Rt. Hon. Dr. Louise Bennett Coverley
Louise Simone Bennett-Coverley or Miss Lou, OM, OJ, MBE, was born on 7th September 1919 and died on 26th July 2006. She was a Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer, and educator. Writing and performing her poems in Jamaican Patois or Creole, and she worked to preserve the practice of presenting poetry, folk songs and stories in patois (“nation language”).
Her books included:
- Laugh with Louise: A pot-pourri of Jamaican folklore. Kingston: City Printery. 1961.
- Jamaica Labrish. Jamaica: Sangster’s Book Stores. 1966.
- Selected Poems. Jamaica: Sangster’s Book Stores. 1982.
- Auntie Roachy Seh. Jamaica: Sangster’s Book Stores. 1993.
She also had recordings:
- “Jamaican folk songs“. New York: Folkways. 1954.
- “Yes m’dear Miss Lou live!“. Sonic Sounds. 1982.
As a Jamaican I loved Miss Lou poems. I chose four of my favorites…any Jamaican reading this will be very familiar with these pieces and will also understand what they are saying. If you can’t, grab a Jamaican and beg dem explain it to yuh.
By Louise Bennett
from Speech Anhology, JCDC 2011.
Good mahnin, Teacher — ow is yuh?
My name is Sarah Pool.
Dis is fi-me li bwoy Michal
An me just bring him a school.
Him bawn one rainy day, ma’am, it
Was comin awn to night —
Ugly baby grow pretty fi true,
For dis one was a sight.
Him bawn de week when Rufus
Jack-fruit tree did start fi bear,
Is dat same mont Oby pig dead
— But me figat de year.
We call him Mi, Mike, Mikey,
Jay, Jakey, Jacob, Jack,
But him right name is Michal Jaco’b
No treat him rough, yaw, Teacher;
Him is a sickly chile:
As yuh touch him hard him meck nize’
Some people seh him pwile.
Teck time wid him yaw teacher-
If him rude an start fi rave
Dis beat annoder bwoy , an him
Wi frighten an behave.
For nuff time when him rude a yard
An woan hear at all
Ah jus beat de bed-poas hard, mah,
An yu waan fi hear Jack bawl!
Now dat yuh know hi, lickle ways
Ah not havin no fear
Dat anyting wi mel him, so
Ah lef him in yu care.
Dutty Tough – Louise Bennett
Sun a shine but tings no bright;
Doah pot a bwile, bickle no nuff;
River flood but water scarce, yawl
Rain a fall but dutty tough.
Tings so bad dat nowadays when
Yuh ask smaddy how dem do
Dem fraid yuh tek it tell dem back,
So dem no answer yuh.
No care omuch we dah work fa
Hard-time still een we shut;
We dah fight, Hard-time a beat we,
Dem might raise we wages, but
One poun gawn awn pon we pay, an
We no feel no merriment
For ten poun gawn pon we food
An ten pound pon we rent!
Saltfish gawn up, mackerel gawn up.
Pork en beef gawn up,
An when rice and butter ready
Dem just go pon holiday!
Claht, boot, pin an needle gawn up’
Ice, bread, taxes, water-rate
Kersene ile, gasolene, gawn up;
An de poun devaluate.
De price of bread gawn up so high
Dat we haffi agree
Fi cut we yeye pon bred an all
Tun dumplin refugee
An all dem marga smaddy weh
Dah gwan like fat is sin
All dem-deh weh dah fas wid me
Ah lef dem to dumpling!
Sun a shine an pot a bwile, but
Things no bright, bickle no nuff
Rain a fall, river dah flood, but,
Water scarce and dutty tough.
No Lickle Twang – Louise Bennett
Me glad fi see yuh come back, bwoy,
But lawd, yuh let me dung
Me shame a yuh so till all a
Me proudness drop a grung.
Yuh mean yuh go dah Merica
An spen six whole mont deh,
An come back not a piece better
Dan how yuh did go weh?
Bwoy, yuh no shame? Is so yuh come?
After yuh tan so lang!
Not even lickle language, bwoy?
Not even lickle twang?
An yuh sister what work ongle
One week wid Merican
She talk so nice now dat we have
De jooce fi understan?
Bwoy, yuh couldn improve yuhself!
An yuh get so much pay?
Yuh spen six mont a foreign, an
Come back ugly same way?
Not even a drapes trousiz, or
A pass de riddim coat?
Bwoy, not even a gole teet or
A gole chain roun yuh troat?
Suppose me laas me pass go introjooce
Yuh to a stranger
As me lamented son what lately
Come from Merica!
Dem hooda laugh after me, bwoy!
Me couldn tell dem so!
Dem hooda seh me lie, yuh wasa
Spen time back a Mocho!
No back-answer me, bwoy – yuh talk
Too bad! Shet up yuh mout!
Ah doan know how yuh an yuh puppa
Gwine to meck it out.
Ef yuh waan please him, meck him tink
Yuh bring back someting new.
Yuh always call him ‘Pa’ – dis evenin
When him comes seh ‘Poo’.
Uriah Preach – Louise BennettFi-me fambly is no peaw-peaw, Me daughter Sue dah teach;An when rain fall or parson sick Me son Uriah preach.Sunday gawn rain come so till parson Couldn lef from out him yard;People did eena church, an so Uriah get weh broad –Him climb up pon de pulpit, himLean over an look dung,Him look pon all we enemyAn lash dem wid him tongue.De fus one him teck awn was Lize Who tell de lie pon me:Him stare eena har face an seh, `Thou art de mouti-mouti I’Him seh, ‘Thou art de meddlesome, Thou art de rowersome!’An den him look pon me an seh, 20 ‘Thou art de slaughtered lamb.’Him teck awn Teacher Brown, for when Him was a lickle totTeacher beat him one day because Him call Teacher ‘Top-Knot’.So Riah get him revenge now, For him stare straight pon Brown An seh, ‘Let him dat sittet onDe house top not come down.’Riah tun pon Butcher Jones who notedFi sell all scrapses meatAn seh, ‘Thou shalt not give they neighbours Floolooloops to eat!’Him tell dem off, dem know is dem, Dem heart full to de brim;But as Riah eena pulpitDem cyaan back-answer him.So when chuch-member mel me Ah doan answer till it reachA rainy day when parson stay homeAn Uriah preach.
Those were just fun, saying them was even better had me laughing up a storm. It’s good to hold unto and appreciate Jamaican culture… so much fun and knowledge.