Twenty-four-year-old poet Cyndi Celeste Marshall left Barbados today to fly the Bajan flag at the 2021 Women of the World Poetry Slam competition, which takes place in Dallas, Texas, from April 6 to 10.
Ms. Marshall, who goes by the stage name Cyndi Celeste, is the first Barbadian to enter the competition, which will see 80 female poets from around the world competing on stage.
She expressed her excitement at taking part in the competition and showing the world what Caribbean people can do with their language.
The poet started writing and performing in 2013, but only began to approach it professionally in 2018. Her entire trip to Dallas and expenses associated with the competition will be funded by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
In expressing her gratitude to the NCF, Cyndi Celeste stated: “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 assistance from the NCF.
“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 clarified.
The international competition comprises seven rounds: four preliminary rounds; then the final round, which is broken into three rounds.
“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.
“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 poet explained.
The former Harrison College student, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree 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,” Cyndi Celeste said.