December 21, 2006

Podcast of Dawad Phillip @ Miami Book Fair, 2006

Dawad PhillipDawad Philip was born in Trinidad. He is a poet and painter and cultural activist, as well as a journalist in the United States. He is the author of Invocations and his work has appeared in several anthologies, including, most recently, Poetry International’s English Language Poetry from Around the World, (2003-2004).

Dawad Phillip reads “The Conquistador’s Letter”:

Here are the pictures from the reading @ Miami Book Fair International:


Tags: books writing Miami Dade College Miami Book Fair International Caribbean Caribbean writers Trinidad Trinidadian author Authors Literature books podcast poetry podcast

December 20, 2006

Happy Birthday, Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo HopkinsonNalo Hopkinson is a Jamaican writer and editor living in Canada. Her science fiction and fantasy novels (Brown Girl in the Ring, Midnight Robber, The Salt Roads) and short stories such as those in her collection Skin Folk sometimes draw on Caribbean history and language, and its traditions of oral and written storytelling.

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.


Tags: books writing Caribbean Caribbean writers Jamaica Authors Literature science fiction magical realism

December 19, 2006

"Christmas Night": Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas

Jesus, Mary and JosephChristmas Night” tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the viewpoint of the newlywed couple, Joseph and Mary, and describes how their lives and loves changed once the child had been born.

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.

Christmas Night

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.

From Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas.


Podcast of Shara McCallum @ Miami Book Fair 2006

Shara McCallumShara McCallum is the author of two books of poems from the University of Pittsburgh Press, Song of Thieves (2003) and The Water Between Us (1999, winner of the 1998 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize). The manuscript of her third book, “The Shore," was recently completed. Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals and over twenty anthologies. Originally from Jamaica, McCallum directs the Stadler Center for Poetry and teaches at Bucknell University. She is also on the faculty of the Stonecoast Low Residency MFA program. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two young daughters.

Shara McCallum reads “Dear History”:

Here are the pictures from the reading @ Miami Book Fair International:


Tags: books writing Miami Dade College Miami Book Fair International Caribbean Caribbean writers Jamaica Jamaican author Authors Literature books podcast poetry podcast

December 18, 2006

Things I Need to Know: Mikey Jiggs

Mikey Jiggs, who has produced a dub-u-mentary on Malachi Smith*, sent this e-mail, and as I read the questions, I felt that the answers should come from multiple perspectives.

I am inviting everyone in the community (i.e. anyone who reads this blog) to join the conversation. And please don’t be intimidated by the captchas. I’ve had to put them in because as the site has grown in popularity, certain e-tailers specializing in Caribbean cruises or anything Caribbean (I won’t mention the others) have decided to post comments (usually between 1 and 6 pm) that have nothing to do with the aims of this site.

So, just drop in as Anonymous (if you’d like) and leave a comment or two.

Subject: Things I need to Know

Geoffrey & Malachi, you are the writers. These are things that keep haunting me, even more, as I approach middle age and beyond.

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?

I agonize over the box we place ourselves in each day and I am sometimes afraid of where we are as a people.

Do we have to wait for others to continue to tell us who we should be? It’s been a while.

Still waiting.

There are more questions than answers.

As far as I can recall, several writers (Williams, Braithwaite) have considered these questions. If either of you are aware of any published works that has addressed them significantly let me know.

Please help me with this.

Reggae Concepts
P.O. Box 998
Owings Mills, Maryland 21117

December 17, 2006

Happy Birthday, Tony McNeill

Geoffrey, you’ve asked me for a “livication” for Tony McNeill. I’m glad, for it gives me the opportunity to write down something that, otherwise, might not have been recorded. An encounter with history, only, of course, I didn’t realize it at the time.

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

Happy Birthday, Dennis Scott

Dennis ScottI first met Dennis when I was in first form at Jamaica College. He taught drama and I can still remember the long walk from 1 Murray up to Hardy House where we were greeted by this shorn, impressive man who had a voice like —what Kamau Brathwaite would call an “organ voice.” We were all intimidated and I think we all behaved ourselves in his class for the rest of the year.

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.

Give thanks.

From Peepal Tree Press:

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

A Jamaican Christmas Story

A Jamaican Christmas Story

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.

No, son”

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?”

Flat tire.”

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?”

Just so.”

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.

Promise me.”

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.



December 13, 2006

A Sestina & Video of Kamau's Acceptance of the Griffin Prize

I thought that when I wrote this sestina, , my string of rejections would end—you know, the kind of superstitions that writers use against the dark. No such luck. Instead of a stream, a flood.

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.


Tags: ,

Podcast of Lawrence Scott @ Miami Book Fair 2006

Lawrence ScottLawrence Scott is from Trinidad and Tobago. He is the prize-winning author of the novel Aelred’s Sin (London: Allison & Busby, 1998), which won a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best Book in the Caribbean & Canada 1999. Night Calypso (Allison& Busby, 2004), his most recent novel, was short-listed for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, Best Book in Canada & the Caribbean and nominated for The International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2006 and was published in France as Calypso de Nuit in June 2005. His first novel, Witchbroom (Allison, 1992, Heinemann, 1993) was also short-listed for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in Canada & the Caribbean, 1993. His short stories have been read on the BBC and have been anthologized internationally, notably in the Penguin Book of Caribbean Short Stories and the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories. He divides his time between writing and teaching literature and creative writing.

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:


Tags: books writing Miami Dade College Miami Book Fair International Caribbean Caribbean writers Trinidad Trinidadian author Authors Literature books podcast poetry podcast

December 12, 2006



Today after a military funeral, amidst the red,
blue, and ochre houses of the poor, helmets
of the top brass, when tears and laughter
rise above the white-capped Andes,
the last thing I saw in the rear view mirror
as my father clutched his chest
and drove me to the airport, fearing I would become
one of the desaparecidos, one of the nameless
statistics of the stadiums and oceans
or the visible ones, dragged around the square
of our town like garbage on the streets,
what was once General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte
is to become one with the air,
by fires that consume the body, but not the soul—
the gold in his teeth and his many medals,
curled into pellets rendered worthless by the heat,
his ashes scattered along the coast and lakes,
into the dust around the feet of the women
dancing the cueca, into the wine of the Malpo,
bread of Temuco, and I will die a second death.

December 11, 2006

One Life, One Love

A 6th century mosaic of :en:Jesus at Church Sa...Image via Wikipedia

One Life, One Love

An Excerpt from Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas
How do we make one life? How do we draw together all the disparate strands of our lives and make them into one seamless garment? These are the questions I ask myself whether I am trying to fill a blank page, painting a fence, or putting up drywall. How do I make this life, one?
As I look back on these early poems (shown below--written over twenty years ago) I can’t help but notice the continuity of concerns in my work: musical: “dubwise blinks out the slanting rain”; social: “mongrels and madmen scamper,” and the rawness of the influences. There is Kamau Brathwaite with the fractured typography and his repetitive, jazz-like vamping on sound: “the core, the chorus”; Derek Walcott’s insistence on Romantic, formal elegance “O, innocence”—I always wanted to write a line with “O”; Dennis Scott’s tight, spare phrasing: “stark voice of a TV preacher”; Tony McNeill’s love of the lyric and his critique on the emptiness of modernism—what we have become: “husks of coconuts” and the King James Bible via my fundamentalist upbringing: “whitewashed brilliance of stones that will nor forgive.” These have been the primary influences on my work and everyday I work to reconcile my life with these voices that came before me, and whose music creeps into my life and the oddest times.
How do I find the right pitch, the right timbre? How do I sing with my own voice, and acknowledge the great debt in the voices of these elders who paved the way for my own voice to be heard, so that I can sing with this authority.
It’s been called the “anxiety of influence” but as everyone has heard, “Who feels, it knows it.” Every artist, every conscious person goes through this and worries if s/he is being true to that voice that only s/he knows as true. It’s a question of authenticity. How do I live an authentic life? My children ask me this in various guises every day. ..
I don’t know how to answer them. I won’t tell no lie.
What I do know is I keep working every day. As a husband and father, I work to be as good as I have imagined the Holy Family—their lives, their loves, and their times and the co-relations with my life, my loves, and my times.
I wonder what must have gone through Mary’s mind when the messenger came to her with the idea that she was carrying the child who would be called “Prince of Peace.” Did she see herself as in the lineage of those great women prophetesses like Judith? What would be her role in giving birth to this “anointed one” of her people when every day she woke up to Roman rule, taxes, and domination? Every morning she woke up and saw these strangers in her holy land committing sacrilege on the holy ground under her feet, and that they trampled upon and muddied with the blood of saints. And would her son suffer such a fate? Israel’s history was written with the blood of martyrs. Would the collaborators whom she saw in the temples, who hated their brothers more than they loved their own country, betray him as they had betrayed, killed or cause to be killed their own brothers because they preferred to profit under foreign rule than to be free?
And what about Joseph? A holy man, but still a man. Wouldn’t he have felt a tinge of jealousy? Yet, he did the right thing and brought up a child that he knew wasn’t his. Some men would never have done that. Some men have run even when they knew that they were the father. But Joseph was one of those men who do their duties without fanfare and never did anything spectacular to prove his true identity. I’ve known men like this, and they have been models for me when I became a father. I am thinking of Melvyn Smith, a quiet, Christian man whose steadfast earnestness and devotion to his family I have admired to this day. I am thinking about my father-in-law, Francisco Jose Patino, who brought up three girls that were not his own. I am thinking about Roy, friend and my countryman from Westmoreland, and how he has done similar good things. There were and still are many men like Joseph in Kingston, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, New York, London, the places in between and around. We’ve just never heard about their stories. They aren’t being good fathers for the fame. But we need to hear or read about their stories to keep us going, so we’ll know we are not alone. Because sometimes it gets dread—the times when we wonder if we can keep on because we think the Romans have us on the run.
And why do we do keep on? For love. It’s why Joseph and Mary stuck together despite everything and trusted in their redemption. Joseph and Mary also loved each other and they probably intuited some of the things that lay in store for their son. They’d seen it with their eyes and read about it in the Torah. Mary could easily have been killed by a few over zealous religious fanatics who judged everyone but themselves. Joseph and Mary knew there would be shame, there would be name-calling, and they would have to bear it. For sooner or later, someone would say to their faces, behind their backs, or when Joseph was dead, and intending the insult, “Isn’t this Mary’s son?”
But we have to go on. We have to keep working to weave together all the parts of our lives together to recognize our wholeness.
As I writer, every time I stare at this blank page that has so many possibilities, I find it a daunting task. I doodle, write nonsense, stare off into space, cut the lawn, or rearrange the books on my shelves. Then, I write. And I write to remember.
Sometimes, I remember my mother, who after my father left, brought up my sister and I, and countless other cousins. Sometimes, I remember my father, and I know he loved me when he left. But who know what goes on in a married couple’s life? Sometimes we judge our fathers too harshly. Fathers are asked to be so much, and sometimes they think that what they have is so little that they begin to think that the Promised Land is just beyond the next river, the next sea, the next—when they are standing in the middle of Paradise. In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.
Sometimes, I remember my grandfather, Andrew Lumley, who traveled the Caribbean Sea and was a cook, shopkeeper, baker, rum shop owner, and God knows what else just to feed his family When the last child left, he had half his farm and one cow. Or so the story goes. It was a long time ago. Now aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers and sisters, friends and those who have made my life so rich are scattered all over the world in places as near as Georgia and as far away as Australia. ..
For it seems as if we are always leaving our homelands for somewhere else. And when we go home, we realize why we left. We see the beauty and the horror at the same time.
This is true every time I go back to Jamaica, which has now pushed Colombia, my wife’s homeland, out of the first place as the murder capital of the world. In time, this may change. Who knows? There is so much promise and so much peril. And Jamaica, at Christmas, is heightened by all the social inequalities that the Old Testament prophets (representatives of our collective conscience) would have hurled at the rulers (representatives of our “traditional” ways of doing things—thoughts that we have conjured up to rule our reality and which we have deemed unchangeable): making unjust laws, issuing oppressive decrees, depriving the poor of their rights, withholding justice from the oppressed, making widows their prey, and robbing the fatherless: "Everywhere is war."
In Kingston, the houses of the powerful tower over the shacks of the poor that squat in the shadow some of the most beautiful mountain ranges I’ve every seen. Yet at night, when the buses have finished belching their black smoke into the air, and the screech and the screams of the day have died, when the peenie wallies light up the limbs of the poinciana and the croaking lizards and the tree frogs begin their symphony in the fever grass, and the cats begin to crawl through the broken aqueducts, and the women and the men, tired from a long day of work, start limping home under the streetlights, I can almost forget all that has happened in the city that sleeps under a sky so big, it fills me with joy even when I am simply standing at a stoplight on Matilda’s Corner or watching children play from verandah of a friend’s house on the Mona Commons, and I can almost forgive her for what she has done to so many of my friends, my brothers and my sisters.
And I do forgive her. For I am part of this reality that consents to inequality and limited thinking—for they can’t possibly be anything like us. But I can’t forget some of tragedies out of which my family and I were born. All these faces that keep coming back—faces filled with light.
All these faces, these moments come flooding into my life at Christmas when I am looking at the faces of my wife and my children—our family—when we meet with my wife’s family and our extended family from the Caribbean, Central, South, and North America for novenas.
For nine days beginning on the sixteenth of December, we meet at each other’s homes. We meet, quarrel, gossip, eat and pray and go over all the things that have made the year lousy and blessed. But at the back of my mind is the gratitude that I feel to be alive in this time and space with people I truly love and hate. But they wouldn’t be in my life if there hadn't been a connection—if I hadn’t called them into my life to be my teachers. My loves and my hates teach me how I have defined my life. And so, I give thanks for all of them—my angels and my demons. They tell me about the things I will do with relish and the things I will never do. The things that I have left behind, the things for which I yearn, and the surrogates I create and seek out to quell my deepest fears. So, give thanks for all of it.
Sometimes I miss many of the faces that are not here, but I look at the faces in front of me and I am reminded by something my daughter always says, “It’s all good.”
I want to believe that even when I see the faces of children from Colombia who look like my children or I see similar faces of children from Jamaica and I see my children too. Twin countries caught in a spiral of murderous mayhem to which there doesn’t seem to be any hope.
Yet, we must hope. As another of my heroes, James Baldwin, once said, “You can’t tell the children there isn’t any hope.” And that is what Christmas also means to me—a time when I can believe and hope again.
It’s all good,” and I’m beginning to believe my daughter. I only wish I had the wisdom to see the grace (of which I get glimpses when we gather for novenas) all the time.
It’s in these moments that I realize, despite the hardships, the tears and the laughter, how much of a beautiful, horrible, heart-breaking, awesome, frustrating, and wonderful journey it’s all been and continues to be.
It’s all good.”
December 1981
(For Dennis)
All night I thought of Kingston;
dubwise blinks out the slanting rain.
Mongrels and madmen scamper
back and forth across the boulevard.
A room lighted, closed to the night.
An old man keeps pacing the floor
weaving webs of light from a single tale.
I thought of lives that vanish
at earliest cockcrow. How friends,
eyes downcast, avert like bends of a river.
Remember the storm that caught out lives?
Like kites hoisted above the trees.
You’re so far away,
and our lives connect
our dreams to other lies.
What we said or tried to say,
isn’t the fiction we’ve become,
or could escape.
The rain fell harder,
the street a vertigo of voices
filled with the noonday laughter
of braided schoolgirls--
trees whisper our names--
syllables, dust on the windowsill.

Christmas Eve ‘88
(For Nadia, Anna, and Christina)
The hoarse horn of a fudgeman,
and stark voice of a TV preacher
in a tortured pulpit,
disturb plumbagos loll in dew,
while my daughter sleeps in heaven-
ly peace. O innocence that shatters
the iron psalm of Singer
sewing machines, filling last orders
on Christmas Eve. For my lungs burn
with carbon of the city, swollen
tongues repeat the core,
the chorus rotting in the pit-
iless silence of pews, arranged
like shorn skulls, husks of coconuts
toppled by a senile wind that forgets
the sun, a roaming spear in the live-
r, leaving trackmarks wide as a grave,
penance for all that was lost in the race-
form stuck in the hip of touters,
in the groin that resists the needle,
the need to be whole, to be holy,
yet praying for tips of water from Lazarus’s
finger to wash away hurt from sides of walls,
(whitewashed brilliance of stones
that will not forgive). But finding rest
in laughter, simple as a child’s footsteps
under a star that promises life,
like light on Joseph’s forehead,
and faint echoes of “Noel, Noel…”
like candles above our heads,
the song of my children that keeps me alive.

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