March 10, 2006

It's All About Love: Caribbean Writers

No, this isn’t about Earth, Wind, & Fire as the picture or title suggest. (Or maybe, it is!) It’s about the nature of this blog which has opened some doors that I never thought could or would be opened, and some that I thought were closed. For example, I have re-made contact with Fragano (I still have some of his early poems) through this blog. And in a recent blog exchange, I learned something about Fragano and Dennis Scott, my mentor and friend, that I’d never known (see the Comments on Mona for details).

The exchange also confirmed something about point of view: it often says more about us than the thing being observed. So many times I’ve said to an acquaintance, “You know, So-and-So is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met!” Only to have them say, “Really! I always thought she was sad and depressed.” Usually, that was a signal for me to move on.

But Fragano’s story made me realize that as I celebrate the life of writers who have touched my life, or as Dennis would say,

...since there is no armour
but the festivals we make
hand over hand
(the heart's drum louder
than any sound of soldier's falling)
till the war is over
let us celebrate
ourselves, all that is kind
and carnival, living
without goodbyes
without the acquiescences of grief
of ending
That small victory, only.

And because I don’t believe in clouding the blog with transitions—the blog for the murdered child was an aberration, but I couldn’t make it just go so. That youth’s transition really touched me, not only because of the glow in his face that has now been taken away by a “dog heart” man, but it happened in the place where I first learned about love. I really love Mona and Jamaica. They taught me about love, and loving there I learned to love other places and people. Or as Derek Walcott in Another Life speaking to his wife about, Anna, says,

And do I still love her, as I love you?
I have loved all women who have evolved from her

So, I’ve made a personal list of birthdays that I hope to celebrate. What I’m hoping for is on the day of the person’s birthday, all the people who knew and loved the person to attach a particular memory to the Comments section of the blog. (Do I really know what I'm getting into here? If I am tell me) Some people have sent me private emails (which I haven’t shared because I didn’t know if they want everybody knowing their business, so I’m leaving the choice up to them) to post it in the Comments section.

Some have been put off by the word verification feature of the blog. The word verification feature is to protect the site from spammers.

So, if you have a personal memory of anyone listed here, get ready to send it in. Or if you want to contribute the memory on that day, send it and I will post it first. Don’t send me stuff from Wikipedia or the person’s web page. I can do that!

I’ve restricted the list to Caribbean writers who have passed what Seamus Heaney calls the “envy test,” or just plain, “Rispec’!”

I haven’t included non-Caribbean writers because their own people are busy celebrating them, so why should I with the limited time and space on my hands, include such obvious people like Marquez, Joyce, and Flannery O’Connor?

Here is the intended list.

Robert Antoni
Opal Adisa
Julia Alvarez
Reinaldo Arenas
Edward Baugh
James Berry
Neil Bissondath
Dionne Brand

Kamau Brathwaite
George Campbell
Jan Carew
Patrick Chamoiseu
G. Cabrera Infante
Alejo Carpentier

Martin Carter—missed him this year. But give thanks, Jebratt!
Adrian Castro
Colin Channer
Michelle Cliff
Merle Collins
Afua Cooper

Christine Craig
Fred D’Aguiar

Edwidge Danticat
Rene Depestre
Oscar Dathorne
Kwame Dawes
Junot Diaz
Zee Edgell
Garfield Ellis
Frantz Fanon
Rosario Ferre
Brenda Flanagan
Rawle Frederick
Marcus Garvey
Thomas Glave
Edouard Glissant
Lorna Goodison
Jean Goulbourne
Nicolas Guillen
Wilson Harris
John Hearne
Nalo Hopkinson
Slade Hopkinson
Cynthia James
Janet Jagan

Anthony Kellman
Linton Kwesi Johnson
Dany Laferriere
Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool
Earl Lovelace
Roger Mais
Bob Marley
Paule Marshall
Anthony McNeill
Edgar Mittelholzer
Pamela Mordecai
Mervyn Morris
Felix Morriseau-Leroy—Soon Soon 3/13/06
VS Naipaul—Arrgh. But without Miguel Street, there wouldn’t be Uncle Obadiah and the Alien
Oku Onoura
Orlando Patterson
Sasenarine Persaud
Caryl Phillips
Velma Pollard
Patricia Powell
Jennifer Rahim
Jacques Roumain
VS Reid

Elaine “Jamaica Kincaid” Potter
Walter Rodney
Andrew Salkey
Dennis Scott
Mikey Smith
Malachi Smith
Virgil Suarez

Michael Ekweueme Thelwell
Ana Lydia Vega 

Derek Walcott
Anthony Winkler

There are some birthdays that I’ve done this year, and some that I haven’t. There is always next year and the next year. This is a project that will last for years and some will be added—there’s no need for subtraction, they’ll be in Outlook.

For some of the birthdays, my crack team of researchers (crack is right) and I have been trying to find out these dates, but either due to inattention (on my part) or the downright laziness of my researchers (you can’t get good help these days), I have yet to send the persons or in some cases, the persons managing their estate an email requesting the information—which is not available of the web or in Fifty Caribbean Writers.

Some people haven’t answered. I don’t mean to be sexist, but the brothers have been far more forthcoming than the sisters. It’s all right.

Some people (even friends) when I have asked, have responded, “What you asking for?” —like I was going work obeah. When I told them that I was celebrating the person’s life they usually responded in a matter of minutes or days. So, if I haven’t asked you yet and you see your name on the list, send it, nuh?

I’m holding off on some. The obvious ones who have become stars in my galaxy, Walcott, Brathwaite, and Bob Marley (hate to use the term “public property”), I have included without asking permission. The others have been gracious. So, until I get confirmation from the person, I’m not putting up their names for them to come cuss me off and have bad mind gainst me because “bad mind worse than obeah.”

Also, because this is a personal blog—I know some people will say I should have included X or Y. But I’m not going to be a hypocrite and include someone because I think I will gain kudos from J or L. This blog is really an act of love. And, for me, love is or does.

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FSJL said...

I emailed Michael and Mark regarding your desire for stories about Dennis.

What strikes me about this list of authors is how many of them I know. John Hearne's birthday, btw, was on 4 February, John would have been 80. (

I have to confess that most of the Wikipedia piece on John is mine (as are the entries on Roger Mais, Mervyn Morris, Dennis Scott, and Morris Cargill -- and all of them need expanding).

Geoffrey Philp said...

I was wondering who was doing those entries on Roger Mais, et al.

Perhaps some gradual students could also join in and write some entries in Wikipedia--which is agrand experiment in information democracy.

In has become my mantra, but we need to take care of our artists or as Dennis said, "Clap a little" and promote their work in places like

It's part of the generational change that I know writers and intellectuals in the diaspora can bring about, but the change must begin with us--we must be the change, and you (and others like Nalo) by your actions have shown that.
Give thanks!
Things doan jus happen. We haffi mek it happen.
Dead Writers don't eat!

FSJL said...

It's true, dead writers don't eat. There are a couple of people who have spent time creating brief bios of Caribbean writers on Wikipedia (a very bright young man in Trinidad is one). There are by no means enough (none on Sylvia Wynter, for example).