April 3, 2006

Tony McNeill's Legacy

Wayne Brown has written an excellent piece on Tony McNeill in the Jamaica Observer. Tony McNeill, along with Dennis Scott and Mervyn Morris, formed a trinity of poets whose influence can be seen in many of the younger poets in the Caribbean. All three had their strengths. One could always sense in Scott a fierce intelligence and in Morris, an urbane, sophisticated wit.

McNeill’s gift was his lyricism which he displayed in poems such as “Ode to Brother Joe”:

Nothing can soak
Brother Joe’s tough sermon,
his head swollen
with certainties.

When he lights up a s’liff
you can’t stop him
and the door to God, usually shut,
gives in a rainbow gust

from Reel from “The Life Movie

McNeill’s tragedy is ours. I suppose nothing could have saved him from himself (sometimes despite the help of others, we still manage to sabotage ourselves). But something can be done, now that he has made his transition and the legacy of his work appears in doubt. Perhaps some of the makers of distilled spirits (to whom many of our elder and younger poets have contributed vital organs) could make an effort to rescue his work. Quid pro quo?


FSJL said...

Tony was an amazing poet. His death was a huge loss to Jamaican letters.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Tony Mcneill also had the great skill to make his lyrics seem easy to write. They weren't. He was an extremely gifted poet