“I don’t do comedy,” Dr Jean Small said recently we spoke about her work in theatre over most of her 82 years. She is more comfortable writing, directing and acting in serious drama.
With her first book of poems, the self-published Send Me No Flowers: Poems of Loss, Smalls shows that her poetry is also serious. “I write out of pain,” she confesses.
Because she was a theatre practitioner before turning poet, it was not surprising that book’s launch on March 26 at Pages Café, Hope Gardens, contained many elements of drama. Her son Seretse Small, a well-known guitarist and music educator, along with a couple of musician friends provided music. Actress/director Carolyn Allen gave an overview of the work and Small herself showed her acting skill as she read some of her poems.
The combination of sincere delivery and the poems’ angst created a sombre mood in the gathering of friends, colleagues in education and poetry lovers. One woman cried as Small read a poem about the murder of a musician friend near Bob Marley’s statue on Arthur Wint Drive.
Small told the audience that inspiration for her poems came from the sights, events and conversations of her day-to-day life. She put the poems in a book because she felt the passing of time and wants to leave the collection as a legacy to her brother and sister.
The music of Seretse on guitar, Maroghini on drums and Mbala on the four or five instruments in his one-man orchestra, was light and bright. Small played Steppin’ Out of Babylon and Mbala, accompanied by Maroghini, played a composition he wrote “in three-and-a-half movements” specially for the occasion.
Also counterbalancing the poems’ mood was Allen’s witty and insightful discourse. “I am come to honour Jean and to praise her for her undying engagement with the arts, her amazing energy, and her willingness to share with us the fruits of her creativity,” Allen started.
She later quoted Small as explaining, “I write out of pain …understand pain, sadness, disappointment and loss and so I can empathise with other people’s loss. I become them and write from that ‘knowing’, so I can write as though I AM that woman.”
Small added later that her poems “come out more as performance poems” and form the conjunction of her acting and writing poetry. The point was picked up by Allen.
“There are a variety of dramatic effects. “In Trapped the scene is created with setting, costumes, physical details, very much like a sequence of camera shots with a progressive shift of focus and the tension is palpable. Elsewhere, we get stage directions and direct dialogue,” Allen said.
“In Car Crash we hear just one side of a telephone conversation and the poem begs to be voiced. Often we sense the poem conscious of an implicit live audience. In fact, three of these poems form part of the script of A Black Woman’s Tale, published in 2001 in Contemporary Drama of the Caribbean,” Allen added.
Allen cautioned against assuming that the personas in the poems are all Small herself and closed her analysis by reiterating that though death and loss are central themes of the collection, ultimately it affirms life and meaning.
Published at Fri, 14 Apr 2017 05:00:48 +0000