I am a woman of many lands and cultures: Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, England and The Netherlands. I have seen a lot and come to understand a lot about life, love, culture, identity, and humanity. I have written poetry my whole life and had wanted to write a series of poems for a long time, but I couldn't quite decide on the form or theme. Then, I turned 40 in the same year that Trump was elected President of the United States, and my poetry became at once a life-affirming shout and a political protest.
I first aimed to write 1000 poems. Then 100. Then 50. Seems I almost gave up before I even began.
Then I recalled 89 Shepherd Rd; the street I grew up on in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Yes. 89. More romantic than 50 or 100. Personal. Achievable. It tripped easily off the tongue. So, 89 it was.
On International Women's Day, 8 March, 2017, I began writing 89. This date was purely coincidental yet completely predestined as, I believe, are all auspicious events in life. I completed 89 nearly one year later on Valentine's
Day, 14 February, 2018. Another predestined coincidence.
I wrote 89 starting from the top and worked my way down to number 1. I thought having a countdown would help me to complete the task. This mental trick worked and I love the fact that I can knowingly outwit myself.
89 follows my life in one year: starting in The Netherlands and following my travels throughout Europe, Jamaica, Trinidad, Canada, and back to The Netherlands.
89 was inspired by my roots which run deep and wide. I learned while writing 89 that my deceased grandmother (Marjorie) Hope Flemming had also been a published poet. She was a Jamaican who also found herself in the "foreign" land of Canada. Through 89 I discovered that I had inherited my grandmother's themes, and, I believe, her memories and voice. Four of her works are included as images in 89.
89 started as fragments of previously written poems but quickly developed into a reflection on real-time events. It can look like a book of haiku but the poems are a mix of styles influenced by Rumi, Hafiz, Shakespeare, Cummings, and van den Koppel. However, like haiku, 89 became a meditative practice.
89 is best read from front to back as you would read a novel. The poems were originally written to be posted on Instagram so they had to be short in order to fit the screen.
I write in a style I call #hashtype. I like how hashtags, like mini poems, make you stop for a moment to try to decode them. That is how I hope the reader experiences 89. Each #hashtype poem is at first only a shape, then a jumble of letters, then words, then sentences, then finally meaning, which, once perceived, allows you to then withdraw to see again the shape.
If you take your time, you can dive in again and look for single-word lines within the poem where you will often find the tiny essence of meaning. Just so, 89 touches on the many layers and aspects of my own identity and experience without any one claiming dominance.