Celebrated comedian and actor Owen Blakka Ellis is stepping out as a poet with the impending release of his first full collection of poetry Riddim & Riddles. The collection is slated for launch in Toronto on November 12, 2014 and with it, Ellis will join the growing cadre of Caribbean voices adding diversity to the international literary scene.
Though most known for his three decades of work in comedy, Ellis has been steadily building his poetic chops for over a decade. The writer, actor and educator who spends his time between Kingston and Toronto, 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.
Riddim & Riddles throbs with the heartbeat and drum beat of Jamaica. The poems 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. The poems included in Riddim & Riddles mark Owen Blakka Ellis as a clear inheritor of dub, poetry and music, but with a distinctive voice of his own.
“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.
Ellis is an accomplished writer for stage, screen and television. He has also taught English, Literature and Theatre Arts at the secondary and tertiary levels and is a long-running columnist with Kingston’s The Star newspaper.
The collection is published by the Kingston based independent publishing house Blouse and Skirt Books.