Jane King is a well-known writer and poet from St Lucia. She has travelled the world, but returned home to guide art and theatre in her native country. Kreol takes a look at her life and contributions to society.
The world needs people from all walks of life to help shape society and guide cultural growth. Politicians are often the voices you hear the most from, but artists are the individuals that society collectively turns to for inspiration and guidance. Jane King is a pillar of the community in St. Lucia today, but her life has taken her around the globe and back. Along the way, she’s learned about society and culture in multiple nations, bringing her experiences back home with her to help the people of St. Lucia.
Birth and Early Life
King was born in the capital city of Castries in St. Lucia in 1952. Though she is St. Lucian through and through, her family’s adventures took her away from the island during much of her childhood. The family spent time living in Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Scotland. Although she attended St. Joseph’s Convent in St. Lucia in her teen years, adventure would again intervene to take her overseas as a young adult.
Upon graduating from St. Joseph’s Convent, King won the St. Lucia island scholarship to study at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. While studying and living in the United Kingdom, King pursued degrees in English and Law, also earning a teaching certificate while in Edinburgh.
Following completion of her undergraduate degree, she was awarded a Master’s of Art in Literary Studies from Deakin University in Australia. King’s wanderlust as a youth meant separation from the man who would become her husband.
Two Artists Going in Different Directions
When King left for the University of Edinburgh, she parted ways with Kendel Hippolyte. As King studied English, Law, and Education in Scotland, Hippolyte pursued a scholarship in English literature at the University of the West Indies. The two met again in 1981 as teachers looking to groom the next generation of students in St. Lucia. Both had applied to teach English at St. Mary’s College.
The two fell in love, both sharing a common interest in the arts. Both King and Hippolyte were writers and teachers by trade, and art was their second love. Outside of the classroom, the two followed their desire to form a new theatre company in St. Lucia. On July 26, 1984, the duo founded the Lighthouse Theatre Company.
Writer, Poet, Teacher
King was primarily a writer and poet by trade before becoming a full-time teacher. She has had three collections of poetry published during the course of her career, as well as numerous poetic pieces published in anthologies in the United Kingdom and the United States. Her first collection was “Into the Centre” in 1993.
Her second collection won her great critical acclaim. Entitled “Fellow Traveller”, this book of poems was released in 1994. It won her the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize that year for the Canada and Caribbean region of the world, and also garnered a James Rodway Memorial Prize.
In all of her poetic collections, King uses a wry wit to address the issue of race in the Caribbean. The history of the Caribbean is rife with conflict between the races, specifically white Europeans that colonized the region and the African and local creole cultures that suffered as a result. Of particular concern for King was the place of light-skinned people in the Caribbean, an issue particularly close to King’s heart.
King’s latest work is “Performance Anxiety” (2013), which included a collection of her previous works from the 1990s. In addition to race consciousness, her works also covered the role of creative imagination in Caribbean societies. This focus is what led her to a career as a teacher and artist guide, for St. Lucian society in particular.
The Writing Process
As a writer, King preferred to dive right into her work as a poet as soon as she woke up each morning. It was during this period of the day that she felt her thoughts and feelings were free and clear, and not cluttered by the business of dealing with other people, their needs, and the problems of the world around her. She believed this was the best time of day to tap into the thoughts in her subconscious, allowing her innermost self to come out in her writing.
Contributions to St. Lucian Society
Today, King is the Dean of the Division of Arts, Science, and General Studies at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College in St. Lucia. Her teaching career at home blossomed as a senior lecturer in English at the school. She regrets that the demands of her daily life, which include raising her 12-year-old son with Kendel Hippolyte, have distracted her from her writing career. However, she continues to contribute to St. Lucia as a founding director of the couple’s theatre company.
King and Hippolyte saw a need for a theatre company in St. Lucia that represented art in the West Indies in general, and the island in particular. Prior to the formation of Lighthouse Theatre Company, the island only saw sporadic productions from various theatres. The country lacked an established national theatre company.
In addition to raising a family and guiding the continued growth of the theatre company with her husband, King has worked with the judging panel of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (1993, 1996, and 1997), and participates in community service across the island.