflies filling the buoyant pews
encircling the lignum vitae’s altar of lilac blossoms.
A sad sky swallowed my sun
before I could mount its back and glide over the blues.
Pointless to imagine a smoky plume lifting me high.
I grew up into a wild featherless thing. Nobody taught me how.
I never asked for the cage I was given.
It’s too late for me to fly now.
© Natalie G.S. Corthésy
Inspired by her birthplace, Jamaican, Natalie G.S. Corthésy has assembled a diverse collection of poems that recounts familiar stories with a distinctive feminine voice. The title Sky Juice entreats the reader to recall a most treasured delight enjoyed by Jamaican children on hot days, which is every day!
OPA: How long have you been working on it and explain the journey, the highs and lows, and finally the triumph to completion?
Three years in the making, “Sky Juice” is Natalie Corthésy’s second collection of poems after her debut anthology Fried Green Plantains (2017) Nasara Publishing. “The Watchman”, “Swansea”, “Siren” and “Ritual” have been published in The Caribbean Writer Volume 33, 2019. “The Helper Experiment”, “Where are you from?”, “The School Girl”, and “Free” have been published in The Caribbean Writer Volume 34, 2020. “Up” was published in the writing and visual art journal, We Are Goodgenough Magazine, 2020. “Plantation fringe” was contributed to a special commemorative edition of Interviewing the Caribbean honouring the work and life of Kamau Brathwaite, 2020.
Natalie Corthésy is the 2020 Winner of The Caribbean Writer’s Marvin E. Williams Literary Prize for a new or emerging writer for “The Helper Experiment” published in its Volume 34 edition under the theme, Dignity, Power and Place in the Caribbean Space.
Speaking about the collection, Corthésy says, “This collection is a snap shot of Jamaican culture. This is significant because it is crucial to tell our own stories.”
The stories my mother told me
have been bleached like black skin gone red.
No more peenie wallies in a bottle to see at night,
the rolling calf and the duppies are dead.
Manuel Road is now a low income housing scheme
and nobody breaks stones by hand.
No more playing cricket by the pond
all that remains are stray goats and dry land.
The post office was replaced with a wholesale shop.
There is no need to walk miles to town.
So many foreigners have come to settle
all the people in the community are now brown.
Barefoot children are few and bastards have been abolished.
Women have become bread winners
and salacious Village Rams admonished.
The flame of the “home sweet home” lamp has been put out.
There are no pimento berries to dry in the sun;
the trees have succumbed to the drought.
Gentrification has stripped her unblemished countryside raw
leaving it exposed to ungrateful kin.
But the church is still full and the bar next door open,
they chronicle the truth of living in mama’s skin.
Working on her third collection of poems, when asked how and in what ways Covid 19 and the Black Lives Matter movement have impacted her writing Corthésy is clear .
“The work reflects the universality of minority struggle. Covid 19, the Black Lives Matter and the Me too movements are equalisers that have inspired a new narrative of hope for anyone who has known prejudice or loss.”
As a writer affirms that she “wants to write poems that capture a distinctive Jamaican voice that is relatable, memorable and timeless.” Perhaps as memorable as sugar cane she used to eat every day!
A free man can
see you in his sunburnt ancestors
yet he does not know his kin,
the names of the slaves that boarded the vessels,
nor the legend of their King.
A free woman can
feel you in her tightly knotted cane rows
but she does not know her tribe,
the rituals for babies born in drought
nor the courtship dance for a young bride
Somehow, I have known you all my life
because the spirits followed me
through the middle passage, from a watery grave
unto island shores. I rise up
in a New World, free, yet still a slave.
But Mother knows best.
The Windrush that anchored me in Brixton
capsized innumerable souls with my own.
This village crippled folkways
silenced the kalimba lilt of colourful voices into a dull monotone.
I walk past generations
firing up Electric Lane with gritty cultural fare
but shops no longer sell that brand of happiness here.
I want to belong, to go home and come back.
But there is no refuge from being born black.
The Poet can be contacted:
FB: Fried Green Plantains Book Launch