May 22, 2011

New Book: Una Marson: Selected Poems

Una Marson is widely recognised as ‘the earliest female poet of significance to emerge in West Indian literature’, but whilst her role as an early feminist and a ‘first woman’ publisher, broadcaster, pan-Africanist and anti-racist features on many web pages, her poetry has received less considered critical attention.

This may be because her work is very diverse, even seemingly contradictory. She is a Jamaican poet who pioneered the articulation of gender and racial oppression, brought Jamaican vernacular voices alongside a Wordsworthian passion for nature, and ventured to give subjectivity to the powerless and marginalised. Author of Afro-blues that draw on both African-American and Jamaican speech, and of folk monologues, she also wrote devotional sonnets and love lyrics within a distinctly un-modernist tradition. Marson’s work as presented here is a complex subject, striving to answer the questions of how to write as a woman; as a black, modern, diasporic subject; for the poor and powerless.

As Donnell’s extensive selection shows, and her introduction argues, Marson’s is a significant poetic achievement.

About Una Marson

Una Marson was born in Jamaica in 1905, the daughter of a Baptist minister. She worked as the assistant editor of a Jamaican political journal and in 1928 launched her own magazine, The Cosmopolitan, which dealt with local, feminist and workers’ rights issues, aimed at a progressive middle class audience. In 1930 she self-published her first collection of poems, Tropic Reveries, followed by Heights and Depths (1931), and her first play, At What Price.

Between 1932-36, Marson went to England, and her poetry was marked by her confrontation with racism, and her feminism was deepened by the International Alliance of Women. Returning to Jamaica she worked as a journalist and wrote two further plays and a third collection of poetry. She went to London between 1938-1945, where her most important work with the BBC led to the creation of the hugely influential Caribbean Voices programme. She also became involved with the pan-Africanist anti-colonial movement in this period.

Her life after 1945 is far from clear, but involved time in both Jamaica and the USA. In Jamaica she was one of the early defenders of the Rastafarian movement from persecution.


Enhanced by Zemanta

1 comment:

FSJL said...

I think that it is important that literary pioneers be rescued from oblivion or near oblivion. Una Marson is an important figure in Jamaica's, and the West Indies', literary and cultural history, and she deserves to be remembered.