GREAT BAY, St. Martin —The Frock & Other Poems by Laurelle “Yaya” Richards has just been released by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).
In the book, “Richards grounds her verse in the history and culture of St. Martin,” said the Jamaican/US author Geoffrey Philp.
Yaya Richards had completed working on The Frock with her publisher at the time of her death at age 55, on May 26, 2010, said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP.
The St. Martin folklorist hailed from St. Louis where she organized annual food fairs and promoted knowledge of folk-life, said Sample.
The folk, modern, and personal elements are reflected by Richards in poems such as “Silk cotton grow,” “Value of a woman,” and “Abandoned salt pond,” which is dedicated to the last generations that picked salt in the Grand Case Salt Pond.
Yaya’s poems, like her signature piece, “The Frock,” grew out of her Spoken Word presentations at schools and cultural shows throughout the island. “The poems celebrate the island and the proud heritage captured in the traditions and music of her people,” said Philp, who is also a lecturer at Miami Dade College.
Gracing the book’s cover is a larger-than-life painting of Yaya wearing her colorful folk persona frock. The oil painting is by leading Caribbean impressionist Roland Richardson.
The art link of the collaboration that produced the slim volume of verse inspired art gallery director Laura Richardson to say that, “As an emerging nation, St. Martin’s cultural consciousness is also growing in leaps and bounds.”
“House of Nehesi’s role as a publisher, Roland’s role as an artist, Laurelle’s role as a writer, all work in unison as beacons of light, reaching out to the universal society that hungers for new fresh thoughts from all points on the globe that perpetuates growth and evolution,” said Richardson.
“Miss Yaya serves as an actual and symbolic cultural nexus from the villages of St. Louis, which includes Freetown, and Rambaud, … a depository of the oral tradition and collective memory,” wrote educator Lenny Mussington in the book’s introduction.
The Frock & Other Poems is “At times playful, sometimes stern, the poems do not avoid the conflicts that plague her home and by wider implication the Caribbean,” wrote Philp in his review of the new seminal collection.
Linguist Rhoda Arrindell was the language editor and Sundiata Lake designed the cover and illustrations for Yaya’s book.
“The Collectivity’s government in Marigot provided a cultural arts sponsorship for the title as another concrete investment in the nation’s literature,” said Sample.
The Frock & Other Poems is available at Roland Richardson Gallery in Marigot, Van Dorp in Simpson Bay and A.T. Illidge Road, Arnia’s bookstore at Bush Road/Zagersgut Road, Philipsburg Jubilee Library, and www.houseofnehesipublish.com.