Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Shara McCallum – Poems to Convey History

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In class, we skyped with poet Shara McCallum, and she talked to us about her life history, the history of Jamaica, and her inspiration for writing.

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Photo of McCallum sourced from here.

Many poets write to express their emotions and reactions to their personal lives. McCallum does this as well as writes about the general history of Jamaica.

In her poem Psalm For Kingston, she writes:

City where power cuts left everyone in sudden dark,
    where the kerosene lamp’s blue fame wavered on kitchen walls,
        where empty bellies could not be filled,
    where no eggs, no milk, no beef today echoed
In shantytowns, around corners, down alleyways

This section and the entirety of this poem capture McCallum’s opinions of what Jamaica was like when she was young. In reading her poems, one is able to feel a more emotional connection to the history than they would from a textbook. It is one thing to read, “Jamaica endured hard times,” but it is another to read, “they paid weekly dues, saving for our passages back to Africa.”

In this video at around 9:30, McCallum explains to the interviewer that she writes about things to “say what’s unsayable.” In saying this, she essentially means that for her, writing is a way to both get out her feelings and to explain topics that may be taboo or uncomfortable to discuss.

A video of Kingston, Jamaica (where she was born) in 1972.

McCallum is able to write her poetry in a way that is generally easy to understand but also covers historical topics. She has said about writing:

“Poetry links us to each other and to the human experience. The precise use of language, the diligence and attentiveness poetry needs, makes it inherently meditative. It requires that we slow down and pay attention to our surroundings and to one another.”

(Quoted from this page)

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