Internationally-acclaimed Jamaican Author and Poet, Olive Senior, has been invested as Poet Laureate of Jamaica. The Investiture Ceremony took place at King’s House on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
Ms. Senior, who is the third Poet Laureate of Independent Jamaica, follows in the footsteps of other recognized Poets Laureate, including Claude McKay, John Clare Ebenezer McFarlane, Thomas McDermott, Professor the Honourable Mervyn Morris and Miss Lorna Goodison.
Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen in commenting on Ms. Senior’s role noted that, “over the next three years, Ms. Senior will be charged with creating an avenue for public involvement in the spoken arts, by stimulating the writing of poetry and improving youth appreciation for poetry.”
“Much of our history, culture, and the struggles and triumphs of our forebears are captured in literary works. By interpreting and providing literary commentary on social events, our writers have recorded our history in a medium that will remain for posterity,” Sir Patrick said.
Referring to Ms. Senior’s recent collection of Pandemic Poems: First Wave, The Governor-General observed that, “Ms. Senior will leave her legacy as a poet in these unprecedented times; a time when the protocol requires us to sanitise our hands, wear masks, social-distance and take the vaccine.”
In her response, Ms. Senior expressed gratitude for her appointment and promised to use her mandate as Poet Laureate to evoke in the young especially, that sense of possession and being possessed by land and landscape which nurtured her as a child and which has propelled her to this momentous day in her life.
Ms. Senior added that, “the urgency is great, as fragile Caribbean islands are in the forefront of destructive challenges posed by global warming,” and pledged, “to use what is called eco-poetics to develop a lasting awareness, especially among youth, of the need for environmental protection, care, and ownership of Jamaica’s national resources.”
The Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, the Honourable Olivia Grange, congratulated Ms. Senior on her appointment while Minister of State, the Honourable Alando Terrelonge, read the Citation. Dr. Myrna Hague-Bradshaw, accompanied by Ms. Marjorie Whylie on piano, presented a musical item. Twelve-year old Dante Reynolds of Praise Christian Academy, recited one of Ms. Senior’s poems entitled “Rejected Text for a Tourist Brochure”.
A Poet Laureate is selected from among the country’s most esteemed and accomplished poets to occupy an exalted position in the nation’s literary heritage for a period of three years.
The Investiture Ceremony was attended largely by a virtual audience locally and overseas via various online platforms. The Investiture of the Poet Laureate is a signature programme of the National Library of Jamaica, an Agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.