His Excellency, Anthony T.A. Carmona, ORTT, SC, President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and patron of The Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago programme named Paul Keens-Douglas, Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago.
The announcement was made at the National Library on Sunday October 15, 2017 – National Poetry Day, during the formal installation of the Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago ceremony, co-ordinated by the Circle of Poets of Trinidad and Tobago, in collaboration with the National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS).
Commenting on being asked by the Circle of Poets of Trinidad and Tobago to be the Patron of the Poet Laureate Programme, His Excellency said, “My acceptance of this patronage was not a difficult one.” He added, “This wonderful Circle of Poets has outlined its mandate and core philosophies as building national awareness and appreciation for poetry as an art form, encouraging persons to develop their poetry writing skills, providing the machinery which the work of members can be promoted and protected, co-ordinating with international bodies for the promotion of poetry locally and internationally and using poetry as a tool for social and human development.
Regarding the selection of Paul Keens Douglas as Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago, the President said, “Today we honour and celebrate a man who for some 40 years has been telling our stories in a very defining way, that makes us laugh, smile and even cry in the celebration of us as a people. He is our leading exponent of the oral tradition. Yes, this great Poet, Paul Keens Douglas with his chronicles of West Indian life and culture through his strategic, well thought out and informed use of language, intonation, dialect, cultural slangs, norms and characterisations; Tantie Merle, Vibert (Vi-butt), Tim Tim, Slim and Tall Boy to name a few. I immediately recall Jamaican Iconic Poetess Louise Bennett, ‘Miss Lou’ and a dear Jamaican friend of mine telling me She make we proud ah we Patois and accent!”
Paul Keens-Douglas is the first to be awarded the prestigious title in its new composition. The former, Poet Laureate of Port of Spain, was first introduced by the Circle of Poets, in conjunction with the Mayor of Port of Spain in 2000. Former title holders were Alfred Mc Donald Clarke, Eintou Pearl Springer and Anson Gonzalez.
The journey towards naming the first Poet Laureate of Trinidad and Tobago began in early 2016 with a number of local literary organisations and education institutions submitting nominations.
Among his duties, the Poet Laureate of Trinidad & Tobago would be required to:
- Serve as Poet Laureate for a period of three (3) years, as a resident of Trinidad and Tobago.
- Give back to the national community through a series of programmes and workshops, designed to raise awareness and appreciation for poetic forms of writing.