Our most famous poet is the late the Honourable Louise Bennett-Coverley, affectionately called Miss Lou by Jamaicans. Her works are performed frequently. She was given an Order of Merit, and Order of Jamaica, very noble titles.
But, a friend of mine doing an M.Phil. (or M.A.; not sure which) in Literatures in English learnt, through various failed searches, that there is little by way of critical material on Miss Lou’s poetry. Articles, essays… all are hard to come by as it relates to her works. And a well-written essay written by a lit student needs to show that the topic/piece of work is well researched. Without sources, that is very difficult.
This lack, my friend says, means that what Mrs. Bennett-Coverley feared has come to pass: Her work is not taken seriously. It is spectacle, culturally iconic. But that is where it stops. It belongs, as far as we Jamaicans seem to be concerned, in the field of the dramatic, not in the classroom with the likes of Baugh and Goodison.
What is it about her poetry that would make it fall into this category? Her poems are in Patwa. Simple as that. Without even thinking, Jamaicans do that categorising. We Jamaicans feel that our Jamaican language is rich, beautiful even, but it isn’t something to be taken seriously. If Miss Lou’s poems had been written in English, I believe they may have less cultural appeal (how many Jamaicans know about Baugh and Goodison?) but more academic standing.