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Jamaica names first Poet Laureate in 50 years

Jamaica names first Poet Laureate in 50 years

Posted by Shanelle Weir on April 15, 2014

 A process which began late last year to choose Jamaica’s first poet laureate in 50 years, will culminate with the announcement at a function this morning at the National Library, East Street, Kingston, by Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr Wykeham McNeill. The Ministry said Monday that it will be a national honour, recognising a distinguished Jamaican poet for his/her significant contribution to the literary community.

“The Poet Laureate is expected to stimulate a greater appreciation for Jamaican poetry, write poems for national occasions, and preserve and disseminate the island’s cultural heritage through prose,” it added.

According to the National Library, Jamaica's two previous poets laureate were — Tom Redcam, and J E Clare McFarlane who died in 1962— and they were named by the Poetry League of Jamaica. However, this time around it will be a national honour. “It is going to be fully embraced by the Government as a national honour; therefore, it has to go to Parliament for approval. So, we had to postpone the ceremony to April 15 to facilitate the change," Kristen Laing, public relations and marketing officer at the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ), told OBSERVER ONLINE recently.

The Poet Laureate Programme is a joint initiative of the Entertainment Advisory Board of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, the Ministry of Youth and Culture and the National Library of Jamaica. It is being financed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF).

The poet laureate will be selected by a committee from public nominations, and will serve for three years. Nominations closed in December.

It is still not clear how the poet laureate will be compensated, but the National Library's website said that compensation would be through approved expenses related to the duties which will be funded by a grant, most likely from the Tourism Enhancement Fund.

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