After Six Decades, Jamaica Names New Poet Laureate

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - April 15, 2014

Above: Professor Mervyn Morris (centre) (JIS Photo)

By the Caribbean Journal staff

Jamaica has named Professor Mervy Morris as the country’s latest Poet Laureate after the position had gone unfilled for more than six decades.

Morris, who is a professor emeritus at the University of the West Indies, will serve in the post for the next three years.

The government said Morris’ role would “entail playing a proactive and integral part in promoting Jamaican poetry as an art form that portrays the country’s cultural heritage, as also a medium for entertainment, by stimulating a greater appreciation of poetry, writing poems for national occasions, and preserving and disseminating the country’s cultural heritage, through prose.”

Jamaica’s government recently reinstated the Poet Laureate Programme, which is being funded by the Tourism Enhancement Fund to the tune of around $31,050 USD.

Morris is the third person to hold the title and the first to be appointed by the government; the two previous Poet Laureates were appointed by the Poetry League of Jamaica in 1933 and 1953.

Morris was named by a nine-member selection committee.

Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill said Morris “remains one of the most resourceful and technically brilliant of Caribbean poets.”

“He is a supreme poet…and although a serious poet, he is also a performer, a wisecracking cynical versifier with a sharp wit, and a sparkling gift for ingenious rhymes,” McNeill said.

The programme had been dormant for 61 years.

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