Friday, 27 May 2011

Reading the Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse - the Duties of Womanhood by Mirta Yañez


I treated myself to The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse from the University bookshop on my first day in Jamaica, now I finally have a moment to read some of it. Actually poetry is the perfect reading companion for a conference like the IEPC, it transports to other realities and requires short bursts of concentration but not too much sustained attention.
It has some wonderful poems in translation and I'm looking forward to reading more on the plane this evening. For now though this has really touched me and made me smile, perhaps a little sadly. Several of our colleagues have now travelled to Cuba for the 70th anniversary of the Cuban Council of Churches, maybe one of the reasons I started reading the Cuban verse in the collection first. I've just noticed a poem called Liberation theology - better read that next! I give thanks for those who labour to write poetry, offereing us all fragments of deep understanding of our lives.

The Duties of Womanhood - Mirty Yañez

We learned the duties of love and silence,
of obdurate loneliness and anguish,
our duty to witness fear and death
and the arduous task od structuring dreams

We learnt the duties of twilight and desolation
the labour of poetry
of gregorian chants
the mysterious firmament of the stars
the inexorable rituals of waiting
the ceremonies of terror and valour
the secrets of the bow and its invisible arrow
of the night and the fires illuminating it.

We learned of joy
of smiles
light and shadows
magic and science
a tree, an apple, a paradise,
the serpent, a flight of birds,
Mythology and enigma.

We learnt men's ways
an seized others meant only for gods.

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