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

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The Nature Island Literary Festival 2013: Inspiring the (unlikely) Poet in Me!

I am rejoicing over all the wonderful presentations, encounters and inspirations that I experienced at Dominica’s 6th annual Nature Island Literary Festival (NILF), which was held from August 9th – 11th at the University of the West Indies Open Campus.  I will be writing a full blog report about its program to follow this one.

Although I am not spontaneous by nature, I impulsively entered their poetry writing contest without giving it much thought.  I think I was motivated by the ideas and creative works that had been shared by various literary artists and academics up to midday on the first full  day of the event.

At the  lunch  break that Saturday, I picked up an entry form for the short story and poetry competitions, and headed home.  As I sipped my soup, I read over the instructions.  The poem was to be of no more than  20 lines and had to  be about Roseau.  I overlook the fair city from my porch, and I never tire of doing so. Between spoonfuls,  I simply picked up my pen and out poured some thoughts and  feelings about the lovely capital,  in non-rhyming  free verse.  As directed, I wrote it out on the back of the instruction form, and put my name and contact info on a separate sheet that had a corresponding number with this  anonymous  instruction form.  So when I headed back for the afternoon sessions, I discretely dropped it in the entry box, and absorbed myself in other awesome literary distractions.

While I did attend most of the event, I was not at  Mero Beach for the Sunday afternoon performances and closing ceremony.  When a NILF committee member called me on Monday morning, I was more than surprised to hear that I had placed second in the poetry contest!  And even stranger, when the telephone rang, I had been sorting through some poems I had written many years ago when I first arrived on Dominica! I’ve never penned one since, that is, until this past Saturday! I’ll post my old poems in due course.  But in the mean time, here is what I wrote about lovely Roseau, on the spur of the moment:

The Botanical Gardens are a cool and lovely respite from the afternoon heat in Roseau.

The Botanical Gardens offer a cool and lovely respite from the afternoon heat in downtown Roseau.

Roseau

Stately Victorians mingle with modern designs

English street names mark places once French

Sweltering sidewalks lead to a garden of green.

 

Bayfront, cruise ships rest some days,

I love to watch  the cruise ships arrive and depart from my porch overlooking Roseau.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

I love to look at the cruise ships. They easily anchor in the deep waters  beneath the pier on the Bayfront in Roseau. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Roseau is a bustling little Caribbean city and is the capital of Dominica.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Dominica’s capital city Roseau is a bustling place. Photo of King George V Street looking west, by Edwin Whitford.

While their passengers experience

The hustle and bustle of a day in port.

 

Most nights, all is quiet

The historic Fort Young Hotel hosts a lively Happy Hour on Friday nights.

The historic Fort Young Hotel hosts a lively Happy Hour on Friday nights.

With the exception of Fridays,

When happy people meet and greet

Over loudspeakers producing pulsating beats.

 

It’s the serene spots I like best:

The Carnegie-designed Roseau Public Library was built in 1906.  It has a treasure trove of books inside!

The Roseau Public Library was built in 1906. It has a treasure trove of books inside (and computers and wireless too)!

Spending time at the century-old public library;

Or taking the steep walk up to Morne Bruce.

 

There, I can meditate over brightly coloured roofs

From Morne Bruce, the Roseau roof-tops are a riot of colour that contrasts with the calm Caribbean Sea.

From Morne Bruce, the Roseau roof-tops are a riot of colours that contrast with the calm blue Caribbean Sea.

And an endless sea view

Where the setting sun always promises another day

Roseau sunsets are simply breathtaking!

Roseau sunsets are simply breathtaking!

To really enjoy the diverse faces of lovely Roseau.

 

                                                                                                Roseau, Dominica

                                                                                                August 10, 2013

* Thanks to the organizers, sponsors, participants and enthusiasts of the Nature Island Literary Festival for inspiring the unlikely poet in me!