Jamaican Poems

Jamaica has a vibrant literary scene that includes many notable poets. One of the most well-known Jamaican poets is Louise Bennett, who was known for her use of Jamaican Patois in her work. Bennett’s poetry celebrated Jamaican culture and identity and was instrumental in promoting Jamaican literature.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of the Rastafari movement, which greatly influenced Jamaican poetry. Rastafarian poets like Linton Kwesi Johnson and Mutabaruka used their poetry to critique social and political issues and call for change.

In recent years, Jamaican poets like Kei Miller, Claudia Rankine, and Ishion Hutchinson have gained widespread acclaim for their powerful works that explore themes of identity, culture, and history. The spoken word scene in Jamaica is also thriving, with events like the Poetry Society of Jamaica’s monthly open mic sessions providing a platform for emerging poets to share their work.

Little Boy Crying

by Mervyn Morris

‘Little Boy Crying’ by Mervynn Morris describes the emotions of a child who is struck by his father for playing in the rain. 

In this poem, Morris explores themes of childhood, fatherhood, and the complexities of human relationships in a way that is both universal and specific to Jamaican culture. The poem may not be widely known, but it is a great example of Jamaican poetry.

Your mouth contorting in brief spite and hurt,

your laughter metamorphosed into howls,

your frame so recently relaxed now tight

with three year old frustration, your bright eyes


by Dennis Scott

‘Marrysong’ by Dennis Scott describes the relationship between a husband and wife whose relationship is constantly shifting.

As a Jamaican poet, Dennis Scott often drew on the culture and history of his homeland in his work. 'Marrysong' does not explicitly reference Jamaican culture but reflects the universal experiences of love, marriage, and communication that transcend cultural boundaries. It is a good example of a verse from the country.

He never learned her, quite. Year after year

that territory, without seasons, shifted

under his eye. An hour he could be lost

in the walled anger of her quarried hurt


by Olive Senior

‘Plants’ by Olive Senior is a unique free verse poem that describes the deceptiveness of plants. It uses irony and humor to suggest that plants are trying to take over the world.

This poem does, in some ways, reflect the rich cultural and natural landscapes of Jamaica. Olive Senior's unique perspective as a Jamaican poet allows her to infuse the poem with local sensibilities and a deep appreciation for the flora and fauna of the region. While this poem is not incredibly well-known, Senior's poetry generally is highly important.

Plants are deceptive. You see them there

looking as if once rooted they know

their places; not like animals, like us

always running around, leaving traces.

The Mariner’s Progress

by Ishion Hutchinson

In ‘The Mariner’s Progress,’ amidst shifting landscapes, souls lift and fall, echoing life’s transient beauty, ancestry’s embrace, and enduring legacy.

Ishion Hutchinson's 'The Mariner's Progress' stands out among Jamaican poetry with its profound exploration of memory, identity, and history. While the poem showcases Hutchinson's significance as a contemporary Jamaican poet, its strength lies in its evocative imagery, intricate metaphors, and contemplative tone. The poem's seamless fusion of personal experiences with broader cultural themes sets it apart, reflecting a depth of introspection and resonance that distinguishes it within the realm of Jamaican literary works.

“With never a whisper on the main,” so the snow falls,

glaring through the festschrift of acacia leaves

at sunrise and seeping a dye of immortelle

on mild fleece, shrinking back eternity

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