Poetry is Making a Comeback in Panama


At the Book Nook in Colon. Left to right, Dr. Wong Vega, Prof. Rita Wong Lew, Lic. Winston Churchill James, and Prof. Roberto Reid Green.

At the Book Nook in Colon. Left to right, Dr. Wong Vega, Prof. Rita Wong Lew, Lic. Winston Churchill James, and Prof. Roberto Reid Green.

Lately I have been undergoing a cultural revitalization which I, long ago, had lost sight of ever experiencing in Panama. Three events, all coming in the form of poetry readings focused on West Indian Panamanian poets, have re-established my faith in the power of culture to regenerate the best qualities in the human mind.

It more or less started with the ambitious initiative of our friend Dr. Luis Wong Vega, a bio chemist by profession and a lover of poetry- West Indian Panamanian potery- by affinity. He and his two friends and collaborators Winston Churchill James and Raul Houlstan got the bold idea of publishing a book making black West Indian Panamanian poets, both past and present, its center of attention. They received the full idealogical and institutional support of the University of Panama’s Rector, Dr. Gustavo Garcia de Paredes, and Vicerector of Student Affairs, Prof. Eldis Barnes who was notably encouraging from the moment the idea was proposed to him.

Rapsodia Antillana: Selección Bilingüe de Poesía Afroantillana en Panamá.

The final product, Rapsodia Antillana: Selección Bilingüe de Poesía Afro Antillana de Panamá, was officially published on May 3, 2013 as we noted in our previous post. We attended the official book presentation and poetry reading at the UPAN’s Paraninfo on Wednesday evening May 22 and were more than delighted to be treated to a couple of hours of a unique experience as Dr. Wong summarised his essay on the idea behind the book and four of the poets listed in the book read a sampling of their poetry.

Life's Journey by Joe DixonShortly behind this event we were invited to the home of Graciela and Regina Dixon to attend a poetry reading of Joseph Dixon grandfather and father, respectively, to both our hostesses. Mr. Joe Dixon, by the way, was born in Grenada in 1896 and worked in the Panama Canal. He lived in Colon most of his life. Sole mention of his book, Life’s Journey, was made by Carlos “Cubena” Wilson in his essay “The Cultural Contribution of the Etnia Negra in Panamá.” This book of his poems was published in 1990 and it contains a rich offering of this man’s poetic expression in both rhyme and free verse, Spanish as well as English. Joe Dixon summed up some of his feelings very well in the four lines of his poem “No Soy Panameño,”

No Soy Panameño

Pues No Soy de Aquí.

Yo Soy Antillano

Y en Grenada Nací…

Colon became our next venue to witness how the folks in Colon eagerly received a form of literature that was obviously overdue. As Dr. Luis Wong Vega underscored in his introduction to Rapsodia Antillana…, that there really has never existed an anthology, per sé, of Black Poetry in Panama and that this was his and his colleagues’ motive to publish “Antología de Poesía Colonense 1900-2012,” which is going into its second edition and includes the Afro Colonial writers, and then Rapsodia Antillana, which focusses on the Panamanian West Indian writers.

It looks like Colon is spear heading a marvelous trend, a cultural trend as it did at one time when it was La Tacita de Oro.  Hopefully this trend will lead Panama into a path of peace and hope.  My hope in human nature, in any case, has been redeemed.

Note: There are still a few copies of Rapsodia Antillana left.  The price is $20, and $27 for those ordering from overseas.  Just send us a note by clicking “Contact Us.”

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3 responses to “Poetry is Making a Comeback in Panama

  1. Dear Linda,

    We are delighted to hear about the Bim Literary Festival in Barbados.

    We’ve noticed that you’ve read this article about Potery’s comeback to Panama and I’m sure you’ve noted the three more recent works along potic’literary lines. In case you weren’t aware, it is very, very difficult to publish poetry or anything thing at all in Panama, if you are not linked to any university or are not able to foot the cost of self publishing. We, here, at the Heritage Foundation are not affiliated with any of the universities although I have participated in poetry recitals at the University of Panama. In regards to your need for a bibliography, as such, all that I can dircet you to is Mr. Anthony McLean’s page here for a general introduction to writers and poets and their works:
    http://diadelaetnia.homestead.com/Literatura.html

    As far as unpublished works, I have a collection of poems that I have been developing highlighting the original voice in English/Panamanian Patois as our grandfathers and grandmothers spoke it when they came to Panama and started rearing families. I have not however, been able to formerly publish them for lack of funding and support as I am not affiliated with any university.

    I hope this helps you. Let us know how you did.

    Roberto A. Reid

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  2. Dear Silver News, I am a writer from Barbados researching poems about Panama and the Panama Canal for the upcoming Bim Literary Festival to be held here in Bridgetown, May 15-18, 2014. Our theme is “Crossings: Breaking Boundaries” and we have readings and discussion panels on our programme to celebrate the Panama Canal’s 100th anniversary. As you might know, the Barbados-Panama linkage is a strong one with many families here claiming at least one relative who would have worked on the Canal. Can you help steer me in the right direction towards poems and other writings, literary in style but not exclusively, that are Panama/Canal themed? I have been looking at a prose/poetry collection by John Hall. The collection by Joe Dixon also sounds earthy and excellent. Thanks and blessings. Linda

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  3. Haven’t seen any Silver News lately are you OK? Louis Seldon Keller (DFW area), TX Cell # 954-610-5121 Panama Cell # (011-507) 6649-9815 Blog: http://panamalou.blogspot.com/

    Facebook:Panama,landofmyheartPanamtierrademicorazn

    >________________________________ > From: The Silver People Heritage Foundation >To: llseldon@yahoo.com >Sent: Thursday, August 1, 2013 5:51 AM >Subject: [New post] Poetry is Making a Comeback in Panama > > > > WordPress.com >Lydia posted: ” Lately I have been undergoing a cultural revitalization which I, long ago, had lost sight of ever experiencing in Panama. Three events, all coming in the form of poetry readings focused on West Indian Panamanian poets, have re-established my faith in ” >

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