October 31, 2007


Duppy Even though they weren’t working like they used to, Errol sat on the side of his bed, took the capsules in his palm and swallowed them. The signs were already there: weight loss, vomiting, losing his hair, and now the “visions.”

Dr. Lawrence, who had bandaged, stitched and healed his every wound, checked Errol's eyes again. He shone the light into Errol's brown eyes which from childhood had bulged from its sockets and made him look almost childlike and trusting, and those who were taken in by his boyish looks always paid dearly for their mistake.

"With your history of drug use, it's probably a complication from the natural progression of the disease that includes some brain damage and dementia."

It was the first time Errol thought that Dr. Lawrence didn’t know what he was talking about. Errol had hallucinated when he’d smoked some weed that was laced with PCP, so he knew about hallucinations. These were different. These were visions.

"If it's any comfort and I think that I can say this because you're a man who has seen death and you're no afraid of it, in about three months, it will all be over. No more visions."

Errol felt like killing him right there, but he didn’t. And he was right, he had seen a lot of death and it didn't scare him. Besides if he had killed Dr. Lawrence, it would only have made matters worse.

Errol reached for a glass of water on the nightstand and glanced over at the full-length mirror beside the bathroom. Six months ago, he had asked Marcia, the girl who helped him, to take it down, but she never did. She was always busy sponging everything with bleach. And he had to admit, she did a good job at keeping the house clean, so he didn’t complain.

But now he had to look at himself, a living duppy, mawga down to the bone. Errol had tried everything to keep the weight on—smoking weed and then eating as much food as he could keep down, but then it would only end up in the toilet. And the weed only made the visions worse. He wanted to throw the glass into the mirror, but he needed his strength. And his luck was bad enough as it was.

Errol sipped the water and looked through the window. Marcia was leaving in a hurry.

“Marcia, where you going? Rita not here yet!”

She turned, looked back at him, and ran through the gate. By the look on her face, he knew she wasn’t coming back. To hell with her.

Back in the day, he had ten Marcias and prettier too. Much prettier. But it was the Marcias who had given him this. Back then, no Marcia would have dared to leave him or she would have been a dead Marcia. Now, not even an ugly Marcias respected him.

Still, he couldn’t understand the look on her face. She was rushing like she was late for church. He rubbed his forehead with his bony hands and reread the labels on the prescriptions. Errol pulled out the drawer on his nightstand. The money was gone. The only thing that Marcia had left was his gun, which she never touched.

“You make too much duppies with that thing.”

“Which thing, this?” He pointed to the gun, “Or this?” He unzipped his fly.

“The two of them,” she walked to the door. “Mr. Thompson, why you do these things? You know I’m a Christian girl.”

“Because I like to.”

Now the Christian had robbed him and he didn’t have the strength to teach her a lesson. But that was a Christian for you. If it wasn't the preacher tithing you into poverty like they did to his mother before she became a Warner woman and gave up all her money to save him and the country from slipping into eternal damnation, then it was the priest robbing the little boys of their innocence in the confession box. It was a good thing he never believed in those things.

If he had had even half his strength he would have chased her and given her a beating, but the thought of running after her made him weak and that would only make matters worse. He had to stay awake.

Reaching inside the drawer, Errol searched around and expected the worst. He pulled out the bottle of NoDoze. At least she had left him the pills. They would keep him awake until Rita came.

The clock beside the bed rang and he turned it off. It was already six o’clock. Rita should have been there already. Had Rita left him too?

Errol wanted to get up, but he couldn’t. He thought that if he left the room and went out to the gate, he could stay awake through the night. Not that the visions didn’t come during the day—they did.

If the Angel of Death came and told him he had a choice between dying during the day or at night, he would have chosen the day. Dying at night, surrounded by the darkness, was too dread. But it wasn't the Angel of Death that he feared. He could handle her when she came and he hoped she would come quickly.

Errol looked over at the clock again. A minute past six. Rita was always there at six. Sometimes at five thirty.

He would find a way to get out of bed. If he held on to the bedpost, he might have the strength to lift his body--he didn’t weigh much now--and stagger to the bathroom. He placed his hand on the nightstand and reached for the bedpost.

It was no use. Now he was gasping for air. He had to control his breathing. He was always good at that. He had controlled his breathing and managed to stay still for two hours in a small closet until his boss was alone. That was how he made his boss a duppy. Then, he took over. He ran things.

But now Errol was tired and his lungs were failing him. He didn’t want to fall asleep. But he could now feel the tiredness race down his arms into his legs, and then back up to his thighs. He tried to fight it off, but it kept coming. It crept into his belly, up his chest, ignored his arms and crawled up his neck into his face and eyelids.

No, no, no screamed like the battyboy that he'd made a duppy. Errol remembered how he begged and said that he had a wife and family. Errol loved it when they begged.

“You leave pum-pum for batty? Is people like you that give woman your disease to spread to man. You deserve to dead.”

He held the gun up to the battyboy’s head. He loved shooting them in the head to see how the bone and brains splattered. It made him think. How could something so small and spongy, that made everything work, end up on the floor, so that you could use a piece of stick and poke around in it like it was dog shit, and the man lying beside his own brains couldn’t say or do a thing about it?

Then the battyboy started to cry and said he wanted to live. He would die with the words on his lips.

Errol’s eyelids were heavy and the darkness overcame him. He knew it wouldn't last long. He knew that when he opened his eyes, the visions would come. All the duppies that he had made, and there were many, their eyes bulging with blood and pus, would be standing at the foot of his bed whispering and laughing with their keh-keh laugh, like it was coming from up them nose hole, “We waiting for you, Errol. We waiting."


"A Jamaican Halloween Story" is an excerpt from Who's Your Daddy? : And Other Stories available at Amazon

October 30, 2007

In My Own Words: Preston Allen

Preston AllenJust So Stories

One of my earliest reading influences was the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I think this has something to do with my approach to storytelling--though the stories in that book are largely forgotten and from what parts I recall, they were not just so. But I liked the idea of a story that was just so. This is the way it is, and that's that. So I guess I like to write stories that tell the truth, or perhaps "expose" or "reveal" the truth.

By this, I do not mean that I want to shock people, though my stories are sometimes shocking in their frankness. I want the readers to come away from my stories with their heads nodding in recognition. I want them to say, "This is the way we are. This is what we do." But I don't preach in my works. I don't tell you what to do. To use a medical metaphor, I'm not the doctor who writes the prescription—I'm the one who sticks the needle in your finger and draws your blood, I'm the one who grabs your testicles and tells you to cough, the one who reads your x-ray, the one who tells you that you're pregnant.

Maybe there's another way to look at it. It's hard to do, but I try to study people without judging them too much. I want who they really are to shine through without too much interference from me. Case in point, in my collection, Churchboys and Other Sinners (Carolina Wren Press 2003). The recurring characters are Elwyn and Sister Morrisohn, two born-again fundamentalists who share a secret and forbidden love. The thing that pleases me most about their story is the reaction I get from my fundamentalist friends who say: "You told a good story, a funny story, but without demeaning their Christian belief. How did you do it?" I am not exactly sure how to answer that, but I do know that when I wrote those parts of the book I tried my hardest to write it from inside their world. I became who they are, I believed what they believe, I tried to think like they do—and with no cynicism. To my way of thinking, that is the only way to get to truth without being condescending and/or cynical; and you still get to be funny—funny in the sense of how honestly funny (peculiar) people are.

Similarly, in my new novel, All or Nothing (Akashic 2007), I do not judge the protagonist, the profligate, wastrel, degenerate gambler P—though he is all of those adjectival things. I simply tell his story the way he would tell it, which allows it to flow to its logical conclusion. People who have read this book are saying things like: "The book is about addiction—any addiction that you or I may have—gambling just so happens to be this poor protagonist's chosen vice." I'm getting some pretty good reviews of this book and they all seem to be saying much the same thing—that the book is honest though over the top (and that is only because gamblers live an over the top life). This is the way it is. There is no other way to say it. All or Nothing is a just so book on gamblers and gambling.


All or Nothing: Review

Category: FICTION

A gambler's hands and heart perpetually tremble in this raw story of addiction. "We gamble to gamble. We play to play. We don't play to win." Right there, P, desperado narrator of this crash-'n'-burn novella, sums up the madness. A black man in Miami, P has graduated from youthful nonchalance (a '79 Buick Electra 225) to married-with-a-kid pseudo-stability, driving a school bus in the shadow of the Biltmore. He lives large enough to afford two wide-screen TVs, but the wife wants more. Or so he rationalizes, as he hits the open-all-night Indian casinos, "controlling" his jones with a daily ATM maximum of $1,000. Low enough to rob the family piggy bank for slot-machine fodder, he sinks yet further, praying that his allergic 11-year-old eat forbidden strawberries—which will send him into a coma, from which he'll emerge with the winning formula for Cash 3 (the kid's supposedly psychic when he's sick). All street smarts and inside skinny, the book gives readers a contact high that zooms to full rush when P scores $160,000 on one lucky machine ("God is the God of Ping-ping," he exults, as the coins flood out). The loot's enough to make the small-timer turn pro, as he heads, flush, to Vegas to cash in. But in Sin City, karmic payback awaits. Swanky hookers, underworld "professors" deeply schooled in sure-fire systems to beat the house, manic trips to the CashMyCheck store for funds to fuel the ferocious need—Allen's brilliant at conveying the hothouse atmosphere of hell-bent gaming. Fun time in the Inferno.

Author: Allen, Preston L.

Date: SEPTEMBER 15, 2007

Publisher: Akashic Pages: 280

Price (paperback): $14.95

Publication Date: 11/29/2007 0:00:00

ISBN: 978-1-933354-41-5

ISBN (paperback): 978-1-933354-41-5



Preston Allen and Dedra Johnson will reading at Books and Books on Thursday, November 1, 2007.

October 29, 2007

A Conversation with Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc IntoshKarel Mc Intosh is excited about social media, and the opportunities it creates for communications and creating relationships. Currently, she authors the Caribbean Public Relations blog, where she focuses on media and communications in the Caribbean. Karel is based in Trinidad. She also works in Trinidad and Tobago’s tourism industry, and holds the rank of Corporate Communications Coordinator.

A qualified communicator, she holds a MSc. in Corporate Communications with Distinction from Thames Valley University (England), and a BSc. in Government with a minor in International Relations (Upper Second Class Honours) from the University of the West Indies (Trinidad).

Diverse public relations, writing and editorial projects have defined Karel’s five-year communications career. Her career started in 1999 when she joined the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday as a freelancer, and soon became a full-time reporter, copping Newsday’s Best Story of the Year Award in 2000. Since then, she has amassed valuable experience writing for communications, lifestyle and business magazines. Currently, she is a columnist with the Jamaica Gleaner’s JobSmart. Karel has also worked in public relations consultancy, where she gained a wealth of experience with companies from various industries, including the energy, engineering, financial, and non-profit sector. Karel has also lectured in the fields of communications, public relations and foreign policy.

Karel is a Member of the International Association of Business Communicators, and actively participates in the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter. You can contact her at caribbeanprblog@yahoo.com

Where were you born? Describe current family life.

I was born in Trinidad, and have lived there all of my life, except for a few vacations and the year I spent pursuing my master's in England. I’m the only girl out of four children and I come from a full, nuclear family with Mom and Dad still together, and having always been there for us. I’m especially tickled by my nieces and nephews who I absolutely adore.

What do you do for a living? Why did you choose this vocation?

I work in the field of corporate communication, and love it. Writing was always a strength of mine, so initially I had considered journalism, and law for some reason, as potential careers. During a year off from my Bachelors studies, I took a year off to work with a Trinidad newspaper, and from there kept doing communications-related stuff during my UWI years. By that time I was convinced that communications was for me, especially since I liked the strategic aspect of it. I believe in sticking with what I’m good at, and more importantly what keeps me happy, and communications does that for me.

Who are your three favorite writers? Why?

Gosh, that’s a bit of a tough question for me. I don’t read as much as I’d like to and I haven’t for a while. But growing up – in my pre-teen years – I read DH Lawrence, Chinua Achebe, Michael Anthony, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. I’m really all over the place with writers, but I absolutely love Elizabeth Nunez, and Chinua Achebe.

What was the first book you fell in love with and how have your reading habits changed over the years?

I love, love, love, Chinua Achebe. To me Things Fall Apart was great and riveting. I equally love Green Days by the River by Michael Anthony, and DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers. In primary school, I read the usual Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, but mixed it with great, Caribbean literature from the likes of Michael Anthony and Selvon, and Achebe, Lawrence etc. In secondary school I studied English Literature right up to "A" Levels, and so I read George Elliott’s The Mill on the Floss, Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, lots of DH Lawrence, and other books on the curriculum.

I love Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, but wasn’t impressed by her other offerings. While I was in England I took advantage of lots of free delivery by Amazon and I stocked up on Elizabeth Nunez. In between that I read tonnes of corporate communications, public relations, advertising and marketing books and journals for my Masters. Now, if I’m really bored, I’ll borrow one of my friends’ romance novels, which in my book aren’t real literature. What I really want to do is to create a library of great, Caribbean books. My problem is easy access locally to Caribbean authors (somehow bookstores think that VS Naipaul alone qualifies), so Amazon is going to get business from me.

Honestly though, reading actual published works has taken a bit of a backseat for me since my addiction to the Internet took over my life J

What are you reading now?

The Internet (laughter). Most times I read stuff on social media etc. I do read Bajegirl’s fiction at the Cheese-on-Bread blog though J Currently, I’m searching high and low in Trini bookstores for a copy of Green Days by the River, which I read over 15 years ago, but I remember I loved it, and want to get it badly so I can enjoy it again. So, if I don’t order it from Amazon, Santa’s elves can send me a copy (yes, I’m already waiting for Christmas with bated breath)!

What makes you laugh?

It doesn’t take much to make me laugh, and I laugh quite often. I laugh at ridiculous comments, picong, outright funny jokes, people’s quirky movements, someone else laughing and seriously lame jokes. I’m a winner at stale joke competitions as well, so I have career options. Mostly, I laugh at my nieces’ and nephews’ antics, which most of the time I instigate, and which they do because they know Aunty Karel will reward them with a hearty round of laughter.

What are your other passions?

I love singing, as I used to attend music school, and would like to start that back one day, as well as to get back on my piano. As noted before, I’m really into the Internet, and would like to become a full-fledged tech geek one day, as well as a designer. These will marry well with my current communications skills. These days I’m also in the gym, trying to be a fitness freak. Hopefully, I’ll become really passionate about that. LOL. Otherwise, my overall passion is simply enjoying life to the fullest, living each day thanking God for life, strength, joy, his goodness and family and friends. I’m a real simple person.


October 25, 2007

Anancy at Miami Dade College

Geoffrey Philp

Last week Saturday, I had the pleasure of reading Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories to the children at the Reading Learning Center at the North Campus of Miami Dade College. The Reading Learning Center, which began under the direction of my former supervisor, Dr. Ken Boos, has grown from a little project of my department, College Prep., to the point where it is now being run by the Community Education Department.

Although this reading was much different from the past two readings at Florida International University and South Miami Heights Elementary (the children were much younger), it was good to be back on my old stomping grounds of the English Department. And setting up my PowerPoint was a breeze now that nearly all the 40+ classrooms (compared to the 5 we had three years ago) in the building now have full multimedia capabilities.

Give thanks, again, to Sherian Demetrius, the Reading Learning Center staff, and the children and parents who helped to make this a wonderful experience.


Related Posts:


For more photos of the reading, please follow this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51858402@N00/sets/72157602576722588/

The Asian Experience in The Caribbean and The Guyanas: Labor and Migration, Literature and Culture


University of Miami, November 1-3, 2007

CORAL GABLES, MIAMI -- The University of Miami's Caribbean Literary Studies will host an international conference entitled The Asian Experience in the Caribbean and the Guyanas: Labor and Migration, Literature and Culture from November 1-3, 2007 at the University of Miami, Coral Gables. This multi-disciplinary conference seeks to reconfigure a Trans-Atlantic geographic and historic paradigm of slavery and colonization to include the coerced migration of South Asians and East Asians to the Americas. This cross-cultural dialogue envisions the reclamation of Asian culture that is so deeply entrenched in the Caribbean’s history and culture and the exploration of the roles of and contributions of Asian communities during colonial, post-independence, and contemporary Caribbean society.

Scholarship presented during the three-day conference will represent the fields of Gender Studies, Geography, History, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, Communications, and Literature. Topics will include Diasporic Dislocations and the Production of Home and Identity; Asian Immigrants: Politics and Labor in the Caribbean; Discourses of difference in the formation of “Asian-Caribbean” identities; Stereotypes and Exotification in Caribbean Literature and Popular Culture; Indo-Caribbean Literature, Art, and Cultural Practice; Chinese Caribbean Literature, Art, and Cultural Practice; Hybridity and Discourses of Mixed Race; Gender and Sexuality.

Keynote Speakers will include visual artists, creative writers and scholars in the humanities:

Willi Chen

Author and Artist, “An Evening with Willi Chen—A Keynote Visual,” Nov. 1, CAS Gallery, 7:00pm

Cyril Dabydeen

Author, Reading, Nov. 2, UC, 1:00pm

Cheuk C. Kwan

Filmmaker, Film Viewing and Panel Discussion: On the Islands: Chinese Restaurants, Oct. 31, CAS Gallery, 7:30pm

Walton Look Lai

Professor of History, "Images of the Chinese in West Indian History," Nov. 1, UC, 9:15am

Jan Lowe Shinebourne

Author, Reading, Nov. 2, CAS Gallery, 6:30pm

Lelawattee Manoo-Rahming

Poet, Reading, Nov. 2, CAS Gallery, 6:30pm

Brinda Mehta

Professor of French, “Subversive Creolizations and Dougla Liminality: Framing Indo-Caribbeanness in French Caribbean Literature.” Nov. 2, UC, 9:00am

Rajandaye Ramkissoon-Chen Poet, Reading, Nov. 1, UC, 1:00pm

All events will be hosted on the University of Miami campus and are open to the public. Registration is required.

CONTACT: Lara Cahill or Nadia Johnson

EMAIL: Caribbeanlit.english@miami.edu

For scheduling and registration information, please visit: scholar.library.miami.edu/cls, email: Caribbeanlit.english@miami.edu, or call 305.284.1124


October 24, 2007

My Jamaican Touch

Jamaican FlagOne of my biggest problems. Scratch that. My New Age, American friends tell me that there are no "problems" only "challenges."

One of my biggest challenges has been to control what my wife calls my "Jamaican touch." Similar to the "Midas touch" where everything that the king desired turned into gold, everything I touch (people, places or things) begins to speak and act Jamaican.

Now, as with everything else in life, my "Jamaican touch" is both a blessing and a curse. One of the blessings is that wife, who is originally from Colombia, has really begun to understand me and my idiosyncrasies. But I was shocked when about ten years ago, she began to use words like wet-up—a sure sign that my Jamaican touch had worked on her. In fact, you could say that a sure sign of the “Jamaican touch” is if a non-Jamaican begins to attach the word “up” to words. I swear, Jamaicans have an innate sense of the transcendent because of the inordinate amount of words to which we have attached our own suffix "up": Fix up, chop up, mash up, bus' up, bruk up, pretty up, dirty up, tear up, nice up, and tangle up. And everyone knows how Jamaicans love to “big up” themselves.

The first time I heard my wife say wet-up, I nearly burst out laughing. Nearly. We've been married for more than twenty years and unlike when we were newlyweds, I know what's good for me. I now keep my mouth shut. But when she asked me, "What sweet you so?" all I could do was to go outside and cut the grass so the lawnmower would drown the noise of my laughter. Learning to keep quiet or running away if I fear laughing at the wrong time has been a hard-won wisdom. But as Jimmy Carnegie, my history teacher at Jamaica College once said to me before he gave me a detention, "Mr. Philp, discretion is the better part of valor."

So, the blessing, if used wisely can lead to all kinds of bliss, marital and otherwise. But you have to be in control, especially when appliances begin to speak and act Jamaican. Not to boast, but anything, even the most stubbornly American or American with Chinese-made parts, in time, will yield to my touch. Sometimes I feel like the Borg in those Star Trek shows my friend, Leon, likes to watch: "Resistance is futile."

And all the appliances speak differently. The fridge is the nicest. Everything is "my dear," and "How you feeling?" "You hungry? You want something to eat?" whereas the toaster is all fiah and claat this and claat that with the dishwasher bawling, "Lawd, a mercy! Can't we all just get along?" and then starts to sing, "One Love, one heart. Let's get together and feel all right."

Unfortunately, I'm the only one who hears them and to whom they speak. Which is all right with me. Sometimes, I can't get along with some people and when I get home, it's always good to hear, "You looking tired, my dear. I have just the right thing. Reach inside my freezer and get yourself a nice, cold beer."

Now in general, my fridge behaves in many ways like the sturdy Frigidaire we had when we lived in Mona Heights, Jamaica, and she is just as dependable. I use the pronoun "she" because as with all things female in Jamaica, you have to adopt certain behaviors in order to get what you want. In her case, you have to talk nicely with her if you want your ice cream to stay cold. With the male appliances, such as my toaster, you have can't be saaf. You have to be willing, if necessary, to chuck badness, as one of our prime ministers once said, to get what you want. Bax* it on its lever to get a piece of toast--and not burned! Or you bax it again. And sometimes another bax for good measure. You have to be willing to go Jamaican on them. It's the only way they will respect you.

The curse, however, can lead to the most horrendous disasters. And last week, I saw the worst side of the curse and my beloved fridge. She wouldn't even cool a glass of water for me.

At first, I didn't pay attention to her--which in hindsight may have made things worse. She was acting up, and I was busy last week with all kinds of Anancy business, so I really wasn't in any mood for her foolishness. I told her before I left the house, "You better have my ice cubes ready when I get home!" Well, she showed me. She also made me fear that I was beginning to lose my touch.

When I got home, she had leaked out all the water over the floor and I had to mop it up before one of my wutless, Red Stripe drinking friends, slipped and fell. For if one of them broke an arm or leg, the next thing you know, one of then would turn around and sue me. Everybody's changed since they've come to America, and some of them think, "Bwai, Geoffrey mus have money. Look how much book him publish."

One of them, Winston, who knew about my challenges with the fridge, whispered in my ear, "So, Geoff, why you don't buy a new one with all the royalties from you books?" I was going to chuck some badness on him, but changed my mind. I just kissed my teeth and said, "First, stop farting on my new sofa. And second, if a buy a new one, she will become just as Jamaican as this one, so what good will that do me?" He thought about it for a minute. "You right," he said and went back over to the sofa.

Things really got bad though when my wife after watching Desperate Housewives, handed me a limp popsicle from the freezer and said, "Your fridge gone on strike. Fix her now. I'm not sitting through another episode of Brothers and Sisters like this!"

I didn't pay much mind to my wife either; I was concentrating on challenges at work. But later that night when I was snuggling up to my wife, she said, "You fix the fridge yet?" I had to confess. "No, I haven't." And she said, "Well, you know what to do then."

So, I put on my pajamas and went downstairs, in the middle of the night, to talk to the fridge.

"Luscious (she likes it when I call her that)," I said, "what's wrong, baby." She didn't feel like talking. I spent the whole night wiping her down with water and cleaning her gaskets. Still, she wouldn't talk. She just kept blowing hot air from her back until the next morning when my wife came downstairs and saw me sitting on a stool, half-asleep with the rag in my hand and mouth water dripping down to the front of my pajama shirt.

My wife came over to me, took the rag out of my hand, and cleaned the mouth water off the side of the fridge. "She still not talking to you, eh?" I told her no. "Well, you better have her fixed by tonight because my mother is coming over tonight and you know how she feels about you already."

I still haven't converted my mother-in-law with my "Jamaican touch." Everything that I've tried so far has failed. She spent a lot of time in New York before she came to Florida, so I think this is why she has been able to resist. And she is mortified at my interest in Anancy and Rastafari. She feels I have led her daughter away from the true Church, which according to her is "Roman, Catholic, and Apostolic!"

I spent the whole morning talking to Luscious. Nothing worked. Even when I opened her door, she wouldn't even turn on her light. It wasn't until ten o'clock in the morning when I got a slight hum out of her. Then, I had to call in sick because I realized, I was making some progress.

Luscious and I watched Dr. Phil and The View together, and by the time Oprah rolled around, she was ready to talk.

I took the toaster and the blender to another room so they wouldn't hear. I didn't feel like baxing them anymore. For if they overheard and word spread through the house that I was getting saaf--pleading with the fridge instead of baxing her like a real Jamaican man should when things are out of order--then, the next thing you know, they would start spreading rumors, like, "I hear Geoffrey begging the fridge to work. Imagine that. I always knew he was saaf." That would mean I would have to start baxing the TV, stereo, and clothes dryer--probably mash up a few to keep order in my house.

But like Brother Bob said, "We don't need no more trouble."

I patted Luscious on her handle and asked her, "What's wrong, Luscious?"

She sputtered for a few moments.

"You better have a long talk with your son."


She remained quiet until the commercial break. Oprah was talking about a new, sensational diet.

"Two days ago," she said, "while you were upstairs on the computer (you wouldn't believe the things he says about you when you're not here--telling everybody and their mother which web sites you visit and how much money you don’t have in the bank), your son just came down to the kitchen and just tore open my two doors and just kept looking at me like he lost something. Then, he had the nerve to leave me open all night. And you have the nerve to ask me what's wrong?"

"I will talk to the boy."

"You see, that's the first part of the problem. He is not a boy anymore. He is a man! Ever since he started growing hair on his chest and over his lip, he feels he can just come here, tear me open, and treat me any way he wants to."

"You right, Luscious. You right," I said. "I will have him apologize to you."

"You better do something and do it fast. For that is a man you're dealing with."

I really didn't want to chuck badness on my half-Jamaican son who was now becoming a half-Jamaican man. I never have. I waited for him to come home from school.

As soon as he skateboarded up the driveway with his girlfriend, I called out to him, "Bwai, come here."

From the sound of my voice, he knew he was in trouble. But he figured I wouldn't embarrass him with his little girlfriend by his side.

"Yes, Dad?"

He was beginning to sound the way that Kamau Brathwaite described George Lamming as having an "organ voice."

"Come over here and apologize to the fridge."

He was surprised. This is one of my idiosyncrasies that we hide from outsiders and especially Americans, who if they found out would certainly report me to the police. Then all my neighbors would see me doing the "perp walk" because I was arrested for "reckless endangerment of a minor." And just for talking to a fridge. If they only knew what I was going to do to the mout-amassi computer!

"Dad, please don't do this in front of my friend."

He didn’t realize how desperate I had become. But my mother-in-law was coming over in two hours. And as President Bush keeps telling us, "Desperate times calls for disparate measures"

"You know what you did," I said. "Now apologize."

He was going to disobey me, but he heard the tone in my voice. He also knew I was capable of chucking badness, so he walked over to the fridge and mumbled an apology.

"Talk louder," I said. "She can't hear you."

"I'm sorry," he said.

His American girlfriend, usually dressed in black and with black eyeliner, lipstick and nail polish--Goths, they call them--turned to him and said, "You talk to your refrigerator? Neat!"

She then pulled out her brand new I-Phone and called her mother to complain. She asked her mother why they didn't have a fridge she could talk to. Her mother started crying and said if her father had paid the child support and hadn't run off with that little tramp from the office, then everything would have been all right. But she said she would try to get a talking fridge as soon as she could. But right now, her life was falling apart and she needed to take some Xanax before she went to see her therapist.

The little girl and her mother were having their own challenges and more than I could handle. I turned to my son.

"Say it one more time," I said.

"I'm sorry, okay?"

Luscious purred back to life and my son went downstairs with his girlfriend. I would soon have to have that other talk with him.

But, in the meantime, I had more pressing concerns. I went to work with stuffing the fridge with popsicles, beer, and sodas. By the time my mother in law came over at seven o'clock, everything was cris' and curry. I even got my mother-in-law to try a drink she had resisted for as long as I've known her. I fixed her a cold Ting with crushed ice and that well-known corrupter of youth, Appleton Rum.

She looked at the drink, smelled it, but then saw the beads of water running down the side of the glass, and she took a sip.

"It's nice," she said and drank it all in one gulp. "Mix up another one."

My wife turned quickly and laughed. I laughed too.

"What? What?" asked my mother-in-law.

We didn't answer. Like I said, we've been married for more than twenty years. We know what's good for us.


*Bax: To hit. This is not to be confused with a shub.

October 23, 2007

Call for Papers: "Poetic Ecologies: Nature as Text and Text as Nature in English-Language Verse”

International Conference: “Poetic Ecologies: Nature as Text and Text as Nature in English-Language Verse”

Université Libre de Bruxelles, 14-17 May 2008

Deadline: October 31st, 2007

In the last fifteen years, the emergence of ecocritical theory has meant a radical challenge to the anthropocentrism and dualism between Culture and Nature inherited from classical humanism. Likewise, in its attempt to initiate a much more sustained dialogue between literature and the primacy of biological networks posited by Deep Ecology, ecocritical thought has also seriously questioned the very concept of “nature writing” as traditionally understood in the pastoral and Romantic traditions.

Within the framework of an ecocritical paradigm that is still constructing itself, this international four-day conference to be held in Europe’s capital city wishes to explore the multiple and changing forms of ecological and ecocritical consciousness in English-language verse, past and present. As such, this forum will not only interrogate the very notion of ecology and ask what actually constitutes “ecocritical” and ecologically-engaged poetic practice; various panels/sessions will also seek to shed light on the ever so complex issue of “Nature” versus “Text” and on the possible interrelationships between ecological texts and textual ecologies, between the systems of Nature and those of Culture.

The conference will not privilege any English-speaking poetic tradition in particular, but invites papers from all areas of the Anglophone world, from Canada to the Antipodes. Poetry will be given precedence over other genres, but papers devoted to texts breaking down the traditional boundaries between prose and verse or exploring poetry within the framework of multimedia experimentation (including digital and performance poetry) are also welcome. More theoretically-oriented papers whose insights are mainly based on poetics and poetic corpora will likewise be considered. Contributions from poets addressing the questions of ecological/ecocritical aesthetics and compositional practice are equally encouraged.

Across the wide body of poetry produced in the English language, possible topics and areas of investigation include (but are not limited to) the following:

• “Ecological texts” versus “textual ecologies”
• “Shallow” versus “Deep” Ecology
• The influence of ecological systems on textual ecologies
• Nature as “representation” versus Nature as “process”
• Nature as “simulacrum” versus essentialist visions of the natural world
• The place of human consciousness in the ecological web
• Bioregional sensibilities and the sense of place/space
• Urban and suburban ecologies
• Enclosed versus open spaces
• The “wild” versus the “tamed”
• The concept of landscape: re-invented landscapes, underrepresented landscapes, the interaction between “mindscape” and landscape, “landscape” versus “environment”
• The poetic shattering of the realist-naturalist “mirror of Nature”
• Verse experiments transcending the pastoral legacy; experiments in “cooperative” writing with Nature
• Contemporary ecologically-engaged poetic practices and aesthetics
• The interaction between scientific and poetic discourses
• The fluid boundaries between human and non-human organisms
• The utopia of biocentrism; the myth of anthropocentrism
• Eco-metaphors and the problem of translating Nature into Language
• Evolving images/metaphors of Nature within a given culture; parallel and contrastive images/metaphors of Nature across different cultures and poetic traditions
• Postcolonial challenges to traditional understandings of categories like “wilderness,” “species,” and “dwelling”; re-invented images of the postcolonial wilderness and of the “natural Other”
• The possible intersections between postcolonial and ecological discourses of emancipation
• Ecofeminist perspectives
• Mysticism, “ecopieties” and nature religions from First Nations to postmodernity
• Judeo-Christian versus non-theistic discourses on Nature
• The search for a possible site of reconciliation between Nature and Culture

The conference will include a series of plenary lectures by noted scholars and poets as well as a number of parallel paper sessions. To further enhance the sense of eco-community amongst the participants, the programme will also fuse praxis and pleasure by offering, on the Friday afternoon, an outing to the estate of Meise, which houses the national botanical gardens of Belgium, listed as one of the most important botanical collections in the world.

A selection of papers presented at the conference will be published in conference proceedings.

Twenty-minute paper proposals should be received no later than 31 October 2007. Please kindly e-mail abstracts of approximately 250-300 words, together with a short biography, in RTF format to:

Dr. Franca Bellarsi
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

Acceptance of proposals will be notified in the second half of November 2007 so as to allow the authors of selected submissions to apply for travel funding from their universities in due course.


Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art

Infinite IslandInfinite Island presents some eighty works made in the last six years that reflect the region's dynamic mix of cultures, its diasporas, and its socio-political realities, all of which are constantly transforming themselves. The forty-five emerging and established artists, who work both in the Caribbean and abroad, represent multiple perspectives as they explore the complexities of Caribbean history and identity. Including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, video, and installation, the exhibition is grouped around themes that encompass history, memory, politics, myth, religion, and popular culture.

The exhibition is curated by Tumelo Mosaka, Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum.

Sponsored by Forest City Ratner Companies.

The exhibition is made possible by the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund and the Barbara and Richard Debs Exhibition Fund. Generous support is contributed by the Peter Norton Family Foundation, the American Center Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is contributed by the Friends of Brooklyn Museum, the Mondriaan Foundation, Amsterdam, and the Consulate General of the Netherlands.

The accompanying catalogue is supported by a Brooklyn Museum publications endowment established by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Venue: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY

Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 4th and 5th Floors

Dates: August 31, 2007–January 27, 2008


October 22, 2007

A Conversation With Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik

afrobellaPatrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik is a Trinidad-born writer who currently resides in Miami. She graduated with her MFA in Creative Writing (fiction) from the University of Miami, and then, spent a wonderful summer employed as the Assistant Events and Marketing Coordinator at Books & Books. In 2005, she won an honorable mention in Trinidad's Derek Walcott Writing Contest for her short story, "Cookie." Currently she is the Calendar Editor of the Miami New Times, and in her spare time, she has created Afrobella.com, a beauty blog for women of color that has won an eager and ardent readership. This year Afrobella was nominated for a Bloggers Choice Award, and was the proud winner of two Black Weblog Awards -- for Best Culture Blog and Best Niche Blog. When Patrice isn't writing for her job or her blog, she is fervently trying to complete her first novel.

Where were you born?

Port of Spain, Trinidad.

What do you do for a living? Why did you choose this vocation?

I’m the calendar editor at the Miami New Times. After graduating from the University of Miami with an MFA in Creative Writing, I didn’t know what I was going to do for a living. I worked for three months as the assistant events and marketing co-ordinator at Books and Books until I got the New Times job. I didn’t apply for the particular position that I have, so you could say that the vocation chose me.

Who are your three favorite writers? Why?

Roald Dahl, because his stories are so alive with magic. I grew up on his children’s books, and when I was a teenager, I read the Roald Dahl Omnibus. Then I sought out all of his other books. He was a definite early influence on me as an aspiring fiction writer.

Samuel Selvon, because he made me realize that I could have a voice and a personality, and tell the stories I had stored up inside me. Foreday Morning and Ways of Sunlight were crucial in my upbringing.

Toni Morrison. The way she approaches the particular issues of black society is so inspiring to me as a writer.

What was the first book you fell in love with and how have your reading habits changed over the years?

Summer Lightning by Olive Senior, without a doubt. That book made me realize that I had stories to tell. That book made me fall in love with short stories and realize their potential. Over the years, I’ve found less and less time to read. Also, I’ve found that I have a more discerning eye for fiction, and it’s more difficult for me to surrender to a fictional story. I read a lot of biographies and non fiction books these days. For some reason, it’s what I’m most drawn to.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin, which was such a page turner. It’s a crazy rough and tumble biography.

What makes you laugh?

On TV, I get a kick out of The Office, 30 Rock, and those silly gossip shows like Best Week Ever and The Soup. In real life, my husband. He’s a total comedian. We’re both pretty silly, and we love being silly together. It’s the best.

What are your other passions?

The most all-consuming passion in my life right now is my website, Afrobella.com. It started out as a forum to review beauty products targeted towards women of color with natural hair. It has grown into so much more than that. Now I also write about music, culture – whatever I want to, really. I have an average 1500 readers a day, I get to interact with intelligent women from all over the world, and I won two Black Weblog Awards this year. So, Afrobella takes up all of my free time, but in the best possible way.

I was an art minor in college, specializing in sculpture. I love working with clay, handbuilding, and I miss doing that. I also love oil painting, which is a messy, time consuming passion that I haven’t had a chance to pursue in too long. I love crafty projects – making jewelry and candles and stuff like that. I love cooking, and I’m definitely passionate about good, healthy food.


October 19, 2007

Anancy at Florida International University

AnancyAnancy weaved his magic at the National Achievers Society's closing ceremony at Florida International University on Saturday, October 13, 2007. At this event, I was able to give my full presentation with PowerPoint, realia, and activity sheets. The students, roughly from fifth through tenth grade, responded well to the Q& A and the reading from Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories.

I had a similar experience to the reading at South Miami Heights Elementary when the children asked interesting questions such as, "Do you base your characters on real people?" I told them that even when I begin with the name of a real person--in this case the name of my father, Sydney Philp--once I altered one fact about the real person, then everything else changed. For example, Grandpa Sydney Anancy Stories is set in Miami, a place where my father told me he would never live.

They also asked, "Is this the first time that you've written about Anansi?" And I explained that in my first novel, Benjamin, my son, I used the name of the Haitian Trickster, Papa Legba, who comes from the Yoruba tradition in the form of Eshu, as the name for the mentor of the main character, Benjamin. I've also used tricksters in my short story collection, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien. So, in a way, I've been writing about Anancy all my life.

Give thanks to the organizers and Sherian Demetrius for arranging the reading. I'm looking forward to many more events like this.


Related Posts:


For more photos of the event, please follow this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/51858402@N00/sets/72157602419752195/

For Educators, Librarians & Community Leaders

October 18, 2007

New Poems in Asili and Canopic Jar

I've published six new poems. Three in Asili and three in Canopic Jar. Why not click over and take a look?


Canopic Jar

Give thanks to Rethabile Masilo and Joe McNair


Art & Emancipation In Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario And His Worlds

Yale University, Center for British Art

Organized to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the British slave trade, Art & Emancipation in Jamaica is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on the visual culture of slavery and emancipation in Jamaica. Many works in the exhibition are selected from the Center's extraordinarily rich holdings relating to the Caribbean, which provided the original impetus for this exhibition. Art and Emancipation also features works produced in the Caribbean and Britain, including a number lent from public and private collections in Jamaica that have rarely or never been exhibited. The exhibition chronicles the iconography of sugar, slavery, and the topography of Jamaica from the beginning of British rule in 1655 to the aftermath of emancipation in the 1840s, with a particular focus on the turbulent years preceding and immediately following emancipation in 1838. Gathered together for the first time are drawings and prints depicting life on a Jamaican sugar plantation, and images used by the anti-slavery campaign.

At the center of the exhibition is the remarkable lithographic series Sketches of Character, In Illustration of the Habits, Occupation, and Costume of the Negro Population in the Island of Jamaica, made by the Jewish Jamaican-born artist Isaac Mendes Belisario. Published in Jamaica in 1837-38, Sketches of Character provides the first detailed visual representation of Jonkonnu (or John Canoe), the celebrated Afro-Jamaican masquerade performed by the enslaved during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Tracing the West African roots of Jonkonnu, its evolution in Jamaica, and its continuing transformation into the twenty-first century, the exhibition features Jamaican and West African costumes and musical instruments, accompanied by video footage of historic and contemporary performances, as well as a specially commissioned sound track. The exhibition concludes with work by contemporary Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean artists investigating the complex legacy of slavery and emancipation. There will be a full program of events accompanying the exhibition, including lectures, performances, concerts, gallery talks, film series, a community open house, and a scholarly symposium.

Organized by the Yale Center for British Art, Art & Emancipation in Jamaica has been curated by Gillian Forrester, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, Yale Center for British Art; Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art, Yale University; and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University. Generous support for this project has been provided by the Reed Foundation, Inc.


October 17, 2007

South Florida Writers Fete Mitchell Kaplan

Mitchell Kaplan and Geoffrey PhilpYou could feel the love in the room on Saturday, October 13, 2007, when over fifty South Florida writers turned out at the Miami Beach Regional Library to honor Mitchell Kaplan, the owner of Books & Books. It was truly heartfelt.

For many of us, Books & Books was the place where we gave our first public readings, launched our first books, and first met our literary heroes. For me, it was good so see Ferdie Pacheco and Edwidge because we didn't have any time to talk after her reading on Friday night.

It was also a time to shmooze with old friends like John Dufresne, Les Standiford, Carolina Hospital, and Lynne Barrett. South Florida is such a big place and we're spread out from Miami Beach to the Everglades, so we rarely have a chance to meet and greet, except at the Miami Book Fair International, and then, we're either reading or rushing to hear other out of town writers like Russell Banks.

Books & Books 25
was a wonderful celebration of a man who has been at the heart of the literary life of Miami and that so many writers came to the event is a testament to his generosity and vision.
Give thanks, Mitchell Kaplan!

For more photos on this event, please follow this link: Books and Books: 25