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Poetry Evening with Kei Miller

Working in collaboration with The Poetry Society, Royal Collection Trust commissioned Forward Prize winning poet Kei Miller to create a new poem. 

More information about this and other events can be found on our What's on pages.

Place Name – Oracabessa, skilfully unites the themes of Gold and Journeys and follows the form of his award winning collection The Cartographer tries to map his way to Zion.

The poem was premiered at an evening event in The Queen's Gallery on Thursday, 12 February 2015 to a full audience.

 

Place Name

Oracabessa – origins disputed but most likely leave over from the Spanish.
Oracabeza, Cabeza de Ora, Golden Head, though what gold was here
other than light shining off the bay, other than bananas bursting out
of red flowers – though this too is disputed – not the flowers – but
the origin of bananas; they may have come here with Columbus on a
ship that in 1502 slipped into Orcabessa the way grief sometimes
slips into a room. In those days the Italian tried to name the island
Santa Maria, as if not knowing it already had a name, in another
language, a language whose speakers would soon die – though this
too is disputed – not the deaths, but the completeness of  genocide.
Consider, if you will, the word barbecue; and consider the word
hurricane; and consider the word Jamaica, land of wood and water –
but not of gold. Could someone please go back in time and tell
Columbus, in Taino there is no word for gold. Christopher
Columbus, en Italiano Cristoforo Colombo, en español Cristóbal
Colón. A teacher once told me ‘Colón’ is root word for colonist, and
though I know that was false etymology, there is some truth to it.
Oracabessa – at which place you might find such tranquil villas as
Golden Cove, Golden Clouds and Goldeneye – longtime home of Ian
Fleming who sat there on cliff’s edge, the morning’s breakfast
brought to him by a woman named Doris, the scent of ackee and
crisp-fried breadfruit wafting up to his nostrils while between his
teeth he bit a number 2 pencil, all the time looking out to sea as if
fishing for a story – maybe a man – an incredible man – let’s call him
Bond. James Bond. Who knew 007 wasn’t Scottish, but a barefoot
bwoy from St Mary, Jamaica. Like so many others, he too would
migrate – the brutish winter cooling his complexion down to white.
Such stories! Goldfinger, Golden Eye, The Man with the Golden Gun. Did
you never stop to wonder where all that gold came from?  Did you
never stop to ask, what was found in El Dorado? Well, let me tell
you: not an ounce of metal – but light glistening off the bay, and
perhaps bananas, and perhaps ackee, and such language as could
summon wind to capsize Columbus’s ships – and if that’s not gold,
then what is?

Kei Miller

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