Skip to Main Content

Caribbean Poetry - ENGL 733, Dr. Monifa Love

Towards an Understanding of Anglophone Caribbean Poetry

Why the Porch?

Story telling has been an important part of history for centuries. Not only have stories been handed down from generation to generation but, they excite and ignite the ideas that are driving forces behind the motives that are in place today. The Caribbean is a melting pot of different cultures. With each island, there is a new and rewarding experience and story to be told. With each language spoken, there is an intriguing experience to take in. On this page, there will be a few poems that dive right into the idea of storytelling from the eyes of older women on the porch. This view will allow those that have a slight understanding (or no understanding at all) of the rich topics that are discussed by the older generation in the Caribbean.

Poetry is an art of storytelling in itself. With an immersing of the Caribbean culture, the poetry becomes even richer. There are excerpts of poems recited by an older Caribbean woman so that the art of the storytelling is not lost or commercialized. It creates a sense of emotion that cannot otherwise be understood in watered down textbooks. 

Get to Know Ms. Bloom (The Woman Who Brought the Porch to Life)

Valerie Bloom performs Kisko Pop

A Valerie Bloom reading is an uplifting experience, one that can coax even a shy British poetry audience into joyful participation, hands in the air to carry imaginary cake boxes, as they join in with the chorus to 'Pinda Cake'. She moves easily around the area where poetry and song overlap, in a voice as warm in speaking as in singing, and believes that "part of the beauty of poetry is the music in the words, and a vital part of music is often the poetry in the lyrics".

But Bloom is far from a one-note poet. Her work also includes graver poems, such as the threatening 'Whose Dem Boots', 'Heather', a young girl forced to grow up too fast, or the fearsome ghosts of 'Duppy Jamboree', drawing on imagery from Jamaican folk tales. The influence of stories from her native Jamaica is a recurrent feature of Bloom's poetry, and she is as convincing in patois as in "standard" English. She will often give a crash course in patois as part of a reading to ensure no-one is excluded, but - while never making an outspoken statement on language politics - has insisted that "every so often, something can be said more expressively in one than the other". 'Sandwich', with its story of a Caribbean family in England, uses patois to explore fitting in and standing out: a child, who wants to bring a sandwich like all the other children, is made to take "chicken, rice an' hardo bread" by a Jamaican grandmother, but, despite his fears ("Ah wave goodbye to me street cred"), as soon as the other children see this spread, "dem all feget dem sandwich" and share. Just as the non-standard lunch becomes something to celebrate, so does the non-standard language.

Bloom (b. 1956) first came to England in 1979, and is now based in Kent, but continues to travel around the UK and abroad adding to her thousands of performances, workshops and school visits. Her poetry has become widely known through her books, those of her own poetry and anthologies she has edited, plus a novel, and she was commissioned to write a poem on Celebration for National Poetry Day 2002. At last count, her poetry had been printed in over 250 anthologies, as well as appearing frequently on television, stage and radio.

"Valerie Bloom Interview (Transcript)." The Poetry Archive. 

References/ Resources

"Valerie Bloom Interview (Transcript)." The Poetry Archive.