The incomparable Sir Howard Fergus has released yet another thrilling collection called Lockdown Poems.
This Montserratian icon and author of some of the island’s seminal historical works as well as an ever-flowing stream of poetry, experienced COVID-19 from a different perspective. Not only was he locked down like the rest of us but he also had to overcome the virus.
“In a sense Montserrat was twice locked down. The island is one of the few places outside Ireland where St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March is celebrated as a holiday,” Fergus shared in a summary of the book.
“This is because Irish people exiled by the British in the first place, featured prominently in the island’s colonization. In fact Montserrat became an asylum for Roman Catholics fleeing religious persecution from both sides of the Atlantic. Additionally, an attempt by slaves to overthrow the planter-lords on that celebration day in 1768, is commemorated annually by Montserratians who see their forebears as freedom fighters. The emphasis on the Montserrat celebration is now somewhat mixed and the supposed Irishness of the island is now highlighted to the ire of some persons.
“However it is now one of the island’s leading festivals designed to draw many to the island where events last for some ten days and take on a carnival atmosphere. Eyes are on the tourist dollar and Montserratians themselves are part of tourism. A packed programme was in the offing for 2020 and visitors had begun to arrive when preliminary sounds of the pandemic hit the air causing the government to close down the St. Patrick’s extravaganza. That was lockdown number one and many were resentful. This was just a prelude to the curfews and quarantines which came in the wake of COVID-19.
“One could not but write about this sudden catastrophe that descended on the world and upon us. It was a social and economic earthquake exceeding the Richter scale. In a strange way also, lockdown itself facilitated writing whether as therapy or something to do with one’s time. Hence the main theme of this volume; and pandemic poems assumed a sharper edge and emotional meaning when I myself was infected by the virus, thankfully without its notorious nasty and wasting symptoms.
“I became in part the subject of my verse, my verse of mature years and experience, and hopefully serious crafting. The volume is not exclusively about lockdown. There is always the good and great and not so great to celebrate including the dead. Kamau Brathwaite, Kobe Bryant and Hammy White, a larger than life local figure, are there. A personal element came in here also. The dead included a number of cousins and village people who had windrushed to England in the 1950s leaving their bones their now.
“These nostalgic pieces pregnant with social history, will hopefully touch the reader as they have touched me. And there are always poems for the occasion whether the yellow waste of mangoes or racial discrimination issues. Even when the poems are not on the coronavirus theme, many of them were written during the lockdown period. The book is therefore a memorial and testimony to a watershed event in human history, including the Montserrat chapter of that history,” writes Dr. Fergus.
The book is available to purchase from the author by calling 664 496 2888. It is also on amazon.com.