The National Cultural Foundation
St. James, Barbados
Poet Cyndi Celeste Marshall has achieved a 2021 goal she had set for herself.
Cyndi was determined to have her poetry voice heard on international stages and spaces. And so far, mission accomplished.
The Bajan artist who had jetted off in April to compete in the 2021 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas is now busier than ever.
“The experience in Texas was very educational, not only in terms of competing but also in terms of event coordination and what it takes to build a poetry scene. I cannot thank the NCF enough for making it all possible,” she said.
The trip was fully funded by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF). Cyndi now ranks Number 21 Women’s Slam poet in the world.
“I was very pleased with myself. I went to represent Barbados and the Caribbean. I went to represent my voice in a space that has not been penetrated before. I wanted to make the Top 10 but I am not disappointed because with the level of competition I don’t think there is anyone who placed above me that did not deserve it.”
But Cyndi’s overseas success was only just beginning. At the start of the year, she challenged herself to enter her work in as many competitions as possible. She had also decided she needed her poetry to take on a global audience.
Her first task was being published in the Caribbean Writers 35th volume which is a tribute to Kamau Brathwaite. She then entered two world competitions.
“It has been one of my goals this year to get into more international spaces. I also wanted to build up some critical acclaim for myself ahead of writing and publishing a book.
“I did all of those things and saw them and went like ‘I don’t know I can get all of these done.’ Then I just jumped into it I keep looking for opportunities like that. Those are the opportunities that challenge me to keep growing in my craft,” the poet said.
Black British Writers was created in 2020 by Kemi Solanke in order to provide a central collaborative space to uplift black British voices from past to present. There is a lack of resources and information which focuses on writers of African and Caribbean heritage in the UK.
Cyndi entered the Black British Writers competition around the same time she entered Women of the World Poetry Slam. She paid her£10 and entered one piece. After she returned to Barbados from the Women of the World Poetry Slam she got the shocking news.
“I entered a poem called Blind Date. I woke up one Tuesday morning to an email and it said: ‘Congratulations’. I had totally put that out of my mind because I was coming off of Women in World I had gotten a lot of new work and administration for stuff I could not do while in Texas. And here I was reading this email that read: ‘Congratulations, you have been short-listed.’
She added: “The end of the email said we will announce the winner shortly. In this competition, you get a cash prize for winning. First place is £250, second place is £100 and third place is £50. About a week later I got another email saying: ‘Congratulations, you won second place.”
Blind Date is a piece Cyndi wrote specifically for a book she hopes to publish.
“I wanted to see how the piece would have been responded to beyond my own scope. It is about the conversation that happens between Black identity and the Caribbean identity. As Black and Caribbean people there is a nuance to that experience and I wanted to explore that experience.”
Many doors have now opened for Cyndi after this recent global exposure.
“Life has been interesting and busy. I am getting to work with a lot more people now and I think because of the work that I have been doing, not with a goal of getting famous, a lot more people and a lot more businesses know my face and know who I am and are reaching out to me to do work with them. It is giving me more opportunities to hone my craft and giving me more opportunities to live my life doing what I love.”
But Cyndi is gracious about her new-found fame. Her single biggest goal is developing and sustaining a Poetry Tourism sector in Barbados.
“I want to do a lot of work here as it relates to developing Poetry Tourism and making the poetry scene in Barbados something that is attractive to not only Barbadians, but also globally,” Cyndi said. (PR)
Written by: Toni Yarde