'Poems from Jamaica' Review

By Shaunice McLennon, Jamaica
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, March 30, 2021
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Released in March 2020, the book "Poems from Jamaica" is the first Jamaican collection of poems translated and published in China. This was made possible by the collaboration between Professor Hou Tao of the renowned University of Technology in the city of Taiyuan, Shanxi province, and Professor Paulette A. Ramsay, a poet and professor at The University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica.

The book "Poems from Jamaica" [China.org.cn]

Prof. Ramsay grew up in the parish of Hanover, Jamaica, and studied at the University of the West Indies where she obtained her Ph.D. degree in Spanish. She also took courses at the University of Florida, and language institutes in Venezuela, Spain, and the Dominican Republic. Prior to her current role in the Department of Languages at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, Ramsay had been a visiting Professor in the Foreign Languages Department at Berry College in the USA. She has a special interest in the literary production and culture of Afro-Hispanic societies and her published articles, translations, reviews, and interviews have appeared in several academic journals.

The book "Poems from Jamaica" reflects a deep and thriving culture that pulsates through the hearts of the people of Jamaica. Intricate and personal, it is filled with folklore and traditional ideals that are at the core of the expressive nature of Jamaicans. I was honored to receive a personal copy of the book from Professor Hou Tao following his translation into Chinese. As one of the two Jamaicans currently studying at this institution, I was pleased to know that the translator was also a professor here at Taiyuan University of Technology. Furthermore, I felt a profound sense of pride knowing that these poems were from none other than Prof. Ramsay, for whom I have immense respect. 

As I read through the entertaining and thought-provoking poems in this book alongside the Chinese translations, I was immediately filled with thoughts of home. The elaborate rhymes reminisce about how life, tradition and familial bonds convey the importance of passing on customs from generation to generation. Each poem, exquisitely written and translated, gave me pause to reflect on the simple yet incredibly stunning beauties of life. 

While I enjoyed every poem, there were two in particular that resonated the most. The first was "I Learned to Dance." As a dancer, I instantly took a liking to the words that reflected my own heart and mind so well, specifically, the freeing feeling that dancing unleashes in the soul and which I think that not only my fellow compatriots would understand but Chinese nationals as well. 

The second poem, "Star Apple Blue and Avocado Green," reminds me of my grandmother's epic tales of life in the countryside. It captures how my grandmother and many others cared for their land, watching her children play and flourish before they grew strong and became her branch to lean on as time passed. I think this poem will connect with Chinese readers, who likely also have family in small villages and cherish the importance of family lineage.

As a Jamaican living in China, this book was a well-needed walk down memory lane and an example of the bonds and roots that hold firm in my homeland. I hope that Chinese readers of these translated poems can see the differences and similarities between our cultures because even though China and Jamaica are oceans apart, we must respect our different ways of life and appreciate our shared experiences.

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