The Festival of Wild Orchid: A Poem for National Heroes Day

Here is a poem from a young Jamaican poet, and friend, Ann-Margaret Lim. I chose the title poem from her first published book of poetry, “The Festival of Wild Orchid,” published by Peepal Tree Press. I chose it because it expresses the fierce spirit of a Jamaican woman – not a hero, just a strong woman. There are many heroes out there, and none of them have medals pinned on their chests.


It was death                                                              

riding the ocean in a tomb of bodies; 

so she howled with an ancestor-waking howl

to her grandmother spirit in the trees, who, 

stripped bare, begged the West Indies

to fit her granddaughter with wild orchid

leaves and the hardiness of a tree.


A tree stands bare, naked

like the first African woman

to stand on this island,

with a swelling ocean for a tongue

and a cry

that stripped the trees of all the leaves.

Mark it!

It is the Festival of the Wild Orchid.

I hope that all Jamaicans celebrated National Heroes Day in a thoughtful manner. To me, this poem contains more of the essence of heroism than speeches, medals and awards. We are too fond of those. More on this topic tomorrow…

Ann-Margaret Lim
Ms. Ann-Margaret Lim, Jamaican poet, reads at the launch of her first volume of poetry “The Festival of Wild Orchid” at its Kingston launch earlier this year.

Related articles: (Jamaican women write! (The joy – and the business – of writing. (Abeng: a poem for National Heroes Day 2011. (Outstanding Jamaicans honored on Heroes Day: Jamaica Gleaner)

5 thoughts on “The Festival of Wild Orchid: A Poem for National Heroes Day

  1. I met her at a poetry work shop almost a year ago! Glad she’s published again 🙂
    Sadly after that workshop I was traumatized by poetry writing … (not because of her though) realized that I work better ‘free-styling’


    1. I know what you mean about poetry. I love to read poetry and greatly admire our local poets as well as many others – but can’t write a thing myself. Ann-Margaret is a sensitive girl who really cares about her work.


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