Happy Birthday Una Marson!

Una Marson: 6 February 1905 – 6 May 1965

110 years ago Una Marson, Jamaican poet was born. Happy Birthday Una Marson!


Una Marson – “There Will Come A Time”

“Each race that breathes the air of God’s fair world
Is so bound up within its little self,
So jealous for material wealth and power
That it forgets to look outside itself
Save when there is some prospect of rich gain;
Forgetful yet that each and every race
Is brother unto his, and in the heart
Of every human being excepting none,
There lies the selfsame love, the selfsame fear,
The selfsame craving for the best that is,
False pride and petty prejudice prevail
Where love and brotherhood should have full sway.”

— Excerpt from, “There Will Come a Time” a poem by prolific Jamaican writer and activist Una Marson.

Source: Tumblr.

Una Marson – Poetry: “Politeness”

by Una Marson

They tell us

That our skin is black

But our hearts are white.

We tell them

That their skin is white

But their hearts are black.

Source: Tumblr.

Una Marson’s Poems


Following on from my previous post about Una Marson,try as I might, it is almost impossible to find any poems on the Internet by Una Marson. Some years ago, I came across a website which featured quite a few of her poems and I wish I’d made a note of some of them in order to show them here. Sadly I can only find excerpts from some poems, and I know this isn’t quite what I intended to do, but I think an excerpt from a poem is better than none at all!

God keep my soul from hating such mean souls,
God keep my soul from hating
Those who preach the Christ
And say with churlish smile
“This place is not for ‘Niggers’.”
God save their soul from this great sin
Of hurting human hearts that live
And think and feel in unison
With all humanity.

UNA MARSON, Title: Nigger

Source for poem: Tumblr.

Una Marson: 6 February 1905 – 6 May 1965

Una Marson

Una Marson was born and grew up in Jamaica. After her work on the editorial staff of the Jamaica Critic in 1926, she founded her own magazine The Cosmopolitan, which she also edited. Having established herself in Jamaica, Marson moved to London in 1932 to experience life outside Jamaica and to find a wider audience for her literary work. She lodged with Harold Arundel Moody, and became involved with the League of Coloured Peoples. She worked for the League as its unpaid Assistant Secretary, organising student activities, receptions, meetings, trips and concerts. During her stay in England from Marson continued to publish on feminist issues, as she had in Jamaica. She also became increasingly interested in discussions about race, eugenics and the colour-bar, focussing on the most pressing issues faced by black migrants living in Britain.

During her first stay in Britain, Marson organized, staged and compered an evening of entertainment at the Indian Students Hostel. The line-up included the American singer John Payne, the pianist Bruce Wendell and the Guyanese clarinettist Rudolph Dunbar. By 1937 she was editor of the League’s journal and its spokesperson, working closely with Moody. Marson was also a member of the International Alliance of Women for Equal Suffrage and Citizenship and the British Commonwealth League (BCL). At the latter she met Myra Steadman, daughter of the suffragette Myra Sadd Brown. The All India Women’s congress was affiliated with the BCL. During the period she also became involved with the Left Book Club and encountered the writings of Rabindranath Tagore.

After two years in Jamaica, Marson returned to Britain in 1938. In 1939 Marson was offered work by the BBC as a freelancer for the magazine programme ‘Picture Page’ to arrange interviews with visitors from the Empire. She also drafted three-minute scripts for the programme. After the outbreak of the Second World War, Marson lectured occasionally at the Imperial Institute and worked as a talks and script writer for the BBC. In 1941 she was appointed full-time programme assistant to the BBC Empire Service, where she hosted and coordinated the broadcasts under the title ‘Calling the West Indies’.

In November 1942 George Orwell asked her to contribute to the six-part poetry magazine ‘Voice’, broadcast on the Indian Section of the BBC’s Eastern Service, with Marson taking part in the fourth programme dedicated to American poetry, which also featured William Empson. She read her poem ‘Banjo Boy’. In the December edition of the programme she appeared alongside M. J. Tambimuttu, T. S. Eliot, Mulk Raj Anand, Narayana Menon and William Empson. This led Una to devise a similar programme for the West Indies, titled ‘Caribbean Voices’, which in later years under the direction of Henry Swanzy would introduce authors such as George Lamming, Sam Selvon, V. S. Naipaul and Edward Kamau Braithwaite to a wider audience. The programme ran for fifteen years until 1958. She returned to Jamaica in 1945 and died in 1965 from a heart attack.

My source:
Reference: ‘Una Marson’, Making Britain Database [http://www8.open.ac.uk/researchprojects/makingbritain/Una Marson, accessed 1 February 2015] Copyright Notice ©

A Memory of June by Claude McKay


“… body was a lute
Whereon my passion played his fevered song”.  Wow!  Amazing poetry!

A Memory of June

When June comes dancing o’er the death of May,
With scarlet roses tinting her green breast,
And mating thrushes ushering in her day,
And Earth on tiptoe for her golden guest,

I always see the evening when we met–
The first of June baptized in tender rain–
And walked home through the wide streets, gleaming wet,
Arms locked, our warm flesh pulsing with love’s pain.

I always see the cheerful little room,
And in the corner, fresh and white, the bed,
Sweet scented with a delicate perfume,
Wherein for one night only we were wed;

Where in the starlit stillness we lay mute,
And heard the whispering showers all night long,
And your brown burning body was a lute
Whereon my passion played his fevered song.

When June comes dancing o’er the death of May,
With scarlet roses staining her fair feet,
My soul takes leave of me to sing all day
A love so fugitive and so complete.

Spring in New Hampshire by Claude McKay

Spring in New Hampshire
Too green the springing April grass,
Too blue the silver-speckled sky,
For me to linger here, alas,
While happy winds go laughing by,
Wasting the golden hours indoors,
Washing windows and scrubbing floors.

Too wonderful the April night,
Too faintly sweet the first May flowers,
The stars too gloriously bright,
For me to spend the evening hours,
When fields are fresh and streams are leaping,
Wearied, exhausted, dully sleeping.


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