Zion Roses is the title of the collection. The collection engages with the loss of our roots as Caribbeans, we who have been separated from our ancestral history , continue to suffer disenfranchisements. Loss of land, language and cultures report in our daily experiences. Zion Roses acknowledges our pain but it does not ask readers to wallow in self-pity, but to rise-up and overcome. The collection engages with music, art, and literature, as avenues of overcoming. Descendants are encouraged to innovate and lift ourselves/ themselves into a brighter future, to use dance, music , poetry, and visual art as cure, acknowledging the power in both ‘history’ and ‘history-less-ness.’
In June, 2018, while having lunch with a painter, Stefanie Thomas, who had only a few minutes before completed a painting and set it near an open window to dry, I found my gaze time and again drawn towards the image resting against a wall. I finally got up and studied the painting more closely and I said, “Stefanie, these are flowers falling from heaven, from Zion, a gift.” She studied me and the painting, a smile was her only response. Days later she called and shared her decision to name the painting … “Zion Roses.” I knew then it would be the title of my next book.
My first collection Kumina Queen was published in 2016. In that said year I attend Bennington College, Vermont (2016-2018) where I obtained an MFA. Several poems in this collection were penned during my time at Bennington. At Bennington I had the benefit of working with several significant poets resident in the United States of America, including Major Jackson, Greg Pardlo, and April Bernard. I consider my time spent interfacing with these poets as part of ‘the high.’ But the high did not start there. I had before Bennington, the benefit of mentorship from Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris. The low …Mama said “Rome was never built in a day”…poetry needs patience and dedication. I am thrilled when a new collection is published, but the product takes time.
This collection captures the scattering and fragmentation of lives — trafficked Africans and their descendants. The continuing impact of European colonisers on the descendants of the enslaved is of particular importance. The collection reports various influences, with respect to language, foods, and cultural norms; in my mind these influences explain much of the unique multi-layered complex individuals we meet in the Caribbean and the diaspora. The collection introduces subversive voices of persons disenfranchised: “BAG-A-WIRE,” “Mahogany Tree” (Tour guide) , “Telemachus,” and “Jean Michel Basquiat,” to name a few.
Jean Michel Basquiat was born to a Haitian father and mother of Puerto Rican heritage. Basquiat has been described as: rebellious, unique, subversive, difficult, and exceptional. Every black person, more recently termed ‘hybrid,’ should want to know Basquiat’s story, his successes and his failings. His subversive paintings speak to his rejection of a system of oppression, ‘The Establishment.’ His paintings report on life in the USA for black persons. Basquiat employed symbols in his paintings: skulls, bones, crowns, scribblings and ladders of escape. He used symbols like trademarks.
Zion Roses reports on a history of violence and pain, which may be ascribed to epi-genetic markers ( findings of a recent scientific study) that may one day explain the continuing violence in our islands. But, most important, the collection encourages overcoming, planting seeds of hope.
(Three wooden figures, said to be Taino deities -Zemis on display before the Society of Antiquaries of London.”)
Hardwood taking shape.
Cacique listens to grain
of the wood, turns voice
into form. Ancestors’
but never breaks, stone-
chisel strips away bark
ready for stone grinder.
Beveled liberation. No
Auction Block. Bird-
man finds tree-of-life
good to make ships.
Audience: Persons who are interested in postcolonial studies, history of people in the Caribbean, and the complexities of Caribbean persons, will appreciate Zion Roses.
Covid 19, facilitated my focused attention for approximately 14 months on the third collection. The Black Lives Matter movement confirms that my decision to explore the continuing impact of colonial occupation on trafficked Africans, via “colonial loss and reconciliation,” is reasonable and relevant.
I am currently completing my third collection, this collection, heavily biased towards ekphrasis, will present “ships that scattered us.” The collection again seeks to be a conduit of voices that had been silenced, voices that now must to be heard. I also continue my tantalizing journey through the works of Jean Michel Basquiat.
While reading, a word or a sentence often provokes a memory, I am transported to a space where I try to resolve unresolved issues, or to document injustices I have unearthed. I’ll stop and write my thoughts as they come, responding to the artistic intuition/ pulse. A memory often forms the skeleton or the sub stratum of a poem. For the poem to evolve I meditate on the idea of the poem while trying to hear my thoughts clearly; thereafter, I widen areas of consideration through research or further readings in an effort to eliminate limitations I may have subjectively imposed. The lyrical call will already have entered the lines, ‘enriching the dry bones.’ My poems are never finished until they achieve the intended purpose, i.e., ensuring the voices of the voiceless can be heard through my writings.
I wish to write the most powerful collection that I can possibly write that will impact lives and foster reconciliation.
I am a workaholic, nevertheless, I am a bit disorganized maybe because I am usually doing three projects when other persons are focused on one.
LET US PLAY BY MY RULES
I have been called, yes called
to a city where boys grow into skeletons
and skulls, wearing halos of nails and thorns,
where locusts deconstruct and strip-down,
like I strip down for you, show you my lines
my angles, my crown. They cross over me,
Madonna, to feel what black-crazy feels like.
They cross me over, sit me down, sing me
soft, sing me wild, ring me with fire. Then
they listen when I testify, a broken heart,
loud, back-talking loud, before they reply,
calling out my name, Jean Michel Basquiat.
I say, “Off with their grinning heads.”
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