May 23, 2008

"Creole Gang" by Rooplall Monar

Rooplall MonarRooplall Monar was born in a mud floor logie on the Lusignan sugar estate, East Coast Demerara, in 1945. His parents were both caneworkers, and his mother continued to work on her own ground provision plot daily, long after she retired. The family moved to Annandale Village in 1953 to a houselot with its own plot. This, much extended over the years, remains Monar's home. He attended Lusignan Government school, Buxton Congregational School, Hindu College and Annandale Evening College. He has worked as a teacher, accounts clerk, freelance journalist, broadcaster, and practitioner of folk healing (herbal cures).

He began writing in the mid-1960s and came to notice in 1967 with a prize-winning poem, 'The Creole Gang'. His early poems were published in New World, Kaie, Voices and various anthologies. His first published collection, Meanings (1972) begins his exploration of the consciousness of the Indo-Guyanese 'divided by horizon's edges, yet/ telling of no other worlds/ but mine'. His second collection, Patterns (1983) continued the creative but painful potential of this limbo consciousness, asking "Who am I/between buried copper trunks/voices in the cemeteries?/Oh whom am I/between a dying consciousness,/a growing vision."

Monar also began to write short stories, encouraged by his blood brother, the folklorist and poet Wordsworth McAndrew, though it was almost another ten years before they saw publication as the classic Backdam People first published in 1985 and in a new edition in 1987. After Backdam People, Peepal Tree brought out a collection of Monar's poems, Koker (1987), followed by his novel, Janjhat (1989) which explores the tempestuous first year of a marriage under the interfering pressure of the boy's mother. The move from estate to village life is explored in the short stories of High House and Radio which sees the backdam people leave their logies for their new high houses and the coherent Indianness of the estate challenged by the new visions brought by the radio, politicians, and the pursuit of more individual lives.

Since then Monar has written two works of popular fiction, Ramsingh Street and Tormented Wives (1999). In 1987 he was awarded a special Judges' Prize for his contribution to Guyanese writing.

Creole Gang

Baling and throwing

among green canes from rusty punts,

their sweated faces

show how many days and nights have passed

between cane roots and black streams,

sunburnt trashes and parched earth,

wearied days and restless reality.

Their hands and limbs are but fragments

that walk and bathe,

when sun shines, rains fall

and drivers shout.

Who can tell when midday meets

their rest - they eat, they talk?

Their limbs cry and hearts burn.

Is this not the century of dreams,

of tales told by ancestors

of a faith told by life?

Again and again they will bale and throw

curse and rest among green canes

and black earth, wishing, wishing. . .


Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press


Rethabile said...

Yet another pleasant discovery for me. The question naturally asks itself: "How many good poets are out there, waiting to be heard?"

Thanks for this.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Rethabile, there are many good poets from the Caribbean and South Florida who are rarely heard and this is the raison d'être of this blog...

Have a great weekend!

Stephen A. Bess said...

Yes,this is the raison d'être of your blog and that's why I return again and again. I can say the same for you as well Rethabile. Enjoy your weekend. Peace~

Rethabile said...

Thanks, brother Stephen.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Thanks, Stephen! Have a great (long) weekend.