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Dr Kelsi Delaney is a Postdoctoral Research Associate and Teaching Fellow at the University of Leicester, UK. Her research areas are Caribbean literature and poetry. She is currently working on the collaborative research project, Representing Gender- Based Violence: Literature, Performance and Activism in the Anglophone Caribbean, funded by the AHRC. On this project, Dr Delaney examines representations of GBV in poetry, drama, print and spoken word. Her recently completed UK Arts and Humanities Research Council Midlands3Cities funded PhD explored the cultural politics of form in contemporary anglophone Caribbean poetry. Dr Delaney is a founding member of the research network, New Voices in Postcolonial Studies. She co-edited Caribbean Journeys (University of Leicester Centre for New Writing, 2018), a collection of biographical travel narratives by Nottingham-based Caribbean elders. The book was the culmination of a community engagement project she led with the Caribbean National Heritage Museum and the charity Journey for Justice. Dr Delaney is currently guest editing a pamphlet featuring the work of an emerging Caribbean poet for New Walk Editions (forthcoming 2023). Her magazine article, ‘Sonnets of the Caribbean’ is forthcoming in 2022 with the English Review, and she has an article under review at the Journal of West Indian Literature.

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Here are the stories underneath:” Representing Gender-Based Violence in Contemporary Jamaican Poetry

Presented by the WHO as a global public health crisis, gender-based violence (GBV) is particularly pervasive in Anglophone Caribbean countries. In this paper we make the case that literary writing – and poetry specifically – can offer an important contribution to ongoing conversations around GBV and its continuing prevalence in the region. In the past two decades over fifty volumes of poetry have been published by Caribbean poets that address GBV. This corpus of poetry registers recent critical shifts in how GBV is conceptualised, reflecting both broadened definitions of GBV and a focus on the intersecting power structures within which it occurs. Kei Miller’s In Nearby Bushes (2019) and Lorna Goodison’s Mother Muse (2021) portray real scenarios of sexual violence and femicide in Jamaica. Miller’s collection engages with a 2018 article in the Jamaica Star about the disappearance and death of a young woman, and Goodison’s collection explores the murder of musician Anita Mahfood in 1965, presenting her story from multiple angles. We explore how Miller’s and Goodison’s poetry speaks to press reportage on GBV, challenging the gender normative framing of media discourse on this topic. We consider how while news reports often sensationalise stories of GBV, poetry has the capacity to humanise, and redistribute agency to, victims and survivors of GBV. Miller’s and Goodison’s poems illustrate the power of imaginative writing to add depth and texture to narratives of GBV, and expose the ‘stories underneath’ (Miller, 2019). We argue that contemporary poetry can play a vital role in education around GBV.

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