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Lunch with Poetry on the Side - Speak Lunch

Fabian Thomas reads at the June rendition of Speak Lunch

It's lunch time in New Kingston, the heart of the city’s business district.  Under the huge guango tree which stretches out its branches behind the offices of the Ministry of Tourism, creating an oasis from the heat threatening to stifle the city, a few poets and poetry lovers come to share the word. Most passersby look on and hardly break their stride, but a few stop to listen.  Some pause for a line, others a poem, and a few stay for a while.

The event, dubbed Speak Lunch, is produced by Independent Voyces.  Speak Lunch is slated for every last Friday of each month and Friday’s (June 29, 2012) installment was the second event in the series. Friday’s programme served up the works of Millicent Lynch, Dalton Spence and Fabian Thomas as the main course along with an open mic segment. Interestingly, there was no microphone as the PA system had failed to arrive. However, the day’s poets remained undaunted by the hiccup.

Spence delivered ‘Ode to a Crush’ as well as the comedic ‘US Embassy’. However, Lynch was unable to read her own poetry and as such Denise Fyffe read on her behalf. Fyffe would also return for the open mic segment along with Marcus Harrisson, Damali Adelé Ifé and Andre Brown.

Damali Adele Ife The open mic segment did not only find favour with poets waiting to make their name. Lasana Bandele, who is most known for his hit single ‘Living in Shacks’ also shared his poetry through which he questioned the nature of freedom and democracy. Later, dub poet Oku Onuora would also join in. Onuora  admitted that though he had only come to listen, he felt inspired to share delivered the poem titled ‘Poem’. "It was written 30 years ago while I was in hell," he said, referring to his 15 year incarceration.

The afternoon closed with the words of Fabian Thomas who delivered 'Words', 'Yele' a poem for Hait, 'Abeng in Beijing'  in tribute to Usain Bolt and 'Two Score and Ten' piece on Jamaica’s 50th year of independence.

Judith Falloon-Reid of Independent Voyces explained that the organization’s mandate was always to go beyond the annual literary festival.  “Our mission is to do more than just have a festival,” she said. “Our mission is to bring consciousness to poetry.” Falloon-Reid pointed out that Independent Voyces was seeking to create more spaces for independent poets to share their work as there are very few opportunities to do that.

“I thought, this is a city it has its own energy, why not just bring some consciousness while people have lunch,” she said. It is from this that Speak Lunch was born.