STJ Poetry Club Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Raven Phillips reads a poem at a Rhyme & Lime event last year, held at Bajo El Sol Gallery before the pandemic. (Photo provided by Jamaica Hamilton)

For the last year, a group of poets belonging to the group Rhyme & Lime, has come together to share their passion during events at Bajo El Sol Art Gallery in Cruz Bay, St. John. Oct. 31, the last Saturday in October, will mark the group’s one-year anniversary.

Rhyme & Lime founder Jamaica Hamilton said she has always loved poetry and, while living on the mainland, discovered the joy of sharing it aloud.

“I have always loved and written poetry, but never performed my poetry in front of people regularly until I moved to Colorado after Hurricane Irma,” she said. “There I started going to poetry jams in the city and recited my poetry for the first time. I really enjoyed the whole process and how much I learned from listening to others and how reciting poetry inspired me to write more and gave me the courage to share that space with other people.”

Returning to the territory in 2019, she found a void.

“There were no venues for poetry, no poetry nights on the island and I missed that. I thought, why don’t I create that space?” she said.

After being encouraged to hold the poetry events at the Bajo El Sol Art Gallery, Hamilton said everything fell into place.

“I was so surprised how many poets came over from St. Thomas to attend, and how much support the event had from the get-go,” Hamilton said. On average, between 10 and 15 poets perform at each event.

Now that the events have gone virtual due to the pandemic, Hamilton said hosting has provided additional challenges.

“Hosting a virtual event also entails a lot more stress involving logistics. What if the internet goes out, what if my laptop freezes, does everyone’s microphone and audio work,” Hamilton said. While the virtual events first began on other platforms, technical difficulties forced the group to switch to Zoom “which was a much smoother experience.”

Hamilton said she was also fortunate to have Love City Community Network begin sponsoring the event, giving her the ability to use high-speed internet.

Because the events are broadcast via Facebook Live, Hamilton said not all poets are comfortable sharing their work.

“The in-person setting at the art gallery was an intimate, safe space, very different from performing livestream to Facebook and being recorded for all to see. I have done my best to create a virtual space that feels safe and encourages the poets to share, and we have such a caring and supportive audience that most feel comfortable opening up on our virtual platform, but it is very different than the in-person experience we shared pre-pandemic,” Hamilton said.

She admitted that she herself has also refrained from sharing more personal poems that she might have otherwise shared in a setting that wasn’t recorded.

But there are also benefits to virtual poetry events. Hamilton said anyone can attend from anywhere.

“We have had many Virgin Islanders, who live in the states, attend when they otherwise would not have been able to … The same goes for the audience who are now able to enjoy the poetry from the comfort of their homes, wherever that may be.”

Hamilton said signing up to perform is simple and can be done either by sending a message to the Rhyme & Lime Facebook page or by sending an email to [email protected] She recommended first time performers who are new to the group to submit a short bio so she can provide a proper introduction.

“Not everyone is a poet or a lover of poetry, and most poets like to keep to themselves. It is so delightful to be around a group of people who share the same passion for words and expression. I love how in the span of an hour I can be taken on a journey through 15 people’s minds. I am still in awe of the poetic talent we have in the Virgin Islands, and I love how we have young and old poets alike sharing that space together. I honestly never thought I would be a founder or host of any event, so hosting Rhyme & Lime this past year has been such a learning experience and something I’m very passionate about because it allows me to do my small part in contributing something positive to our community,” Hamilton said.

The following is a brief bio along with two poems from members of the Rhyme & Lime poetry group:

Khalarni Rivers
Khalarni Rivers, a proud St. Thomian, is passionate about creating purposeful spaces for his fellow Virgin Islanders. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and founded the media and creative arts organization, V.I. Crawl. This is his poem:

“Meet Poetry”
Poetry is knowingly,
Ripping out a piece of your soul for the world to see
And openly parading it on your shoulder sleeves
You see, poetry and vulnerability have the same address
You drive up introspection lane
Make a left at shame and doubt
Now, the right would’ve taken you to apathy road and you don’t wanna go there
So, left at shame and doubt
And one more left down resolution road
And there you’ll find poetry, on his porch, with a tall glass of Carbonet
Poetry is that one drunk uncle at the family gathering
He’s the loudest, most expressive and says way more than he should in front of the kids
But, as obnoxious as he can be
He’s unapologetic and reminds us how good it feels to truly let loose
Because Poetry cracks us wide open
But it’s through our cracks that the light runs through
Beyond the character design that we abide ourselves to
And the lies behind the smiles that we confine ourselves to
Here comes Poetry
Piercing through our darkest nights
Shining bright like a beam of light
Poetry is truth
It’s liberation
Poetry is therapy
Poetry is when you lock yourself in a room of three
I, myself, me and throws the key
Whether it’s putting pen to page or going up on stage, Poetry is the key that opens up
the cage

Raven Phillips
Raven Phillips has been a resident of St. John and a member of the Virgin Islands community since late 2010. She is a 22-year-old social science major with a minor in psychology at the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus. She is the president of the UVI Bamboula and Cultural Dance Club and was recently crowned the 2020-2021 Miss University of the Virgin Islands. Phillips has a strong passion for advocacy, reading and writing as a form of self-expression. She has also written for the Source. This is her poem:

“Contagious”
Your dour mood exudes the same energy of a nasty cough you wish didn’t exist
You play it off so poorly
You don’t see how your body speaks a language your mouth can’t muster
To me
It speaks
when you’re flustered
when you’re sad and full of anxiety
I respect your privacy, but can’t help but sour when your dour mood oozes like a
wound you won’t treat
Now your attitude is ours
Now I bark commands like a hacking cough
You attack and reprimand with the speed of a sneeze
We treat each other with the coldness of a flu and the boiling heat of a fever
And negative thoughts run deeper and deeper They invade our bodies like a virus
We’re just two miserable souls with a sickness inside us

Flyer for upcoming event (Submitted)