Spotlight – Veronica Evanson Bernard

I regret that I’m only now reporting this, but I only just learned of the passing of Antiguan and Barbudan poet, Veronica Evanson Bernard, via http://passionsofyoursoul.blogspot.com/2010/12/antiguan-scholar-and-poet-passes-on.html

I bought Dr. Bernard’s Pineapple Rhymes not that long ago, on the strength of my memory of the poem, “Women of Antigua!”, which I discovered (and fell in love with) many years earlier – back in the days when searching for Antiguan authors was like searching for a needle in a haystack.

Dr. Bernard’s poetry collections are mentioned in my Wadadli Pen listing of Antiguan and Barbudan writers and the Poetry list as well. They are Pineapple Rhymes and Coconut Walk. Alas, both seem to be out of print.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Bernard but I’m happy that I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of Pineapple Rhymes (though I admit I haven’t yet read it in its entirety). I have read, time and again, my favourite (and first discovery of hers) though; and I’d like to share it with you.

Women of Antigua! by Veronica Evanson Bernard
(published in Pineapple Rhymes, 1989, Blackwood Press, USA)

When at times
I sit and wonder
of my days in dear Antigua,
Visions of women
Seem to rise
Like a flood
Before my eyes.
Women in a long procession…
One long line of working women…
Women jogging along on donkey boxes taking provisions
to market…
Women walking to the fields in the early morning dew…
Women bent over Monday morning washtubs…
Women crouched over open firesides, preparing
family meals…
Women huckstering their wares at street corners…
Women heavy with child, yet struggling on…
Women fathers as well as mothers
Women wending their way to church on peaceful
Sunday mornings…
Women picking cotton…
Women hoeing fields…
Women bundling cane…
Women teaching…
Women serving
Women gossipping…
Women laughing…
Women loving…
Women grieving…
Women tending the sick…
Women washing the dead…
Women holding their bellies, bawling to ease the pain
of some distress…
Why does the procession never cease?
It stretches, so it seems, backward to BLACK AFRICA
And again towards this new land
Whose earth
These selfsame women nurtured
With the very sweat of their brows
And the fruits of their wombs,
And where their bodies
Buried deep in endless round
Renew the ground,
The very soil
Of this dear Isle.

Disclaimer: I’ve bent my personal rules considerably by posting this poem without permission. I did so because I wanted to eulogize this poet I never met by sharing her words (and in particular words that spoke to me as a young – younger, at the time, Antiguan, female…part of the long line of women being celebrated, women like my mother and tanty). No disrespect is intended and I am not profiting from its use. And if her representatives (whom I really don’t know how to contact) wish me to remove it, I will. Until then, I hope you come to discover this late Antiguan writer, and can relate.

 

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6 Comments

Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, A & B WRITINGS

6 responses to “Spotlight – Veronica Evanson Bernard

  1. Pingback: Antiguan and Barbudan Writings | Wadadli Pen

  2. Pingback: Antiguan and Barbudan Writings | Wadadli Pen

  3. Veronica Evanson Bernard was my aunt and we keep her spirit alive in us by uttering her name and her poems. I have also shared her work at poetry readings in Canada and Antigua. I know she is smiling. May she rest in light. Ameen.

  4. Bernadette Rousseau

    I had a copy of this treasure of a book and made the mistake to loan it out never to be returned and now, I am unable to find a copy to replace it. I have read this book in its entirety and every bit of these verses are to be treasured.

    • Hi Bernadette,
      Thanks for stopping by. And I agree Pineapple Rhymes is a treasure. I discovered it years ago in the public library but bought my personal copy fairly recently. You should try the Map Shop (cesmap@candw.ag) or the Best of Books (bestofbooks@yahoo.com) to see if they have any. Don’t you hate it when people don’t return books? It’s why I have a no lending policy for books I can’t do without…and some of the other ones too. Hope you’re able to track down a new copy.

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