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In celebration of the nation’s 50th anniversary of Independence, professional artist and poet, Erica Mapp fashioned an Ekphrasticstyled poem, titled Conquerabia, based on the 1961 Carlyle Chang mural by the same name mounted on a wall on the ground floor of City Hall, Port-of-Spain. In plain English, ‘ekphrasis’ is simply a description used to refer to an artistic style in which one art form is used to describe another art form.
Thus, a poem written to describe a painting is called an ekphrastic poem, a relatively popular style that dates back to ancient times. Mapp is of the view that this type of poetry, which references prominent local personalities, artistic sculptures, paintings, and flora, could be used to highlight how these art forms have helped shape social and cultural identity through the last 50 years.
“I have been using that style for over 25 years, as I find it an excellent way to write poetry,” she said. “A lot of poetry tends to be general in nature but we must strive for excellence in everything we do, as work of inferior quality usually affects not only ourselves but everybody else.”
A visual artist, as well as a poet, Mapp was born in Montreal of Trinidadian parents but spent her childhood in Arima. She became a New York resident in 1969 where her work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Her artistic style is abstract and geometric, inspired by nature, and influenced by her Christian heritage. She has studied fine arts and also art education and loves to teach art and literature.
Her poems have appeared in Commonweal, Columbia, Lake Effect and other magazines. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, was a semi-finalist for the Morse Poetry Prize and won first prize for her poems in the Freshmeadows Poets Open Competition. She has also been awarded first prize by the Graduate Department Poetry Club at Queens College, where she studied as a continuing education student for two years.
She has been living in Trinidad for the past three years and has been bringing her talent and expertise to bear on the local poetry and writing fraternities. Some of Ms Mapp’s involvement in the sphere of poetry during the last three years includes her participation in the Circle of Poets 2012 Commemoration of UNESCO World Poetry Day, teaching a poetry class to high school students at the Diego Martin Central Secondary School through the Diego Martin Library.
She has also participated in the Writer’s Union Poetry Day in October 2011 and took part in a poetry reading at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain, under the aegis of the circle of poets in 2011.
This excerpt of her poem reveals her deep respect for local art and its meaning to the development of our society. Mapp cites Van Stewart, of the Writers’ Union, and poet laureate of Port-of-Spain, Anson Gonzalez, as being instrumental in facilitating her writing experience throughout the last three years.
As a member of both the Circle of Poets of T&T and the Writers Union of T&T, she has been able to view some of the writing talent and capacity in the country. “I see rich and abundant poetry-writing skills in our little but very powerful island,” said Mapp. “I’ve even spotted some exceptional new talent and with the right mix of support and dedication our local poets, and poetry on a whole, is poised to help in shaping the future of our nation.