From the first poem he wrote as an adult, This is Jamaica in 1996, Mel Cooke has been focused on documenting and analysing contemporary Jamaican history through poetry. However, while this remains his primary focus, since 2009 Cooke has broadened his scope considerably to include themes of sexuality and personal experiences.
After first reading This is Jamaica in the open mic session of the January 2000 Poetry Society of Jamaica’s monthly fellowship, he was to return as featured guest doing full-length presentations in 2002 and 2012. Mel has also performed at a number of other literary events in Jamaica, including the Calabash International Literary Festival (2003), Fi Wi Sinting Festival (2004), Poetry in Motion (2009, 2010), the Seh Sup’m series (2010, 2011, 2013), Asante Adonai Literary Lyme (2011) and Kingston Pon De River Arts and Music Festival (2013). Confirming the closeness of his poetry with Jamaican popular music, Mel Cooke read at the Reggae Month celebrations in Emancipation Park in 2013 and 2014, sharing the bill with a number of well-known singers. In 2005 he participated in the International Dub Poetry Festival in Toronto, Canada.
Throughout these and other performances, he has honed an engaging method of fusing journalism and poetry, making for a fluent presentation where standard English and Jamaican language intertwine in both narrative and poem. This format has been put on record in his 2013 live CD release Seh Sup’m: Live From Kingston.
In 2008, Blouse and Skirt Books published Mel Cooke’s first collection of poetry, 11/9. The collection deals with issues arising from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the USA, and explores identity, media, race, migration, politics and terrorism. The collection was adapted into an award-winning dramatic production by Jamaica Youth Theatre in 2009.
His poetry has also been published in the Jamaica Journal and anthologised in So Much Things to Say: 100 Poets From the First 10 Years of Calabash and Jubilation!.
On a personal note, Mel and his wife of 15 years, Wendy, are the deliriously delighted parents of Amani, Asmahani-Aza and Ayele-Ai.