Friday, September 4, 2009

T&T poet makes waves in the US

Roger Bonair-Agard is not the struggling poet, but he accepts that he may never become a millionaire doing what he does for a living. Yet he continues to write his poetry, essays and short stories as well as travel across the United States doing performances at poetry festivals. The Queen's Royal College graduate who turned away from a career in law is doing what he loves and enjoys life and how he makes a living.

Bonair-Agard is an Arouca boy having grown up there and attended the community's R.C. primary school before going on to QRC where he attained his A'Levels in 1986, one year before leaving for the United States where he now shares his time between Brooklyn and Chicago. Bonair-Agard attended Hunter University and was preparing to move on to pursue studies in law when a night at a poetry recital changed everything.

"I used to write poetry and other genres while I was at QRC, but for the first seven years I was in the States, I had stopped writing. Then a friend took me to a reading in 1994 and I was inspired to begin writing again. About two years after that, I decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to poetry and writing and so did not go on to law school," Bonair-Agard said.

Poetry is the main genre that Bonair-Agard works with, but he also does essays, short stories and other forms of creative writing. Understanding that poetry is a genre that needs to be performed, Bonair-Agard introduced that element to his craft, which has opened many doors for him. Along with appearances at poetry festivals and at colleges throughout the US, he has performed in Italy, Switzerland, Germany and even at the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica.

"The performing aspect was easy for me because I have been comfortable on a stage since in school as I was part of the QRC/St Francois drama group as well as the QRC/Holy Name Choir. My mother is the person who introduced me to poetry and she would make me read and memorise poems then recite them for her. So I always had a sense that poetry was something to be performed and I've pursued a life in poetry with the objective of developing a scholarship in writing as well as in performing," Bonair-Agard said.

So impressed were Russell Simmons and his associates of Bonair-Agard's work they invited him to perform on the Def Jam Poetry show on more than one occasion. He is also a two-time winner of the US National Slam Poetry Competition and is a founding member of the acclaimed LouderARTS Project, which is a not-for-profit arts corporation committed to developing constructive and challenging spaces for artists to create, critique, present, and teach poetry across the US.

Deciding that the time had come for him to begin exploring in what ways he can now give back to his homeland, Bonair-Agard is presently in Trinidad reconnecting with family and schoolmates, while exploring how he can contribute to the local poetry movement. The first step is the presentation of Gully Lovely, an evening of poetry readings taking place at the C.L.R. James Auditorium, Cipriani Labour College, Valsayn tomorrow from 7pm. There is another show scheduled for Sunday from 6pm.

Also performing will be Puerto Rican poet, Willie Perdomo, Muhammad Muwakil, Elan Parle Jazz Group and 3Canal. The plan, Bonair-Agard said is to make this an annual event and he intends to bring along fellow poets from the United States next year to perform alongside the local poets and also to have them share with each other towards creating a synergy among poets from different experiences.

"People believe that poets only write on two or three basic platforms, but that is not the truth. I, for example write on my own coming of age, of who I am as a man of colour in the world today. I write of my experiences all subsumed in poetry on cricket, love, carnival, our political history, paying homage to persons that have contributed to our development," Bonair-Agard who also has published a book entitled Tarnish and Masquerade and is about to publish his second book, Gully said.

Source: Trinidad Express

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