Guyanese poet Maggie Harris publishes autobiography

Guyanese poet Maggie Harris publishes autobiography

By Steve Knight, chief county reporter Saturday, September 10, 2011

Kent News  – kentnews.co.uk  –  source link here

Maggie Harris Home page   http://www.maggieharris.co.uk/index.html

An award-winning poet who grew up in Guyana says she hopes her new autobiography will help promote better cultural understanding.

Maggie Harris, 57, who immigrated to England in 1971 and now lives in Broadstairs, has published her memoir ‘Kiskadee Girl’ thanks in part to a £6,000 grant from Arts Council England.

The book explores Caribbean culture as well as the influences relatives from other backgrounds had on her early life.

“As an adult in the UK, my growing up in Guyana played a surreal role in my mind,” said Maggie. “But it also seemed to have no significance for my children and I began to wonder how many children of migrant parents were losing out on their ancestral culture.                   

“I wanted to write my memoirs to make it real for myself and my children, as well as produce a diverse perspective of Guyana and promote cultural understanding.

“It’s impossible to write about the Caribbean without being aware of its history. None of my family would have been in Guyana if it was not for slavery and colonialism.

“My mother’s father came from Scotland, her mother’s family from Madeira, my father’s ancestors from Africa. The first part of the book tells their stories, or as much as I could find out.”

A former mature student at the University of Kent, Maggie is now a creative writing tutor and lecturer in schools and at the University of Southampton. Her 1999 poetry collection ‘Limbolands’ won the following year’s Guyana Prize for Literature.

The initial funding for Maggie’s autobiography was provided in 2004 through Arts Council England’s ‘grants for the arts’ scheme, which uses National Lottery money to support artists and arts organisations with their work.

She said: “The award justified my belief in the possibility of such a book, and gave me the confidence that others thought I could do it.

“I was primarily a poet and short-story writer, and planning a more major work was a challenge. Secondly, as a freelance writer with no regular income the award helped me financially and credited being a writer as a ‘proper job’.”

Last year ‘grants for the arts’ awarded a total of £273,972 to people and organisations for literature projects in the South East.

Arts Council England’s regional director Sally Abbott said: “We’re delighted our scheme supports writers like Maggie to develop their writing and get their work published.

“It’s a major achievement to do so, and we hope Kiskadee Girl reaches out to as wide an audience as possible.

Maggie Harris’ Home page   http://www.maggieharris.co.uk/index.html  Read about her as well as her poems and stories at this link.

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