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Teaching Caribbean Poetry Course

Photo of Caribbean beach with palms

Poetry is a neglected area of the English curriculum in both British and Caribbean secondary schools and universities. It is less popular with students and teachers than other literary genres, and there are fewer poetry options in the exam syllabuses. This lively and creative course aimed to improve the learning and teaching of poetry in schools in both the Caribbean and UK by giving teachers a thorough grounding in Caribbean poetry as well as the confidence to explore this important and vibrant literature with their students.

On this intellectually stimulating yet highly practical course, teachers were:

  • introduced to a wide range of Caribbean poetry
  • learned how the history of the Caribbean underpins the poetry and relates to its interpretation
  • examined some key issues surrounding Caribbean poetry, including choice of texts and poets
  • considered the place of Caribbean poetry on the GCSE/CSEC syllabus
  • addressed the issues that may produce ‘fear’ of teaching poetry, and learn how to make poetry an exciting and rewarding experience
  • experienced live performances and readings by Caribbean poets
  • explored the theme of environment and sustainability within the poetry

The teaching team who developed the course and taught it were drawn from English and Education and Literatures in English professors and lecturers at the University of Cambridge and UWI.


The first TCP course ran in Cambridge as a CPD module during 2011. 

Delegates discussing a poemDiscussions continue during coffee break

The Institute of Continuing Education at Madingley Hall, Cambridge offered a week-end course on TCP 28-30 June 2013. To view course details visit the ICE website or click on the link: Appreciating Caribbean Poetry

A TCP workshop for teachers was held at London South Bank Centre as part of the Poetry Parnassus leading up the Olympic Games in 2012.  Outstanding Caribbean poets Christian Campbell, Anthony Joseph, Kei Miller, and Esther Phillips gave spell-binding performances.



University of the West Indies, Mona campus buildingA full course (now offered annually), is accredited by UWI and led by poets Mervyn Morris and Velma Pollard. The course is taught by Lorna Down and Aisha Spencer, members of the CPP team. Download the course outline.

The final TCP workshop was held at UWI Mona on 8th & 9th April 2015 with Roz Hudson, David Whitley and Morag Styles taking part. We are very grateful to UWI,  Lorna Down and Aisha Spencer for organising this event so efficiently.


Sandra Robinson and Karen Thomas with Professor Mark McWatt, Philip Nanton and Sam Soyer, in collaboration with CXC, Ministry of Education (Antigua, Grenada, St Lucia, St Vincent) organized two day TCP workshops, plus poetry readings, for secondary English teachers in Barbados, Antigua, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent during the summer of 2012. (The CPP Project remains grateful for financial backing from UWI Cave Hill, UWI Open Campus, CXC, and Ministries of Education for this venture. In addition, we are grateful to Esther Phillips and all the poets taking part in TCP workshops during the BIM festival, May 2012.

Sandra Robinson with Gina Burnham organised highly successful TCP workshops in Dominica (March), St Kitts, Anguilla and Montserrat (April),  and Guyana (May) 2013. Dr Georgie Horrell and Professor Morag Styles took part in the Guyana workshop. They were enormously impressed by the excellent organisation of the event, the delightful venue, the commitment of the teachers and the quality of the course provided by the facilitators, Professor Mark McWatt, poet, Philip Nanton and UWI lecturer, Sam Soyer. A special bonus was participation by poets John Agard and Grace Nichols whose visit to their native Guyana was a particularly joyful homecoming after John recieved the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 2012. The Project and, of course, John and Grace as guests of honour, received a warm welcome in Guyana with special artistic events put on for our benefit, a launch of John Agard's new collection, Travel Light, Travel Dark at the University of Guyana and even a visit to the President.

We are very grateful to the Ministries of all the above territories, UWI, Open Campus and CXC for providing funding and/or resources to enable the workshops to take place. The project owes a huge debt to Sandra Robinson (and her two research assistants) who worked tirelessly to make the workshops such a success.


Sharon Phillip organised the first TCP workshop in Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 with the same facilitators as above. The workshop was extremely popular and another was held in 2014 with David Whitley and Morag Styles taking part, this time in collaboration with BOCAS Festival 23-27 April 2014


GeckoAn important strand in the Teaching Caribbean Poetry Course was an ecological and environmental perspective. As we explored the poetry:

  • we noted the distinctive nature of the Caribbean landscape, flora and fauna, and considered the ways in which the land has been made productive to serve human needs
  • examined the symbolic or metaphorical associations of animals and plants developed in the poetry, particularly those with links to national or folk traditions
  • took account of poems that focus explicitly on aspects of the natural world that are vulnerable, receding or threatened