Poor Miss Lou: Lack of criticism

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.

How sad.

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3 Responses to Poor Miss Lou: Lack of criticism

  1. read.robin says:

    The way we continue to make that subconscious classification is just frustrating. In our CXC poetry books, there are no Miss Lou poems. Instead, we relegate her to primary school performances, dredging up her dialect when we need to make a show of our culture. When are we going to realize that Claude McKay and Louise Bennett are both parts of our history that deserve to be taken seriously?

    Maybe you can write a critical appraisal of her work, Mr. Literature graduate.


    • kenliano says:

      That’s a good idea. I’ll think about it. Although, where would I put it, I wonder? Considering I’m not really anyone in the lit world. :/ I’d have to gather her poems, and see what grabs me. That’s sounding kind of exciting. But hey, I could just write and put it where I want. That’s what I do with a blog, anyway. 🙂


      • read.robin says:

        Exactly! Plus doing this would probably make you somebody in the Lit world. I’m sure there are journals/other publications that speak to this kind of thing. I’m surprised none of your old professors haven’t addressed the issue.


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