December 21, 2006
Dawad Phillip reads “The Conquistador’s Letter”: http://media.libsyn.com/media/geoffreyphilp/conqiustador.mp3
Here are the pictures from the reading @ Miami Book Fair International:
December 20, 2006
Hopkinson is the recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the Ontario Arts Council Foundation Award for an Emerging Writer. Brown Girl in the Ring was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1998, and received the Locus Award for Best New Writer. Midnight Robber was shortlisted for the James R. Tiptree Jr. Memorial Award in 2000 and nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2001. Skin Folk received the World Fantasy Award and the Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic in 2003. The Salt Roads received the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for positive exploration of queer issues in speculative fiction for 2004, presented at the 2005 Gaylaxicon. Hopkinson is the daughter of Guyanese poet Abdur Rahman Slade Hopkinson.
Hopkinson has edited two fiction anthologies (Whispers From the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction and Mojo: Conjure Stories). She was the co-editor with Uppinder Mehan for the anthology So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Visions of the Future, and with Geoff Ryman for Tesseracts 9.
Hopkinson defended George Elliott Clarke's novel Whylah Falls on the CBC's Canada Reads 2002. She was the curator of Six Impossible Things, an audio series of Canadian fantastical fiction on CBC Radio One.
Hopkinson has a Masters of Arts degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where she studied with science fiction writer James Morrow as her mentor and instructor. Hopkinson teaches writing at various programs around the world. She has been a writer-in-residence at Clarion East, Clarion West and Clarion South. She is one of the founding members of the Carl Brandon Society.
On a personal note, Nalo is one of the many writers whose generosity and willingness to share her knowledge/experience is a beautiful thing to see in action. Nalo's work is stretching the boundaries of magical realism and science fiction. Her work is truly avant-garde because as she extends the definition of these terms, she pays homage to writers such as Octavia Butler who have made her work possible and in that respect she is a true inheritor. Nicholas Laughlin put it best when he said that Nalo is"working in a genre usually associated with white teenage men" which makes her work (given the competition) even more remarkable.
December 19, 2006
Mary awakens from her sleep and she thinks about the sacrifices she has made to bring the child into the world. But then she sees Joseph cradling and caring for Jesus as if he were his own son and her love for Joseph deepens because she knows what he has been through and the fate from which he has saved her.
The poem ends with Mary’s growing love for Joseph and Jesus, something that she was previously unable to feel because of her pride and her preoccupation with the things she had lost. The birth of Jesus was not the only miracle in Mary’s life.
When she awakened,
she saw him by the mouth of the cave
cradling her son, and in that moment,
she knew she would cherish the rest
of her life with him. For he held the child
to his chest so tenderly, as if he were
his own son, warming him by the small
flame’s heat, shielding him with his body
from the cold that eased itself
between the joints of her back
and fingers—cold that killed the last green
flowers near her home, robbing her
of her father’s beard against her cheeks,
her mother’s hands on her shoulders.
She bowed her head and a tear
fell from her cheeks, splattered into a star
in the dust between her sandals
and the fire. He had saved her.
Saved her from the taunts
of the young men sauntering home
after temple, saved her from the snickers
of the young women winnowing wheat
in the fields, saved her from the laughter
of the old women who now shunned her—
she who had driven so many
suitors away and held on to her pride
as a sacrifice to her god who had now forsaken
her to the judgment of old, bitter men,
their calloused hands smoothing the rough
skin of stones they were ready to hurl
at her head, the way their curses rained
on her, before Joseph covered her
and one night took her away from the village.
Joseph looked down at the strips of white
cloth that bound the child’s feet and arms,
came over to her side, brushed away
her tears, and held her trembling hands.
She believed him when he said
he knew their son was a miracle.
And for once, despite the snow
that buried the town and all her cares
under layers of ice, she believed
that everything, even love, was possible,
for it now filled her heart.
Caribbean Christmas poems Jamaican Christmas poems Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas Books Caribbean Caribbean writers Jamaican Christmas stories and poems Jamaican Christmas in Jamaica nativity story Christmas Nativity Xmas Caribbean
Shara McCallum reads “Dear History”:
Here are the pictures from the reading @ Miami Book Fair International:
December 18, 2006
Why do we allow others to define us?
Why are we still thinking as if we are on a plantation and have to wait for others to do/think for us?
What are the innovations that we as Caribbean people given to the world--those we still own?
Are Reggae and Calypso (steel pan) our only real contributions to the twentieth century?
Why are we so afraid to break the away from our colonial past?
Why aren't Caribbean people looking ahead? Why are we so insular when we should be thinking globally?
P.O. Box 998
Owings Mills, Maryland 21117
December 17, 2006
It was a Saturday afternoon, that I remember, but I cannot remember the date (in 1977 or 1978, I think, for I already knew the man). I was sitting with Alma Mock-Yen in the UWI Radio Education Unit when Tony McNeill came in and said that he wanted to record some poems.
Now, for the previous few years Tony had written very little. After Reel from “The Life-Movie” his muse had been notable by the rarity of her visits. His verse, never as mannered as that of either of his major contemporaries – Mervyn Morris and Dennis Scott – had a strongly academic feel to it. It had power, no doubt of that, but it came from his head much more than from his heart. A poem like “Hello Ungod” could and did speak to me, and, would I think to any other young poet who was caught by the enchantment of language.
That was not the kind of thing we heard on that bright morning. What we heard was something completely unexpected. Alma, after acquiescing to Tony’s request (demand, in point of fact), sat down in the studio to ask him what he was writing about. He began reading. He read in a rhythm and with an intensity that caused Alma to withdraw from the studio and join me sitting in the control room listening to Tony as he gave us a selection of what he had been writing over the previous few months, the poems that were to form Credences at the Altar of Cloud. Listening to him release that pent-up verse was as draining as watching the NDTC perform its Kumina dance. And it came from a very similar place.
I had known Tony as a poet, and as an employee of the Institute of Jamaica, involved a year or two before in Carifesta ’76, and had thought of him (as to a degree I still do) as forming a sort of loose trinity with Mervyn and Dennis. This, though, was poetry from a different place, read or recited in a different way. This was not the mannered, educated poet. The closest analogies I have found have been in the recitations and chants of warner women seeking to bring the rest of us to repentance.
Credences came from a deep place in Tony, where the Maroon and the rural, dwelt until, finally something, and I do not know what that something was, yoked together his intellect and his roots. It stretched from Jamaica to North America and back, with the music of McCoy Tyner and John Coltrane as a soundtrack. But it was not “jazz poetry”, there was and is something fundamentally Jamaican about it. Something that has its roots in the countryside and the voices of warner women, whose echoes in the poems and in the way that Tony read/recited them causes my hairs to bristle. That afternoon, it had all the power and evoked all the fear and shock, of a divine presence come down to earth. It was frightening, amazing, and extraordinary in the fullest sense of the word.
I had read descriptions of “divine poetic madness”, and I was aware of the tradition of the poet as a sort of priest possessed by the Muse (or, at any rate, that’s what I got out of reading Robert Graves). I had never really expected to see it, and to be so completely overwhelmed by it.
I was present a year or so later at Tony’s launching of the book, at the New Arts Lecture Theatre only a few yards from where I had first heard the poem. That was an equally powerful, equally overwhelming experience. There were moments when the audience seemed to have stopped breathing as Tony chanted his verse. For some reason, the lines “Catherine/name from the north” I find particularly haunting, though I cannot think why. Just as the repetition of the name “McCoy Tyner” in another poem caught my ear and my imagination at a point where poetry begins and reason leaves off.
I wish there was more to the story that I could write. I saw him around from time to time, over the next few years, and always stopped to talk. Then, I left Jamaica on my own journey to North America and in doing so lost touch with Tony. When I learned of his death, at 54, it struck me not as the death of a middle-aged man, no matter how untimely, but as the death of a youth. Of the poet who never fully forsook his boyish wonder at the world, even as he, almost casually, shocked and surprised it. For me, Tony will always be what he was that day nearly three decades ago, young, full of energy, and with the poetry spurting out of him like an artesian fountain.
Fragano Ledgister, author of Class Alliances and the Liberal-Authoritarian State: The Roots of Post-Colonial Democracy in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and Surinam, teaches political science at Clark Atlanta University. He has also published poems in Focus 1983 and the Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse in English. The father of two sons, both in college, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Links: Tony McNeill
December 16, 2006
Then, he disappeared.
It wasn’t until I was in fifth from that Dennis reappeared in our lives, and he was still intimidating. He taught drama and literature, and when I was in lower sixth, he talked me into playing Antonio in a production of Shakespeare’s, Twelfth Night that he was directing.
When I was in upper sixth, Dennis taught “A” level literature and he had four students: Nadi Edwards, Paul Green, Paul Brown, and me. Dennis taught us Joyce, Shakespeare, Frost and DH Lawrence, and when we finished the official curriculum in four months, Dennis invited some his friends (Rex Nettleford, Lorna Goodison, and Christopher Gonzalez) to come to Jamaica College or we visited their homes to learn about their work.
After I graduated from Jamaica College, Dennis continued to be my friend and mentor. He helped me to publish my first poem, “Eve (for E.M.)” in the Daily Gleaner. Through that experience, I learned what it meant to be ruthless in editing. Dennis helped me to cut all the unnecessary words, so that each word sparkled with its associative meanings. He also taught me how to read poetry and fiction. I learned from his insistence on metaphor as the language of poetry and how the body could be used as a vehicle. More than anything, however, Dennis taught me that Jamaica was a place to be loved and that there are many faces to love.
And once I got past my own fears, I realized that he was a warm, generous man. Dennis had a way of making everyone feel special, and whenever he spoke with me, he assumed that I understood everything he said. Little did he know that even the most casual conversation that I had with him would send me scurrying to encyclopedias for weeks and moths. Even now, I still don’t understand some of the things that he said. But I am learning, Dennis.
Dennis Scott was born in Jamaica in 1939. He had a distinguished career as a poet, playwright, actor (he was Lester Tibideaux in the Cosby Show), dancer in the Jamaican National Dance Theatre, an editor of Caribbean Quarterly and teacher. His first collection, Uncle Time (1973) was one of the first to establish the absolutely serious use of nation language in lyric poetry. His other poetry collections include Dreadwalk (1982) and Strategies (1989). His plays include Terminus, Dog, Echo in the Bone, and Scott’s work is acknowledged as one of the major influences on the direction of Caribbean theatre. He died at the early age of fifty-one in 1991.
December 14, 2006
Terry knew it had been a bad idea from the start, but yet this is where his journey had taken him. He looked down at the flat tire on his broken and battered car and was about to curse in the tongue of his Gaelic youth when he felt the cold nuzzle of a revolver against the back of his skull.
“White boy, don’t move.”
The nuzzle was colder than the December wind that rattled the zinc roofs of the shanties and stirred the stagnant pools of sewage on the sides of the road. He hadn’t noticed it before, but as he slowly bent his knees to touch the ground and raised his hands over his head, he could hear Handel’s “Messiah” bleating over the noise of pot and pans, the shouts and screams of women in the tenements, and the occasional pop-pop of a revolver punctuating the hallelujahs that mocked the twilight gloom of Standpipe.
“If you move, you dead.”
He had asked for this he supposed, and yet, in a way, it was inevitable. Sooner or later he would have been spotted; for here he was he was the whitest man in Jamaica in one of the blackest garrisons in Kingston.
Terry looked at the flat tire and wondered if this was how his life was going to end staring at a broken down car in a urine soaked lane. And to die in the dirt? Such a contrast to the endless green of Ireland. He had left one war and stepped right into the middle of another. Two cities, two islands, two countries that resembled each other in so many ways: cramped bars, fratricidal battles, big hearts, and terrible tempers.
Better to die in the gutter in Dublin than a lane in Kingston. But then, he knew better. For he had also fallen in love with this country where, down in the bush, as they said, people still used the language of the King James Bible with words like, “peradventure” and “artificer”.
A flash of anger rushed through his body, but he quickly calmed himself for he did not want to die with a mortal sin in his mind, but wasn’t it a mortal sin that brought him here in the first place?
He quelled all the thoughts and concentrated on what was happening to him right now. Terry began whispering to himself, “Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now, and at the hour of our death," and then he broke off. He couldn’t go on. It wasn’t right. He knew whatever he said to God would be heard, but in his heart he knew he was the one estranged from God.
“I don’t have much money. I am…was a priest.”
“Don’t lie, white boy, you about to dead.”
“I don’t lie.”
That was one sin Terry knew was not in his character, yet it was his biggest fault He should have lied to the bishop, kept everything hush-hush, and remained in his parish , but he couldn’t. And he should have lied when Denise asked him if he loved her. But he didn’t.
“Turn around slowly.”
Terry did not want to see the gunman’s face. He knew if he was to survive the he should avoid doing anything that would identify the gunman in front of him. He dropped his eyes to the dust.
The gun man tapped him on his head with the gun.
“Is me have the gun, you know. Is me in charge here, so turn around.”
Terry wasn’t going to give the gunman the pleasure of humiliating him either. If he died, then, God to could add pride to his list of sins that was growing day by day, hour by hour.
“Don’t make me have to shoot you for you to turn around.”
Terry decided to take pride of God’s list and shifted in the dust. He kept his eyes on the ground.
“Look at me.”
Terry stared at the ground. He would not look up.
“Father, look at me.”
The sound of the word, Father, shocked Terry. It sounded almost obscene coming from the lips of this man who was about to kill him, but he raised his eyes as if summoned.
From what Terry could see, he was about six feet and very muscular. He probably didn’t need the gun to rob people. He could have robbed them with his bare hands.
“Do you know me, Father?”
The word weighed heavy on him, like a huge stone with which he was now burdened and would carry for the rest of his life.
He said the word, son, out of habit. He would have to learn to stop saying the word that way. It was a life he was now leaving behind.
“Father McDougall, it’s me, Rupert.”
Terry still didn’t recognize him. For twenty-five years he had been in Standpipe, and had baptized so many of these boys who then took first communion, presided over some of their marriages, and prayed over many more as they were lowered into the ground.
That was how he met Denise. The hours of counsel and comfort became something else. At first, he denied all the attraction and tried to bury his feelings in their differences of class and color and when all that failed he resorted to his final defense, St Augustine and the gap between his education and hers.
“I don’t recognize you, Rupert.”
Rupert began peeling off the tam and the rag that covered his face.
“No, no, no! Don’t do that.”
Terry knew he was dead now and tried to muster the courage to continue the Hail, Mary’.
Rupert stood over Terry. With his left hand, he placed the gun in the small of his back, and then lifted Terry to his feet.
“It’s all right, Father. It’s all right.”
Rupert patted Terry on the shoulder.
“What happen to you car?”
“Let me help you. You have a jack?”
“Yes, in the trunk of the car.”
“Give me the keys.”
Terry threw the keys to Rupert and he went around to the back of the car, opened the trunk, and pulled out the jack and the spare tire. He put the keys in his pocket, then slipped the jack under the car and began cranking the lever. Terry tried to help, but Rupert wouldn’t let him.
“You just stand up there, Father, and let a pro do this.”
And Rupert was right. In a matter of minutes, he had taken off the flat tire and replaced the flat with the spare.
“You really are a pro.”
“Long time me doing this.”
“And how long you been a gun man?”
Terry knew he shouldn’t have asked, but he had to. Rupert had recognized him and until he gave up his vestments, he was still the priest for the area.
“I used to do this, but I stopped about ten Christmases ago when you got me out of jail. You remember now?”
“My big brother was charged with murder and the police hold him, me and my little brother for questioning. My mother nearly dead when she hear that the three of we was going to be in jail for Christmas. Them was going murder we in jail with licks if we never testify against me brother.”
It was slowly coming back to Terry as he watched the darkness creep under the fences that leaned against each other and the one electric pole covered with posters of an Xmas dancehall: Sergeant Satta and Bunny Spliff in control. Security tight, tight, tight.
“But, Father, you come to the jail with a lawyer and you get me and my little brother out. And you make sure that everything was all right and you gave us a Christmas dinner when we never have nothing.”
“I am beginning to remember. What happened to your brother?”
“How else him to dead? Gun shot.”
From what Terry could see, Rupert’s eyes had the dead stare of a man who had seen death many times and he wondered if his eyes after working in Standpipe were becoming as dark.
“So what happened to you now? Why are you doing this?”
“Get fired. The boss come a month ago and lean under the car me was fixing and say him have to let me go.”
“Just like that?”
“But you are a good worker.”
“I know that and him know that, but him say him have high overhead so me have to go. So, him let me go like me don’t have baby mother to feed.”
“Things got bad in the house between me and my woman and the children wanted some food, so me decide to try me hand at the gun business again.”
“So, you’re going to rob me.”
“No, Father. This is a sign. I have to find something else to do I don’t know what, but God only give so many chances you know.”
“God gives us as many chances as we need.”
“How you can say that? Look around you. And how come you not wearing you collar?’
Terry couldn’t answer him. He felt ashamed for the collar was the last thing he had torn off his neck when he left the bishop’s office and came to Standpipe to tell Denise about his plans. The collar still burned in his pocket.
“I’m not a priest any more.”
“Don’t lie, Father.”
“I don’t lie.”
Terry cautiously motioned to Rupert and they sat on the ground with their backs against the fence and watched the mongrels dig through the ruins of the grocery store. The evening star, Venus, blinked through the clouds. Terry told Rupert the whole long story of how he met Denise after her husband had died from leukemia and all his evasions of pretending not to love her.
“But you know, what made me fall head over heels in love with her was when she spoke about her relationships with God and how she knew, not believed, but knew she was going to get through her hardships. God for her wasn’t someone in the sky, but a real presence in her life, someone with whom she had a relationship and with whom she wanted to deepen the relationship. She ministered to me. She taught me. That was when I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. All that I had learned from all the books, all that I had read, Denise was just speaking from her heart. She had put all my homilies of faith to shame. And so I said to hell with it!”
“Easy, Father. Any way, she sound like she is a good woman. I say keep her.”
“She cost me my collar.”
“Sound like the collar was too heavy.”
“Yes, you may be right.”
“Father, you can either go with what you believe or with what you know. I say go with what you know.”
“You’re right, son. You’re right. So what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know. I only know my baby mother want some food for the children.”
Terry went inside his pocket to give Rupert some money as if he too didn’t have a baby mother to care for.
“No, keep it, Father. I will find something.”
“No, you take it. If you’re going hold up someone else, then take it.”
“No, Father. Me done with the gun business tonight.”
“What about tomorrow?”
“Don’t know, Father. Me have to live one day at a time.”
“Promise me no more gun business.”
Terry stuck out his hand with the bills and shook them.
Rupert took the money.
“I promise, Father.”
The word pressed against his chest like the ragged edge of a stone and bruised his heart.
“I don’t know if you should still call me Father.”
“It don’t matter what them do or say about you, you will always be Father McDougall to me.”
Rupert rose to his feet and helped Terry out of the dust. He walked with Terry over to the car, opened the door, and handed him the keys.
“So what you going do now, Father?”
“The bishop says he can get me a job down at St George’s to coach the football team.”
“I never know you was a baller, Father?”
They stared at each other, and then laughed.
“I never mean it that way, Father.”
“I never took it that way, but I guess I will have to get used to it. Father McDougall, the baller from Standpipe.’
It hurt Terry to say it, but he saw the humor. He cranked up the engine and it made a grinding sound that echoed off the concrete pilings of the grocery store.
“I will come down to the church if you are still there tomorrow and fix that engine for you. But you need to get out of here fast. It not safe for you anymore.”
“How much you going charge me for fix it?”
“For you, Father, nothing. It’s all free.”
Terry put the car in first gear and waved goodbye. Rupert pulled down the shirt over the gun in his back and waved back.
As he shifted the car into second gear, Terry checked the rear view mirror, but Rupert had already disappeared into the darkness leaving only the curses and the benedictions, the hoots and the hosannas, in the darkened lanes of Standpipe.
Update (12/9/2008): "A Jamaican Christmas Story" will be published as a part of the short story collection, Who's Your Daddy?: And Other Stories, due out in May 2009.
Tags: Caribbean Christmas poems Caribbean Christmas book Christmas book Jamaican Christmas poems Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas Books Caribbean Caribbean writers Christmas Caribbean poems Jamaican author Jamaican writers Jamaican Christmas Story Jamaican Christmas stories and poems Jamaican Christmas Christmas in Jamaica nativity story Christmas
December 13, 2006
But in my search for a new publisher, I found this great video of Kamau on YouTube:
Just in case someone drops by and doesn’t know about Kamau Brathwaite , I’ve included the bio:
Kamau Brathwaite, winner of the Griffin Prize 2006, is an internationally celebrated poet, performer, and cultural theorist. Co-founder of the Caribbean Artists Movement, he was educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge and has a PhD from the University of Sussex in the UK. He has served on the board of directors of UNESCO’s History of Mankind project since 1979, and as cultural advisor to the government of Barbados from 1975-1979 and again since 1990. Brathwaite has received numerous awards, among them the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the Bussa Award, the Casa de las Américas Prize, and the Charity Randall Prize for Performance and Written Poetry. He has received Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, among many others. His book, The Zea Mexican Diary (1992) was The Village Voice Book of the Year. Brathwaite has authored many works, including Middle Passages (1994), Ancestors (2001) and The Development of Creole Society, 1770-1820 (2005). Over the years, he has worked in the Ministry of Education in Ghana and taught at the University of the West Indies, Southern Illinois University, the University of Nairobi, Boston University, Holy Cross College, Yale University and was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. Brathwaite is currently a professor of comparative literature at New York University. He divides his time between CowPastor , Barbados and New York City.
Lawrence Scott reads “On the Tongue”:
If you’d like to listen to the entire reading, follow this link:
Here are the pictures from the reading @ Miami Book Fair International:
December 12, 2006
December 11, 2006
One Life, One Love
“It’s all good.”
(For Nadia, Anna, and Christina)