Louise Bennett-Coverley: why is Google Doodle celebrating ‘Miss Lou’ - who was the Jamaican poet?

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Affectionately known as ‘Miss Lou’, she championed Jamaican Patois and remains one of Jamaica’s most prominent cultural figures

Today, 7 September, Google Doodle is honouring Louise Bennett-Coverley, the Jamaican poet, writer, folklorist and educator, on what would have been her 103rd birthday.

Bennett-Coverley, who is affectionately known by Jamaicans as “Miss Lou,” created poetry in Jamaican Patois.

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She championed the English-based creole language and remains one of Jamaica’s most prominent cultural figures.

Here is everything you need to know about her life.

Louise Bennett-Coverley was a champion for Jamaican folklore and language (Pic: Google)Louise Bennett-Coverley was a champion for Jamaican folklore and language (Pic: Google)
Louise Bennett-Coverley was a champion for Jamaican folklore and language (Pic: Google)

Who was Louise Bennett-Coverley?

Bennett-Coverley was born on 7 September, 1919, on North Street in Kingston, Jamaica.

The only child of Augustus Cornelius Bennett and Kerene Robinson, her father passed away in 1926 and she was raised solely by her mother.

Whilst at Friends College in Highgate, she developed an interest in Jamaican folklore and began to write poetry in the local dialect, Jamaican Patois, publishing her first book of poetry, Dialect Verses in 1942.

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It was this passion that helped her receive a scholarship for London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), becoming the school’s first Black student.

After completing her studies at RADA, Bennett went on to work for BBC radio, hosting the programme Caribbean Carnival and West Indian Guest Night.

She returned to Jamaica in 1956 where she taught folklore and drama at the University of the West Indies and became the Director for the Jamaican Social Welfare Commission from 1955 to 1959.

Bennett-Coverley also worked in radio and TV, with her longest running show, the beloved children’s programme Ring Ding, airing from 1970 to 1982.

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In 1998, she was appointed by the Jamaican government as the Cultural Ambassador at Large and in 2001 Queen Elizabeth II honoured her with the Order of Merit.

What are some of her most famous poems?

Bennett-Coverley, who was affectionately known as “Miss Lou’’ wrote poetry in the Jamaican dialect of Patois.

Her works covered real issues that were faced by everyday Jamaicans, with emphasis on local folklore.

One of her most famous poems is “Noh Lickle Twang” which is featured in her poetry book Aunty Roachy Seh.

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“Noh Lickle Twang” tells the story of a Jamaican who has returned home after living in America only to find no trace of them having lived there previously.

Here are the words for Bennett-Coverley’s poem “Noh Lickle Twang”:

Me glad fe se’s you come back bwoy,

But lawd yuh let me dung,

Me shame o’ yuh soh till all

Me proudness drop a grung

Yuh mean yuh goh dah ‘Merica

An spen six whole mont’ deh

An come back not a piece betta

Dan how yuh did goh wey?

Bwoy yuh noh shame?

Is soh you come?

Afta yuh tan soh lang!

Not even lickle language bwoy?

Not even little twang?

An yuh sista wat work ongle

One week wid ‘Merican

She talk so nice now dat we have

De jooce fe undastan?

Bwoy yuh couldn’ improve yuhself!

An yuh get soh much pay?

Yuh spen six mont’ a foreign, an

Come back ugly same way?

Not even a drapes trouziz? or

A pass de rydim coat?

Bwoy not even a gole teet or

A gole chain roun yuh t’roat

Suppose me las’ rne pass go introjooce

Yuh to a stranga

As me lamented son wat lately

Come from ‘Merica!

Dem hooda laugh afta me, bwoy

Me could’n tell dem soh!

Dem hooda sey me lie, yuh was

A-spen time back a Mocho

Noh back-ansa me bwoy, yuh talk

Too bad; shet up yuh mout

Ah doan know how yuh an yuh puppa

Gwine to meck it out

Ef yuh want please him meck him tink

Yuh bring back someting new

Yuh always call him “Pa” dis evenin’

Wen him come sey “Poo”.

When did she die?

Bennett-Coverley died on 27 July 2006 at the Scarborough Grace Hospital in Ontario, Canada at the age of 86.

Her body was flown back to Jamaica to rest in state at the National Arena in Kingston, with her funeral service taking place at the Coke Methodist Church.

For her contribution to Jamaica she was interned in the cultural icons section of the country’s National Heroes Park.

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