3/17/2011

Easton Lee on Caribbean Poetry, etc.

Today, I had a delightful interview with poet of the month, Easton Lee, who now resides in Florida. He is still busy with both writing and ministry, and shared some interesting thoughts with me.

Yasmin: What are your thoughts on the Caribbean literary scene?

Easton Lee: The Caribbean is producing a lot of good work right now and we have a talented crop of younger writers. However, there are some works that are bad and some that are in between. The availability of new literary prizes is also a positive thing.

Yasmin: Since writing From Behind the Counter, what other works have you done?

Easton Lee: My follow-up collection to From Behind the Counter is Encounters. I have also written a novel, Run Big Fraid. I am constantly writing.

Yasmin: You are probably the most well-known Chinese-Jamaican poet. Are there other Chinese-Jamaican poets that you know of?

Easton Lee: There are Chinese-Jamaicans writing in other genres. I am thinking of Father Richard HoLung who writes hymns, as well as Ray Chen, who does mostly photo-journalism.

Yasmin: In poems like "My Mother is a People", "Who Fa Granny", and "To a Mother Resting", you highlight the positive contributions of women. Growing up, did the women in your life play a positive role?

Easton Lee: I believe that Jamaican women have made a solid contribution. Generally, though, both  Jamaican men and women, the ordinary and unheralded folks have done so much. However, we tend to focus on the spectacular and sometimes the more prominent in society and forget what these ordinary citizens have done. Growing up behind the counter of our shop, I had a chance to meet and observe these hard working people who came from all walks of life - our customers, my mother's friends, people in the church and I heard their stories. I also noticed that it was their faith that kept them going.

Yasmin: You were ordained an Anglican priest in 2000. What moved you in this direction?

Easton Lee: Actually, I grew up in the Anglican church and knew from around age seven that I wanted to be a priest. In fact, when I met my wife, I told her I wanted to be a priest and she thought I was joking. However, I got married, raised children, and other events came in the way and the timing was not right until 2000. Yet, I knew all along that I would become a priest.

Yasmin: How are you able to balance ministry and your poetry writing?

Easton Lee: I am now retired from ministry. However, I assist as a volunteer at the Miami Gardens Episcopal Church of the Holy Family. I can now balance my own time and pursue things that I want to do.

Yasmin: Any advice for new poets?

Easton Lee: Keep writing. Don't stop. The minute you stop, the pipe dries up.

Yasmin: Are you planning on doing any poetry readings soon?

Easton Lee: I will be doing a poetry reading at Ryerson University's, English Department during the week of July 24. It is a symposium on the Chinese Shopkeeper. I have also been invited to read in Dubai, which has a small Jamaican community and I am thinking about that.

Yasmin: Thank you for taking time to share your thougths with me and best wishes on the reading in Toronto.

Easton Lee: Thank you too. Blessings.

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