(1952 - Present)
Kendel Hippolyte was born in Castries, the capital of the small Eastern Caribbean nation of St. Lucia, in 1952. He read voraciously as a young person, taking full advantage of his part-time role as a librarian at the University of West Indies’ Extra-Mural Centre in his late teens. He lived and studied in Jamaica in the 1970s, receiving a BA from UWI in 1976. Hippolyte would return to UWI for his master of philosophy degree in English in 2000.
Hippolyte’s career in print began in 1980, with his collection Island in the Sun, Side Two…. (UWI). He has since authored six more books: Bearings (1986), The Labyrinth (The Source, 1991), Birthright (Peepal Tree Press, 1997), Night Vision (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2005), and Wordplanting (Peepal Tree, 2019), as well as Fault Lines (Peepal Tree, 2012), winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in the poetry category. He served as editor for the anthologies Confluence: Nine St. Lucian Poets (The Source, 1988); So Much Poetry in We People (Eastern Caribbean Popular Theatre Organization, 1990), gathering Eastern Caribbean performance poetry; and This Poem-Worthy Place (2011), a collection of poems from Bermuda. Hippolyte writes across languages and dialects, including Standard English, varieties of Caribbean English, and Kwéyòl, his nation language. His oeuvre incorporates free verse and structures influenced by reggae, rap, and dub poetry, as well as traditional forms.
In addition to his work as a poet, Hippolyte also operates as a playwright, director, and proponent of theater. His eight plays include The Drum-Maker (1976), The Song of One (1995), and Triptych (2000), all of which have been collected in drama anthologies. An original member of the CXC Theatre Arts syllabus panel, Hippolyte co-founded the Lighthouse Theatre Company in St. Lucia in 1984 with his wife, the poet Jane King. He serves variously as director, playwright, and dramaturge there and has directed dozens of plays. In 2007, he received the Bridget Jones Travel Award, funding a presentation of his one-man dramatized poetry production, Kinky Blues, at the conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies in England.
Hippolyte is a recipient of the 2000 St. Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for Contribution to the Arts and a two-time winner of the Literature prize in St. Lucia’s Minvielle & Chastanet Fine Arts Awards. He has been awarded a James Michener Fellowship to study poetry and an OAS scholarship to study theater. His work has appeared in journals including The Greenfield Review and The Massachusetts Review and in anthologies such as Caribbean Poetry Now and Voiceprint. Hippolyte has performed at festivals across the Caribbean, Europe, and the United States and has taught poetry workshops internationally. An advocate for social and environmental justice, he played an integral role as activist and lyricist for the Caribbean’s “1.5 to Stay Alive” campaign for climate action. Hippolyte taught for many years at St. Mary’s College in Castries, moving on to lecture in literature and drama at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in 1992 until his retirement in 2007. He lives in St. Lucia.
More Kendel Hippolyte
Text: Poems by Hippolyte at Academy of American Poets
Video: Hippolyte reads Kamau Brathwaite's "Wings of the Dove"
Text: Hippolyte's poem "Poet 003" at Caribbean Review of Books
Photo courtesy of Peepal Tree Press.