No, I think they are afraid of the poem because it makes pokes fun at the public personae of the big three (not the big tree of “Small Axe’) in Caribbean literature: Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, and VS Naipaul. Anyone who has read this blog knows that I have the utmost respect for Brathwaite, Walcott, and Naipaul. Especially Brathwaite who has been good and kind to me. Even the speaker in the poem states it clearly: “Lawd, God, people don't get mad is only a joke/ Sit down and relax, light a spliff, take a little smoke./ We couldn't have a book or be here today/ These men are our heroes despite what Naipaul has to say.”
The idea popped in my head during a poetry workshop that I did for Calabash and I followed it. This is a very dangerous thing to do with rhyme. The combinations that spring into my head when I use rhyme sometimes lead to places I wouldn’t ordinarily venture, but the line takes me there. Of course, as the maker I have the option to edit. But when you have grown up as I have, censored and self censoring, then the idea of silencing myself, however noble the reasons, is just not appealing anymore. I just have to stand firm and take licks.
So I can understand why a Caribbean magazine publisher would shy away from taking the risk of publishing the poem, for it also satirizes our current preoccupation with awards and prizes, the growing commercialization of writing, and perennial issues in many writers’ lives: sex and depression.
I’m standing by the poem. And if in the future some young whippersnapper should make fun of me, so be it. I couldn’t/wouldn’t stop them anyway. They’d find a way. As I have. For in the end, the poem in accordance with the dominant image was written in a spirit of play.
It began so innocently when Kwame, Colin and me was to read,
Smady shout out, "Oonu cyaan write! Oonu mus a smoke weed!”
Then a next one, “Do you know Latin or Greek? I doubt if you can spell."
We was on JBC-TV, so we couldn't say, "Man, fuck off! Go to hell!"
Still, we couldn't take it like that. We had honor; we had to save face.
I said, "We know we’re the best, so meet us on the field, any time, any place!
A week from now, a duel of scrimmage, three man to a side.
To prove the best writers in JA or make it better, world wide!"
For nowadays you can't judge a writer's worth just by the size
Of royalties, sales, NEA fellowships or even the Pulitzer Prize.
Nobody reads anymore, so everything really depends
On your agent or if you're sleeping with your editor's best friend.
Still, not a soul answer the challenge, no one take the bet,
Even when we send it far and wide, all over the Internet.
Ondjatee, Rushdie, and Coetzee say they didn't have the time,
We said, "Make way, boys. You’re history and way past your prime."
Then Caryl Phillips, David Dabydeen, and Austin Clarke came in pads,
Down at Jake's, dressed to play cricket, and they really looked sad
When we said we'd never play that game again, them days were done,
Babylon had fallen with the empire's setting sun.
It was good we never played them; they’d have beaten us for sure,
But everyone know, all's fair in love, writing, and war.
But when people test you and draw a line in the sand,
You have to tip the scales and play your best hand.
America teach us that: don't hang on to the past.
Fairness doesn't count. Nice guys finish last!
So the deadline come and we thought we’d won our very own cup.
We'd won by default, for not a single writer or critic showed up.
We were the best in the world; we was rolling in the grass
But then we looked up; it was Naipaul, Brathwaite, and Walcott to raas.
We started to worry, and we started to fret, but Kwame said we couldn't lose,
“Besides, I'm also a critic, even if they win, we'll have better reviews!"
Kwame told them, "We respect you, but now you're too old to fight
And it really wouldn't be fair, you three elders taught us how to write!"
Brathwaite and Naipaul agreed, they didn't want to do anything rash,
But Walcott wouldn't let it go--you'd think we were playing for cash!
So we changed into our jerseys that Colin supplied us for free,
Random House was sponsoring us from Waiting in Vain’s royalties.
We wondered who'd sponsor these codgers who were now old and gray,
For we don't' support our own writers and forget it if you’re gay!
But these stalwarts were shrewd and still showed their wort',
Ads for Viagra and Prozac were plastered all over their shirts.
Lawd, God, people don't get mad is only a joke
Sit down and relax, light a spliff, take a little smoke.
We couldn't have a book or be here today,
These men are our heroes despite what Naipaul has to say.
But we had to fight to prove that we too were men,
And we was going to see which was mightier, the ball or the pen?
The game start with Colin marking Naipaul on the right,
Kwame with Brathwaite, and me on defense with Walcott in me sight.
The game dragged on for six hours on the beach; it was a battle of wills,
We played long into the night, but the score was nil-nil.
We outplayed them, but as God is my witness, every time we get a chance,
They would throw in some little comment and throw we off balance.
Colin get a chance to score, but Naipaul say, "You think you’re a warrior?
All your book is shit. Read bout true man in The Suffrage of Elvira!"
Kwame get the ball, but Brathwaite whisper in him ear,"
Arrivants is the standard,I never did like your Progeny of Air!"
And as him turn to answer that mawga griot,
Brathwaite thief way the ball. Them was playing we real low.
As for me, me never say nothing, for me can't even pay my rent,
So how me going match up to Omeros or The Arkansas Testament?
The game dragged on and we was getting tired,
But with Prozac and Viagra these old boys were totally wired.
Then Walcott get a look in him green eye when the Viagra kick in,
Him look like the boy from Star Apple Kingdom, the mulatto Shabine.
Walcott rise up like a young stallion, fetlocks pawing the ground,
Look like him was going write another Midsummer or Tieoplo's Hound.
The old men were tiring us out, that was their plan,
We was playing their game, marking them man for man.
A crowd gather around we, and is like we was going faint, but an old dread
Bawl out, "Don't falter now, my yout, either play ball or dead!"
That's when we perk up; I block Walcott, pass Kwame the ball,
Him salad Brathwaite and Colin finally stand up to Naipaul.
Him shake off the old Indo-Aryan, and left him a rage
"That's for A Bend in the River and The Middle Passage!"
Colin scored the goal and up and down the sideline
Girls started to jump and wine and shake they body line.
“We win, we win,” we shouted under the lights,
The three old men trudge proudly off the field and into the night.
Still, we felt bad and although we did win,
It was like killing our fathers-- it felt like a sin.
But Freud and Bloom say that's how it's always been,
By murdering your father, that's how history begin.