On Saturday 29th April at 11 a.m I found myself at the Bocas Lit Fest engaged in a one on one session with renowned poet, Dr. Edward Baugh, Professor Emeritus of English at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies. He was immediately put on the spot with a question he dislikes which was ‘What made you want to be a poet?’ Nonetheless, he answered by stating that his inspiration started in his childhood and stemmed from listening to sermons in church as well as reading various books in the bible. He then spoke briefly of the responsibility of a poet and stated that each poem must ‘somehow make a difference’.
Apart from his early influences, Mr. Baugh delved further into other facets of inspiration. During the time of his schooling, the poetry that he would have been exposed to included the romantic English poets as well as Browning’s dramatic monologues. In university, he would go on to discover the works of Derek Walcott which he would often read during his free time while in the library. This all served as food for thought for upcoming writers and even amateur writers like myself to see how we can find a balance between the great inspiration we receive from the writings of others and the need to establish our own voice through our writings.
We were privy to have a sneak peak into the musings of a very talented writer as he stated, “When I’m writing a poem, I must hear it. It must have a kind of resonance.” Upon reflection, one may think that it’s only in writing the poem that it can then be read, heard and appreciated, but in this case Baugh allows us to see the writing process from a different perspective as he goes from inception to the point of putting pen to paper. It was then quite funny and not surprising that he would go on to state that while in school he loved to read when he was getting a cold as he liked the sound and depth that would then characterise his voice. The value that Baugh placed on sound, even from a young age, was quite evident.
In my secondary school, studying Literature for the CSEC examinations was compulsory but it was an obligation which I had grown to love over time. Hearing poems being read by the teacher and my classmates was quite entertaining but I have to admit that it is incomparable to hearing it from the lips of the poet himself. Baugh read his well known poem which I had studies years before in school, ‘A Carpenter’s Complaint’ which was evidently a favourite among those in the audience.
It was an opportunity not only to hear the poem read the way in which it was intended to be read but to hear the story behind the masterpiece and the intentions of the poet. All the same, Baugh is always open to interpretations and critiques as well. He stated, “Critics are useful if not necessary.” Edward Baugh’s presence at the Bocas Lit Fest left us with the warmth of the smile he maintained throughout the one on one session and it was evident why those in the audience who were past students of his had addressed him with such fondness upon asking their questions.