As an actor then a director and script-writer, theatre has been a driving force in Kendel’s life. His passion for words is further expressed through his poetry. And his other enduring loves? His wife, Jane, and his country, Saint Lucia.

Kendel Hippolyte is proud to be Saint Lucian. He has travelled abroad and spent a prolonged period in Trinidad but, as he disclosed, “I had the opportunity but I never felt the desire to live anywhere else; it never even crossed my mind.” So what makes this man love his land of birth so much?

Happiness abounded in his childhood in the 1950s, growing up in Castries; Kendel has written a poem about these early days: 42 Chisel Street, included in the Night Vision collection. “Across the street from us was a taxi rank but there was little vehicular traffic so you could play on the streets, up to a point, and on the sidewalk. We played games such as marbles and tiki-tòk – kinda like jacks but using stones. We would get old, used tyres and roll them down the road and beat them with a stick to make them move. And storytelling: we would sit on the front step outside our home and a young guy called Francis would come by in the evening and tell us these old folk stories, mixing English and Kweyol. While this was going on, the taxi drivers and some of the neighbours would be playing draughts under the street light on the corner.”

Kendel attended the Methodist Primary School. “Every school day would close with singing, sometimes a hymn, sometimes a rousing song such as A Long Road to Tipperary and Row, Row, Row your Boat. Later I came to understand just how central some of those songs were to the traditional British Empire image but, at the time, it was something just very enjoyable for kids to do.”

Kendel joined a dance troupe, and acted in a drama group at school. Up until the age of 18 he had harboured thoughts of a life on the high seas, his father having been a sailor. “My father didn’t tell me, ‘Don’t do it,’ but explained that, without skills, I would be given the most menial, unpleasant, foul jobs to do in the first year. I thought, ‘No way! That doesn’t sound like adventure.'”

Instead, Kendel accepted the invitation to stay on as a teacher at Saint Mary’s College, where he had been a student. He taught language, literature, history and Latin. He then moved to Jamaica to continue his studies at the University of the West Indies, and then teach there.

When asked about his profession Kendel replied, “I don’t view it as work; I cannot not do it. I want to connect with people, have a dialogue.” He revealed that in the realm of theatre, it’s directing that he likes the most. “I prefer directing work I haven’t written so that I can explore it, especially with actors who push themselves. It’s an enormous adventure.”

So far, Kendel has written eight plays, published several collections of his own poetry, and edited anthologies of verse by Saint Lucian poets. In 2000 he was awarded the Saint Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for Contribution to the Arts. In 2013 he won the poetry category of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for his 2012 poetry collection Fault Lines (Peepal Tree Press).

Copies of Kendel’s work are available from STAR Publishing, Massade, Gros Islet.

 Kendel and Jane Hippolyte celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary on 21st July, 2017. All at Tropical Traveller wish them many more happy years of devotion to each other and to the arts.


Knowing that at the end

Death will acknowledge no identities

I can only half believe

in heroes, villains, histories.

In the clear light of Death

i lower my gaze – I see

shadows, all similar, all

on the ground, haphazardly.

I cannot say which

is Ibo, French, Madrasi, Arawak.

As light climbs, higher,

earth sucks the shadows back.

– Kendel Hippolyte