Poems About Dominica Inspired by the 2015 Nature Island Literary Festival’s Writing Competition

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.

  1. Springfield’s Splendour

Dominica is a beautiful green gem.

A mix of rich history and vibrant culture2004_1103Dominica0015

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

This river pool at Springfield is a place where I spent many moments in meditation whenever I visit Springfield.

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.

As dawn is breaking on the old estate, I am always reminded of the magic and mystery of this beautiful place.

From Springfield, the view of the Antrim Valley down to the Caribbean sea always evokes a feeling of tranquility.

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.

I howl for the Nature Isle.DSCF4390

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.

Climate change, global warming, pollution, DSCF4546

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

This forceful natural hot water shower at Tia's provides a strong massage for sore muscles

Strong smelling, soothing relief

A healthful respite.

Spouts seen on the sea

Secretive, gentle and  strong

Dive into the deeps.

Cascading torrentsDSCF1160

Flow in synchronicity-

Electricity.

Three emerald peaks

Silver clouds and sapphire sky

Tall is her body.

“Whoop-whoop” breaks silence

A common sound in the nightDSCF5438

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

Dominica’s Middleham Falls: A Wondrous Site/Sight to Behold*

 

Springfield Plantation is my preferred starting point for the Middleham Falls hike.  However, the steep uphill climb from there on the Cochrane feeder road adds a good hour or more to the outing before you reach the actual trailhead.

Springfield Plantation is my preferred starting point for the Middleham Falls hike. However, the steep uphill climb from there on the Cochrane feeder road adds a good hour or more to the outing before you reach the actual trailhead.

Middleham Falls

It’s a long, arduous, painful trek from Springfield –

There are several small streams to cross on the way to Middleham Falls.  They may be dry or they may have flwoing water, depending on the weather conditions and-or the time of year!  Rocks can be slippery.

There are several small streams to cross on the way to Middleham Falls. They may be dry or they may have flowing water, depending on the weather conditions and-or the time of year! Rocks can be slippery.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

clambering over slippery rocks,

 fording shallow streams,

clinging to steep cliffs –

The feeder road en route to Middleham Falls from Springfield passes above the village of Cochrane (bottom right) with views in a southwesterly direction.

The feeder road en route to Middleham Falls from Springfield passes above the village of Cochrane (bottom right) with views in a southwesterly direction from this vantage point.

endlessly uphill.

 

There is no turning back, however.

Too much pride gets in the way.

My guide`s persistent encouragement

makes me more determined

to find my way.

 

My pace diminishes with perpetual distractions.

There is quite a bit of climbing and grappling onto rocks on the Middleham Falls trail - but it`s well worth it!

There is quite a bit of climbing and grappling onto rocks and roots on the Middleham Falls trail – but it`s well worth it! Photo by Edwin Whitford.

The wonders of the rainforest

enchant and intrigue

like a recurrent sensual fantasy,

except that this is not a dream.

 

The rainforest can be a distraction.  It is best to stop  walking and admire it in order to avoid a slip on tricky terrain!

The rainforest can be a distraction. It is best to stop walking and admire it in order to avoid a slip on tricky terrain! (even though it might add a little time to the journey)

Suddenly, I awake from my reveries:

“Don`t slow down  –

you`ll lose the momentum!

Take it in as you go.“

That voice drifts back to me from somewhere up ahead.

 

After seemingly endless hours,

bruised, weary and sore,

I am finally there.

Breathlessly, I admire the splendor of the site.

 

Before me is the most magnificent torrential cascade

Middleham Falls in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Middleham  Falls is found at about 2,500′ above sea level in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This cascade is around 270′ high and is known as one of the tallest on the island. It can be difficult to photograph due to its exceptional height! It has  a strong flow year-round. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

towering far above

and showering me with a cold mist

that revitalizes and invigorates my entire being.

 

I gaze longingly at this Dominican wonder,

hoping that I can capture its mighty spirit

and carry it with me always.

 

On a dry day, a dip in the cool pôol belwo Middleham Falls can be very refreshing before the return journey.

On a hot, dry day, a dip in the cool pool below Middleham Falls can be very refreshing before the return journey.

A torrential rain begins to pour 

and it is time to turn back.

But I always long for the day

when I can return to Middleham Falls again.

 

-written near Lakefield, Ontario, Canada

March 1998

* Middleham Falls is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It can be approached from Springfield via the Cochrane Village Feeder Road  (4 – 5 hours return at a leisurely pace)  or from the trailhead near Laudat (a shorter trip) in the Roseau Valley.  It is also possible to reach it from Segment Four of the Waitukubuli National Trail. 

You can also hike right through from the Cochrane side to the Laudat side, or vice versa!  Allow the better part of a day to do that – and take some time to check out Tou Santi –  the `Stinking Hole` which is a huge bat cave.  You`ll likely smell it before you see it!

** References:

Dominica: Bradt Travel Guide by Paul Crask. Edition 2 (2011), pp. 127-128. Paul is a longtime island resident (British expatriate) who has provided very detailed background information and  descriptions of the hikes to Middleham Falls, as well particulars about flora and fauna in this area.

Dominica: Discover the Real Dominica: A Travel Guide Written by Former Peace Corps Volunteers by Anna McCanse. Other Places Publishing, 2011, pp. 255-257 A helpful detailed map and specific directions are contained therein.

 

A Poetic Expression of My First Impressions of Dominica

316 (2)Love Affair

 

Beautiful Dominica,

Will you really be mine?

 

How you move meDSCF5145

As I search for answers

 That are buried deep in my heart.

 

We belong together –

You calm my troubled mind

And sooth my weary soul.

Your majestic mountains and rushing rivers

DSCF4090Provide quiet comfort and consolation.DSCF0543

 

But you also captivate me.

How sensational each moment seems

When I am enveloped in your earthly charms.

 

Why do you cast this spell on me?

Perhaps I will never know.

Instead, I will revel in your healing touch

And reciprocate with gratitude and love.

 

DSCF5946written at Springfield, Dominica, West Indies, January 1998

Springfield Dominica: My Favourite Place on the Nature Isle*

Painting of Springfield Plantation by Dominican Artist Earl Etienne in 1996.

Painting of Springfield Plantation Guest House by Dominican artist Earl Etienne in 1996. It presently hangs in the dining room, which is the former Great House.

Over the past week, I had the good fortune to visit  Dominica’s Springfield Plantation on three occasions.  This stately property was  my first home in Dominica, and there are times when I wish I had never left her  pristine  air and peaceful beauty!  I have also had the pleasure of getting to know some wonderful people there: Mona George-Dill, who oversaw the then Springfield Plantation Guest House in the 1990’s and early 2000’s; Nancy Osler, current manager of the on-site Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center; and members of the Eusell family, who lived nearby and  are still associated with the estate.  All of these folks have always been very welcoming and kind to me, which contributes to my  ongoing affection for my favourite place on the Nature Island. While it is no longer a hotel, I enjoy spending a little time there whenever possible.

Springfield has a longstanding reputation as a garden on the edge of the rainforest..

Springfield has a longstanding reputation as a beautiful garden on the edge of the rainforest.

From my first visit, I was so taken with this charming estate, which is set on the edge of the rainforest, that I wrote a poem about it during my early days in Dominica.  It was dedicated to Mona George-Dill and I presented it to her in 1997.  She helped me familiarize with Dominica’s culture and customs, for which I am forever grateful.

During my second stay at Springfield, I thought I heard a strange voice call my name in the middle of the night.  As the property dates back to the mid-1700’s, I thought it might have been a ghost – a friendly one, of course!  Even though I am not a poet, these words came tumbling out of my head via my pen the next morning:

The Ghosts of Springfield

There were some very melodious voices on the night on August 21, 2013, as the Just Us Youth Choir from St. Lucia was in the house.

There were very melodious voices at Springfield on the night of August 21, 2013, as the Just Us Youth Choir from St. Lucia was in the house.

Voices in the night.

Dominica's popular Sisserou Singers were there in full voice too!

Dominica’s popular Sisserou Singers provided glorious vocal harmonies too!

A light mist falls

and caresses the old plantation

like a lover in the night.

Stifling hot stillness is relieved

by soothing breezes.

The spirits speak kindly

to those who stay

From Springfield, the view of the Antrim Valley down to the Caribbean sea always evokes a feeling of tranquility.

From Springfield, the view of the Antrim Valley down to the Caribbean Sea always evokes a feeling of tranquility.

and seek refuge

in a tranquility

rarely found elsewhere.

This plaque on the Great House's veranda complements my feelings about Springfield.

This plaque  is found on a pillar of the Great House’s veranda. It perfectly complements my thoughts about Springfield.

The garden of Springfield

blooms eternally

with a love

that will never die.

The track to the Springfield River envelops one in serenity as one walks through this rainforest garden.

The track to the Springfield River envelops one in serenity.

To Mona,

The cool and coursing Springfield River offers an idyllic respite from the everyday.

The cool and coursing Springfield River offers an idyllic respite from the everyday.

Love, Gwen

 October 14, 1997

*For more information about Springfield, Dominica (past and present), refer to my article in Domnitjen Magazine.