July 21st, 2019
I would like to say how deeply shocked and saddened I am at the passing of Raymond Choo Kong...writer, actor, producer, director, teacher, role model...so many things to so many
people..but most of all, just a good person. For the past forty years, his sense of humor and comedic expression has lit up our literary landscape, chasing away the shadows, bringing us joy and happiness, even as we struggled with the changing times.
I first met Raymond many years ago when we were a part of Helen Camps Trinidad Tent Theatre. We remained friends over the years, always greeting each other with the Trini, “Wha’ happenin’, long time no see!”
Whenever I think of him, I go back to those early days and events which influenced the direction which so many of us took, as we ventured into the world of the arts, struggling to survive. But as many have discovered, success is not the size of the audience, but the achievement of the purpose, the impact of the message on those who are meant to hear. In Raymond’s work there was a message done in his style. He will be missed but always remembered in the work that he has done.
The Circle of Poets of Trinidad and Tobago and the Poet Laureate offers our heartfelt condolences to Raymond’s family and the theatre fraternity. May he rest in peace.
From the Desk of the Poet Laureate
Paul Keens Douglas gave an outstanding performance, to the delight of an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd at a function organized in his honour, at the Annandale Golf Club in Ajax, Ontario, on Saturday 18 May.
At the special event organized by The Character Training and Development Institute of Canada (CTDIC), and attended by many friends and supporters, Paul was honoured with an award recognizing his achievements as Trinidad &Tobago’s current Poet Laureate, a renowned humourist, author and leading exponent of the Caribbean oral tradition.
The award was presented to the artist by Jennifer Hosten, the Grenadian born 1970 Miss World, and formerly Grenada’s High Commissioner to Canada.
The event recognized the tribute to Paul made at ceremony in Trinidad coordinated by the Circle of Poets of Trinidad and Tobago and the National Library Information System Authority (NALIS), at which the President of Trinidad and Tobago “honoured and celebrated (Paul) as a man, who for some 40 years has been telling our stories in a very defining way, that makes us laugh, smile and even cry in the celebration of us as a people. He is our leading exponent of the oral tradition. Yes, this great Poet, Paul Keens Douglas with his chronicles of West Indian life and culture through his strategic, well thought out and informed use of language, intonation, dialect, cultural slangs, norms and characterisations; Tantie Merle, Vibert (Vi-butt), Tim Tim, Slim and Tall Boy to name a few.”
The guests were also entertained by a cool Trinidadian crooner Winston Alfonso, and the Master of ceremonies Derek Clarke. Paul’s wife Marilyn, along with their daughter Tara, were also welcomed guests at the event.
From the Desk of the Poet Laureate
Greetings to one and all on this World Poetry Day. Best way to celebrate is to go write a poem or read a poem out loud to the person closest to you, or pause for a moment and think of what poetry means to you. I was thinking some poetic thoughts of me and poetry, of me and writing period. The thought that came to mind, as I looked back down the winding path of my career, was how far I have come from that very first poem.
The way I think, what I think of and the things that influence me today ,compared to so many years ago. What really suddenly came into focus, were the little things that may really have been the power behind my writing or even thinking like a poet. Sometimes we like to give credit to all sorts of grand influences, which in a sense makes us grand too by association. But if you really dig deep, you may find that it was really something, not so grand or mind-shaking, that started you on your journey. Somehow when I think back, one of the images that jumps out of my mind, is the Visual of a Mr. Gill, who was part of my growing up in Grenada. He wrote two books, “Intelligent Eating” and “Unintelligent Eating”, and was known to all as “the Author”. So to this day say Author to me and I think Mr.Gill. So was it Mr.Gill who got me enterested in Poetry and writing?
Then there was school . Of all the books that formed part of my school learning, the only two that I remember clearly are “French Without Tears” and “Writing With a Purpose”.The French I perhaps remember because in spite of the title we still got licks for not doing homework and thus tears. But the title of the English text, the Purpose part, somehow always subconsciously made me ask the question of why am I writing.? Who is my audience? Enteresting...
So for World Poetry Day I would like you to really look at your journey and try to find those credits you may have forgotten somehow over the years and say ‘thank you for being the power in my life.’ Just a note, one Sunday in church, Father reminded us of a saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never harm me.” We as poets know different, words are powerful weapons that can uplift or destroy and we should always remind others of that.
Happy World Poetry Day
Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago