April 30, 2008

"A Heart Sutra" by Geoffrey Philp

Geoffrey PhilpGeoffrey Philp is a Jamaican poet, novelist, and playwright. He is the author of the novel, Benjamin, My Son and five poetry collections: Exodus and Other Poems, hurricane center, Florida Bound, xango music, and Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas. He has also written a book of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien; a play, Ogun's Last Stand, and a children's book, Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories.

A Heart Sutra

I have searched my heart and found

an open road edged with aloe,

wet cedars hanging over a stone fence

where my grandfather leaned

one August evening and surveyed

the posts that grew closer each year

after putting six children through school,

and burying his eldest child, a boy

whom he'd expected to inherit his store,

the land after he joined his father

in a small cemetery in Bethel Town

which would now hold the body

of his son gone ahead to prepare

a way. And even though my grandfather

knew that when he would say goodbye

to the faces that he loved, they would cry

harder than when he put his boy down

to rise with morning glories,

he could still whisper, "It is good."


Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.

April 29, 2008

Celebrate National Poetry Month @ North Miami Beach Public Library

North Miami Beach Public LibraryLast Chance to Celebrate National Poetry Month - Wednesday, April 30th. Join our dramatic presentation of poetry by Jamaican poets Marva McClean and Ivy Armstrong.

Both poets will read from their published works and there will be musical accompaniment.

Join us at 6 pm on Wednesday, April 30th

North Miami Beach Public Library

1601 NE 164th St.

North Miami Beach


PLEASE NOTE: The City of North Miami Beach is a public entity subject to Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes concerning public records. E-mail messages are covered under such laws and thus subject to disclosure. All e-mail sent and received is captured by our servers and kept as public record.


Eighth Annual Art of Storytelling: Miami-Dade Public Library System

Storytelling in Miami(MIAMI, April 28, 2008) – The Miami-Dade Public Library System presents the eighth annual Art of Storytelling (AOS)International Festival on Saturday, May 3, from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Main Library, 101 W. Flagler Street, downtown Miami.

This free family event will highlight the culture of Colombia and promises a diverse line-up of world class storytellers including Jorge Ambrosio Villa Zapata and Jaime Riascos of Colombia, Connie Regan-Blake, Diane Williams Dylan Pritchett, and the Healing Force of the U.S., and Daniel Azulay of Brazil. Mother Goose, Pippi Longstocking, and a cast of storybook characters will delight the hearts of little ones while the nine feet tall puppets of the Bits ‘N Pieces Puppet Theatre will captivate the entire family with the tale of Cinderella and the Chinese Slipper, an adaptation of a ninth century T’ang Dynasty folk tale.

Musicians, dancers, magicians, stilt-walkers, face-painting, arts and crafts, ethnic foods, and a traditional West Indian carnival parade are all part of this signature event that is designed to promote literacy by presenting stories in a fun and stimulating way.

AOS was developed by the Library System in 2001 to provide free, high quality, educational and cultural information to county residents. This innovative program includes an international library-to-library exchange program; storytelling seminars for educators, librarians and parents, and a storytelling showcase series. Through AOS, the Library System seeks to expand its role as an important community resource by presenting programs that reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of Miami-Dade County residents.

The international exchange partner for this year’s event is the Park Libraries of Medellin, Colombia. Former exchange countries include Jamaica, Ghana, Ireland, the Caribbean, Brazil, and France.

Free parking for the event is available (while spaces last), at the Miami-Dade Cultural Center Garage, 50 NW 2nd Avenue and the Hickman Garage, 270 NW 2nd Street. For additional information please log on to www.mdpls.org. or call 305-375-BOOK (2665).


April 28, 2008

"Su Su" by Velma Pollard

Velma PollardVelma Pollard was born in Jamaica in 1937, educated at Excelsior High School in Kingston and at the University College of the West Indies. She received an MA in Education from McGill University and an MA in the teaching of English from Columbia University. She taught in high schools and universities in Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and the USA. Since 1975 she has taught at the University of the West Indies, Mona. She is currently Senior Lecturer in Language Education and Dean of the Faculty of Education of the University of the West Indies.

Su Su

Susu su su Susu su su
among the yellow poui
you hear
I hear
leaves in the Japanese garden
'tiday fi mi tumaro fi yu'
like Brer Anancy talking in his nose
Susu su su

And how I laughed that day
I heard them say
'im shouldn bury there
im a go come back fi dem have no fear'
denying all the rural wisdom I had known. . .

Then quick and fast
some hidden hit man
strikes us off our anxious lists
and you
and I
stand open-mouthed
as poui leaves whisper just before they fall

tiday fi mi
tumaro fi you
Susu su su
Susu su su


--Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press

Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.

April 25, 2008

Chinese Lanterns from the Blue Child by Anthony McNeill

Tony McNeillAnthony McNeill was without doubt amongst the finest contemporary Caribbean poets, whose previous collections, Reel from 'The Life Movie' and Credences at the Altar of Cloud, were hailed as works of immense originality. Chinese Lanterns from the Blue Child won the 1995 Jamaican National Literary Award. Completed shortly before his death, it is a farewell to the world which moves like a bird in flight between moments of painful regret, wry humour and a sense of closure. Anthony McNeill's word-lanterns will continue to flame in the darkness long beyond his death.

An excerpt from Chinese Lanterns from the Blue Child

Somebody is hanging:
a logwood tree
laden with blossoms
in a deep wood.
The body stirs left
in the wind;
if the wind could send
its miracle breath
back to that person,
I tell you it would.
Love is Earth's mission
despite the massed dead.
On the night of the hanging
the Autumn moon bled.


Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press

Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.

April 24, 2008

Zimbabwe, China and the Struggle Continues

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny,
And in this judgement there is no partiality.
So arm in arms, with arms, we'll fight this little struggle,
'Cause that's the only way we can overcome our little trouble.

Brother, you're right, you're right,
You're right, you're right, you're so right!
We gon' fight (we gon' fight), we'll have to fight (we gon' fight),
We gonna fight (we gon' fight), fight for our rights!

Twenty-eight years after Bob performed "Zimbabwe," Robert Mugabe is still holding on desperately to power and it seems that he will use any tactic necessary to continue his dictatorship.

Now the Chinese are involved.

According to Avaaz.org:

Dockworkers in South Africa have blocked a Chinese arms boat from reaching Zimbabwe... but the crackdown continues. As the ship moves up the Southern African coast looking for a new port--and China weighs whether to recall the weapons--African unions, citizen groups, and church organisations are launching a campaign to stop arms from fuelling the Zimbabwe crisis.

I've already signed the petition.

Join InI and sign the petition: Rights, not Guns for Zimbabwe.


April 23, 2008

"Evolution Song" by Cyril Dabydeen

Cyril DabydeenCyril Dabydeen was born in the Canje, Guyana. He began writing in the early 1960s, winning the Sandbach Parker Gold Medal for poetry in 1964. His first collection of poems, Poems in Recession, was published in 1972.

In the early 1970s, he left Guyana for Canada where he obtained a BA (First class Hons) at Lakehead University, an MA (his thesis was on Sylvia Plath) and an MPA (Master of Public Administration) at Queen's University. He was literary juror in 2000 for the Canada's Governor's General Award for Literature, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the James Lignon Price Competition (the American Poets University & College Poetry Prize Program).

Dabydeen has been a finalist four times for Canada's Archibald Lampman Poetry Prize, as well as for the Guyana Prize. He received the City of Ottawa’s first award for Writing and Publishing, and a Certificate of Merit, Government of Canada (1988) for his contribution to the arts. He is a regular book critic for World Literature Today (University of Oklahoma).

Cyril Dabydeen has worked for many years in human rights and race relations in Canada, and currently teaches in the Department of English, University of Ottawa.

Evolution Song

I have evolved
from sugar cane
(so goes the hoary
Indian myth)

I sprout leaves
in the sun
blades in the wind

arrows pointing upward
as I am tropical
to the bone,

tramping on
squelchy ground
after the heavy rain

at the seasons
with machete

my sucrose memory
reeks through



*Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press

Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.

April 22, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Earth DayToday is Earth Day, a time to pause and think about the environment and the impact that we are having on our ecosystem. Because of its natural beauty and hospitable climate, the thought of changing some time-tested practices are the last things that some Jamaicans would consider. But John Maxwell in The Jamaica Observer (4/20/2008) issues some dire warnings:

We need to embark on a programme of sustainable development in which the people make the decisions, or at least have the major say in the making of the decisions about what is going to happen to their country.

. We need to plan about how we are going to protect the enormous areas of land and the huge numbers of people at risk from global warming, sea-level rise and saline intrusion.

. We need to build dikes to protect Portmore and other large population centres from storm surge and later, sea level rise. If we are wise and humane, these projects will employ a large number of people instead of bulldozers and put money where it is needed, into the base of the society

John Maxwell has proven time and time again to be prescient about many of the problems we now face. Let's hope his warnings are heeded, and we will have a change in consciousness to realize that we are the eyes, ears, mouth...of our islands and the larger one in an ocean of blue.



April 21, 2008

"Walcott, Heaney, Muldoon & Co." by Sasenarine Persaud

Sasenarine PersaudSasenarine Persaud is an essayist, novelist, short story writer, and poet. He is the author of nine books: six poetry collections, two novels, and a book of short stories: The Wintering Kundalini (Peepal Tree Press, Leeds, 2002); A Writer Like You (TSAR Publications, Toronto, 2002); The Hungry Sailor (TSAR, Toronto, 2000); Canada Geese and Apple Chatney (TSAR, Toronto, 1998); A Surf of Sparrows' Songs (TSAR, Toronto, 1996); The Ghost of Bellow's Man (Peepal Tree, Leeds, 1992); Dear Death (Peepal Tree, Leeds, 1989); Between the Dash and the Comma (author, Toronto, 1989); Demerary Telepathy (Peepal Tree, Leeds, 1989).

His awards include the K.M. Hunter Foundation Award (Toronto, 1996), the 1999 Arthur Schomburg Award (New York) for his writing and his pioneering of Yogic Realism, and Fellowships at the University of Miami and Boston University. Persaud has a Master's in Creative Writing from Boston University. His fiction was shortlisted for the 1997
Journey Prize (Toronto) while his poetry was nominated for the 1998 Canadian National Magazine Award, and twice (1989 and 1998) shortlisted for The Guyana Prize for Literature.

Sasenarine Persaud has pioneered Yogic Realism, a term he has invented to describe his literary aesthetics; his essay, “Kevat: Waiting on Yogic Realism” was published twice in India. Yogic Realism and Sasenarine’s work has been the focus of a doctoral dissertation.

Sasenarine Persaud was born in Guyana and has lived for several years in Canada. He presently resides in Tampa, Florida.

Walcott, Heaney, Muldoon & Co.

But for those unfamed
not this trudge and toil
of backside on swivel chair

Eyes glued to monitors and digital
counter adding minutes and hours
eight Internet Explorer windows

Open to funds moving between
Europe, Asia, the Middle East,
Americas: Where are the money

Launderers? You can track money’s
pathways and cannot find your own
you can justify an electronic transfer’s

Journey and forget your name’s
origin until a remittance’s laneway
lands you an alert in MP, UP, or AP.

Where is that? Uttar or Andhra Pradesh
are states in I—a Cebanova’s in Romania
Lorca’s nostrils flared by a Roma

Andalusia performance perched
in a Boston library in oil mostly black
the cloth of flamenco dancers skirts

And singers shirts enough to encircle
sun like a yolk rising over water
invisible from the highway’s tar-top snake

Lined with pepper-red eyes on SUVs’
behinds; those unfamed lower down
on a Ford road—another day chasing

Arab entities or Chinese investing in the chair
you sit, the backlit screens you examine

For rent, or an hour to compose yourself.
Would we not prefer “fame” and Sunday’s
emptiness, the whoredom of a poet: words

You do not write a poem, the anointed and their acolyte
critics say: you attempt to write…they have, of course,
you eat put-you-down pie and serf for a Saudi Prince

For those without Arkansas or other testaments,
for the visionaries who said, once, the chosen
dwell in a certain region, and only gods could fly


Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.

April 18, 2008

Derek Walcott for Calabash 08

Derek Walcott[April 16, 2008 — Kingston, Jamaica] Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott is delighted about his upcoming appearance at Calabash 2008 (calabashfestival.org). The free three-day festival of readings and live music will be held at Jake’s in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, over the Memorial Day Weekend, May 23–25th.

“I am very happy to be coming to Calabash as I have heard good things about the festival and have many Jamaican friends,” says the St. Lucian born playwright and poet. “I consider myself an honorary Jamaican.”

Walcott will be reading from his work and discussing his life and career with Ghanaian-Jamaican poet and playwright Kwame Dawes at 12 noon on Saturday, May 24th.

“Any opportunity to speak to one of the most important poets in the twentieth century is a gift that only a fool would allow to pass,” says Dawes, a resident of South Carolina and a recent recipient of that state’s Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts. “Derek Walcott is always interesting and inevitably brilliant, when he talks about art, the Caribbean and what it means to be alive.”

Walcott leads a strong international contingent of poets at this year’s festival, which will also feature Pulitzer Prize winners Yusuf Komunyaaka and Natasha Thetheway (United States), Chris Abani (Nigeria), Jackie Kay (Scotland) and Valzhyna Mort (Belarus).

The strong international flavor is also there in fiction. Fiction writers for Calabash 08 include Gerard Donovan (Ireland), Juan de Recacoechea (Bolivia), Achy Obejas (Cuba), Lawrence Hill (Canada)

Jamaican Literary Presence

“We must never forget that Calabash is an international literary festival that takes place in Jamaica,” says Dawes, who is also the festival’s programmer. “This year we have an incredibly strong contingent of Jamaican writers, the best we’ve ever had in a single year. We’re talking about Lorna Goodison, Beverley Manley and Rosie Stone reading from their new memoirs. We’re talking about Margaret Cezair-Thompson, Erna Brodber and Beverley East reading from their new novels. We’re talking about Kei Miller reading from his new collection of poems. We’re also talking about Thomas Glave, reading from and discussing his new anthology of lesbian and gay writing from across the Caribbean.

The festival will also feature a 75th anniversary reading of Claude McKay’s classic novel Banana Bottom by some of the best dramatic voices in Jamaica—Eddie Baugh, Barbara Gloudon, Denise Hunt and Lloyd Reckord.

Perry Henzell’s New Film

The festival is adding to the storytelling mix with a screening of the director’s cut of the late Perry Henzell’s second feature No Place Like Home. An experimental film that differs sharply from Henzell’s action-packed first feature The Harder They Come, No Place Like Home is a dreamy look at Jamaica in the late 70s as seen by American television producer (Susan O’Meara) who hires a local taxi driver (Carl Bradshaw) to help her pursue an American actress who has abandoned a commercial shoot.

Chalice, Rootz Underground and Bob Andy

Calabash wouldn’t be Calabash without the Midnight Ravers beach party on Friday evening and the Calabashment concert on Saturday night. This year, Squeeze will spin hits from the 70s and 80s at Midnight Ravers, and Rootz Underground will open for Chalice at Calabashment. On Sunday afternoon, singer/songwriter Bob Andy will perform a semi-acoustic set of his greatest lyrics with a supporting cast of Wayne Armond, Ibo Cooper, Seretse Small and Stevie Golding.

Calabash 08 is a production of the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust, a registered non-profit organization under the laws of Jamaica and New York State. Calabash 08 is supported by The CHASE Fund, The Jamaica Tourist Board, Jake’s, American Airlines, The United States Embassy, BNS/Dehring, Bunting & Golding, Macmillan Caribbean, Akashic Books, Wisynco Trading, Red Bull and Super Plus Foodstores.


Aime Cesaire: An Online Memorial

Aimé CésaireI am a slow, deliberate writer, so sometimes it takes me a while to process a monumental event. The death of Aime Cesaire was one of these events.

I also realized as the day went on that I was remiss in not providing a personal context for the life of the Cesaire, especially for the younger readers of this blog who are sometimes deceived by the illusion of time and linearity into believing that certain actions are inevitable—thereby dismissing personal agency and courage. And Cesaire was certainly courageous, and the impact of his work was felt beyond the Caribbean.

It is also one of the aims of this blog to provide the historical context between writers of Caribbean writers from the past and the present. For if this link is broken, then the writer finds himself or herself reinventing the wheel. (In some cases, this is not entirely bad—you need a dust up every now and then). But in terms of a nascent regional literature—a corpus of literary works that describes the lives, dreams, hopes tragedies of a people—such continuity is desirable.

This is especially true when a nation or region has been subject to outside forms of oppression such as British, French, Spanish, or Dutch colonialism, which was the thread that led me to Cesaire’s work and goes back to my undergraduate days at the University of Miami.

During that time, I was still trying to figure out the basis of my poetics (not that I have arrived at any final conclusions) and I began to study the work of Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance and Leopold Senghor and Aime Cesaire and Negritude.

I was struck immediately by Hughes’s manifesto, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” and even more affected by the principles of Negritude that Senghor and Cesaire applied to poetry: “An image or group of images that were analogical, melodic, and rhythmical.” This definition helped me to sort out my own poetic tastes. For whereas the work of TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and Ezra Pound had rich imagery, they lacked melody and rhythm. And while the work of the dub poets of my generation were “melodic and rhythmical,” they lacked the kind of imagery that I’d seen in the work of Walcott, Scott, McNeill, and Brathwaite—whose work was directly influenced by Cesaire.

But another reason for my enormous respect for Cesaire was his fierce stance against French (and by extension) British, Spanish and Dutch colonialism. Now I realize it is unfashionable to speak about slavery and colonialism, and I certainly do not subscribe to any kind of victimology, but a great evil was perpetrated against people of African descent. Cesaire was one of the first to speak out against this evil.

And while it may be argued that the French, British, Spanish and French were all at one time subjugated peoples, African colonialism was not only different in scale and with the myriad of players involved, it came with a type of thorough brainwashing and denigration of a people that led to all kinds of loss of identity (read Fanon) and self hatred—some even loving the master’s whip to the caress of a brother or sister. Effects that we still witness the legacy in many of the inner cities of North America and the Caribbean. Colonialism threatened the soul of people of African decent. And if the soul exists, it is connected to the integrity of the individual. Cesaire gave us back our integrity.

Aime Cesaire and Negritude began one of the movements that Professor Rex Nettleford has called the “decolonization of the mind.” For poets such as Cesaire, freedom is not an abstract idea. His legacy is for us to pursue freedom (self-actualization) in the body and the mind—the abilty to realize the full expression of an individual talent unbound by race, class, creed, religion, gender or sexual preference.

For if the goal of any life is freedom, then Aime Cesaire was a light.

Photo credit: Le Figaro

"Romancing the Numbers" by Barbra Nightingale

Barbra NightingaleBarbra Nightingale has had over 200 poems published in various national and online journals such as Tigertail, The Best of Tigertail, MiPo, Ocho, The Appalachee Review, Kansas Quarterly, Barrow Street, The Chatahoochee Review, Mississippi Review, MacGuffin, Many Mountains Moving, Kalliope, Calyx, and others. She has five published books, including the Prize-winning Singing in the Key of L.

Romancing the Numbers

Miranda, naked, sits cross-legged on the bed.

She is loving a man with her eyes only

because he does not exist. She has made him

up in her mind and he is the perfect lover.

His kisses cover her body, reach every crevice,

shed new light on darkness.

Miranda rocks back and forth and shakes her head,

counting beats of her heart. She is practicing Love

in the Perfumed Garden, the Arabic way.

She is on number fourteen and by the time

she reaches twenty-five, she will die of ecstasy.

She knows this and does not mind.

“Desire is the wish for heaven,” she says,

her hands fluttering like hummingbirds

around her body. She feels them peck and bite,

knows the power of suggestion.

What, after all, is reality, but a different spatial plane,

a riddle we move to, traveling in circles?

It is not the answer, she thinks, that binds us,

it is the question unasked—

the one where purpose is not a definition

but an adventure yet to be had.

Miranda sighs, lies down and closes her eyes.

Her lover sleeps, then brings her gently to fifteen.


"Romancing the Numbers" by Barbra Nightingale first appeared in MiPoesias, and is part of a new collection, Geometry of Dreams, due out in 2009. Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.


April 17, 2008

Aime Cesaire Joins the Ancestors

Aime CesaireFORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (AP) — Aime Cesaire, a poet honored throughout the French-speaking world and a crusader for West Indian rights, has died at 94.

Cesaire died Thursday after at a Fort-de-France hospital where he was being treated for heart problems and other ailments, said government spokeswoman Marie Michele Darsieres.

He was one of the most celebrated cultural figures in the Caribbean and was revered in his native Martinique, which sent him to France's parliament for nearly half a century and repeatedly elected him mayor of the capital.

"I remain faithful to my beliefs and remain inflexibly anti-colonialist"~Aime Cesaire.

For more, please follow this link: Aime Cesaire


Related Post: Aime Cesaire: An Online Memorial

Give thanks to Gene Tinnie, who sent me the news wire.

A Worldwide Gathering of Storytellers: Pangea Day

On Saturday, May 10, 2008, Pangea Day, there will be a worldwide gathering for what the organizers at Ted.com call a “powerful, first-of-its kind experience”:

Gathered in homes, movie theaters and larger venues, we will participate in a remarkable program of films and talks -- a kind of super-charged, marathon TED session -- celebrating our common humanity….

For more information, please visit this site: Pangea Day


April 16, 2008

Fred D’Aguiar's "Elegies for Virginia Tech"

Fred D’Aguiar“A year on, the campus is gearing up for another media blitz and my fellow teachers, students and staff all seem tensed for the replay of last year. The poetry becomes more important because it promises to outlast crude media depictions of spilled blood, broken bones and blinkered melodrama (the shooter, his makeup and psyche is of more interest to the media than his many, many victims).

I find myself ducking for cover into poetry once more.”

Fred D’Aguiar posts two poems for The Guardian.

Caribbean Cookbook For VT.

My mum cooked soul food for my final class:
Fried plantains, cow-tail in a stew of casareep,
Boiled dumplings, sliced pineapple and mango

Juice for our first meeting after the cancelled week.
One student arrived with a bouquet for my mother.
Everyone heaped Pirates of the Caribbean paper plates

For this breakfast, minus one of our number, gone
For good. We ate as if on the heels of a Ramadan
Squeezed into a week of nil by mouth, ears and eyes.

My mum flew to Blacksburg for our joint offer.
She rose before the birds and I helped her skin
Exotica and washed up to keep the kitchen spotless.

At 9AM we breezed into my Caribbean class
And served up honeydew with plates of paradise.

“Elegies for Virginia Tech”—The Guardian


Poet, novelist and playwright Fred D'Aguiar was born in London in 1960 to Guyanese parents. He lived in Guyana until he was 12, returning to England in 1972.

--From Contemporary Writers

Three New Books from Peepal Tree Press

Anthony KellmanLimestone by Anthony Kellman is the epic poem of Barbados and a major development in an indigenous Caribbean poetics. Drawing on the folk music of Tuk, Kellman invents his own forms of Tuk verse to write the story of his island from the destruction of the Amerindians to the present day.In this collection, Kellman constructs a vision of Barbados that encompasses suffering and achievement, heroic struggle and the setbacks of born of self-interest and timorous compromise. Above all, Limestone is never other than a poem: a vast treasure house of images, sounds, and rhythms that move, entertain, and absorb the reader in its world.


Velma PollardVelma Pollard has developed a significant following among her fellow Jamaicans and in the wider Caribbean world. In this collection she will delight these -- and new readers -- with her capacity to unite the personal and the political in a seamless whole.

Organized into three sections, the collection explores underlying political concerns, such as the impact of global culture, the dangers of unobstructed American power, and the threat of Islamist opposition. The poems move beyond these problems, however, ultimately seeking resolution through understanding the flow of nature and urging a celebration of life.


Black Yeats: Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry by Laurence Breiner.

For readers of West Indian literature, a study of Eric Roach requires no justification. He is the most significant poet in the English-speaking Caribbean between Claude McKay (who spent nearly all of his life abroad) and Derek Walcott. Roach began publishing in the late 1930s and continued, with a few interruptions, until 1974, the year of his suicide. His career thus spans an extraordinary period of Anglophone Caribbean history, from the era of violent strikes that led to the formation of most of the region’s political parties, through the process of decolonization, the founding and subsequent failure of the Federation of the West Indies (1958-1962), and the coming of Independence in the 1960s. This book presents a critical analysis of all of Roach’s published poetry, but it presents that interpretation as part of a broader study of the relations between his poetic activity, the political events he experienced (especially West Indian Federation, Independence, the Black Power movement, the 'February Revolution' of 1970 Trinidad), and the seminal debates about art and culture in which he participated.By exploring Roach’s work within its conditions, Laurence Breiner aims above all to confirm Roach’s rightful place among West Indian and metropolitan poets of comparable gifts and accomplishments.


*Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press

April 14, 2008

"Prayer for Naming Ceremony" by Adrian Castro

Adrian CastroOne of the most vibrant Caribbean/South Florida poets, Adrian Castro's work scintillates with tonality, bilingualism, clarity of image and spirit. On the publication of his first collection, Cantos to Blood & Honey, Victor Hernandez Cruz wrote, “Reading [Castro]...is like ritual itself, like ceremony. Castro's criollo bipolarity and polyrhythmic versing approximate chant. The poems are clear maps of migrations, from the indigenous Orinoco and island hopping, to the Spanish sailors who vanished into Siboney maracas. The sounds of the Yorubas upon wooden vessels crossing the Atlantic, singing the first salsa into the stars. History is organized burglary. Adrian Castro has realized his geophysical position in the spider web of Caribbean history as an individual and as a larger portion of blue space.” Adrian’s work has been widely anthologized in publications such as Paper Dance: 55 Latino Poets, One Century of Cuban Writers in Florida, and Little Havana Blues. His most recent collection, Wise Fish, was published by Coffee House Press. He lives in Miami, Florida.

Prayer for Naming Ceremony

for my daughter Ajibo

Today we wake to touch forehead on Earth

Today we wake with brow burrowed into the richness of hope

Today early when dew feet

spread through the theater of daylight

we pray that

at the night of our lives you will

witness our last ritual

She is three days old today

& steps thrice on the dust of the world

Can we differ the foot of madman

from the print of prince?

(We have assembled herb bundles—

Odundun here called siempre viva

Tètè called bledo/wild spinach which

sprouts despite the pounce of man

Atèpe/Gbegi the grass that twines

through contorting obstacles

We have bundled on clay dish what you will taste:

kola nuts, bitter kola, sugarcane, honey, pepper,

dried fish, water, gin, red African-Grey feather as spoon)

Today we begin to sketch the verses

you will sing through life

Verses that you chose in the language of deities

when you kneeled in the other world

when I exhaled liquid fatherhood

& your mother embraced my breath

We pray that we may plant a flag

so you know where is home

even after the pounce of madmen

We pray that you are careful where to alight

that you fly forward while

looking back

That your verses do not scatter if

a storm tears your memory

That you understand the songs you will sing

And you remember the language you once spoke

Today is the opening chapter

of a crystallized prayer


Throughout the month of April, National Poetry Month, poets from the Caribbean and South Florida will be featured on this blog.

April 13, 2008

An Evening With Geoffrey Philp

Geoffrey PhilpIn celebration of Jamaica Awareness Week at the University of Miami, award winning author, Geoffrey Philp, will reading from his most recently completed manuscript, Nearing Fifty. The program which begins at 7:30 pm on Wednesday, April 16, 2008, will be held at the Storm Surge Café, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124

"In many ways, this is a homecoming for me," said Philp, a graduate of the University of Miami's Creative Writing Department. "I gave my first reading at the University of Miami in 1980. At that time, I'd just published Exodus and Other Poems (University of the Virgin Islands), and I was really anxious about reading in front of my peers. Twenty-eight years later, I’m just as anxious about connecting with a younger audience.”

Nearing Fifty explores contemporary issues such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the death of General Pinochet of Chile and extends the discourse on Caribbean identity with allusions to the work of poets such as Kamau Brathwaite, Derek Walcott, Edward Baugh, and Mervyn Morris. The collection, an imaginative investigation of the Caribbean Diaspora, also uses the archetypal stories from the Bible and Yoruba mythology, to explore the historical and cultural links among the English, French, and Spanish-speaking Caribbean countries.

About the Author: Geoffrey Philp is the author of Benjamin, My Son, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas, and four poetry collections, including Exodus and Other Poems, Florida Bound, hurricane center, and xango music. He teaches English at Miami Dade College and is the chairperson of the College Prep. Department at the North campus.


Photo: Nadezka Ferro-Philp

April 12, 2008

Jamaican Memory Joggers

Jamaican Flag Now that I've turned fifty, I think I can indulge myself in this e-mail that my brother, Burt, sent me, which has been compiled via e-mail chain.

I've decided to publish it because I've written about so many of these people, places, and events in my poetry collections, Exodus and Other Poems, Florida Bound, hurricane center, xango music; my novel, Benjamin, my Son, and short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien.

Interestingly, these topics (many of which I've had to add to my dictionary in Microsoft Word) have also been the subject of a few posts (see below) that I've written about on this blog. And while some are specific to Jamaica, they are also transglobal, generational memories that bloggers such as Rethabile and Stephen Bess share.

Yet, even as I write this, I realize that this is not merely nostalgia. These memories shaped what I have called the Reggae/Rastafari Generation (Benjamin) or the Jamaican Baby Boomers, many of whom are now part of the Jamaican Diaspora.

One of a writer's duties (see how non-American I am) is to memorialize and analyze--name--the people, places, events, lives, and light (genius) of his/her people. The bad, the good, and the ugly. To put into words what others have seen, heard, tasted, smelled, and felt in a way that only s/he can.

And even though these memories are selective, they tell us about who we are/were (class divisions and aspirations) and about our expectations of what a "good life" should be.


Miss Lou

Sister Maureen Clare at Immaculate (I Can't Have Sex) with her ruler and flashlight for separation at the fetes

Radcliffe Butler on RJR with 'The Butler Did It', 'Midnight Mood'.

Dorothy La Croix (Dottie Dean).

Mr. Mac gas station at the bottom of Old Hope Road with the foul mout parrot.

On Radio, Charlie Babcock, CB, the cool fool, the man about town.

Mista Chin, who told Charlie Babcock, "Yu nuh cool fool, yu damn fool, call man at 5 o'clock in the mawning"

Lannaman's Lollipop Land for Children with Dorothy Hosang.

Half Pint, Pint Bottle - pronounced (Hep pint, pint bakkle) by the man on his donkey cart.

The Rasta man selling 'cobweb' brooms on Sundays with his "Brooman" shout.

Shrimpy man on his big head Honda 50 .... selling more than just shrimp!

Runna ... he used to run naked up Wellington Drive towards Mona Dam.

Wayne Chin - "Win Chin say man who ride and dilly dally, end up on hospital trolly". "Win Chin say, man who go to bed with stiff problem, wake up with sticky solution".

InCrowd (Peter Phillips) - never did understand why they played "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep"!!

The "walker" on Hope Road with the bruk foot and stick

Fudgie – fudge man

Gleeeeeeeeeeeeeeaner! – Gleaner man!

Starrie – Star man

Spoogie – DJ

Barry G – DJ

Francois – DJ

Maas Ran

Reverend V. B.

Boops: "See im deh… im still de bout"


Three Piece Suit an Ting


If the rocks at Mona Central Park could talk!

Port Royal tower by the police station.

Cable Hut beach

Riding a Honda to Cable Hut to hear Mystic Revelation of Rastafari

Roy Reid - 'Reid at Random'.

Monty's Drive-In after Harbour View movies.

Bath Botanical Gardens in St. Thomas.


Gino's Fast (Fart) Food.





Epiphany, when it was run by Evon Williams.

Tuck Shops!

Turn Table Time' with E.T.

Bob singing at Dizzy's

Getting lost in the Maze at Hope Gardens

Empty lots in Harbour View

Four lines of bumper to bumper into Harbour View Drive In

Thursday Nights drag racing in front of Epiphany (when Barry Lee was the Manager)

When you were leaving on a flight from Palisadoes to go to Miami for one week and the whole family would turn out to wave from the Waving Gallery?

Lime night at Mona Church youth group

Turn Table Club – Merritones


When Mother's was one of only 5 fish & festival stalls at Hellshire

Sports Clubs – the hang out in our young professional adulthood – every company worth its salt had one for during the week after work limes domino etc NCB Sports Club,

Myers Fletcher, JPS, Citizens Bank

Suzette – Bus to greater Portmore

Milkshake at Dairy Farmers

Banana Split at Oxford Pharmacy

Monty's Drive Inn

Kelly's soft drinks

Shakey’s Pizza


JC boys descending on St. Andrew High school "events," and Ms. Reader going berserk!

Day Fete – party we can go to in the day since we were not allowed out to late night party

Ring Ding

Jonkanoos who actually came to your house at Independence.

Chukka Mo ... ice cream bar

Drag racing in New Kingston & Red Hills gully

When your phone had a party line

5 digit phone numbers

Long walks home with friends after crashing a party in Hope Pastures, Barbican, and Graham Heights.

Jamaica Omnibus Service.--Jolly Joseph and Patty Pan bus

Palisadoes airport.

When you could actually swim at Gunboat Beach.

When Havendale was the place to live.

When JBC Radio 2 played commercial free music.

When you could walk yards out into the crystal clear waters at Hellshire.

Boulevard Drive Inn (now JPS).

Burgerman on Trafalgar Road (I believe it is now called Veranda).

Brooks Shoppers Fair on Washington Boulevard.

Ford Anglia motorcars.

Morris Minors with the indicators that flipped out.

Times Stores.

Standing on your roof and listening for the direction the music was coming from to crash the party.

Where It's At (Not)

Matilda's Corner barber (where the Texaco gas station is now)

The milkman and the bread man delivering in the cart then van

When 22 and 67 were the new bus routes

Teenage hikes to New Castle and Hardware Gap

Taking the train to MoBay

When you got to a party, not knowing how you were getting home at 3 or 4 in the morning.

Going home from the party with 10-12 people in the same car OR walking home.

Idle-nights (Thursday nights).

Not knowing what a gun-shot sounded like (not even knowing they existed?).


TV just coming in -- black & white of course!

Bike-back (don't forget the lean).

The huge black telephones with round dials that moved as you dialed the number.

Watching Bonanza and the Cartwrights on Friday nights

Silver Slipper Shopping Center

Carib, Regal and Premier Cinemas

"Bumming" a ride

When people used to dress up in their Sunday best to go a farin.

Portable record players - 45s and LPs

Swimming at Cable Hut beach then going to Cane River to wash off.

Swimming at the far beach pass Hellshire and the twin caves above Hellshire.

Hanging out at Doctor's Cave beach in the summer.

Hanging out at Silver Slipper Plaza after school.

Saturday afternoon movies at the movie theatre on Constant Spring Road, a muss!!

San Diego shopping bus parked on Constant Spring Road with de black 'merican guy, listening to Santana and burning incense...

Hiding people in the back seat of the car to get in cheaper at the Harbour View Drive-In

Going to Harbour View drive in just for the food and the 'lime'

Girls champs and Boys Champs (they were separate then) - nuff cheering in Grandstand

The long circuitous route home after Mona Youth Club (Friday nights)

York Pharmacy/Oxford pharmacy for ice cream sodas and hot dogs

Manor Park pharmacy with the soda fountain (like in Happy Days).

Romper Room on JBC.

Festival floats and going to Stadium to watch them during Independence.

Thruppence, sixpence and shilling.


"Crepe sole boot" or "boogas" now called "sneakers"

The perfectly shaped Afro

Hot pants and platform shoes

Finishing the dress just 15 minutes before being picked up to go to the party ("spot")

Tony C – hairstyle

Napoleon – hairstyle

The chukkie (speng length, drewters etc) vs. soul boy (bellbottoms, platforms etc) identity/fashion clash

"Stepping" and doing the Hustle at parties and night clubs to show off.

"Blues" Dance at University Union and Stand Pipe when every one was defending Rasta and dressing with Dreads, "Speng" pants, tam and a rag

Music & Dance

Turn Table when they "fly" the gate at 2pm. and you get in and step to Nina Simone's "My Baby Don't Care.

Getting the latest 45 or LP from Derrick Harriot's or Record Plaza

The Jackson 5 were HOT!

Billy Dee Williams in Lady Sings the Blues...or anything, for that matter......sorry...Denzel has now taken over!

Everything MOTOWN......Diana, Supremes, Smokey, Four Tops, Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Marvin etc....it doesn't get any better!!

Knowing the words to all the Delfonics hits

Being stuck for 13 minutes and 42 seconds with the wrong guy when the put on Isaac Hayes' "I Stand Accused"

The Emotions

Listening to the latest 45 or 33 in a sound booth at the record shop.

Crystal Blue Persuasion


Red Red Wine.

"Late night at the Party" anthems: "Oh Carolina," "Satta," "Reasons," and others?

If you can think about any other, please add them to the Comments...

Related Posts:

Mona Heights, Stand Pipe, August Town








Jamaica College (JC)