Local Observation / NICOLE DENNIS-BENN

By Christina Oxenberg

At the 36th Annual Key West Literary Seminar this year the theme is Writers of the Caribbean, and some I knew but most I didn’t. A friend slipped me a pass and I attended the talks and readings.

This event, which lasts three days, is a favorite and the auditorium at the San Carlos building is full with paying patrons until Sunday afternoon when entry is free for the general public and you will see a line down the block of grownups waiting on folding chairs. Like maybe a rock concert for intellectuals.

There were many gems on the roster and for me one such was Nicole Dennis-Benn, a lady from Jamaica who ventured to our land as a teenager for university and has since taken up residence in Brooklyn. I liked her writing and I liked her presentation but mostly it was her charisma that was inescapable. She is also kind. I mention that not because I think it a necessary  quality in a writer, but because it is a fact. I saw her take a small action, to remember to inscribe a book of hers, the fulfillment of a promise.

This gift was not for me but I was the conduit of the inscribed book.

It’s such a simple action, a promise made and kept.

My job was to facilitate the exchange and sure enough an inscribed book was left exactly as promised.

Nicole Dennis Benn is a star in a galaxy already lit and yet still her presence burns through. On the stage she holds her own in the most ladylike manner.

You meet people all your life, some are better than others, most are better than me, in one way or another.

Occasionally a truth shines, cutting through layers of practiced cover, and you see the good in good people.