- Eminent academic and renowned poet, Professor Mervyn Morris, was officially installed as Poet Laureate of Jamaica during an investiture ceremony at King’s House on May 22.
- Professor Morris is the third Poet Laureate to be appointed in Jamaica.
- The Poet Laureate programme came about as a result of great collaboration between the Entertainment Advisory Board and the Ministry of Youth and Culture.
Eminent academic and renowned poet, Professor Mervyn Morris, was officially installed as Poet Laureate of Jamaica during an investiture ceremony at King’s House on May 22.
Born in Kingston in 1937, Professor Morris is the third Poet Laureate to be appointed in Jamaica, the others being Tom Redcam, who was appointed posthumously in 1933, and John Ebenezer Clare McFarlane (in 1953).
Lauding Professor Morris, Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, noted that he is a fitting literary ambassador.
“His literary genius manifests feeling, affection and respect and his vast resume as a poet has carved a noteworthy imprint on both the local and regional landscapes,” Dr. McNeill said.
He pointed out that over the years, many persons have championed the cause for the investiture of a Poet Laureate, although some have questioned it. He contended however, that it is important to have such persons in the society to help to develop the art forms and promote the recognition of the literary arts, while helping to celebrate the accomplishments of the nation.
“We in tourism think this is an important programme, which will showcase our literary arts to the world,” the Minister said.
He informed that the Poet Laureate programme came about as a result of great collaboration between the Entertainment Advisory Board and the Ministry of Youth and Culture.
Now that the programme is fully established, it will be housed in the National Library, which will be the Secretariat, as is the case in many countries, Dr. McNeill informed.
In response, Professor Morris expressed deep gratitude to have the honour bestowed on him. “I am especially grateful to be chosen in a process that requires nomination from the general public, and I am happy that many persons seemed to have approved the selection,” he said.
He listed a number of activities he hopes to undertake during his tenure, including to have some of the many poets, whose work he admires, visit schools and colleges as an activity not directly connected with preparing for examinations.
“These sessions would aim to encourage the enjoyment of poetry,” Professor Morris said.
The newly appointed Poet Laureate will be kept busy during his three-year term. Already the invitations are rolling in. Professor Morris will appear later this month at the Calabash International Literary Festival, and he has been invited to speak at the Bristol Festival of Literature in the United Kingdom in October.
The terms of reference for a Poet Laureate include: to present public poetry related seminars/readings/promotions in Kingston, Montego Bay and at least one rural location; to be available for a minimum of four official appearances; promote reading and Jamaican literature with an emphasis on poetry; to undertake Poet Laureate duties such as writing poetry for national events/observances/accomplishments; and to create a publication of Jamaican poetry.