‘Kiss Mi Granny’, rib-tickling launch
"Easton yuh don't have to invent a thing you know, just listen to what our people are saying, the stories they are telling, listen to what they say, and how they say it," was the sound advice given by his dear friend and mentor, the late Louise Bennett-Coverly, Easton Lee told guests at Saturday's entertaining launch of his fifth book, Kiss Mi Granny - 101 Poems, Stories and Teachings from All ah Wi Granny Dem', published by BalaPress.
It was clear that Lee had taken Miss Lou's advice. The readings of extracts revealed that from the preface to the contents, the book reverberates a truthfulness and richness of rural Jamaican culture that far exceeded the imagination.
Likewise, the well-planned and justly executed programme also took on an authentic rural Jamaican flavour in the titles of the items, music and speeches. And aptly, the launch occurred at the rustic and picturesque poolside of the Alhambra Inn, located in Kingston.
Under the banner, Celebrating Easton Lee and the Legacy of Literature, the keynote address was delivered by Steadman Fuller, custos of Kingston and CEO of Kingston Bookshop.
"Well kiss mi granny, what a delightful feast of Jamaican culture" he began in his celebratory speech and description of the contents of the book.
"It's like drinking some mannish water, then biting into some good old roast yam with salt fish, and fried fish and bammy; blue drawse and coconut drop for the desert, and some wash to send it down," he continued, ignoring the vocal response from the audience, who was salivating at each item of food mentioned on his menu.
From food, the custos reflected on the Governor General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen's mantra, "There's nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica."
The custos said, "Certainly, we are on to something right ... in Reverend Easton Lee's book," while admitting that like many Jamaicans, he, too, is very familiar with the Granny culture.
Additionally, some of the uplifting poems and revealing stories from Kiss Mi Granny were brought to life by what the custos described as "a sea of exquisite artistry from the cream of the creative arts".
The readings unfolded in three sections. The focus of section one was on the poems that were just as entertaining as the stories. The readers were Erica Allen, Fae Ellington, Leonie Forbes and Tiffani Robinson.
Ellington and Forbes were joined by Grace McGhie-Brown to read the colourfully written preface that paints a picture of Granny the counsellor, the healer, the storyteller and the keeper of history and folk tales.
Fittingly, part three commenced with the loaded poem of riddles and popular sayings titled, Ah Mi Granny Tell Mi Soh, read by Ellington. McGhie-Brown read the rib-tickling, humour-filled story, Rookumbine. The story highlights the innocence of childhood juxtaposed against the coded language of adults. But it was Forbes' reading of the well-written Pleasant Sunday Evening Concert that had the audience in stitches. Taking on the various characters, Forbes was at her best as she had her listeners traversing the happenings at the concert.
In giving his response, the Reverend Easton Lee pointed out that he wrote in two languages, and using anecdotal evidence, he bemoaned the fact that enough respect was not paid to the work ethics of hardworking parents. He also said the work of "Miss Olive Lewin must go on by putting our songs and our music in a place where it is still accessible 20, 50, 80 years' time".
Before the response from Reverend Easton Lee, remarks also came from Amina Blackwood-Meeks and Professor Carolyn Cooper under an item titled Ah Who Seh Kiss Mi Granny? Sweet Riddims was delivered by musicians Dr Carol Ball and Darien Young and vocalists Carole Reid and Andrae Shepherd. Good Howdy-Do and just as good navigation through the programme came from Glynis Salmon, publisher and Bala Press/Chairperson.
Kiss Mi Granny - 101 Poems, Stories and Teachings from All ah Wi Granny Dem was written over a period of years. The 101 pieces were chosen from about 150, Lee told The Gleaner.