It’s a Caribbean carnival here at The Missing Slate right now: our new issue, published yesterday, brought together three generations of the very best Caribbean writers, and Vahni Capildeo (representing Trinidad & Tobago) has just edged out Kapka Kassabova to go through to the next round of the Poetry World Cup. Today’s match keeps the carnival going, and we’re ready for something special — in fact, we can just about promise that this will be the best match between Canada and St. Lucia in any competition, ever.
In the Canadian corner is Ottilie Mulzet, perhaps best-known as the translator of Hungarian Nobel candidate László Krasznahorkai. Her English translation of ‘Seiobo There Below’ was the recipient of the 2014 Best Translated Book Award, and her previous translations include Kraznahorkai’s ‘Animalinside’. Ottilie Mulzet also translates from Mongolian, and is quickly building a reputation as an outstanding poet and literary critic.
St. Lucia, an island with a rich literary tradition (its poets include Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott), is represented by John Robert Lee. Described as “undoubtedly the foremost Caribbean Christian writer of his generation”, John Robert Lee has been at the heart of St. Lucian cultural life for many years — reviewing literature and theatre, producing and presenting radio and television programmes, and writing regular columns for newspapers and periodicals. His new and selected poems, ‘Elemental’, are available from Peepal Tree Press.
Photo of John Robert Lee © Marion Nelson and Allen Sherman.
There were only skeletons at the prom but ball on the ceiling and she thought how the darkness… ~ Ottilie Mulzet At Capernaum, boats This, the Port of the boat people ~ John Robert Lee RESULT: St. Lucia won by 16 votes.
Tārā was not afraid, no one was going to
ask her to dance anyway, she studied
the reflection of the lights from the revolving disco
the darkness, darkness goes into my eyes into all
of our eyes and someone heard the
thought and asked Tārā to illuminate
This, the Port of their Prince
Docks of sails in sunset—
This is the Port of the boat people
After Dessalines and Duvalier, HIV and cholera
After tornado and tremblor
The Gadarene adventure and their Bay of Pigs
Canoewrecks off Florida, the invading boots of marines
From caravel to carrier—
After the desolate cities of my pilgrimage…
There were only skeletons at the prom but
ball on the ceiling and she thought how
~ Ottilie Mulzet
At Capernaum, boats
This, the Port of the boat people
~ John Robert Lee
RESULT: St. Lucia won by 16 votes.