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Kingston, Jamaica: May 22, 2014 – Distinguished poet and academic, Professor Mervyn Morris, was officially invested as Poet Laureate of Jamaica at a ceremony at King's House yesterday, May 21, 2014, under the patronage of their Excellencies the Most Hon. Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General and the Most Hon. Lady Allen.
At the investiture ceremony, Professor Morris received the insignia of the Poet Laureate, becoming the first person to hold this eminent title in over 60 years and the third Poet Laureate to be appointed in Jamaica. The others who held this distinguished position were Thomas MacDermot, commonly known as Tom Redcam (posthumously in 1933), and John Ebenezer Clare McFarlane (in 1953).
The Governor-General, in his remarks, said he was pleased that the history of the King’s House Ballroom, which has been the site of so many significant events, was now being enriched by the momentous investiture ceremony. “My dream is that Professor Morris will not only help our people to understand and appreciate the work of existing poets, but he will also encourage that spark of creativity which bubbles in so many of our young people,” the Governor-General said as he lauded the re-institution of the office of Poet Laureate.
Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, the Hon. Dr. Wykeham McNeill, called the occasion “a red letter day in Jamaica’s cultural history, the significance of which will not be lost on those who understand and appreciate the immense value of the written and spoken word to the expression and retention of a nation’s evolution.”
He described Professor Morris as a fitting literary ambassador whose vast resume as a poet had carved a noteworthy imprint on both the local and regional literary landscapes.
The Minister said the Poet Laureate initiative is an important programme that will showcase Jamaica’s literary arts to the world and likened it to the Jamaica Tourist Board’s ‘Genius of Jamaica’ campaign, which in former years celebrated giants in the island’s musical, social and cultural history.“Similarly, this programme is a celebration of genius, literary genius, which says to the world that our poets can stand on the world stage with our athletes and musicians,” he said.
In congratulating the new Poet Laureate, Principal Director of Culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Dahlia Harris, lauded him for his outstanding work over the years. She said “Professor Morris represents a generation of distinguished Jamaican poets and thinkers including Claude McKay, Louise Bennett and the Rt. Excellent Marcus Garvey, whose words have propelled us to global recognition.”
In his response, the newly invested Poet Laureate said he was deeply grateful for the honour bestowed upon him. Outlining initiatives he hopes to implement during his three-year tenure as Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Professor Morris expressed his commitment to, among other things, arranging poetry reading sessions across island as well as establishing self-financing workshops to promote the development of Jamaican poetry.
The Poet Laureate Programme is a joint initiative of the National Library of Jamaica, the Ministry of Youth and Culture and the Entertainment Advisory Board of the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment. It is being financed by the Tourism Enhancement Fund at a cost of $3.4 million. The National Library will serve as the secretariat for the programme.