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Saturday, 26 May 2007

Saturday afternoon at Calabash

Calabash Literary Festival 2007

Marlon James, novelist and MC

The first Calabash open mike session started a little late, but the audience (now almost filling the big tent) were probably glad for a breather. Marlon James was a genial MC, cracking jokes at his own expense, and deftly enforcing the three-minute time limit--if one of the readers went over and ignored his stageside winks, he'd bound up behind them and exaggeratedly peer over their shoulder. One energetic fella almost had to be dragged off the stage.

In rapid succession we had an anti-war dub, a tribute to a stepmother, a poem (read by a girl who couldn't have been older than ten) about a cat, various poems about freedom and racism and identity, and an odd little story about two boys butterfly-hunting. I was particularly struck by the gentleman from St. Mary who managed, in a poem on an environmentalist theme, to rhyme "untreated faeces" with "diseases", and then "crop rotation" with "feed the nation". Another poet incorporated what sounded to my ear like a few lines from Tennyson: "an infant crying in the night, / an infant crying for the light, / and with no language but a cry."

Immediately after, a trio of American poets came on. I enjoyed listening to Elizabeth Alexander, then a strong desire for a cup of tea drove me back to the house. I'll be back at Jake's at 5.30 to hear Maryse Condé, Michael Ondaatje, and Caryl Phillips....

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