Kendel Hippolyte

Welcome! I had the great pleasure of hearing you read at Bright Hill Press’s Word Thursdays last spring. How did you begin with poetry?

I was always drawn to the sound of poetry. I was reading my older brother’s poetry books when I was seven. This is late ’50s, early ‘6os and St Lucia is still very much a colonial territory. Poetry was very much written in set forms, in quatrains that had very, very set patterns of rhythm and rhyme. You can say them out loud and bounce along with them and jig to them and everything; they were fun in that kind of way. They connected very directly with traditional nursery rhymes. When I think back on the oral tradition in St. Lucia, I think a lot of us in our childhood just so easily made up chants. Even nicknames for people sometimes might have a little phrase attached to it, and you’d see that on a jig and a jog. And poetry for me fell into that very easily. I was reading all this stuff and reading it out loud. I never came into poetry as something you just read on the page. I read it out loud and bounced with it.

My eldest brother was in a theatre arts group called the St. Lucia Arts Guild that had been formed by the Walcott brothers, Derek and his twin brother Roddy, Roderick. I would be helping my brother learn lines for his plays. I was probably about nine and read plays like Strindberg’s Miss Julie, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. I could stand at the back of the hall and watch these rehearsals.

Read the full interview with Kendel Hippolyte in The Blue Mountain Review, September 2023.