In Jamaica when you think of poetry only one person come to mind, the popular Louise Bennett or Miss Lou born on the 7th of September 1919 in Kingston Jamaica and died on the 26th of July 2006, daughter of the late Augustus Cornelius Bennett a businessman and his wife Kerene.She attended the Ebenezer and Calabar Elementary Schools, St. Simon’s College, Excelsior College, Friends College (Highgate).
She lectured extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom on Jamaican folklore and music and represented Jamaica all over the world. She married Eric Winston Coverley in 1954 that died in 2002 and had one stepson and several adopted children.
Known for writing and performing her poems in what was known as Jamaican Patois or Creole, Miss Lou was a good resident artiste and a teacher from 1945 to 1946 with the “Caribbean Carnival”. She appeared in leading humorous roles in several Jamaican pantomimes and television shows.
Perhaps one of her most lasting efforts was the song “Evening Time” a song from the 1949-1950 Pantomime “Bluebeard and Brer Anancy” which has become a Jamaican classic. She also hosted radio and television programmes in Britain and at home, championing Jamaican culture. She travelled throughout the world promoting the culture of Jamaica through lectures and performances.
Her island wide travels gave her an unsurpassed knowledge of native folklore. She collected and studied folk songs, ring games, Anancy stories and riddles, becoming a primary resource for scholars and artists.
Her dialect performances were the direct precursors of deejay music and dub poetry. Tony Rebel, who also uses Jamaican dialect as effectively as anyone in reggae and acknowledges Miss Lou as his greatest influenced.
Her contribution to the lovely Jamaican cultural life was such that she was honoured with the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies.
Among her many recordings are: Jamaica Singing Games – 1953, Jamaican Folk Songs (Folkways Records, 1954), Children’s Jamaican Songs and Games (Folkways, 1957) Miss Lou’s Views – 1967, Listen to Louise – 1968, Carifesta Ring Ding – 1976, The HonourableMiss Lou – 1981, Miss LouLive-London – 1983 and Yes M’ Dear -Island Records.
She also appeared as Portia in the comedy film Club Paradise, starring Robin Williams, Jimmy Cliff and Peter O’Toole in 1986.
Miss Lou has done so much for the Jamaican culture, dubt as the mother of poetry, her poems and songs are mentioned especially in schools on a daily basis.
An icon of her roots, she died peacefully in Toronto, Canada on July 26, 2006 where she was residing. Her books and recordings can be found in many stores worldwide, Miss Lou your memories will always live on, rest in peace Miss Lou, the world will always remember you.