Perhaps poetry’s most valuable purpose has to do with the role it plays in throwing open a door to the mind, to the mind of the poet that is, unearthing thoughts which, otherwise, would probably remain entomb-ed forever in minds that care little for this remarkable discipline. Poetry is a means of stripping oneself of what, sometimes, are our deepest, most intimate secrets, parading them to the world, not just to say things about ourselves but to seek to measure the effect of the messages that they bring to those who read them.
It is much the same with Carlene Gill-Kerr. Her poems embrace the virtues of frankness and honesty, whether it be in the unrestrained joy of the ‘falling in love’ feeling expressed in “He came After Me” or in the searching and sometimes seemingly unanswered question she raises in, “Is Africa My Mother?”
Gill-Kerr says she ‘cut her teeth’ on “The Arts,” embarking on her journey into creative writing at the age of eight and, at Queens College, pushed “to keep her creative juices flowing.” It was this that led her to writing and directing her first play, “He still Loves Me” and claiming the Second Prize in the 2017 Poetry Slam competition.
Everything about her work tells about self, about how she sees the world and the things around her. Refreshingly, she is not a writer in abstraction; rather, she writes easily, in an unfussy style, so that the reader can flow comfortably, without having to return to pages already read to solve some abstraction encountered down the road.
Approaching the conclusion of her collection of nineteen poems she raises a worry with which all of us have wrestled – Tell Me My History! It is a sort of silent scream that raises familiar questions about the conundrum of our collective political circumstance, the history, the events and the personalities that helped to shape that history. In a sense, the penultimate offering of the collection is symbolic of its incompleteness.
In a sense the emergence of Carlene Gill-Kerr as a published writer underscores the deformity of our literary circumstances as reflected in the underdevelopment of our publishing resources. Waves of Emotions remains printed only in limited numbers, waiting – like so many other local literary efforts – for a more generous measure of national attention to be paid to a publishing industry in which the creative can grow and prosper.