He’s been known for decades as a comedian but yesterday in Toronto, Jamaican Canadian Owen Blakka Ellis, released his first full collection of poetry Riddim&Riddles, joining the growing cadre of Caribbean voices who bring diversity to the international literary scene.
The celebrated comedian and actor made his poetic debut with the chapbook Gateman, published by the Calabash International Festival Literary Trust (2005). His work was also anthologized in So Much Things to Say: 100 Poets from the First 10 Years of Calabash.
The poems in Riddim&Riddles evoke vivid vibrant images that capture the diversity of contemporary Jamaica, moving from the cool, majestic Blue Mountains to the hot, bloodied streets of Kingston.
The collection deals with urgent social insights about masculinity, the environment and how history continues to impact the present. Ellis also presents some intensely personal and even erotic pieces.
“Riddim& Riddles presents Owen Blakka Ellis in his characteristic role as rider of rhythms, relisher of rhymes and reveler in wordplay,” says Pam Mordecai, author of the Red Jacket. “In this new collection, readers encounter a maturing poet exploring a broad range of subjects with wit, humour and great tenderness… And he throws a couple of great love poems into the bargain,” she continued.
The collection was published by the Kingston-based independent publishing house Blouse and Skirt Books.
Ellis is also an accomplished writer for stage, screen and TV who lives and works between Canada and Jamaica.