Jamaica Magazine

‘Souldance’ – dancing through real life with power and beauty : Jamaican Book Review

About the Book :

Soul Dance captures the voice of every Jamaican, as well as their thoughts and dreams. Taken from writings spanning Jean Lowrie-Chin’s 30-year career, the pieces reflect the events that uplift, as well as burden, Jamaican society. Her peotry is both universal and prophetic, from the warnings against the rat race in ‘Slow Down Child’, to the startling take on the life of Lee Boyd Malvo in ‘Your Son Too’; they demonstrate that though so much has changed, alot has also stayed the same. Her selection of columns are amusing and inspiring, refelcting on the achievements of outstanding Jamaicans such as The Honourable Louise Bennett, Usain Bolt and Jamaica’s most pertinent issues, like the future of Jamaican men, in ‘A Vision of Our “Men at Risk”‘. Soul Dance, Jean Lowrie-Chin’s first and much awaited book, is the work of a woman who loves her country and has truly experienced it. it is a moving, significant addition to Jamaica’s creative and intellectual literature. She was so

Book Review:

Reviewed by Huntley Medley

Communications guru Jean Lowrie-Chin has launched her maiden collection of writings – Souldance, highlighting in the process, a side of her that is not as well known as her 30-odd years in public relations.

Souldance is a work of literary art that presents a celebration of life so vividly captured even before your begin to turn the pages. For the cover, well known Jamaican artist Viv Logan has provided an awe-inspiring rendition of life in its most innocent depiction yet laced serious social, cultural and religious symbolism. Her work, Cherubs Gone Rasta depicts two dreadlocked children at play sharing ripe berries picked, no doubt, from their lush garden backdrop. These children are perfect icons of the free spirit that produced Souldance and their growing pains, loss of innocence and concern for their changing world are etched in the ensuing dance of words with varying movement and tempo over the work’s 170 pages.

Section one of Souldance bears the name of the work and opens with the title poem. This piece fittingly sets the stage for the theme of freedom both explored and reflected throughout the work:
“How wondrous is the truth I found
 The Soul is not by body bound
It travels at the speed of light
And sees with universal sight”
Lowrie-Chin then dances through the circumstances of her birth in Jonkunnu Baby,
 to memories of her mother’s love and the useful lessons her life provided for her children (My Mother’s Road).

Family is a recurring theme in this first section of the book with works dedicated to her father, mother, husband and children, Anita and Noel, to whom Souldance is also dedicated. Pick-Up Time, dedicated to her children, like none other, underscores family. Soaring profits, gourmet lunch, important clients and incoming contracts are not enough to interfere with a caring mother’s daily preoccupation with picking up her children. For that and their sublime laughter time freezes.

While the author’s immediate family is brought into focus, there is no doubt that she views her Jamaican society and the big wide world around her as her extended family. For Susan Campbell, Tess Thomas, Madam Rose Leon and Vilma Mais – woman whose lives were cruelly snuffed out at the hands of murderers – there is For Our Sisters Rise as, “The goodness of our sisters dead will keep us strong in heart and head.” Mi Sister is the universal familial extension of emotional support:
“Love, mi sister, don’t stress yuself
I going stand up for you
So don’t depress yuself”

Meanwhile, Angel’s Message and Hugh’s Reply (for the late Hugh Croskill) underscore the author’s underlying philosophy that the temporal body cannot contain the human spirit, which soars beyond circumstances and transcends suffering, pain, disappointment and other human conditions.

Jean Lowrie-Chin achieves much in Souldance. She philosophizes, dreams, empathizes make social comments, enters the skin and minds of her subjects and urges humanity to take another look at itself through the mirror of time and one’s own actions. In Souldance, Jean Lowrie-Chin has a lot to say and does so beautifully and with power.

In Your Son Too (for Lee Boyd Malvo) she speaks in the voice of the young sniper’s mother relating the unspeakable anguish a mother inevitably feels, and the spiritual fortitude she must summon in such circumstances.

Then there is Land of the Free, written to release the spine chilling emotions following the news of 9-11 reflects on and mourns the catastrophe wrought in her, mine and many other Jamaicans’ “just-in-case-place”.

In Part II of the work which is subtitled Growing Pains, Jean Lowrie-Chin steps boldly into the realm of the reality of personal social experiences. In this section the Cherubs have come of age and whether it is Loving Free, Goodbye, Separate, Wedding Vows Revisited, or I Want You Back, she delves into the emotions and takes us on the journey that is her life and that of her loved one, husband Hubie.

Many of the Jean Lowrie-Chin’s pieces are quite well known. My Chinaman Jump to the Riddim of Jah was first published in the Daily News in the 1970s (yes, she has been writing poetry for some time now) and Pick-up Time in the school textbook, Buried Treasures.

Much of Souldance is incisive social commentary.  The piece Yu See Mi dramatically sums up the class divisions and economic disparities that drive much of the crime and violence in the Jamaican society.

In keeping with theme of social responsibility that recurs throughout the work, and is summed up in God’s Unblinking Eye, all the author’s proceeds from first quarter sales of the publication (including the Christmas period) will be donated to the Stella Maris Foundation and Food for the Poor.  Driven by a belief that in the absence of sharing none of us, rich or poor, will be able to survive, Jean Lowrie-Chin reminds us that “Our deeds are our unending story.”

If the measures of poetry are the quality of the beauty it evokes and its emotional power, then Souldance fits the bill as being both beautiful and powerful. True to its promise, the poems of Souldance are written mainly in the free verse that is like oxygen to a work of this texture. Yet Jean Lowrie-Chin at the same time manages to reflect the metrical disciple that reflects her formal training in literatures of English and which, no doubt, does justice to the tutelage of literary greats Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris.

The book brings together more than 30 years of writings – poetry as well as comments and thoughts about the society in which we live and the events, issues and ideas that impact our lives everyday. Lowrie Chin explores these issues with ease and simplicity that demonstrate superb clarity of thought and profound grasp of the issues of her time.

Inspired by the work of Claude McKay and the inspiration of talented  friends, Christine Craig and Lorna Goodison, Lowrie-Chin’s writing is anchored in the experience of writing for the Daily News in the 70s, Gleaner in the 80s and the Jamaica Observer since the 90s.

The third section of the Souldance – titled The Power of Words – is a collection of her more recent articles and prose writings that continues the dance through (not around) the issues of the day with thoughtful reflection, sharp analysis, relevant commentary and useful recommendations. Of note is the piece, “The Rendezvous of Conquest,” about the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt and President-elect of the USA, Barack Obama, remarkably, written in June 2008 – months before their stunning triumphs and Jamaica’s Beijing experience.

In the words of the author, who writes because she must, “from a breathless messenger in love with her family, her Jamaica and her world,” comes Souldance.

About the Author

Born, raised, educated in Jamaica Jean Lowrie-Chin is co-owner/founder of PROComm, one Jamaica’s top advertising and PR agencies. She has contributed significantly to several civic and charitable organisations and is currently serving on the Boards of Food for the Poor Jamaica, The Women’s Centre Foundation of Jamaica and the Stella Maris Foundation. She is a Justice of the Peace and Lay Magistrate.
The holder of Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in the Arts from UWI, Mona, Jean created ‘Flair’ magazine for the Gleaner and has been a popular columnist for the Jamaica Observer since 2002.  She and husband Hubert, her business partner, have two children Anita and Noel, who are both college students.

Where to Get the Book:
“Souldance” is available at Amazon.com

About the author

Staff Writer