February 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mervyn Morris 2006

Mervyn Morris’ poetry is known for its complexity and wit. He is known for his generosity and readiness to champion the work of younger poets and writers. For example, thirty years ago I attended the first reading of Orlando Wong aka Oku Onoura @ the Tom Redcam Library. The reading was facilitated by Mervyn and PEN—which is why I vowed to become a member of that organization and I have. 

Other poets such as Mikey Smith, Claudia Rankine, Malachi Smith, Mutabaruka and I have benefited from his willingness to give our work the exposure that it needed. For example, Mervyn wrote one of the best reviews of my poetry in Is English We Speaking and gave the contextual background for non-Jamaicans to understand the poem, "Dancehall." Mervyn was also instrumental in shaping the Caribbean Writers' Summer Institute which gave many of us a chance to attend poetry workshops and to establish the networks that are essential to writers.

And remember, he didn’t have to do this. He could have pulled up the ladder behind him--as so many others have done.

Younger poets learn from older poets, and I have learned the value of faith in poetry from Mervyn. The first third of hurricane center and Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas would not have existed had it not been for On Holy Week which I read assiduously to understand the craft of poetry. I needed to learn how to remain true to my understanding of faith and my vocation as a poet. Mervyn taught me how. In a time when it is still fashionable to flaunt nihilism—the everlasting no that plagues Black life and literature (e.g. Invisible Man)—Mervyn also taught me that it is possible to say yes to some things. And for this, I give thanks.


Anonymous said...

I've happened upon this blog, but was a welcomed guest poet in Mervyn Morris's UWI-Mona class in 1993. I taught his students Frost's "After Apple Picking" and recall a lovely discussion about the proportions of apple ladders in New England. That evening Mr. Morris hosted a party where I met Lorna Goodison and other young Jamaican poets. What a wonderful memory and glimpse into Jamaican literary life. Joel Lipman

Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Joel,
Did I also forget to mention that Mervyn is also a gracious host?
Give thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have read a number of Mr.Morris's poems throughout high school and I must say that this man is truly blessed. Continue to do what you are doing, you are a great inspiration to teenagers like myself.I would really like to meet you some day.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks, Anonymous...

Hope our paths do cross.

One Love,