The National Cultural Foundation
St. James, Barbados
Poet Cyndi Celeste Marshall is jetting off on Monday to fly the Bajan flag at the 2021 Women of the World Poetry Slam from April 6 to 10 in Dallas, Texas.
What makes the occasion so unique is that she is the first Barbadian to enter. The event will see 80 female poets from around the world on stage.
The artiste, whose stage name is Cyndi Celeste, is elated to be taking part.
“I am just excited to show the American poetry scene what Caribbean people can do with their language. It also feels like quite a bit of pressure and that is because I put a fair set of pressure on myself.”
The 24 year-old poet started writing and performing in 2013 but only began to approach it professionally in 2018. Her historic journey and time spent in Dallas will all be made possible with funding from the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
For that help, Cyndi Celeste is eternally grateful.
“I cannot begin to express how invaluable the NCF support is. I feel like the NCF is the parent I can go to and say this is what I need, and they, in turn, say: ‘Well, this is what we can do for you.’ Both the CEO Carol Roberts-Reifer and clerical officer Kelly-Ann Gaskin helped prepare me for this, not only in terms of funding but they walked me through everything down to the COVID restrictions. I know it is a business, but when it comes down to it, it is this humanitarian, family-like way of giving and support in terms of advice.”
Cyndi Celeste, a National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) awardee, was quick to point out that this is not the first time she was a recipient of financial and other help from the NCF. She explained that much of her development and strides in the artform happened due to that help.
“I think what the public misses is the conversation that happens with other artistes and the NCF. Yes, the soca and calypso competitions are huge cultural events, but the public misses the smaller events, the dance, theatre and poetry. A lot of my work has been with the NCF; a lot of the work I see other poets, other musicians do has been with the NCF,” she said.
The international competition is seven rounds, four preliminary rounds; then the finals round is broken into three rounds. This meant that Cyndi Celeste had to pen seven original pieces.
“I have had to prepare seven unique pieces for the competition. The work I am carrying is very Caribbean-centred. I don’t think the young American poetry scene knows a lot about Caribbean poets and especially Barbadian poets. I want to take my culture. I want to take my language with me, and I mean Bajan, because language is a large part of what I focus on and how we use language to express ourselves.
She added: “I have a piece about what it means to sound like a Bajan and how we are misunderstood because of our accent. Then I have a piece about last year’s climate talks. It focuses on how global warming affects us in the Caribbean as Small Island Developing States. There is also something on Black Pride.”
The former student of Harrison College, who holds a Bachelors in Linguistics with Communication Studies from the University of West Indies (UWI), said she always has those who have helped her in mind when she writes.
“My artistic practice is very much about family. It is about honouring the people who have helped me along the way, those who build me up. From the first spoken-word piece I wrote, Adrian Green has been in my corner, helping and mentoring me. DJ Simmons and Empress Zingha, I call them my poetry parents. And of course, there is also my dear friend Luci Hammans who is going with me; they always supports and inspire me,” Cyndi Celeste said. (PR)
Written by: Toni Yarde