Biography of Mervyn Morris

Mervyn Morris was born in Kingston, Jamaica on the 21st of February 1937. He received his initial education at Munro College, University College of the West Indies, which has campuses in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados. He then went on to St Edmund Hall, Oxford where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar. 

 

Early Career 

After these initial experiences with education, he decided to take a job lecturing at the University College of the West Indies. This led to his later appointment as a Reader in West Indian Literature. It was around this same time period that he edited the collection, Seven Jamaican Poets (1971). He had written pieces of his own previous to his work as an editor, including ‘Feeling, Affection, Respect,’ an essay for which he won an Institute of Race Relations Essay competition, as well as a first prize win in the Jamaica Festival Literary Competition.

Two years later his first collection of poetry, The Pond, was published by New Beacon Books. One of his best known works,’The Pond,’  comes from this collection. It was followed three years later by On Holy Week. 

Morris’ last collection from the seventies was released in 1979 and was titled, Shadow Boxing. He would not publish again until 1992. In the intervening years he continued to teach and was appointed as a UK Arts Council Visiting Writer-in-Residence at the South Bank Centre in London, England. Around this same time he worked as the editor for the collection, The Faber Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories, as well as publishing his fourth collection, Examination Centre. His next volume would not follow until 2006, with the publication of I Been There, Sort of: New and Selected Poems. 

 

Later Career 

Morris’ work also branched into non-fiction. In 1999 he wrote and published Is English We Speaking, a collection of essays, and then in 2005, Making West Indian Literature. This work explored various types of creativity in the literature of the West Indian people. In 2009, Morris was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit. 

Additionally, the early 2000s saw Morris edit Writing Life: Reflections by West Indian Writers, published in 2008, and write Miss Lou: Louise Bennet and Jamaican Culture, a non-fiction book, in 2014. This is the same year that Morris was appointed Poet Laureate of Jamaica.  He currently lives Kingston and holds the position of Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing & West Indian Literature. 

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