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May 28, 2013 News
Minister Priya Manickchand says “We need to perfect poetry”
By Kiana Wilburg
Guyana’s most celebrated poets who now reside in the United Kingdom, John Agard, his wife Grace Nichols, and Prof Mark McWatt, accompanied by the well decorated Barbadian poet, Philip Nanton, joined in a collaborative effort designed to help teachers sharpen the methods and skills used to teach poetry.
“This seminar strives to start a new love affair between poetry and teachers. I know that in the process, it will certainly deal with the notion that students believe poetry is on the English B syllabus to make their lives miserable,” explained educator, Ms. Ingrid Fung, at the opening ceremony that introduced the beginning of the workshop.
The celebrated John Agard spoke about the power of proverbs, fairy tales and nursery rhymes noting that they are pregnant with history and messages. He then treated the participants to a captivating performance that moved many to tears.
“The statistics show that only 47 per cent of the students that sit the English B exams have passing grades. This is not acceptable. Regardless of the perceptions of poetry, it is something that we need to conquer, we need to perfect poetry,” said Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand.
She reiterated the need for teachers to “wake up” so that they may be able to share the love of poetry with students so that this issue may be conquered.
Closing the first half of the programme was Sam Saymore, who spoke on the power of visual aids and technology.
The opening which saw teachers of literature from across the nation, included an overview of the Caribbean Poetry Project by Professor Morag Styles.
Professor Styles said that the Caribbean Poetry Project which was launched in 2010 has since brought poets from the islands in an exciting collaboration that is designed to revive the art form and to better answer the challenges that come with understanding poetry.
She said that the initiative is one that has been taken to almost all the islands. Guyana is their last stop. Further, due to the success of the programme, they have been nominated for the Commonwealth Communicator of the year award.
Dr. Jennifer Obidah who is based in the United States and also holds a prominent position at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) also praised the work of two powerful women who were responsible for the existence of the project. She stated that as a result of styles love for Caribbean poetry, she traveled to the islands and met with Dr. Sandra Robinson, who is attached to the University of the West Indies.
Dr. Obidah said that the women who are the shoulders of the workshop have since held workshops across the Caribbean with over 350 teachers in attendance.
The programme, titled “Kindling Interest in Poetry,” saw Dr. Obidah instructing the teachers to describe their current relationship with poetry in one word, some of which included, “challenging, bitter-sweet, orgasmic and intriguing.”
Professor Mark Mc Watt addressed critical issues such as why there is a difficulty with poetry and how teachers can effectively maintain the interest between students and the art form. He said that poetry is a multi-sensual experience – it is an art form that appeals to all the senses.
Mc Watt said that poems should always be read aloud and expounded on the importance of sound in poetry.
His colleague, Nanton, took to the stage and his focus was the “importance of passion” if one seeks to communicate the beauty and effectiveness of poetry. “You must be passionate about the art form. Love what you do.”He noted that passion is fundamental to commitment, resilience and effectiveness and explained the fundamentals of a good story.
The three-day programme is being held at the International Conference centre at Turkeyen.
The eminent guests said that they are elated to be a part of this project as poetry is a most profound art form.
“Many may say what is the world without music, but here is a better question, what is music without poetry?”Dr. Obidah said.
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