November 30, 2007

Writing about the Immigrant Experience in America

The Big ReadAmerica competes for the imagination of its citizens and recent immigrants with two compelling stories: "The American Love Story" told mainly by told mainly by Americans of European descent and "honorary whites," and "The Road to Freedom" told by African Americans. Typically, "The American Love Story" follows the pattern of persecution at home, voluntary migration, journey across the sea, initial prejudice in America and eventual triumph. "The Road to Freedom" begins with slavery in Africa, involuntary migration, the Atlantic Holocaust, slavery in America, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow/Segregation and the Civil Rights movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. These two stories have become the de facto narratives for entry into American life and culture.
And yet as tempting as these models appear to be, they are not quite true. Almost daily our Haitian brothers and sisters, whose story closely resembles that of Americans of European descent, are routinely denied entry into the United States because of the twin shibboleths of American culture: race and xenophobia.
It is within this context that I have been telling the story of the Jamaican diaspora, a story that does not fit into the neat categories of "The American Love Story," nor does it fit "The Road to Freedom"--two stories that literally see the world in black and white. But Jamaica and the Caribbean have always defied neat categorizations. Perhaps, this is why the poet, Mervyn Morris, in the poem, "Valley Prince" declared, "But straight is not the way; my world/ don' go so; that is lie."
It is this straightness, this narrowness of perception that Caribbean writers such as Derek Walcott in "A Far Cry from Africa," Dennis Scott in "Epitaph," and Edgar Mittleholzer in A Morning in the Office have always bristled against, and through their poems and novels, they have presented an alternative vision that does not see human experience solely through the lens of race and ethnicity and displays a readiness to embrace the Other in whatever form it manifested itself. The Caribbean archipelago is a complex region and as such it demands an equally complex aesthetic informed by a sense of history. As an inheritor of that tradition, I have tried to be true to the elders while maintaining the truth of my own voice.
In telling my story, it would be impossible for me to embrace either "The American Love Story" or "The Road to Freedom," and this has nothing to do with the infamous Jamaican arrogance, which I suspect is a reaction to our intense nationalism. I am descended on my father's side from Scottish slave/ land holders and on my mother's side by Scottish missionaries who came to Jamaica to oppose the landed plantocracy. My African blood completes the circle. My story is similar to many of my Jamaican brothers and sisters. We carry memories of those who wielded the whip and those who were whipped; those who stood on the bow and those groveled in belly of the slave ships. But we also carry memories of resistance, the stories of the Maroons and other cultural heroes who fought against slavery, the time when Jamaica ruled the world in the parliament of William Pitt, Apprenticeship/Emancipation, the Asian influx, two World Wars, Windrush, trade unions and growing nationalism, Federation/ Independence, post-Independence trauma, the Cold War and Black Power, the emergence of Reggae/ Rastafari, the untold civil war, and exodus in the late seventies, which is where my story as a Jamaican-American writer and a member of the "Reggae Generation" begins.
That hyphen, that bridge, that momentary pause in time, as brief as one generation (for my children have already entered a different version of all three stories) is my story--my life in South Florida, the unofficial capital of the Caribbean.
In some ways, I have tried to preserve the story of how we, Jamaican-Americans, came to America in the novel, Benjamin, my son and two poetry collections, Exodus and Other Poems and Florida Bound. In hurricane center, I depicted the lives of those in the Caribbean and South Florida who live in the eye of hurricanes that are both physical and metaphorical.xango music was different. Thematically, it relied heavily on the work of Kamau Brathwaite and his insistence that our collective denial of the Middle Passage and our African heritage cripples our understanding of ourselves and only an embrace of this part of our African-ness will lead to psychic healing and wholeness. xango music also recognizes African wisdom and honors the cultural heroes who fought against colonialism/slavery of our hearts, bodies, and minds. And finally, my most recent children's book, Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories, of which I'm especially proud, recognizes the value of one the most influential yet denigrated cultural heroes in the Caribbean pantheon: Anancy. Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories is my contribution, my hope that we can get the word out to young people, especially the young males before they hit those troublesome years between eighteen and twenty-five and who are ruled by Xango, that there are other ways of confronting the dragon, that there are other ways of being in the world. That the answer to a challenge doesn't always have to be Xango and war, but Eshu and intelligence.
Of course, I also tackle other themes in Uncle Obadiah and the Alien and in Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas. But my main goal has always been to demonstrate that the story of the "Reggae Generation" is just as important as "The American Love Story" and "The Road to Freedom." We have to be the main characters in our own story. Our story is also important because if America will listen, we can teach something about the complexity of the Black experience; the value of intelligence over brute force,; the courage needed to live in a space threatened by yearly hurricanes; the fortitude to resist systems that dehumanize; the necessity of forgiveness, and finally, that despite all the troubles that this world can bring, we must as the poet laureate of our generation, Bob Marley has exhorted, celebrate life:
Forget your troubles and dance.
Forget your sorrows and dance.
Forget your sickness and dance.
Forget your weakness and dance
You're gonna dance to Jah music, dance.
We're gonna dance to Jah music, dance.

November 28, 2007

National Endowment for the Arts: The Big Read

The Big ReadI will be participating in THE BIG READ, a community-wide reading grant project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and focusing on Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club, which will include book and film discussions, cultural programs, panel presentations and Mah Jong games.

November 29 - 7pm
Between Two Worlds: Writing about the Immigrant Experience in America
Broward County Main Library
Panel discussion moderated by Sun-Sentinel Book Editor Chauncey Mabe.
Panelists include: Authors Diana Abu-Jaber, Tara Kai and Ana Menendez and poets Richard Blanco and
Geoffrey Philp.

is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest, designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The Big Read is presented locally by the following partners: Florida Center for the Book, Broward County Library and Broward Public Library Foundation, Community Foundation of Broward, Organization of Chinese Americans, Coral Springs Chinese Cultural Association, Florida Center for the Literary Arts and Miami Book Fair International.

My Jamaica (Part One)

Knutsford Court HotelDespite the beauty and tranquility of the Knutsford Court Hotel, I was feeling trapped. I kept looking up at the hills, but the old "skin bag" fear returned. And reading Dennis O’Driscoll's poem over at John Baker's blog didn't help. I wanted to venture out into New Kingston, but the fear that I would become a meaningless statistic of Jamaican violence kept haunting me.

I had to admit that I was scared. Yet I kept reminding myself that this was the plan that I'd devised when I learned that I'd won four medals from the JCDC. I'd told myself that this trip to Jamaica would be much different than the five other trips that I'd taken when I taught poetry for the Calabash Literary Festival.

On those trips, I was pampered. Calabash paid my airfare and as soon as I landed at the airport I was paged, "Mr. Geoffrey Philp, please come to the office of the Jamaica Tourist Board." Next, I would be whisked through the airport and taken by a driver to the place where I would stay. In the mornings, the driver picked me up and took me to meet my eager students. After teaching all day, I was taken home to shower, change and escorted to the theatre or similar cultural event. This usually lasted for a week, and I stuck to the schedule. But over the years, I began to ask myself if I really knew Jamaica since leaving in 1979. I wanted to test my impressions on this trip. This time I wanted to do it on my own. So, other than one friend whom I called and then learned he was leaving for England, I didn't call anyone else.

The plan had worked, but then I began to get angry with myself. I was allowing the actions of a statistically insignificant fraction of Jamaica's population to govern my behavior--to blind me to the beauty of Jamaica and to transform every poor Jamaican into a potential gunman. It wasn't fair. Still, I had to acknowledge and the newspapers confirmed these facts: the elections had just finished, a hurricane had juts passed through, and Jamaica was increasingly becoming the land of "Passa Passa" funerals.

Yet the hills, which had been an integral part of my childhood landscape in Mona Heights, kept on calling.

I walked out to the gates of the hotel and talked with two stern looking security guards. We talked about the rains and how green the island looked. I asked them about taxi rates, and then, I made the decision.

I walked out the gates of the hotel down to Half-Way Tree Road where I caught a taxi that was dropping off another customer. Using the information that I gathered from the security guards, I negotiated a price and jumped in the front set of the taxi.

As we made our way past King's House, I introduced myself to the driver and he told me his name was Minto. We talked about the weather, the recent elections, and life in Jamaica.

By the time we got to Matilda's Corner, Minto said to me, "So, you've become an American?" I'd never been asked the question so directly and there was no equivocation. I had to say yes.

We talked a bit more about the rain and the roads that were filled with potholes. I would have taken pictures but I still haven't learned how to use the panorama setting on my camera.

After dodging an oncoming car and landing in one of the craters, Minto complained, "We're too talented to be this poor!" I agreed with him and gave him a few examples of several Jamaicans in South Florida who had distinguished themselves in many fields, and many examples of students such as Lance McGibbon at Miami Dade College (where I work), who has provided outstanding leadership in the Student Government Association by involving our students in working with Habitat for Humanity and other civic organizations.

"There's something about us," said Minto, "that makes us stand out." I agreed with him again. As I got out of the taxi at the gates of the University of the West Indies, we shared a joke and I laughed as I waved goodbye and then headed towards the English Department.

None of my friends were there. They'd either finished teaching their classes or had finished their office hours and had gone home. So much for surprises. I wandered around the campus and visited some of my old haunts. Then, I went to the bookstore where I bought a few books that some of my friends in Miami had "borrowed" and were now missing from my small library. At least the morning wasn't a total waste.

I made one last circle around the campus, walked out the gates, and caught a bus that dropped me off at the bottom park of Mona Heights.

I was ready for my next adventure.


For photos of the trip, please follow this link: My Jamaica.

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November 26, 2007

Preston Allen's Blog

Preston AllenPreston Allen has started a blog, Preston L. Allen's Ing and Bling Book Review: A blog for lovers of the printed word (novels, short stories, poems--the Ing so to speak), popular film, politics, and casinos (the Bling).

In his initial offering, Preston is running a poll, "Do you support Las Vegas style casino gambling in Florida?", and Cash 3 and Play 4 numbers that he's dreamt about.

For the literary, he has a video of Norman Mailer and a list of recent great reads: Johnny Too Bad Stories by John Dufresne; The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini; The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevsky; The Last Flight of Jose Luis Balboa by Gonzalo Barr, and Let It Rain Coffee by Angie Cruz.

If his eclectic mix of religion, literature, and gambling still doesn't tweak your interest, you can read "Interesting Gambling News" or check out Preston's latest novel, All or Nothing, about a hapless gambler, P., who lives in South Florida.

I've already subscribed via Google Reader because I know his posts will always be interesting.

2008 is already looking up!


Preston will be reading at St. Thomas University (16401 NW 37th Avenue, Miami, Florida) on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. For more information, please e-mail Professor Conley ( or Ms. Jensen (

November 19, 2007

Mileposts & Caribbean Writers

I’m feelin’ Irie.

And for good reason. In December this blog will be two years old and since I started measuring visitor stats on April 6, 2006, this blog has had over 50,000 visitors. I never thought I’d get this far from those early days when only Rethabile, Stephen, Madbull, Professor Zero, and Anonymous were my only readers.

With the passing of the 50,000 visitor mark, I’ve also been reflecting on how well I’ve lived up to the mission of the blog: to provide readers with information about my writing and the work of contemporary Caribbean and South Florida writers.

Before I go any further (and especially since we are heading into the Thanksgiving season), give thanks to the readers and subscribers who have blessed these pages with their interest. I must also thank those readers who have bought copies of my books either directly from Lulu or from my online bookstore.

Give thanks also to the writers who have shared their stories and who continue to expand our understanding of life in South Florida and the Caribbean.

And, finally, give thanks to the many bloggers who have linked to this site and for increasing the visibility of this blog.

But to the matter at hand and the mission of the blog.

I started re-reading a post, “It’s All About Love” where I created a list of the Caribbean writers that I intended to showcase. Some were famous and some were still relatively unknown. Although I’ve covered many of the writers, I am reminded of the motto of my alma mater: “Fervet opus in campis.

Then, I began thinking about a post by Nicholas Laughlin over at Caribbean Beat, “The West Indian canon?” which was considering “a Caribbean equivalent of the French Bibliotheque de la Pleiade or the Library of America--a uniform series of definitive editions of our major literary works, edited by experts and produced to the highest physical standards.”

It could be done, Nicholas. It could be done. We need to preserve our literature. For what else is literature but memory and promise: who we thought we have been and what we imagine ourselves to be.

Here’s a starting point for a list of writers from Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Commonwealth of Dominica, Haiti, Cuba, Martinique, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the most of the Caribbean:

A Few Caribbean Authors (Poets & Fiction Writers)

A.J. Seymour

A.L. Hendriks

Abdhur Rahman Hopkinson

Achy Obejas

Adisa Andwele (AJA)

Adrian Castro

Afua Cooper

Aida Cartagena Portalatin

Aimé Cesaire

AJ Seymour

Albert Gomes

Albert Helman

Aldo Alvarez

Alecia McKenzie

Alejo Carpentier

Alfred Mendes

Amryl Johnson

Ana Lydia Vega

Andre Alexis

Andrea Elizabeth Shaw

Andrea Levy

Andrew Jefferson-Miles

Andrew Salkey

Andy Taitt

Angela Barry

Annalee Davis

Anson Gonzalez

Anthony C. Winkler

Anthony Kellman

Anthony McNeill

Anton Nimblett

Antonio Benitez Rojo

Arnold Harrichand Itwaru

Assotto Saint

Astrid Roemer

Audre Lorde

Austin Clarke

Barbara Ferland

Basil McFarlane

Belkis Cuza Male

Beryl Gilroy

Brenda Flanagan

Brian Chan

Bruce St. John

C.L.R. James

Carl Jackson

Carolina Hospital

Caryl Phillips

Cecil Gray

Cecil Gray

Celia Alvarez

Cherie Jones

Chiqui Vicioso

Christine Craig

Churaumanie Bissundyal

Claire Harris

Claude McKay

Claudia Rankine

Clem Seecharan

Clyde Hosein

Colin Channer

Colin Robinson

Cynthia James

Cyril Dabydeen

Dale Bisnauth

Danielle Legros Georges

Dany Laferriere

David Chanderbali

David Dabydeen

Dawad Phillip

Deborah Jack

Delores Gauntlett

Denis Williams

Denise deCaires Narain

Denise Harris

Dennis Craig

Dennis Scott

Derek Walcott

Dionne Brand

Donna Weir-Soley

E. A. Markham

E. Mc.G. `Shake' Keane

E.A. Markham

E.M. Roach

Earl Long

Earl Lovelace

Earl McKenzie

Edgar Cairo

Edgar Mittelholzer

Edgardo Sanabria Santaliz

Edouard Glissant

Edward Baugh

Edward Lucie-Smith

Edwidge Danticat

Elaine “Jamaica Kincaid” Potter

Elisa Albo

Elizabeth Nunez

Eric Roach

Eric Walrond

Erna Brodber

Eunice Heath Tate

Faizal Deen

Faustin Charles

Felix Morriseau-Leroy

Frank Collymore

Frank Hercules

Frank Martinus Arion

Frantz Fanon

Fred D’Aguiar

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Garfield Ellis

Garth St. Omer

Geoffrey Drayton

Geoffrey Philp

George Campbell

George Lamming

Gloria Escoffery

Gloria Wekker

Grace Nichols

Guillermo Cabrera Infante

Gustavo Perez-Firmat

Guy Tirolien

Gwyneth Wood

H. Nigel Thomas

H.A. Vaughan

H.D. Carberry

Harischandra Khemraj

Harold "Sonny" Ladoo

Harold M. Telemaque

Hazel Campbell

Hazel Simmons-Mcdonald

Heather Royes

Heberto Padilla

Helen Klonaris

Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool

Honor Ford Smith

Howard A. Fergus

Howard Pitterson

Hubert Harrison

Ian Bethell Bennett

Ian Craig

Ian McDonald

Ismith Khan

Jacqueline Bishop

Jacques Roumain

James Berry

James Christopher Aboud

James Ferguson

Jan Carew

Jan Shinebourne

Jane Bryce

Jane King

Janet Jagan

Jean `Binta' Breeze

Jean Brierre

Jean Goulbourne

Jean Rhys

Jeanette Miller

Jennifer Rahim

Jesus Cos Causse

Jesús J. Barquet

Jit Narain

Joanne Hyppolite

Joel Benjamin

John Agard

John Figueroa

John Hearne

John La Rose

John Lyons

John Robert Lee

John Stewart

John Wickham

Jos Knight

José Alcántara Almánzar

Jose Marmol

Joseph Polius

Juan Bosch

Juanita Ramos

Judaman Seecoomar

Judith Ortiz Cofer

Julia Alvarez

Julia De Burgos

June Henfrey

Junot Diaz

Kamau Brathwaite

Karen King-Aribisala

Kei Miller

Kendel Hippolyte

Kevin Baldeosingh

Kevin Everod Quashie

Kevyn Arthur

Kim Robinson-Walcott

Kwame Dawes

Lakshmi Persaud

Lakshmi Persaud

Lasana M. Sekou

Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes

Lawrence Scott

Lawson Williams

Laxmi Kallicharan

Lelawatee Manoo-Rahming

Lennox Honychurch

Leon Laleau

Leonardo Padura Fuentes

Leone Ross

Leon-Gontran Damas

Lillian Allen

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Lionel Seepaul

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd Searwar

Lorna Goodison

Louis Simpson

Louise Bennett

Lourdes Casal

Luis Pales Matos

Lydia Cabrera

Lynne Macedo

Lynton Kwesi Johnson

M.G. Smith

Mabel Rodríguez Cuesta

Maggie Harris

Mahadai Das

Makeda Silvera

Malachi Smith


Marc Matthews

Marcia Douglas

Marcus Garvey

Margaret Cezair-Thompson

Margaret Gill

Maria Arrillaga

Marie-Elena John

Marie-Therese Colimon

Marilene Phipps

Marilyn Bobes

Marina Ama Omovale Maxwell

Marina Salandy-Brown

Marion Bethel

Marisella Veiga

Mark De Brito

Mark Mathews

Mark McWatt

Marlene Nourbese Philip

Marlon James

Martin Carter

Martin Espada

Marva McClean

Maryse Conde

Matthew Young


McDonald Dixon

Meiling Jin

Mercedes Cros Sandoval

Merle Collins

Mervyn Morris

Mervyn Taylor

Michael Anthony

Michael Ekweueme Thelwell

Michael Gilkes

Michelle Cliff

Mikey Smith

Milton Williams

Mirlande Jean-Gilles

Mirta Yanez

Moses Nagamootoo

Mustapha Matura


Myriam Chancy

Myriam Warner-Vieyra

N.D. Williams

Nalo Hopkinson

Nancy Morejon

Naomi Ayala

Narmala Shewcharan

Neil Bissondath

Neville Dawes

Niala Maharaj

Nicolas Guillen

Nydia Ecury

Obediah Michael Smith

Ochy Curiel

Oku Onuora (Orlando Wong)

Olive Senior

Oonya Kempadoo

Opal Palmer Adisa

Orlando Patterson

Oscar Dathorne

Pam Mordecai

Patricia Powell

Patrick Chamoiseau

Patrick Sylvain

Paul Keens Douglas

Paule Marshall

Pauline Melville

Pedro de Jesús

Pedro Mir

Pedro Perez Sarduy

Peggy Carr

Peter Kempadoo

Philip Nanton

Philip Sherlock

Phyllis Shand Allfrey

Polly Pattullo

R. Erica Doyle

Rabindranath Maharaj

Rachel Manley

Rajandaye Ramkissoon-Chen

Ralph de Boissière

Ralph Thompson

Ramabai Espinet

Rane Arroyo

Rawle Frederick

Raymond Ramcharitar

Reina Maria Rodríguez

Reinaldo Arenas

René Depestre

Rene Philoctete

Ricardo Keens Douglas

Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Richard Blanco

Rinaldo Walcott

Rob Leyshon

Robert Antoni

Robert Edison Sandiford

Roberto Fernandez Retamar

Robin Dobru

Roger Mais

Roi Kwabena

Rooplall Monar

Rosa Cuthbert Guy

Rosamond S. King

Rosario Ferre

Roslyn Carrington

Roy Heath

Rupert Roopnaraine

Ruth Behar

Ryhaan Shah

Saint-John Perse

Sam Selvon

Sandra Castillo

Sasenarine Persaud

Seepersad Shiva Naipaul

Shake Keane

Shani Mootoo

Shara McCallum

Sharlow Mohammed

Sharon Leach

Simon Lee

Stacey Anne Chin

Stanley Greaves

Sylvia Wynter

Tato Laviera

Tessa McWatt

Thea Doelwijt

Thomas Glave

Timothy S. Chin

Tobias Buckell

Tony Hall


Una Marston

Vahni Capildeo

Velma Pollard

Vera Bell

Verene Shepherd

Victor Questel

Virgil Suarez

Virgilio Piñera

Vishnu Gosine

Vivian Virtue

VS Naipaul

VS Reid

Wayne Brown

Wesley E. A. Crichlow

Willi Chen

Wilson Harris

Yvonne Weekes

Zee Edgell

Zoila Ellis

Other resources:

Caribbean Literature

DMOZ: Caribbean Literature

Russ Filman’s Caribbean Literature

Caribbean Review of Books

Peepal Tree Books: Author Search

The Caribbean Writer

Caribbean Tales

The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories

The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse

Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad

Her True-True Name (Caribbean Writers Series)

Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction from Jamaica's Calabash Writer's Workshop

The Faber Book of Contemporary Caribbean Short Stories

Talk Yuh Talk

Natural Mysticism: Towards a New Reggae Aesthetic

Caribbean Review of Books

Name Your Top Ten Caribbean Novels

Our Caribbean A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles

Caribbean Dispatches: Beyond the Tourist Dream

Fifty Caribbean Writers: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook

New World Adams: Interviews with West Indian Writers

November 16, 2007

Reading @ St. Thomas University

St. Thomas UniversityCelia Alvarez and her creative writing students @ St. Thomas University, Miami

The Wackenhut guards at the gate almost had me convinced that the reading at St. Thomas University on Wednesday, November 1, 2007, was going to be a disaster. It had been raining, the streets were slick, and I thought I was going to late. So when the guards began their interrogation by asking for my driver's license, and wrote down my license plate numbers, I could feel every second streaming by on the face of my digital watch. But when Celia Alvarez called the guards, they quickly returned my license, gave me a visitor's pass, and directed me to the parking lot. I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe. Just maybe things weren't going to be so bad after all.

I was right. Celia met me at the fountain and we went straight to her class where I met her husband, Rafael, and her students.

After the usual introductions, I talked briefly with the students. Over the years, I've changed the nature of my readings. Instead of just reading from my work, I've preferred to engage in a conversation with the students because discussions are often more productive. The students and I explore ideas that would not necessarily arise if I just gave a straight reading /lecture. And besides, where's the fun in just reading?

After we talked a little, I read "My Jamaican Touch," which eased some of the apprehensions in the room. I mean, who was this strange man with a strange accent and what did he know about writing? We talked a little more.

As would be expected of any creative writing class that concentrated on poetry, we began our discussion about writing by examining the formal aspects of verse. I gave them examples of sonnets, villanelles and sestinas from Florida Bound, hurricane center, and xango music, and I read "Calabash Poem," one of my experiments with couplets.

Rafael, who has used my short story, "My Brother's Keeper," which was published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, then asked a very interesting question about the state of Caribbean literature and the lack of critical feedback on writers who were born in the late fifties and sixties. This led to another discussion about the nature of criticism and literature, and I expressed my indebtedness to the work of Kwame Dawes in Natural Mysticism: Towards a New Reggae Aesthetic.

Before this very important work was published, I had been writing for a very long time and making certain aesthetic choices without a conscious reason about why I made the decisions. I only know they felt right.

After I read Natural Mysticism, everything changed. Not only was I guided by my intuition, but I now had a critical apparatus to guide my editing. I began to understand and see the connections between my work and songs by Bob Marley such as "Is this Love?" In this seemingly simple lyric, Marley combines the erotic, socio-economic/political and the spiritual in a powerful triplet:

We'll be together with a roof right over our heads

We'll share the shelter of my single bed

We'll share the same room, Jah provide the bread

Without this understanding of my own work and Marley's, which Dawes provided, I would have continued to rely on intuition alone. Which is all right. But you have to grow up some time. And how did Natural Mysticism help me to grow up?

I reminded the class that Carl Jung once said that the unconscious is truly unconscious, and that writers who draw images from what they see around them and make associations are often not aware of the implications during the creative stage. They just create. It is only when they are trying to create a coherent whole with a novel, short story or poetry collection, that a pattern emerges and they can see why they made certain choices. Natural Mysticism helped me with those choices. Of course, not every work will fall under the category of the reggae aesthetic. But the central impulse to create what John Gardner calls a "vivid and continuous dream" that combines the spiritual, erotic, and socio-economic in a Jamaican/Caribbean context while drawing on the vast resources of Euro-English, American, and Caribbean literature is what has guided my work.

Give thanks to Celia, Rafael and the creative writing class at St. Thomas for engaging me in a thoughtful discussion of my work and that of my contemporaries. I had a great time and still don't have answers to some of the questions you asked. I also realized that as I stepped out into the Miami sun and humidity that I may never have an answer. But with those guards at the gate, at least I feel safe.


For more photos of the reading, please follow this link: St. Thomas