The bitter memories of a robbery in February vanished on Sunday night after 2014 Verses Bocas Slam winner Idrees Saleem, a performance poet with Drama Making A Difference (De Mad Company) and The 2 Cents Movement, was declared winner at Central Bank Auditorium, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
Poet Brendon Jeremy O’ Brien placed second with the piece “How To Drain Milk and Blood”. Akile Wallace placed third with “Maccoing” (dialect for interfering in people’s business).
While on his way to his home at Arouca, Saleem was robbed of about $20,000 worth of cash and possessions. To compound it, bandits robbed Saleem of his prized script which was lodged in his cellphone. Saleem stole the show when he morphed into a robot who was spouting poetry. Both he and the robot were engaging in a poetic battle in which he switched roles from poet to robot.
The robot named local poets including Muhammed Muwakhil, Keegan Maharaj and Derron Sandy. But ironically the outstanding piece did not have a name. Among those enjoying the performance were Festival Founder and Director Marina Salandy-Brown, NGC Bocas Lit Festival Children’s Director Daniel Delon and University of the West Indies, St Augustine historian Dr Heather Cateau and hordes of young people.
Interviewed on Sunday night, Saleem said: “I am a proud poet. I find it humbling. I am excited. I am ecstatic. It was a dreamy feeling to hear my name called.”
There was double celebration in the Saleem camp since several people were still emphatising with him over the incident. While congratulating him with hugs and kisses, several well wishers reminded him about the ordeal.
Saleem added: “I did not think about the robbery until some of my friends reminded me about it. They took the final draft of the script which was on the phone. It was really heartwrenching. It was a final piece. It was not a piece that you would write overnight.”
Recounting the ordeal, Saleem said: “The gun is on your head. And I have a poem that means a lot to me. And I have no negotiating powers. I cannot say “Pease give me my poem.” I need my poem for a competition. I kept thinking about the prized poem. I was helpless like a child.”
Asked how he remembered the piece after his phone was stolen, Saleem said: “The piece was on my mind because of the length of time I was taking to develop it. Slowly and surely, the words kept coming back to my mind.”