Anthony Kellman: A Wise Poet with a Caribbean Beat
No lengthy discussion of poetry in the English speaking world would be complete without recognizing a great poet of present day Barbados, Anthony Kellman.
Kellman is a poet and singer/songwriter who was born on the island of Barbados on April 24, 1955. He is an innovative poet who successfully combined the English language with the West African rhythms of former slaves to create a new form of poetry called Tuk. Tuk is actually the original form of folk music that combined the melodies of England with the rhythms of West Africa in order to form a hybrid form of indigenous island music that would be acceptable to the slave masters that were holding the people captive during colonial times. The Caribbean islands were made up of giant plantations where thousands of African slaves were being held, and the slave masters placed restrictions on any expressions of African culture, so the people had to adapt. But eventually, the African decedents of the slaves became the predominant people and culture of the region with their own hybrid language of English and African languages called Creole, a complete language in its own rite.
Kellman finally came along and made his debut in London as a troubadour, after leaving Barbados at the age of 18, where he shared his music and his beat to become quite successful as a musician. He wrote several poetry chapbooks and his first full length book of poetry entitled Watercourse was published by the Peepal Tree Press in London. And he became an active member of the Poetry Society where he shared his work with other poets, and he went on to write four more books of poetry including his epic poem entitled Limestone, a long poem which spans four hundred years of Barbados history. It is his masterpiece and is currently available at amazon.com in a paperback format. He has also written three novels and recorded four CD collections of his music. His inspirational influences include the spectacular coral reefs and the limestone caves that grace the island, the history of his people, and of course romantic love “under the banyan trees….. a love that has to wait for freedom,” in his song We Love. His music can be found on YouTube under the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMNybyCN1wA&list=PLAo6EjQmjioPYq5liFvzOYbtBrN5BBbm4 and is reminiscent of a big band sound with many musical instruments being used combined with that unique African sounds of the bongo drums.
Kellman was awarded a Poetry Fellowship by the US Endowment for the Arts for his English language anthology of collected Caribbean poems entitled Crossingwater and is currently serving as a professor of English and Creative writing at Augusta University.