Photo: BVI Government Information Service. Dr. Richard Georges is appointed Poet Laureate of the Virgin Islands.

ROAD TOWN, BVI–November 20th, 2020–Dr. Richard Georges has been named as the  Literary and Cultural Ambassador responsible for promoting the understanding of and appreciation for Virgin Islands history and cultural heritage through poetry.

This announcement was made during a ceremony on November 13 where the honor was bestowed on Dr. Georges as he was officially named the Virgin Island’s Poet Laureate. The Virgin Islands Poet Laureate program was initiated by the Department of Culture.

Dr. Georges is the first to hold such a prestigious title in the Virgin Islands and will do so for a period of three years.

Dr. Georges, in acknowledging the recognition and achievement, said that the arts are important to the development of the Territory.

“While this is a great personal milestone, I believe what is more important is what it portents for the undreamt future.”

He thanked his former literary teachers for the ‘foundation’ he received and his supporters in the community and abroad for his success.

During tenure, Dr. Georges is expected to carry out the following responsibilities:

  • Act as a literary ambassador to promote greater appreciation for the reading and writing of poetry
  • Act as a cultural ambassador for the Territory, promoting the understanding of and appreciation for Virgin Islands history and cultural heritage through poetry
  • Present an annual lecture and reading of his poetry (optional)
  • Represent the Territory at different local, regional and international literary events
  • Give a reading or presentation to inaugurate and close his term
  • Develop programs and projects designed to increase the appreciation of poetry in the Virgin
  • Create and/or take part in mentorship programs to mentor emerging poets such as the Writing with Writers workshop
  • Make suggestions for the improvement of existing literary programs and projects.

Apparently, the job description for Poet Laureate includes no requirement to write poetry for state occasions, or indeed to write any poetry at all.

Literary Arts Officer in the Department of Culture, Ms. Anika M. Christopher explained that the designation of a National Poet Laureate has become a country’s way to express its love and appreciation for the art of poetry. She said the Poet Laureate of the Virgin Islands is selected from among the Territory’s most accomplished poets.

Ms. Christopher added, “The criteria for the poet’s nomination and appointment are based on the subject matter of their written work, which should speak to the unique experiences of the Virgin Islands. This can range from societal issues to our cultural heritage and history. The volume/quantity of their work as well as the quality should be evidenced through awards and other literary achievements.”

The honorary position of Virgin Island’s First Poet Laureate is appointed by the Minister or Government or a committee appointed by the Minister or Government. In the case of an appointment of a committee, the selection process will be carried out first by nomination of poets who fit the given criteria, following which the committee will come together to make a vote.

To view the ceremony for Dr. Georges click here.

Examples of George’s work may be seen on his Web site.

Sample poems by the new poet Laureate are shown below.

300 Goats

after Naomi Shihab Nye

On the rocky cliffs.
The rain slickens the hillside here,
the goats huddle together against the yellow
guardrail – a barrier between them and air
[only the sea chewing the coast] below.

Cars process past them,
and the leader leads,

the little ones nestle themselves
against the sides of the mothers.

The grey clouds circle like birds of prey
but nobody here ever worries about goats.

Mangroves / Sea Cow’s Bay

black-winged birds frolic in the swampish pools.

The mangrove’s roots rise like reaching arms
from the lapping shallows, their propagules

dangling & whistling like hollow green chimes
over the creamy foam. The crowd of leaves

allows bars of the burnt evening’s light
to speckle bright lines of ivory

coral & shell, the argent scales
of schooling jacks under the pelicans.

Their spiny silvery dorsals mimic
small sails that billow & tuck & billow

their deaths an artful dance of wing & beak,
rust & gray, an eruption below depths.