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New Talent Showcase – Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

by Shivanee Ramlochan, 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest Blogger.

There is something special about witnessing new talent being unearthed — but as CAISO advocate and writer Colin Robinson pointed out at this, the first of the 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest New Talent Showcases, Trinidadian poet Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné isn’t as nascent a literary figure as all that. The winner of the 2012 Small Axe Competition for Poetry, Danielle was awarded The Caribbean Writer‘s 2009 Charlotte and Isidor Paiewonsky Prize. She’s a 2010 Cropper Foundation for Residential Writers alumna, and her poetry has been published in a plethora of journals and  magazines, including sx salon; Room Magazine; Bim; tongues of the ocean; Anthurium and St. Somewhere Journal. Danielle is also a visual artist, who is preparing for an upcoming exhibition in Trinidad this year.

Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné is also my friend, but that isn’t really the point — the point is that even if she were entirely unknown to me, her New Talent Showcase reading would have had the same devastating, bone-rattling, aching and exquisite effect. Her poems are suffused in moonlight and forestry, dotted with vast, yellow stars and fisherman’s nets, lilting and spilling over with struggling images of beauty and violence. On April 25th, Boodoo-Fortuné read several pieces from her winning Small Axe selection, which she fondly refers to as her “bush poems”.

Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné reads her poems at the Old Fire Station.

In the discussion segment that followed her reading, Boodoo-Fortuné responded to moderator and Festival Programme Director Nicholas Laughlin’s question on the bush-centric nature of her work. To be secreted deep away within bushland, the poet admitted, is to engage in  a relationship wherein she feels perpetually herself. When asked of her poetic springboards, Boodoo-Fortuné cited an early undergraduate course with the poet Jennifer Rahim, whose work, the former gushed unapologetically, “changed her life.” The mark of a phenomenal poet, Boodoo-Fortuné elaborated, lies in one whose writing feels written for you, intimately and directly, and this is what Rahim’s verses signify to her.

On the impending, steadily developing prospect of her first, full-length collection of poems, Boodoo-Fortuné took a different tack from most other scribes her age: she’s grateful, she asserted, for the wait. The time it’s taken for the inaugural gathering of poems to come together has been “absolutely essential”; it’s lined her up side by side with the bare heart of the collection’s purpose and promise — and for this, she reiterated, she feels nothing but gratitude.

Danielle’s poems are shot through and skylifted with the very best of an emerging voice in present-day Caribbean poetics. If you were there to hear her, you were likely as transfixed as I was, and continue to be. If you weren’t, don’t worry: the odds are hopeful that her printed words will be positioned on bookshelves before far too many moons make their orbit.

Photograph by Maria Nunes, Official Festival Photographer.