Image by Nathaniel Stewart

Velma Pollard

b. 1937


Lord teach wings how/in the stark silence of these evenings/ in the fine chiselled rock spaces/ to fold and nest... - 'After Heartease New England', Velma Pollard

At Cienfuegos I

Velma Pollard

View Up Through Her Window

Velma Pollard

After Heartease New England

Velma Pollard

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About Velma Pollard

Velma Pollard was born in 1937. She grew up in Woodside, a rural Jamaican village, where her mother was a school teacher and her father was a farmer: their interest in the arts was to be one of the main formative influences for both her and her sister (Erna Brodber). Nostalgia for the countryside has also proved to be a major feature of Pollard’s work, as we can see in ‘Crown Point’, for instance, where she says “Perhaps the clutter of my life / obscures her voice / Perhaps the clutter of my mind / frustrates her”. This is typical of the way her poetry reflects on modernity in general, particularly when the haste and bustle of the present is presented in contrast to the gentler and slower lifestyle of previous generations. In ‘Fly’, for example - in which she says “I am trapped / I can’t move / I can’t butterfly / fly” - we see the consequences of her becoming too involved with the complexities of contemporary life, and at the same time expressing a sad longing for nature and the simple beauty it can provide. Her full voice in the recording alongside the playful rhyme used in this poem creates a strong juxtaposition with the content, and its distinctly tragic outcome.

Dr. Pollard’s research interests include Creole languages of the Anglophone Caribbean, the language of Caribbean literature and Caribbean women’s writing. In these areas she has often found sources of inspiration for her poetry, and has also been especially strongly affected by her visits to the British Virgin Island, Virgin Gorda, and Caret Bay in St. Thomas U.S. Virgin Islands – for which she admits feeling an ‘obsession’. Forms of utterance, in fact, are as central a subject for her as nature – and taken together they form a body of work which reverences things in their place, while advertising their connection with the wider world. It is this paradox that makes her one of the most important Jamaican poets of her generation.

Pollard’s readings for the Poetry Archive demonstrate the diversity of her work, spanning themes such as family, religion, ethnicity and nature. At its most characteristic, her writing assumes a distinctly philosophical tone and shows a strong moral consciousness. The melodious and expressive way in which she delivers her poetry allows us to gain a greater understanding of these things: just as her imagination is simultaneously sensual and nervous, so is her reading rich and stringent.

Dr. Pollard is currently a retired senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica. She has published five collections of poetry and her work has appeared in several journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel and three collections of short fiction.

The recording was made for The Poetry Archive on September 26th, 2012 at The Soundhouse Studios, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Velma Pollard Reading from her Poems, The Poetry Archive...

And Caret Bay Again: New and Selected Poems, Peepal Tree...

Leaving Traces, Peepal Tree Press, 2008

The Best Philosophers I Know Can't Read or Write, Mango...

Shame Trees Don't Grow Here, Peepal Tree Press, 1992

Crown Point and Other Poems, Peepal Tree Press, 1988

Prizes

1992 Casa de las Americas Literary Prize

Silver Musgrave Medal for Literature Institute of Jamaica

Links