Poetry, rap, writing, books all alive in St. Martin for 2009

High school student Joy Carty won the Collectivity’s English-to-French translation of poetry contest here on Monday, November 30, 2009, said Minerva Dormoy, head of the Cultural Department.

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Collectivity president Frantz Gumbs said that the objective of the "second annual educational and cultural event is to promote St. Martin literature in the schools."

Second and third prize winners were Lisa Sanchez and Elisabeth Marcon. The prize-giving ceremony was held at the Lycee Polyvalente in Marigot.

Magloire Hughes, director of the Collectivity’s Human Development sector, greeted the assembly of students, teachers and government officials in English though the language of instruction and the territory’s official language is French.

Hughes noted that he chose to speak in English, the historical language of the island, reinforcing President Gumbs’s statement last year that students at all levels of the school system in the North of the island should be proficient in French and English.

The 2009 translation contest included a fiction selection from "The Wake," found in the book of short stories Brotherhood of the Spurs, said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi (HNP), the book’s publisher.

In addition to the contest winners, the other participating students were Hyguenec Meredas, Sophia Andrew, Keisha Lake, Carlotta Saint-Hill, Marie-France Genelus, Jean-Philippe Kerilia and Elgeesha Minville.

The participants all received a certificate and a National Symbols of St. Martin book prize. The winners took home more books, travel and money prizes. The judges were Alex Richards (chairman), Anicke Hansen and Jacqueline Hamlet.

Poetry in particular and literature in general had a busy year among the youth and on both parts of St. Martin. "We’re honored to be involved as a publisher and enthusiastic observer," said Sample. "Future writers and translators are in the making among our young people right before our very own eyes," said Sample.

Author Lasana M. Sekou points to "a virtual calendar of 2009 poetry-related highlights. Availability of more quality poetry books published in St. Martin; visits by leading poets; the Poetry in the Garden series; the nation’s first poetry CD set to music and poetry videos online; tourist magazines cautiously offering ‘wordsmiths’ as part of the traveler’s original experience; the book fair as a recital, reading and listening platform; the just concluded book week; and Rhoda Arrindell’s hands-on and disciplined involvement of USM and Academy students with the ‘elements’ of what is a national literature."

"Then there was the unprecedented run of open mic recitals – up to 25 readers at times – with Ras Mosera holding court at Axum Café on Frontstreet. Ruby Bute’s gallery in Friar’s Bay held soiree readings. We saw the public unfolding of Yaya Richards’s oral vignettes into spoken word poetry, with a distinct village orientation," said Sekou on Wednesday.

"There’s also the growth of individual postings on YouTube, rapping in English, Spanish and Kweyol. What was seemingly new this year is how the teenagers among this group appear to be trying to find their original St. Martin/Caribbean rap voice, as St. Martin’s children – instead of just mimicking imported and divisive varieties," said Sekou.

"All of these spoken word and text activities can’t be isolated acts and events and could be seen as feeding from a dynamic whole, from the times that we’re in, and at the same time fueling the nation’s cultural independence," said Sekou, who also spoke at the translation contest program earlier this week.