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Meet a Poet: Carlson Spooner-Pascal

Interview with Karra Price, Cultural Officer in the Literary Arts.

For those who may not know you, who is Carlson Spooner-Pascal?

I consider myself a ‘young’ writer. I am also musician, choir director and retired teacher of English Language and English Literature. I am an ‘outside of the box thinker’ and live daily with ideas for new projects swirling around in my head. I infuse creativity into every aspect of my life, always trying to set the bar higher and afford persons with whom I come into contact, new experiences. I like all kinds of poetry and I’m quite at home tackling the innocuous and innocent as well as the shocking and taboo.

Why do you write?

I see the need to chronicle and preserve our rapidly evaporating cultural landscape; that is the main reason for my writing. I love Bajan dialect, Bajan proverbs and idioms. I also believe in expressing emotions (whether positive or negative, whether love or hate) in poetry. Just like a painting, a poem is a snapshot that can give a glimpse into the mind of the writer at the time it was written.

The NIFCA 2022 Adult Prose and Poetry Challenge received an overwhelming response from the community. How does it feel to have three of your poems place within the top 13 poetry entries?

It is an awesome feeling. I’m not arrogant by any means, but I know I have many stories that are worth telling. I sometimes write in free verse, but my preference is rhyme, and I know that in some circles, rhyme is relegated to the ‘bottom of the pile’ and seen as the inferior of the two styles. To have three of my poems in the top 13 shows me (and others) the worth of my work in the area of rhyme and is a double delight. In my estimation, it is actually more difficult to write poetry within the constraints of rhyme as for me, the rhyme must make sense and enhance the poem. I can do a free verse poem in one day, but the rhyming ones take considerably more time and effort.

Your poem “A Grave Matter” ranked 3rd in the competition and dealt with the legend of the Chase Vault. What inspired you to write about this piece of Barbadian history?

Although I don’t watch horrors or ghastly science fiction, I’ve always been intrigued by the supernatural and unexplained. As a former teacher at the Christ Church Foundation School, I made many trips to the Christ Church Parish Church (mainly for church services) and was inspired to do more research. I wanted to write something that was factual and just as mysterious as the legend itself. The research yielded more questions than answers and to this day, we don’t really know what happened. Things like that leave me wondering and I wanted to create the same effect with that piece.

Many teachers are also creative writers. Why do you think that is?

It is in the nature of a teacher (or it should be) to give, teach and share. Writing creatively is a way to share what is happening in our minds. Schools are not Sunday School picnics and teachers have stories to tell with many of us experiencing a plethora of wide-ranging emotions during our teaching careers oftentimes eclipsing the drama in our own lives. It is from this cauldron that we as teachers can draw, providing readers with an authentic experience.

How has teaching affected your path as a writer?

For my first 16 or so years of teaching, I taught CSEC English Literature and Language and this further fueled my interest in creative writing. Many times I would read the poems and short stories on the CXC syllabus with the hope that one day, someone somewhere would be reading mine; even students somewhere could be answering questions based on a passage or a poem that I wrote. The many literary devices and styles of poetry I encountered help to influence my writing in a positive way. To this day, many of my favourite poems, for example, “My Papa’s Waltz”, “Aunt Jennifer’s Tigers”, “A Poison Tree” are from that era of my life.

In the Caribbean we have a long history of oral literature. How do you feel about having your poems featured in the upcoming NIFCA Audiobook production?

I am elated. We are rapidly losing our cultural gems; even the unique way we speak and phrase is slowly being wiped away due to social media and North American influences. Since my poems that will be featured all speak about Barbadian culture or history in some way, I am hoping that this would be a way of keeping this history alive. A greater impact can be had when poetry is read aloud. The fact that it is an audiobook is like killing two birds with one stone; not only is the work is being preserved, but it is also being done in a format that the visually impaired or those who don’t like to read can still appreciate.

What are you working on now?

I had started to work on collections of my poetry; I explored flipbooks but decided on the pdf format. I have about four volumes so far and may do a “Best of” and then collate all my children’s poetry into one volume. One of my most recent poems was a lament about Christmas being foisted on us as a people in November to the detriment of Independence and our local folk songs. I am also working on a poem (which is killing me) to chronicle the stores in Bridgetown that were popular when I was a child that have disappeared from our landscape. I spend most of my time now working on music, hymns and descants as I have a deep love for choral music.

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