For the first time in several years, I was in Canada when the 8th annual Nature Island Literary Festival (NILF)took place in early August. I have always enjoyed the fascinating sessions and stimulating interactions with literary artists from Dominica and abroad. This year, a Nature Island Writing Competition formed part of the festivities. I was inspired to ‘try my hand’ in a genre in which I had little practical experience, with the exception of enjoying the study of a variety of poems on the syllabus that I taught in senior English literature classes at Orion Academy a few years ago. My humble submission was a way of staying connected to this wonderful and popular annual event!
As the theme of nature and the environment particularly intrigued me, I felt compelled to draft the required entry of three poems as I waited for my flight to Canada at the Barbados International Airport in mid-June. I applied some of the literary devices and techniques that I had explained to my eager students when we analyzed poems once upon a time. (They should smile when they read that!). I even revised the pieces on the plane, which I discovered was a very pleasant way of passing the time on a long journey.
Before I show them to you, I would like to congratulate Ms. Jamie Alleyne, who placed first in the poetry section of the 2015 NILF Writing Competition. I haven’t seen her poems yet, but certainly look forward to reading them in the near future. You can keep abreast of their release on the NILF website by clicking Nature Island Literary Festival and also checking their Facebook page.
Meanwhile, my heartfelt creations are recorded below, for posterity’s sake, if nothing else. I certainly delighted in this literary exercise and intend to pursue it again sometime.
- Springfield’s Splendour
Dominica is a beautiful green gem.
Complement its stunning emerald blend.
Nestled in the mountains near the rainforest
There sits a stately, comely, old estate
That epitomizes the essence of this place.
Springfield Plantation is her original name
And she is of an impressive old age
Her 18th century charm endures and fascinates.
I love to wander along her forest trails
While students of science search all over the grounds
Looking for large insects and rare plants.
In the nearby river, I feel completely at ease
A bath in its refreshing waters does please
And washes away my cares until tomorrow.
The old estate whispers in the night
Her ghost stories could cause a terrible fright
But I have never ever been afraid.
Myriad sounds: squeaks, creaks and groans
Fill my imagination and capture my soul
As night falls all over her.
Mornings, I gaze down the verdant valley
And focus on the tallest Royal Palm.
It seems it’s been there for almost forever and a day.
The distant Caribbean Sea calls to me
Sending assurances that all is calm and bright
When I spend time in Springfield’s paradise.
The old wooden beams hold secrets
But rustling trees in gentle breezes reveal
That Springfield is filled with enchanting magic and mystery
Which will never cease to charm and captivate me.
2. Cry for the Nature Isle
A hike through the rainforest:
Whistling birds, stunning orchids, tall, tall trees
The trail is challenging, steep and somewhat remote.
Down a deep ravine, partially concealed by shades of green:
A rusting fridge and a pair of bald tires,
And a little further along, a recently cleared garden patch in chemical yellow.
I sigh for the Nature Isle.
An afternoon by the river:
Cool, refreshing, reviving,
Revelling in its fast, frigid, flow.
Swimming further upstream to a more accessible spot
Provokes a shock-
Picnickers have left plenty on its banks:
Styrofoam plates, plastic cups, chicken bones and rum bottles too.
Midstream, a hummingbird flits around a blue banana bag caught on a rock.
I weep for the Nature Isle.
A brisk stroll along the windswept Atlantic coast:
Wild waves crash onshore
Pulling in ubiquitous overgrown Sargassum seaweed
Carrying with it a flotsam and jetsam of plastics
Of all descriptions:
Abundant bottle caps, motor oil containers, a bait bucket from Virginia,
To name a few.
I sob for the Nature Isle.
A critically endangered turtle, needing to lay her eggs:
Searching for a once-familiar spot on the beach.
In the distance, a lone man wanders along the shoreline
Late at night, and when asked about his presence there,
Vaguely admits to “doing something wrong.”
The 1,000 pound Leatherback never had a chance;
Soon the species will be no more.
A Boa Constrictor freely inhabits the suburban grassy terrain
And in the dry season, burns to death in an intentionally-set fire.
Iguana lizards cooked for lunch are enjoyed by all generations
Who savor their exquisite taste, despite laws and declining numbers.
I wail for the Nature Isle.
Thoughtlessness and selfishness most of all
Have taken precedence in this country of rare beauty, splendour
And sometime national pride.
If we don’t come together to preserve this precious place
Then I will have no choice but to constantly
Cry for the Nature Isle.
3. Dreams of Waitukubuli*
Hot, warm, cool waters
Strong smelling, soothing relief
A healthful respite.
Spouts seen on the sea
Secretive, gentle and strong
Dive into the deeps.
Flow in synchronicity-
Three emerald peaks
Silver clouds and sapphire sky
Tall is her body.
“Whoop-whoop” breaks silence
Once upon a time.
*Waitukubuli (pronounced Why-too-KOO-boo-lee) is the Kalinago name for Dominica, which means “tall is her body.”
**The above three poems were submitted to the NILF Writing Competition in July 2015, several weeks before Tropical Storm Erika devastated the Nature Island – but the sentiments remain the same! Gwendominica