November 20, 2006

Caribbean Voices @ Miami Book Fair International

Caribbean writers Miami Book Fair“There’s a Caribbean conference happening under the radar,” said Adrian Castro as the 23rd Miami Book Fair International began, and the continuation of the successful Caribbean Voices series under the guidance of Mervyn Solomon kicked into high gear. This year’s program featured younger writers such as Marlon James, established veterans such as Mervyn Taylor, and displayed the breadth of talent in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction that has emerged from the Caribbean during the past thirty years. For whether it was Shara McCallum’s reminiscing about her family’s choice to leave Jamaica during the seventies, Pamela Mordecai’s elegies to a slain brother, or Deborah Jack’s celebration of motherhood, the tone of the presentations reflected the newfound confidence of the writers who’ve come a long way from the image of Brathwaite’s “homeless, harborless spade,” to adventurous journeyers like Dawad Phillip.

The program began with Visting Author, Colin Channer and Marlon James who read from Iron Balloons and I read a story from my manuscript, “Who’s Your Daddy?” and Other Stories. Christopher John Farley read excerpts from The Rise of Bob Marley and gave some interesting insights into the “universality” of Bob’s music and some of the reasons for his continued popularity.

Next came a panel discussion, “Globalisation, Diaspora, and Caribbean Popular Culture.” I usually stay away from panel discussions by academicians, but this one had me riveted. During the course of his lecture, Keith Nurse pointed out that North American markets are rewarding Caribbean artists, especially musicians, so that many of the artists can afford to live and create in the region. Nurse also pointed out that Jamaica imports five times as much media (books, CDs, etc.) as it exports. This certainly contradicts the popular notion that their isn’t a market for the arts in the Caribbean. There is. The biggest challenges seem to lie in devising ways to change local opinion about homegrown talent, and breaking the distribution bottlenecks.

This led to many impromptu gatherings after the lively Q&A, and the consensus in a group of writers (of which I became an unwitting member) was that these problems could be overcome by investment/promotion by the regional media and publishing houses in the wealth of talent that now exists in the Caribbean. These investments in literary talent could bring returns, not only in fee based archival systems such as those employed by the New York Times, but also in copyright/intellectual property contracts. The second problem of distribution is more problematic because it means overturning established patterns of media distribution, but with the advent of the Internet, media entrepreneurs could actually break into the markets (as true entrepreneurs have always done) and create new forms of distribution. Of course, this will involve long-term strategic thinking and partnerships to break the strangleholds of the media giants and distribution companies that continue to neglect the interests of arts and the people whom they claim to serve.

The rest of the evening was devoted to Donna Weir-Soley, Deborah Jack, Shara McCallum, Dawad Phillip, Ramabai Espinet, Mervyn Taylor, Lawrence Scott, and Pamela Mordecai.

The Caribbean Voices program, which has seen the birth of literary careers, highlighted the work of writers in mid-career, and memorialized the work of elder writers such as Kamau Brathwaite (who was sorely missed) has grown in the scope of its ambitions and reflects the confidence of writers who are now aware of their growing critical acclaim and worth in the market. At nearly every Caribbean literary conference that I’ve attended over the past ten years, I’ve often heard it repeated that Caribbean literature is ready to project itself as a powerhouse of diversified talent. Based on what I saw on Saturday, I beginning to think that it’s true.


Here are some of the photos from the two days of the Miami Book Fair International. Podcasts of will soon be available as soon as the editing is finished. Until then, enjoy the photos.

In the photo above (Left to Right): Donna Weir-Soley,
Ramabai Espinet, Dawad Phillip, Shara McCallum, Mervyn Taylor, and Lawrence Scott.

Day One:

Day Two:

The book giveaway has come to an end. I did not specify the official end of the contest, but I did say that the winners would be announced after the Book Fair. Here are the winners of an autographed copy of Iron Balloons.


Congratulations! Send me your snail mail address (geoffreyphilp101 at and I will get the books out to you ASAP. The books have been autographed by Colin Channer and Geoffrey Philp.

South Florida writers, Miami Dade College Miami Book Fair International , Caribbean, Caribbean writers,


Stephen A. Bess said...

Geoffrey, the pictures are great! I viwed them on flickr. Congratulations to the winners! Peace~

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thanks, Stephen.
I enjoyed the poem over at your place.


Anonymous said...

judging by the photo reel it seemed to be a fantastic turnout, I'm quite upset I didn't attend especially since it was held in my back yard. Was the ROI beneficial?

Geoffrey Philp said...

It was great and the I'm still benefitting from the contacts, inspiration and good vibes--if that can be defined as ROI.


Anonymous said...

It sounds like it was tons of fun. As one of the winners, I get to send my snail mail address; although I do want the autographed copy very much, please use it for a worthy cause as you suggested.

I've been digging in your blog, try to find the gems that I missed. I must also thank you for the podcasts. I'm digging your blog, if you'll pardon the pun.

The wife and I are looking at the States for the summer holiday, but I doubt we'll make it as far south as Florida, unfortunately for me. There'll be other moments.


Geoffrey Philp said...

Dear Rethabile,

I will probably donate it to a local library or one in Jamaica.

And I kniw we will meet one day.


Anonymous said...

you know, i read this post but i missed the announcement of the winners. Thanks for the early Christmas gift!

Geoffrey Philp said...

It's on its way!