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Maggie Harris

Poet

About

I was an avid reader and writer growing up in Guyana and after migrating to the UK, spent many years exploring my creativity eventually attending Kent University as a mature student where I was introduced to post-colonial literature. I began developing my own writing and organising literary events in Kent which led to a post as Kent Arts & Libraries’ first Reader Development Worker. I was awarded the University’s T. S. Eliot prize and Kent’s Outstanding Adult Learner, and in 1999 the Guyana prize for my first poetry collection, Limbolands. I have been involved in many projects and collaborations including workshops for children, invitations to read my work locally and abroad, representing Kent in Europe, community engagements, for example St Lucian elders performing their poetry to Derek Walcott, and collaborations with dancers and musicians including Nitin Sawhney.

My post as International Teaching Fellow at Southampton University required me to source and design material on approaches to teaching international writing for student teachers with local schoolchildren, and also involved online communication with college students based in Barbados and St Lucia. In the early 2000s my community work led to my creating a live-literature festival, Inscribing the Island, which introduced writers such as Jean Binta Breeze and Jackie Kay to Thanet. A ten-year sojourn in Wales (mid-2000s) gave me the opportunity to explore another culture, make new friends and write books inspired by location, displacement, belonging, cross-cultural themes of language, botanical history, the body and representation. I was also part of a three-woman performance group, The Rockhoppers. Working on a large wild garden gave me room for reflection which gave birth to my third collection, After a Visit to a Botanical Garden.

In Wales I collaborated with Anthony Vahni Capildeo and my poem, ‘Cwmpengraig, Place of Stones’ featured in the Windrush Exhibition at the British Library.  I was fortunate in winning the Guyana prize for the second time in 2015, and in 2020 the Wales Poetry award. In Kent, my poem, ‘Canterbury’ is a public arts display in the city’s Westgate Gardens, and my BBC-commissioned poem for Kent for National Poetry Day, ‘Lit by Fire’, inspired by the North Foreland lighthouse, is featured online. Performance is a vital part of my writing life: orality, musicality, rhythm and the use of Guyanese Creole are aspects of my poetry; I enjoy live performance and have had several collaborations with musicians and other artists. I have recently narrated my memoir Kiskadee Girl which will be published as an audio book. I was recently awarded a Developing Your Creative Practice bursary to explore the changes in Guyana since I left, particularly with a view to recent oil discovery and sustainability of Guyana’s rainforests.

Maggie Harris

Maggie Harris

Poet

Email

[email protected]

Posts

  • Reading Round Fellow