March 31, 2008

TigerTail Productions Presents: Caribbean Crossroads

Caribbean Crossroads

"Chin Behilia's music is a soft and lilting mosaic of genres – salsa, calypso, soca and zouk, a truly pan-tropical sound." — Songlines

"Sebon keeps Haiti's political, poetic, and musical heart beating." — Miami New Times

The islands of the Caribbean share the legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade-driven African Diaspora, mixed with many different European and indigenous cultures. Tonight two of these island communities, Haiti and Curaçao, take center stage. The evening begins with South Florida-based Haitian artist Jan Sebon, accompanied by his group, presenting the World Premiere of a new multi-media musical work Peyi Mwen (My Country) that blends current events and autobiography. Then, for the first time in Miami, Curaçao's beloved troubadour Oswin "Chin" Behilia, with his musical ensemble, give us a performance that showcases this Dutch Antillean island and their native Creole language, Papiamento. In the end, the performers join together to create a "musical bridge" between their different rhythms and the stories they tell.

Visit Jan Sebon on the web. Go to and

Click here ( for more on Chin Behilia.

Click here for more on Caribbean Crossroads, including video of Jan Sebon & Chin Behilia


A free panel discussion, From Dushi Korsou to Peyi Mwen: Caribbean Culture and the African Diaspora, On Thursday, April 10 at 6:30 pm, with Oswin "Chin" Behilia, Jan Sebon, moderator Marlon Hill, and others, followed by a meet-the-artist reception at Circa39, 3900 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach.

Saturday, April 12, 8:00 p.m.

Colony Theatre

1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL

Post-concert discussion

$50 VIP best seats & priority entrance

$25 General Admission

$20 Student/Senior with I.D.


Buy tickets to Caribbean Crossroads now or by phone at 305 545 8546

Group sales discounts available by calling Tigertail at 305 324 4337

See Tigertail's full Season Schedule

Directions and map to the Colony Theatre

March 30, 2008

Hope: Living and Loving with HIV

Hope: Living and Loving with HIV Behind the images of hedonism in Jamaica, the specter of AIDS has overshadowed the glitter and garish of the Tourist Board commercials. During the last four months of 2007, Kwame Dawes traveled to Jamaica and met with people who are living with the disease and caregivers who have dedicated their lives to bring comfort. What emerged from this encounter was Hope: Living and Loving with HIV, which according to the Pulitzer Center, "Brings him in touch with people who tell their stories, share their lives, and teach him about resilience, hope, and possibility in the face of despair."

The Pulitzer Center continues: "Hope: Living and Loving with HIV is a multi-media reporting project: an extended essay by Kwame Dawes for The Virginia Quarterly Review (Spring 2008), two short documentaries for the public-television program Foreign Exchange, a collection of poetry inspired by his reporting, a performance of the poems set to music by composer Kevin Simmonds, and, an interactive web presentation that synthesizes audio and text versions of the poems, the Foreign Exchange videos, additional video interviews, the music, and photography by Joshua Cogan."

But it is much more than that. Hope: Living and Loving with HIV features "anthems of hope" in which Dawes introduces us to men such as "Nichols":

dub man's charm

in your grin, still all those

women slain by your art.

It is not very often that I am at a loss for words, but Hope: Living and Loving with HIV has shown me the kind of work that an inspired artist can do for his community. Hope Living and Loving with HIV is not just an extended essay with poems, music, photos, and video. It is an experience.


For more information, please visit the Pulitzer Center


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March 29, 2008

MiPOesias Magazine: The American Cuban Issue

MiPOesiasMiPOesias Magazine's newly released issue showcases the work of poets of Cuban descent who live in the U.S. The results are stories spun from highways and oceans, lyric meditations on love's rough edges and potent homages to deities and to the departed. No matter the subject, these poems blend the romance and sorrows of the past with a crisp view of daily life. Edited by Emma Trelles and featuring Richard Blanco, Rita Maria Martinez, Grisel Y. Acosta, Kemel Zaldivar, Rich Villar, Sandra Castillo, Achy Obejas, Hugo Rodriguez, Mia Leonin, Adrian Castro, Diego Quiros, Kristina Martinez, Caridad Mccormick, Virgil Suarez, Suzanne Frischkorn, Didi Menendez, and Elisa Albo.

Cover art by Diego Quiros.

Time: Friday, April 4, 2008 @ 8:00 p.m.

Location: Books & Books, Coral Gables


March 28, 2008

Saunders and Pouchet-Paquet: Caribbean literature and popular culture.

Colleagues at the University of Miami, Drs. Patricia Joan Saunders and Sandra Pouchet Paquet both write about issues of identity in Caribbean literature and popular culture. Saunders explores sexual vs. national identity in Alien Nation and Repatriation (Lexington, $29.95) while Paquet focuses on Calypso style and its influence of the Caribbean literary imagination in Music, Memory, Resistance (Ian Randle, $35).


Selected essays from the Calypso and the Caribbean Literary Imagination Conference jointly sponsored by Caribbean Literary Studies at the University of Miami and the Historical Museum of South Florida. Contributors include Gordon Rohlehr, Michael Eldridge, Louis Regis, Ray Funk, Hollis Liverpool, Earl Lovelace, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Funso Aiyejina, Paula Morgan, Jennifer Rahim, Kezia Page, Andrea Shaw, Cynthia Davis, and Claire Westall with an introduction by Patricia Saunders and a preface by Sandra Pouchet Paquet and Stephen Steumpfle.

Time: Saturday, March 29, 2008 5:00 p.m.

Location: Books & Books, Coral Gables

March 25, 2008

Commonwealth Writers’ Prize 2008 Africa Winner: The Hangman's Game

Karen King Aribisala wins Best Book Award

for The Hangman’s Game.

A young Guyanese woman sets out to write an historical novel based on the 1823 Demerara Slave Rebellion and the fate of an English missionary who is condemned to hang for his alleged part in the uprising, but who dies in prison before his execution. She has wanted to document historical fact through fiction, but the characters she invents make an altogether messier intrusion into her life with their conflicting interests and ambivalent motivations. As an African-Guyanese in a country where a Black ruling elite oppresses the population, she begins to wonder what lay behind her ‘ancestral enslavement’, why fellow Africans had ‘exchanged silver for the likes of me’. As a committed Christian she also wonders why God has allowed slavery to happen. Beset by her unruly characters and these questions, the novel is stymied. In an attempt to unblock it she decides that she should take up a family contact to spend some time in Nigeria, to experience her African origins at first hand...

Karen King-Aribisala has written a densely layered, challengingly ambitious work of fiction. There is the actual historical novel, the thoughts of the fictive writer about it, the drama of the narrator’s life in Nigeria and the seepage between the different worlds. As such The Hangman’s Game has much to say about the Guyanese past and present, and the nature of postcolonial power in both Africa and the Caribbean. And if The Hangman’s Game is provocatively post-modern in its self-reflexivity on the nature of both historical and fictional writing, its ideas are dramatically communicated through action in a novel that is rich in tension, dark humour and complex, strikingly drawn characters.


"Studiously plotted, wondrously told, The Hangman’s Game is a tale by a narrator who has mastered the ropes."~ Niyi Osundare

The Hangman’s Game

Peepal Tree Press, Leeds.

Published: 03 September 2007

ISBN: 9781845230463

Price: £8.99


A Review of The Hangman's Game by George Lamming

The Hangman's GameThe Hangman's Game is a superb work of fiction which is kept alive page after page by this writer's subtle and sophisticated historical imagination. Karen King-Aribisala achieves a novel and persuasive fusion of two distinct historical moments in the African diasporic adventure: the slave revolt of 1823 in then British Guyana and the heroic resistance to the military authoritarian rigours inflicted on contemporary Nigeria. We experience both centuries in a single moment of consciousness. She explores with great delicacy the urgent temptations of the flesh experienced by men and women whose missionary life support is an abiding religious fervour.

King-Aribisala forces us to witness how murder can be the modern soldier's casual pastime and alerts us to the hidden vanity which may flaw every hero's display of spectacular sacrifice. The Hangman's Game should have a transatlantic constituency of readers.


Karen King-Aribisala was born in Guyana. She has travelled widely, having been educated in Guyana, Barbados, Italy, Nigeria and England. She is now living and working in Nigeria where she is Professor of English in the department of English, University of Lagos, Nigeria. She is a writer of non-fiction and fiction and regarding the latter she has published several short stories and poems in various journals such as Wasafiri, Presence Africaine, The Griot and Bim. Her first collection of short stories, Our Wife and Other Stories, won the Best First Book Prize in the Commonwealth Prize (African Region) 1990/91. Her second work, Kicking Tongues, is a blending of poetry and prose, in which she transposes Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to modern-day Nigeria. She is the recipient of a number of awards such as two James Michener Fellowships for creative writing at the University of Miami, a Ford Foundation Grant and British Council grants.

March 24, 2008

A Jamaican in Las Vegas (Part One)

Geoffrey PhilpThe minute I landed in Las Vegas--a city ripe for the destruction by the God of wrath from my fundamentalist childhood--I knew my ideas about sex, sin, and scarcity would be challenged. But here I was in the middle of "Sin City" celebrating my fiftieth birthday and checking out things for myself.

As my wife and I walked through the McCarran Airport, we were immediately confronted with the famous "one arm bandits," and by the time we reached the Luxor, we had already had an eyeful of moving billboards on flatbed trucks with the signs: "Girls who want to meet you." For if ever there was a place built with a purpose, it is Las Vegas--a city founded on the idea of satisfying Alpha male desires that revolve around sex, power, and chance.

A vacation in Las Vegas is like living through a twenty-four hour after-party with an anal retentive host. Sure, every now and then you'll run into an empty beer can or a corner where someone has hidden a glass of whiskey (I hope!), but for the most part the streets are very clean. And I am convinced that the many moving walkways above the streets that connect the hotels are designed not only to keep the pedestrians always from the traffic, but also to get the visitors back to their rooms, even if they are too drunk to walk. All they have to do is plop down on the walkway and hold on (not too fast, now) and try to make it to the next one, and the next one, and the next….

So, yes, I will admit it was a lot of fun taking "The Deuce" down to the Stratosphere and seeing so many places that I'd only seen in the movies (Sahara, Frontier, Caesar's Palace) and wondering how many of the many "stars," who started out dirt poor, must feel when they are now regulars on The Strip.

Once we reached the Stratosphere, the highest point in Las Vegas, it was reassuring to hear a familiar voice coming from the Starbucks: "In this life, in this life, in this O sweet life/ We're coming in from the cold."

Atop the Stratosphere, we had a 360◦ view of the desert and Las Vegas--a gambling town with a serious water problem. But they have also dealt with this issue by creating a culture that values water conservation by offering residents tax incentives to use water saving technology and desert landscaping--a Southwest aesthetic, if you will.

And yet in the middle of the desert, what's striking about Las Vegas is the abundance. "You have to do everything big in Las Vegas, honey," said Lee, our Black-Irish waiter (it was St. Patrick's Day) and he was right. From the shows like Ka at the Mirage (a breathtaking spectacle) to the kitschy Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur, everything about Las Vegas spells excess in a gaudy, unashamed manner that you can't help but love. As the sign at the Luxor (thanks, Debbie Kasprzyk) said, "Less is not more. More is More."

It would have been easy to dismiss Las Vegas as a city of sin, sex, and vice or to say it's a town of gamblers and ex-gamblers. But I got a different perspective from the many visitors, cab drivers, bell hops, guides, and retirees whom I met on my vacation: People like you and me trying to make a living in a city with an insatiable lust for excitement. (Yes, I also saw the seedy side of Las Vegas). Perhaps, it was also fitting that as we were leaving our hotel, the unmistakable voice of Joan Osbourne came streaming over the clang and clatter of the slot machines whirring in the background:

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

And yeah yeah God is great
yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

For photos, please follow this link: Jamaican in Las Vegas


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March 21, 2008

Breaking the Silence: Obama's Speech

ObamaIn this season of growth, renewal, & reflection, it's hard for me to understand how people have missed this important part of American life….

For even if Rev. Wright was Obama's "father," look how much Obama has grown to the point where he can offer a disinterested analysis of race relations in America which calls for us to be honest, while others still prefer to posture. Isn't the point of growth to be able to say, "Whenever I gain power, I will never do that!" How many of us have done this with our teachers and mentors?

We look at the person and we say (and especially when it's a role model), and say, "He may have his faults, but that's what I want to be. But this is how I'm going to do it."

And I am sure Obama will never admit this, but what other pathway is open to a Black politician other than the church? How was he going to build his power base?

And I won't even get into "father"-"son" relationships (e.g. Richard Wright/ James Baldwin, Malcolm X/ Elijah Muhammad, Muhammad Ali/ Elijah Muhammad, Jesse Jackson/ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) in the Black community and in America. Has everyone forgotten All the King's Men?

And finally on the issue of anger? Why do you think these young men have been wearing dreadlocks and their pants down to their knees? Why have they raided their "fathers" old vinyl records as the basis of rap/ hip-hop? Isn't that indicative of a rejection of the entire structure-- a passive aggressive reaction to their society? The less talented remain passive aggressive. Their fathers are either dead or in jail--"victims" of the system.

The more talented, (e.g. Ice-T, Chuck D/Public Enemy) built careers on anger and rejection of "the system."--"Fight the Power!"

But again we choose to be innocent (our government tortures people?) or pretend as if the systemic practice of institutional racism does not have consequences. Or better yet, choose to remain ignorant of the things our government has done abroad in the name of "American interests."

I do not believe Obama to be a hater and a careful analysis of his speech that is founded in the Constitution and in which he uses quotes from the Founding Fathers, James Baldwin, and Malcolm X, to name a few, shows that he has a deep understanding of America and that he offers a transcendent vision of America that we haven't had in a long time.


March 14, 2008

I am Pi (2008)

Geoffrey Philp

I am Pi truncated by 50 decimal points….


Going away on a short vacation. Be back on 3/24/08

March 13, 2008

Happy Birthday, Felix Morisseau-Leroy (2008)

Félix Morisseau-Leroy.Although the controversy still rages in Jamaica about English vs patwa or "nation language" as Kamau Brathwaite has dubbed our tongue, from as early as 1958, Felix Morisseau-Leroy was writing plays and poems in Kreyol.

In one of my favorite poems by "Moriso" or "Lewa," the poet shows his allegiance, and we are all better off for it.

I still remember the defiance and the fire when he used to read this poem, and especially when he said, "I don't want any priest/ To speak Latin over my head."

There was no room for genuflection to the metropolitan cities in Lewa's world, and it is sometimes sad to see the young Haitian men and women in Miami walking around with their heads bowed down because they lack the knowledge/memory that a great poet like Lewa came from among them and was the champion of their language for most of his life.

Give thanks, Lewa and Happy Birthday!

New Testament

In 1954
I wrote my will
I said I don't want any priest
To speak Latin over my head

I don't have that problem today
Because priests don't speak latin anymore

Even God
Had to learn Creole
Like any other white man
Coming here
To do business with us

From "Boat People" from Haitiad & Oddities by Félix Morisseau-Leroy. Copyright © 1991 by Félix Morisseau-Leroy.

Felix Morisseau-Leroy was born in Grand-Gosier, Haiti and had degrees from the University of Haiti, Columbia, New York City College, and the New School of Social Research. He was exiled in 1959 and lived in Africa, France, Jamaica, and the United States.

In Ghana, he served as national organizer of drama and literature at the Arts Council and in Senegal, as Technical Adviser of the Senegalese Federation of People’s Theater.

He wrote numerous books of poetry, novels, and plays including “Ravinodyab,” “Plenitudes,” “Recolte,” “Diacoute,” and “Antigone in Creole” which was performed at the Theater of the Nations in Paris. His works have been translated into French, English, Spanish, German, Russian, Fanti, Twi, and Wolof, and his plays have been performed around the world.

Although he was multilingual, Felix Morisseau-Leroy preferred to write in Creole, because he wished “to express the deepest feelings, emotions, and aspirations of the people for whom he claimed to be a mere “scribe.”


March 12, 2008

Six Female Poets for Women's History Month @ MDC

Miami Women PoetsMiami Dade College’s (MDC) InterAmerican Campus honors the female spirit with Women’s Voices: Celebrating Life and Love on Saturday, Mar. 15, at 7 p.m. as part of Women’s History Month. The event includes poetry readings by six talented women sharing their viewpoints from various stages of life at the Tower Theater in Little Havana. These women are accomplished artists, writers, and community activists.

Women’s Voices: Celebrating Life and Love is presented with the support of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, and the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.


Amy Baez is the author and publisher of What Poetic Eyes Speak, which has been promoted nationally at more than 50 feature performances and poetry workshops. The New Jersey native has been writing poetry for more than 20 years and has been described as honest, powerful, passionate, and uplifting. She writes what young women feel but rarely say out loud. In addition to writing, Baez has also acted in several community theatre productions locally and works full-time as a pediatric occupational therapist. Last year, she shared the stage with playwright Eve Ensler in the Miami production of Any One of Us: Words from Prison.

Jackie Earley began her career in dance, theater, and poetry during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's. She has worked with the Karamu Theater, the Free Southern Theater, the National Black Theater, and the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Company. Earley has traveled to New York, Africa, Hawaii, Canada, California, Australia, the Rocky Mountains, and Florida. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.

Norvell A.S. Holyfield found her writing voice after years of physical and emotional abuse. Her work has been featured at the Miami International Book Fair, the Miami Beach Commission for Women, Safe Space Shelter North, various church auxiliaries, and domestic violence shelters. Holyfield also facilitates an after-school reading, writing, and poetry program for children at the Lincoln Fields Housing Projects of Miami. She currently serves as vice president of the Board of Directors for the Miami-Dade Victim Services and Trauma Resolution Center.

Shamele Jenkins - is a poet and spoken word artist with 31 years of experience in the literary world. She has performed, taught, and toured extensively throughout the U.S., Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, Canada, and the Caribbean. Jenkins has more than 14 self-published poetry books and 28 chapbooks. Her work can be found in numerous periodicals, anthologies, and magazines. In addition, she is the founder and artistic director of Lip

Lela Lombardo is a multi-disciplinary performing artist working in theatre, music, and dance. Founder and artistic director of Higher Ground, a community dance company, Lombardo is interested in exploring the identity of nature, race relations, anthropology, and the environment. She uses the arts to foster social and personal change with at-risk youth, animal, civil and environmental rights groups, homeless populations, hospitalized children, people with special needs, the elderly, the incarcerated, recovering addicts, and women.

Deborah Magdalena-Sama is an actress and sister of Latin Grammy winner Nestor Torres. Her film and television credits include Sesame Street (CTW), Apollo Comedy Hour (Tribune), The Newz (Columbia-Tri-Star), Safe Harbor (WB), Billboard Latino (AZTECA-AMERICA), Striptease (CastleRock), Holyman (Caravan), and For Love or Country (HBO). Magdalena-Sama has released two CDs: Spoken Soul: A Survival Kit of Poetry and Deborah Magdalena LIVE. Her one-woman show, “Letters to the Men I Love,” was featured at the Carnival Center of the Performing Arts.

Some poems may not be suitable for children under the age of 17. This event is free and open to the public. Metered parking is free after 6 p.m. The evening will start with a light reception at 7 p.m., followed by the poetry readings.

  • WHAT: Women’s Voices: Celebrating Life and Love
  • WHEN: Saturday, Mar. 15, 8:30 PM
  • WHERE: Tower Theater, 1508 S.W. Eight Street, Miami
  • COST: This event is free and open to the public

For more information about this event, please contact Orlando Rojas, Tower Theater coordinator at 305-643-8706.


March 10, 2008

Five Songs I Must Have for my iPod

I see an old warrior sitting by a hearth of smoldering coals. The air is thick with the scent of stews, aromatic herbs, and roasted flesh. Sentinels lurk beyond the brush and a stand of pines. His sheathed sword has been laid across his right leg that has been scarred in many campaigns. The thongs of his sandals are still tight and battle-ready. An owl's hoot ricochets through the camp and all the young warriors grab their swords. He smiles to himself and remains unmoved. But then, he looks up and through the smoke he sees "Her" serving the soldiers or perhaps not doing anything in particular. Maybe just washing the dishes. She is so beautiful. The old warrior feels something that he hasn't felt in a long time. It’s this mixture of compassion and longing. The last time he felt like this was—before the wars started. He can’t believe an old codger like himself could still be moved this way. He’s been with many women (some whose memory still hurt him), yet he's surprised that his heart can still muster these emotions. And even though he's a normally confident man, he is boyish, foolish, and shy around her, and yet strangely protective. That’s how I feel when I hear "Waiting in Vain" by Bob Marley--an old warrior surprised by love:

From the very first time I blessed my eyes on you, girl,
My heart says follow trough.
But I know, now, that Im way down on your line,
But the waitin feel is fine:

The Gipsy Kings version of “Bamboleo” is one of my favorite songs. There’s so much fire, and the speaker is unapologetic about life or love and is determined to live his life on his terms. No compromises: “Porque mi vida, yo la prefiero vivir asi!”

Este amor llega asi esta manera
No tiene la culpa
Caballo le ven sabana
Porque muy depreciado,
Por eso no te perdon de llorar
Este amor llega asi esta manera
No tiene la culpa,

Amor de comprementa
Amor del mes pasado
Bembele, bembele, bembele
Bem, bembele, bembele

Al Green’s pleas and promises in “Let’s Stay Together” and how his lover makes him feel, “Cause you make me feel, so brand new/ And I want to spend my life with you.” And then, his confusion:
Why somebody, why people break up
Oh, and turn around and make up
I just can't seeeeeeeee
You'd never do that to me
(Would you baby)
'Cause being around you is all I see
It's why I want us to

Let's, let's stay together
Loving you whether, whether
Times are good or bad, happy or sad
Al, I, too, can’t understand.

When I was in sixth form at Jamaica College, I remember having a heated discussion with Donovan Ashley on the steps of Simms House about whether Thom Bell or Bob Marley was the better songwriter. This was a time when even the most screwfaced, dreadlocked bad man was walking down King Street singing in falsetto “Bethcha by Golly Wow” by The Stylistics even while he clutched his knife or gun. Donovan said that Thom Bell was the better writer because he wrote only about love and love was the only thing that mattered. This was also the time when I believed that love was only for the bourgeois and that everything should be devoted to the revolution and to bringing down apartheid in South Africa and Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). I argued that the only music that mattered was music with "conscious" lyrics. I think in the eyes of my peers, I won the argument. But forty years later whenever I hear “Sadie” by The Spinners and remember my mother who made her transition a few years ago:
Early one Sunday morning
Breakfast was on the table
There was no time to eat
She said to me, Boy, hurry to Sunday school

Filled with her load of glory
We learned the Holy story
Shell always have her dreams
Despite the things this troubled world can bring

Oh, Sadie
Don’t you know we love you
Sweet Sadie
Place no one above you
You were right about love being the only thing that matters, Donovan. You were!

I could listen to every song on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, but if I had to choose one, it would have to be “As”:
Did you know that true love asks for nothing
Her acceptance is the way we pay
Did you know that life has given love a guarantee
To last through forever and another day
Just as time knew to move on since the beginning
And the seasons know exactly when to change
Just as kindness knows no shame
Know through all your joy and pain
That I'll be loving you always
As today I know I'm living but tomorrow
Could make me the past but that I mustn't fear
For I'll know deep in my mind
The love of me I've left behind
Cause I'll be loving you always
"True love asks for nothing/ Her acceptance is the way we pay." It's a lesson I'm still learning. Sing on, Stevie!

Besides the fact that I’m fascinated by memes, I’m taking the lead from Rethabile’s post via Crafty Green Poet about 5 songs that “appeal to the poetic sensibilities."

And if I were to cheat just a little, I'd add Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass with "Bad Luck" and "Wake up, Everybody"-- a herald to the dormant bodhisattvas--"Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul, and "Praise Ye Jah" by Sizzla Kalonji, for sheer effervescence.

As in the nature of memes (some are subject to change), I’ve modified this one and I'm tagging Georgia , Marlon, Madbull, Professor Zero, and The Prisoner's Wife (for your new iPod?) Name five songs that if you were stranded on a desert island and could only have 5 songs on your I-Pod what would they be? As with most memes, as you pass it along mention who tagged you, so some mad scientist (or blog historian, Nicholas?) can figure out the Ariadne thread.

If anyone else wants to join in, feel free to tag yourself!


"If you have never heard or read about Bob Marley, this book is the best place to begin…. For someone like myself who knew Marley personally and has read nearly everything ever written about him, the book makes me feel like I’m reading about Bob Marley for the first time… If you want to place a Marley biography in your library, this is the one to buy."

Barbara Makeda Blake Hannah
Eminent Rastafarian author, broadcaster and journalist.

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March 9, 2008

Three Little Birds?

This may not be "Three Little Birds," but give thanks to the mother dove and her fledgling who blessed my Sunday morning by taking shelter from the Miami cold spell* in my home.

*54 degrees Fahrenheit. Hey, for us that's a State of Emergency


March 8, 2008

Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz: NBCC 2007 Awardees

In a bountiful year of remarkable books, two Caribbean-born writers, Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz won National Book Critics Circle Awards for Autobiography and Fiction at the New School's Tischman Auditorium on March 6, 2008.

The competition in both areas was intense, yet Edwidge and Junot emerged as awardees from among these other fine authors:


Joshua Clark, Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone (Free Press)
Edwidge Danticat, Brother, I'm Dying (Knopf)
Joyce Carol Oates, The Journals of Joyce Carol Oates, 1973–1982 (Ecco Press)
Sara Paretsky, Writing in an Age of Silence (Verso)
Anna Politkovskaya, Russian Diary: A Journalist's Final Account of Life, Corruption and Death in Putin's Russia (Random House)


Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games (HarperCollins)
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books)
Hisham Matar, In the Country of Men (Dial Press)
Joyce Carol Oates, The Gravedigger’s Daughter (Ecco Press)
Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher (Simon & Schuster)

Congratulations, Edwidge and Junot!


(Via Critical Mass)
Pictured above: NBCC member Miriam Berkley shot this group portrait of the winners of the NBCC 2007 awards. From left,Tim Jeal, NBCC award winner in biography for "Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa's Greatest Explorer" (Yale University Press), Mary Jo Bang, NBCC award winner in poetry for "Elegy" (Gray Wolf PresS), Alex Ross,NBCC award winner in criticism for "The Rest Is Noise" (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Edwidge Danticat,NBCC award winner in autobiography (Knopf), Emilie Buchwald of Milkweed Press, winner of the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award; Sam Anderson,winner of the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, and Margaret Washington, NBCC award winner in nonfiction for "Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present (Doubleday). Not pictured, NBCC award winner in fiction, Junot Diaz, author of "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (Riverhead Books).

For the complete list of winners, please follow this link to Critical Mass: 2007 NBCC Winners Announced
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March 7, 2008

Oonu Mek Mi Day Award

You Make My Day MemeMonday was no fun.

It started off all right, but by noon after losing a filling and then finding out I needed a root canal (which I had later), it was a pretty rough day. I am now just up to speed. It’s a good thing I had a few posts written ahead of time.

One of the bright spots, however, was learning that Mad Bull had tagged me for “Oonu Mek Mi Day” (“You Make my Day”—for the Jamaican Challenged) via Lady Roots whose guidelines were:

1. Write a post with links to 5 blogs that make your day.
2. Acknowledge the post of the award giver.
3. Display the You Make My Day Award logo.
4. Tell the award winners by commenting on their blogs with the news.

So, here are my list of awardees:

Afrobella: A sister who does so many things in twenty-four hours. I don’t know how she does it: Beauty tips, politics, frequent NPR contributor.

Blogworld: What more can I say about Nicolette. She’s a poet, scholar and she has an new book out!

Black Threads/ Black Threads in Kid’s Lit: Kyra Hicks writes with passion about quilting and children’s books.

Preston Allen Ing an Bling Book Review/ All or Nothing: Preston gives book reviews and advice about gambling, writing, and anything related to these topics—and he does it with a great sense of humor.

Long Bench. Always provocative….always…

The Prisoner’s Wife: This sister is a wonderful poet and show us what true love and devotion is all about.

I know, I know, it’s six. But like Mad Bull I have so many that other that I would praise:

Jahworld: Pam Mordecai is a superb poet and scholar who writes with deep concern about our environment and fragile habitat.

A Brave New World: Jeff is always on the move and takes me to places on this planet that I hope I’ll visit one day. One day.

Marlon James: For writing courageously about many things that are on our minds, but we’re afraid to say.

Okay, enough! I just had to mention these blogs that always give me something to think about and speak their truths so clearly and cogently.


March 5, 2008

Uncle Obadiah and the Alien @ Barry University

Geoffrey Philp“It’s very rare to have a living writer talk to students who are reading his work,” said Dr. Evelyn Cartright as she introduced me to her Caribbean literature class at Barry University.

The students, some of whom were preparing essays on “My Brother’s Keeper” which was originally published in Uncle Obadiah and the Alien and anthologized in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, welcomed me, and in no time, we were talking about plausibility in fiction, creating characters, publishing in the Caribbean, and Caribbean-American identity.

We also talked about the necessity of criticism because feedback was part of the cycle of any healthy system. I challenged the English majors to think about careers as critics. I confessed that I had once thought about becoming a critic after several rejections (not that they haven’t stopped coming!) and after many professors whose opinions I'd valued suggested that perhaps becoming a critic wasn’t such as bad choice after all.

I told the students that I had no problem with criticism. As long as the criticism was balanced and was an evaluation of authorial intent, I welcomed any examination of my work that anwered these questions: How did the characterization, plot, or narrative either help or hinder the plot? Or how did the imagery, rhythm, or metaphors assist the reader in enjoying the poem? Effective criticism can actually help a writer in understanding her own work because most writers rely on an intuitive rather than an evaluative understanding of their work.

One way, I suggested, that the students could begin their careers in criticism was by blogging: writing about books they liked and spreading the word about these books, especially books by Caribbean writers because there are so few outlets providing information about Caribbean life, people, and literature.

Give thanks to Dr. Cartright for inviting me to speak to her students. And thank you students for asking such interesting questions about me and my craft. I hope our conversation will continue beyond the classroom.

For more photos of the event, please follow this link: Reading at Barry University.


March 4, 2008

Geoffrey Philp's Blog: Rated E for Excellent

E for ExcellentWhen Professor Zero rates your blog, E for Excellent, you better sit up straight. It’s a honor to be counted with the other blogs she mentioned in her post, and if the tag had come from another source, I would have had to mention her blog for the rigorous self-examination of issues that many of us in the academy face.

Now although Professor Zero tagged “academic” blogs, I’m going to change it a bit to blogs that usually teach me something:

Poefrika: For always expanding my knowledge of Afro-centric writers, singers, and players of instruments.

Reginald Shepherd’s Blog: Reginald is a superb poet and critic. A rare combination.

Inspirations and Creative Thoughts: Sadiq Alam writes about the major world religions and has some remarkable insights about the Sufi faith.

Morphological Confetti: Steven Bess’s photos and his abilty to capture recent African American history, especially through his grandfather’s eyes, continue to amaze me.

Antilles: The Weblog of The Caribbean Review of Books: For keeping me up-to-date about the latest in Caribbean writing and for teaching me about several writers, such as Ralph de Boissiere, about whom I’d been ignorant.

Ted Blog: A gathering of some of the most innovative thinkers in the world.

Thanks to all who continue to give and to spread knowledge about your lives and our world.


March 3, 2008

"Art for Art's Sake" & the Reggae Aesthetic

Brother Man"Art for art's sake," a popular bohemian creed during the early nineteenth century was a response to Romanticism and the idea, fostered from the inception of the Counter-Reformation, that art should have an ethical or didactic purpose. It was an absolute aesthetic that viewed art as an end in itself and that it should not be subservient to any other goal (ethical, political, theological, or philosophical) but itself. It is also interesting that Dadaism (BTW, one of the many puns in my "reggae novel," Benjamin, my son is the fact that Benjamin (my Stephen Daedalus) calls his father, "Dada") had similar aims and became a part of the movement we now call Modernism, which represented a radical break with the past and rejected the "traditional."
These movements were reactions to historical events and their influence was exacerbated by the first European holocaust of World War I. Many of the artists who recoiled in horror when they saw how the power of art had been used for propaganda (religious or otherwise) created an aesthetic that would be immune to religious, political, or commercial agendas. In the case of James Joyce ("History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake"), his solution was a literature that was grounded in myth, and used the city of Dublin as the point of trajectory. In A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Daedalus tries to escape the "nets" (church, family, politics) of Ireland, and in the fourth chapter of Portrait, he lectures his friend, Cranly, about propaganda, pity, and terror and states that in discerning a work of art, "The mind is arrested and raised above desire and loathing."
"Art for art's sake" did not appear sui generis. It was a reaction to historical events in Europe, and while I agree with its aims to a certain extent (more anon), it cannot nor should it be applied to works of art that evolve out of a different historical experience. You lose many valuable understandings when you try to evaluate work using a measurement that is outside the intent of its creator. (As you may also discern, my bias is towards what was called the "New Criticism" and not "Deconstructionism" or "Deforestation" as George Lamming called it.)
This is why I've argued that Brother Man by Roger Mais cannot be divorced from its historical/cultural context precisely because Brother Man was the beginning of a new aesthetic-- what the poet/critic Kwame Dawes dubbed the "reggae aesthetic.”
It must have been exciting for Roger Mais to write Brother Man because he was witnessing the birth of Rastafari and its movement from the ghetto into middle class homes of Jamaica, and especially since Rastafari represented a radical break with the past, and restored the centrality of Africa to the imagination of Africans in the diaspora.
To put it another way. Imagine Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man. Now imagine an African or the Rastaman, as the focus of the drawing into which the individual, community, and the divine become One: InI--a vision of oneness at the centre of everything. If you can imagine that without smiling, without thinking of such a portrait as a parody or as humorous, you have entered the world of Rastafari. The irony is. however, that to describe this to non-Rastafari, I have to use similarities---whereas for Rastafari, the African was the first.

Rastafari created a freedom from all the other identities such as "postcolonial" with which Derek Walcott struggled. For whereas postcolonial writers struggled with issues of "I am not,"Rastafari began from the position of "I am." Rastafari also obliterated the dichotomy of "black=body and white=mind," and all other Cartesian divisions. For Rastafari, InI became the measure of humanity. This was the epiphany of the mystic revelation of Rastafari and was the universe that Mais was trying to create in his work. Yet he had to rely on similarities to tell the story of Rastafari as he understood it.
Brother Man and Children of Sisyphus began the process of creating a new aesthetic in Jamaica, in which writers like myself, who grew up in the seventies, have been trying to extend. As you can also tell, I have followed Joyce's mythological approach. However, unlike Joyce who favored Greek mythology, I have used Yoruba mythology in Benjamin, my son and my latest novel, Virtual Yardies, is based on the Joycean premise of the "nail paring God of creation."
But what are the other implications for "writers of color"? Does "blackness" or "African-ness" become the only measure? That would be as tedious as the current state of publishing where only stories from New York, London, or Paris are "privileged."
As a writer who grew up reading the fiction of Mais, Lamming, and Patterson and the poetry of Walcott, Brathwaite, and Scott along with the music of Bob Marley, my commitment has always been (this is where I agree with "art for art's sake") first to the work itself or as Ernest Hemingway said, "[To] write a true sentence." To this I would add, "And make it interesting."
For no matter how politically charged or how socially redeeming a novel is, as a reader, I don't want to be bored to death. Art should never be viewed like medicine, "Take it. It's good for you." My view is similar to Duke Ellington's: "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing."
That said, following the implications of the "reggae aesthetic," I do believe that art should incorporate social, historical and philosophical concerns (everywhere you look in the world, people of color still allow themselves to be oppressed) and be interesting. To illustrate, a philosopher during an interview about my short story, "I Want to Disturb my Neighbor": (adapted from Bob Marley's "Bad Card"), once asked me: "Should we disturb our neighbors?" To which I said, "Yes! Especially when you have to tell them, 'Hey, you're standing on my neck!'"
But the "message" should never be subverted to the demands of the story. A work of fiction, as John Gardner writes, "creates a vivid and continuous dream in the reader's mind."
So, even a cursory reading of my short stories that on the surface appear to be entertaining (e.g. Uncle Obadiah and the Alien) reveals that the stories cover the plight of fatherless boys and their relationship with their mothers, child abuse, Yoruba cosmogony, Rastafari theology and a deep concern for the sufferahs. As a sidenote, Bob does the same in "Johnny Was" (mother-son relationship); the Yoruba look out call at the beginning of Natty Dread and the auditory experience of Rastafari and the plight of the sufferahs throughout his entire discography--and all the time, InI was still, "Jammin'"
Bob was committed to freedom, but he wrote in a very specific musical idiom: reggae. Yet, he also borrowed musical ideas from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and James Brown. He did not live in a musical ghetto, but listened to a wide variety of music. And given the omnivorous voracity of reggae to adapt to a variety of musical styles, while Bob was living in self-imposed exile in England, he wrote "Punky Reggae Party"--his reaction to the Punk movement.
The "reggae aesthetic," of which Brother Man is a cornerstone, is the attempt of my generation to speak in our own voice, and it is similar to artists in the "art for art's sake" movement who sought an idiom--and not those of their elders--to describe new realities. The very wise Frantz Fanon's wrote: "Each generation out of relative obscurity must discover their destiny and either fulfill it or betray it.” If this means to "rebel against society's expectations, then so be it. All I know, it that we must speak in our own tongues using our own breath.
James Joyce found his way in mythology, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez found it in the indigenous worldview of Colombia and created "magical realism." The interesting link between these two writers is that they listened to other writers, critics, artists and created their own timbre, pitch--voice. And these works achieve "universality" because of their specificity. Ulysses and Finnegan's Wake could only take place in Dublin, yet a fiction created in August Town, Jamaica would be labeled as "provincial."
Beauty, wisdom, and joy surround us and as artists--the central nervous system of a people, place, and time--it is our duty to hear, see, smell, taste, feel, and transform--as only we can--these experiences in our imaginations into words, paint, and song. Or as Ezra Pound said, "Make it new."
This post is part of a larger conversation @ The Books of my Numberless Dreams: Brother Man, Part 1.