July 31, 2008

Technorati Survey: State of the Blogosphere

Although Technorati has had a few glitches in the past, it is still a valuable tool for many bloggers. The company is now conducting a survey to document the impact of blogging.

I’ve already taken the survey, why not add your voice to the the survey?
clipped from v2.decipherinc.com

Technorati has been tracking the Blogosphere for the past several years through our State of the Blogosphere study. This year we have decided to expand our study from sheer size and characteristics of the Blogosphere in order to hear more from you, the bloggers. Nobody understands the impact that blogging has on society like you do so we want to hear your perspective.
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Black Inventors, Crafting Over Two Hundred Years of Success

Black Inventors
Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success, clearly outlines the work of Black inventors from over seventy countries. The author, Keith C. Holmes, has spent over twenty years researching information on inventions by Black people from Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Canada, France, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, to name a few.

Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success discovers a number of the inventions, patents, and labor saving devices developed by Black inventors. Before the period of enslavement, Africans developed a number of inventions: agricultural tools, building materials, medicinal herbs, cloths, and weapons. Though many Black people were brought in chains to Canada, Caribbean, Central and South America and the United States, it is relatively unknown that many of them developed labor saving devices and inventions that created companies, generated money, and jobs. Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success is one of the first books to address diversity of the Black inventors and their inventions from a global perspective.

The focus of Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success is to introduce the readers to the facts that inventions by Black people, both past and present, were developed and patented on a global scale. In the past, the focus has been on American and European inventors. The new giants in the patenting process are from Brazil, China, India, Japan, Nigeria, South Africa, and South Korea.

Black inventors, from the very beginning of their involvement in the invention and patenting processes in Western Civilization, have had an important and earth shattering impact on the world. Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success outlines the early Black inventors from the United States. The book documents one of the first Black inventors to obtain a patent in the Caribbean and the United States. In the United States, there are now sixteen African American men who have been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Two of the inventors, Jan E. Matziliger and Elijah McCoy were born outside the United States. Recently, Dr. Patrica Bath was nominated to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Yet, there are still no African American women who have been inducted into this prestigious organization. Mr. Holmes documents inventions by Black women inventors from Africa, Canada, Caribbean, United Kingdom, and the United States.

The material available in Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success is an introduction into the world of inventions by Black inventors. It gives the reader, researcher, librarian, student and teachers, the materials needed to effectively understand that the Black inventor is not one dimensional, but a global phenomenon.

Mr. Holmes is available for lectures and book signings.

For more information, please call 646-610-1485, or visit our website: www.globalblackinventor.com or send an email to: info@globalblackinventor.com or kcholmes50@gmail.com

Black Inventors, Crafting Over 200 Years of Success

ISBN: 978-0-9799573-0-7

List Price: $15.00

Global Black Inventor Research Projects. Inc.

Tel: 646-610-1485

Fax: 718-284-8965

Website: www.globalblackinventor.com

Email: info@globalblackinventor.com


July 30, 2008

Ricardo Pau-Llosa: NewsHour Poetry Series

My friend and fellow poet, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, has been featured on the NewsHour Poetry Series. Ricardo read three poems from his latest collection, Parable Hunter.

clipped from www.pbs.org

Ricardo Pau-Llosa was born in Havana in 1954 and has lived in the United States since 1960.

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July 29, 2008

Plants Without Borders

Plants Without Borders is a new blog about plants and culture with an emphasis on plants that are native to Florida and the Caribbean. I will be a part of an upcoming panel discussion and they've included one of my poems, "Naseberry Berth"(naseberries are known as sapodillas in some parts of the Caribbean) on the site.
“Plants without Borders” is a project in process. Many people and organizations are contributing time, thoughts, space, and ideas. In addition to this blog, we are planning a series of workshops beginning this fall, followed by a larger panel discussion about plants and culture, with a mixed-media arts show on native plants. (The Arts at St. Johns is applying for several grants for the project.)

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Sasenarine Persaud's Blog

Sasenarine Persaud
Add Sasenarine Persaud to the growing list of Caribbean authors/ bloggers.

Sase’s first post is about the Walcott/ Naipaul dust-up and “The Mongoose.”

clipped from authortree.com
The subject of Walcott's poem, V.S. Naipaul, has also received the Nobel Prize for literature and is also a brilliant writer. There is much to admire in Naipaul’s prose and I am sure I will return to it, too, in the future, that it will be a source of inspiration to me as it has been in the past. We are fortunate to inhabit the time and literary space of these two gifted writers. Mind you, one tries to concentrate on the works not the lives...and yet..."The Mongoose" is a poem which makes you think about the mortality of lives, the scent of goodbyes. Where do you leave behind those you once admired? In a recent biography, in a poem that compels you to look back at the peculiar Black-on-Indian racism of a certain time and place? For those of the West Indies who are not Indians, who were around that time and who were silent, perhaps, this is an opportunity for “redemption”...

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July 28, 2008

"Last Will" by Geoffrey Philp

Geoffrey Philp
Geoffrey 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.

Last Will

When they part my hair, lay in my palms a rosary,
Under a tent of sky, let gardenias lisp my prayers.
Rest me gently in a little town named Struie.

For I am past these pains, beyond all injury;
I live with each pulse through your fingers.
I will settle in the dust of your memory.

Scream my faults to the tired air; my treachery
With those I loved, lapses never forgiven, remember.
Rest me gently in a little town named Struie.

When I become the final entry in a diary,
And tears shine like asterisks on the pages of a ledger,
I will settle in the dust of your memory,

Curl on your tongue, a favorite apostrophe,
As the taste of smoke seeps into darkened chambers,
Rest me gently in a little town named Struie.

Bury me in that cedar-strewn cemetery
With my father whose face is now a blur.
I will settle in the dust of your memory.
Rest me gently in a little town named Struie.


Update: I've received many e-mails concerning my health and I can assure you that as of my last check-up, I am in good health.

"Last Will" was part of my second collection of poems, Florida Bound, and it was written in the voice of my mother who had died shortly after the publication of my first collection of poems, Exodus and Other Poems, which was livicated to her.

Thank you, my brothers and sisters. I am well.


July 25, 2008

Blog to Show @ Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot

Blog to ShowLiz Strauss at Successful Blog has given bloggers an excellent opportunity to show off their blogs, and I've answered the challenge.

In order to participate, please visit her site for the details: Liz Strauss.

One of the optional suggestions that Liz has made is compile a list of the most popular posts, and I've used Google Analytics to figure out the posts that received the most hits for this month.

So here ere are some of my most popular posts for July 2008, which give a flavor of Geoffrey Philp’s Blog Spot:

The Top Twenty Posts of Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot

But these posts are only a part of the story. There are many other writers from the Caribbean and South Florida whose work has been recorded on these digital pages (Five Questions With..., A Conversation With..., In My Own Words), and to whom I am grateful for sharing a bit of their lives with me.



July 24, 2008

"First Love" by Geoffrey Philp

Canopic JarCanopic Jar has published one of my short stories, "First Love," which will be a part of my new collection, Who's Your Daddy and Other Stories (Peepal Tree Press, 2009).
clipped from canopicjar.com
Mark watched Patrick as he entered the showers and wondered how it would feel to have Patrick's arm around his waist and the ripple of his thighs against his buttocks.

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July 23, 2008

Barack Obama & the American Monomyth

Barack ObamaThe stories that cultures repeat often reveal the character of their people—how they see themselves and how they wish to be seen. One of the persistent myths of North American culture has been examined by American philosopher John Shelton Lawrence and American religious scholar Robert Jewett in The American Monomyth, The Myth of the American Superhero, and Captain American and the Crusade of Zealous Nationalism.

The "American Monomyth" storyline: A community in a harmonious paradise is threatened by evil; normal institutions fail to contend with this threat; a selfless superhero emerges to renounce temptations and carry out the redemptive task; aided by fate, his decisive victory restores the community to its paradisiacal condition; the superhero then recedes into obscurity.

This myth has been retold many times in the films of John Wayne (The Man from Utah), Clint Eastwood (High Plains Drifter) and spoofed by Sergio Leone (My Name is Nobody) and Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles). The basic plot is about a nameless cowboy (The Man with No Name) who saves a town from outlaws and then, rides off into the sunset.

As the days, weeks, and months have gone by, it has become increasing clear that Barack Hussein Obama (more like the man with the unpronounceable name), has been stepping into this role of the “selfless superhero.” (Will he be Cleavon Little or Will Smith?), and both Democrats and Republicans have reacted by questioning the mystery of his sudden rise (Bill Cinton’s “fairy tale” remark) or by portraying Obama as merely another politician (Political Wisdom: Barack Obama is a Politician).

Either response, however, is an acknowledgment of the role that Barack Obama has begun to play in the story of North America, and if he succeeds in winning the election, we’d all better start reading Greek myths and Shakespeare.

What the Greek myths and Shakespeare teach us is that the hero’s hubris leads to his downfall, and we have already seen certain tendencies of intellectual pride in Obama who has demeaned the beliefs held dear by “the common people”: “So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion.” (Salon) The fatal flaw of pride is a common flaw of rulers and gods, who once they begin to wield power, start to believe the hype of their omnipotence which leads to their downfall and they begin the karmic cycle from scratch: Indra and the Ants

Whether or not Obama gets to play the role of “savior” (witness the Jib-Jab video) will rely on the goodwill of the electorate to accept Obama’s vision of America’s future. But he should be wary. There are enormous risks in trying to embody one of the oldest human stories because if he fails, it could lean to the kind of disillusionment that Morpheus experiences in The Matrix: Reloaded: “I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me.”

The dream, of course, is founded on the belief of American innocence and runs through Huckleberry Finn, For Whom the Bell Tolls, All the King's Men, and Mystic River. It's what made Ronald Reagan an indomitable force, despite the "fall" of Iran-Contra for which he was forgiven. (North Americans do not like tragedy--it's too human).

Obama's "purity" in every sense of the word is being tested. Robert Penn Warren called this America's fascination with the "Clean and the Dirty." Whether he passes the "purity" test or not is a matter of time and the optimism of North Americans that a man named Barack Hussein Obama can fulfill this mythic role.

July 21, 2008

"Sunday Homily" by Geoffrey Philp

Geoffrey Philp
Geoffrey 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.

Sunday Homily

She had me singing psalms on Sunday

morning before the call to prayer,

the reading of her feet, calves, thighs

and exhortation to reach higher

to partake the wafer of her tongue,

wine of her lips, babbling the language

of angels with the homily to become one--

no closing hymn as sincere,

no communion as complete.


July 20, 2008

Happy Birthday, Frantz Fanon (2008)

"There is no white world, there is no white ethic, any more than there is a white intelligence.There are in every part of the world men who search. I am not a prisoner of history. I should not seek there for the meaning of my destiny.I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introduction invention into existence. In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself."

~Black Skin, White Masks~ Frantz Fanon


July 18, 2008

"Small Boys" by Marc Matthews

Marc MatthewsMarc Matthews is a writer who was born in Guyana in the 1940s. He received, he reports, "a mid Victorian education" at Queen's College, Georgetown. He worked as an operator, producer and presenter on Radio Demerara; as a scriptwriter and documentary researcher/ presenter for Guyana Broadcasting Service as a tutor in drama at the Cyril Potter Teachers Training College.

In the 1960s he was in London as a freelance reporter, involved with the UK Black Power movement and alternative theatre productions. He was closely involved with the Caribbean Artists Movement, being, along with Linton Kwesi Johnson, one of the most prominent younger poets to come out of CAM. Unlike Johnson, Marc Matthews's pioneering role as a nation language performance poet has not been properly recognised, probably because his roots and material were always more Guyanese than Black British. Similarly, because of its nature as live theatre rather than as published scripts, his important work, first with fellow Guyanese Ken Corsbie in Dem Two, then in All Ah We, which added John Agard and Henry Muttoo, has largely vanished from the record, if not the memory of those who witnessed them. Only Matthews's record Marc-Up (1987) survives as a record of those days.

As the tyranny of the Burnham years worsened, Marc Matthews settled in the United Kingdom, though he made one attempt to return to live in Guyana after the return of democratic government in the 1990s. In 1988, he won the Guyana Prize for his first collection of poetry Guyana My Altar (Karnak House, 1987). (Kairi in Trinidad had produced an early unbound pamphlet of Matthews, Eleven O'Clock Goods, in 1974).
Around 2005 Marc, working under the pseudonym 'Tramping Man' formed a musical collaboration called 'Burn Brothers' with 2 london based producers - Jean Philippe Altier, and Adam Hoyle. They were joined by saxophonist Florian Brand and performed a number of gigs in and around London in 2007. A record named 'Fire Exit' was recorded and released in April 2008.From (Wikipedia)

Small Boys

Two lil boys bus’ an laugh an turn winter
right roun’ an deh bring me into the sun;

Out of London they transport me, to Guyana
where Carlton, Smallboy and Egbert belong.

Bu these two, I suddenly see, are Brixton white,
not like Carlton and Smallboy, black and brown.

Smallboy, fat and white jumping up and down,
excitement reds his face, egging white Carlton on

to challenge their friend, a white Egbert,
get him to come outside, mad enough to fight;

get Saturday morning start-off right, a trick-flick
the dirty mud’s off the stick in he face.

'I’ll run through the estate roun’ the back,
you go through the gate, meet up at paper shop.'

So I ask, what will they do, where will they go?
Will they like Carlton & Smallboy, black and brown,

secure and safe, watch Egbert fuming full of rage,
with vengeance in his heart, searching every place?

And should he say 'forget it', his anger’s gone,
will they be careful where they walk;

check for wasps & ants nests; keep an eye
whenever he has something in his hands;

not get between him and any trench?
Suddenly a car horn; it’s Brixton, Coldharbour Lane,

I’m comforted to know, no matter white, black or brown,
Small boys’ hearts beat to the same drum


Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press

July 16, 2008

"After Image" by Dennis Scott

Dennis Scott Jamaican poetIn After-image, Dennis Scott displays in ever more refined, pared-down ways the qualities that, in his previous collections, established him as a major Caribbean poet. There is his acute intelligence, seriousness worn lightly, and meticulous craft with sound and the appearance of the poem on the page. There is his resolute integrity as a Black and Caribbean poet with a sense of multiple inheritances who refuses to be conscripted into any sentimental or monolithic stance, who goes ‘among the fashionable drums/trying to keep true my own blood’s subtle beat’. There is the warm humanity of his poems about love and the nourishment of his marriage. There is his actor’s ability to get under the skin of those he observes, to see ‘so many tales/ in every silent face’, his sense of the masks and rituals, the significance of tiny movements in the interactions between people.

Particularly arresting in After-image, poems drawn from the wealth of manuscripts left by Scott after his untimely death in 1991, and edited by his friend and fellow poet, Mervyn Morris, are those that focus on his own coming death, his hope/confidence that ‘when this machine is dead/ the poems it made will flare/ wild...’ These are poems vibrant with life, with curiosity about this new journey, ‘a certain satisfaction from/ questions articulated’, poems of an inspiring courage. Though the world becomes confined to a ward, a body, a tirelessly curious mind, there is no sense of diminution when a vase of flowers on a hospital table brings him ‘The surprise of wild flowers!/ Walls fall open, roofs melt/ I too grow upwards.’ There are the pleasures of travelling light, ‘A small bird, bearing/ news from the front’, and the pangs and consolations of not knowing what is to come. He sees the bird that ‘shits on my neat/ green/ garden// I do not know/ what will grow’, but he also draws peace from the sense of continuation when he watches the ocean and thinks ‘Let the sea repeat/ unwatched, its long, salt hymn.’ And there is his poet’s wit writing about death the editor in the last poem in the collection, the last two lines left artfully incomplete, of waiting on ‘that blue hand that/ could be here, now,’.

Scott’s work is acknowledged as one of the major influences on the direction of Caribbean theatre. He died at the early age of fifty-one in 1991.


Courtesy of Peepal Tree Press


On a very personal note, Dennis was one of the most important teachers in my life and he became a true friend. I still miss his laughter and his wisdom.



July 14, 2008

Thank you, my Angel (Wherever you are)

The VillainDriving in downtown Miami is usually an adventure for me because 7 times out of 10, I will end up with a flat tire near some alley littered with soda cans that have been used as makeshift crack pipes.

Last week Tuesday was one of those times. No, not the crack pipe thing--the flat tire. And, of course, it was on my way to give my presentation, The Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog, to Janell Agyeman’s workshop: Paths to Publication.

As I was getting out of the car in the Miami Dade College parking lot, my wife saw the tire and she grew a bit worried. And who wouldn't be? This is Miami, after all.

I didn't want my wife to panic and I didn't want to be overly nervous before the presentation, so I told her we'd worry about fixing the flat after the workshop. I could almost hear my mother's voice in my ear: "One step at a time, Geoffrey. One step at a time."

And, besides, I told myself, it was only half-flat.

We took the elevator up to the fifth floor where we were met by Janell, who introduced me to the participants. As soon as I began, they began asking so many questions that I've now created the syllabus for a three hour workshop for writers who would like to start their own blogs. Practical advice about some of the things that I've done right and how to avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

The presentation was a success, but we knew what was waiting for us the parking lot. My wife and I dreaded every step back to the parking lot because we knew what awaited us. Our fears were justified. The tire was now completely flat. So much for optimism, I thought.

But then, I was proved wrong.

Sitting on top of my windshield was a brand new can of Fix a Flat and this note written on a paper napkin: "Saw your flat--thought you might need this…good luck"

The MessageWow! I guess all the good karma I've been sending out on Facebook worked. Or maybe it wasn't my goodness, but my wife's. She teaches second grade in an elementary school, so she counts among the saints.

Either way, someone was looking out for us. And in Miami?

I pulled the nail out of the tire, inflated the tire with Fix a Flat, and drove home via Biscayne Boulevard rather than the I-95. I wasn't about to push my good fortune.

The night ended peacefully without me having to fight off crack addicts.

So, thank you to the good Miamian who helped me last Tuesday night. And, obviously, you are part of the "MDC family" which makes this even more special for me.

Thank you. Thank you, my angel, who ever and wherever you are!


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July 11, 2008

Villager's Black Blog Rankings for July

The Electronic Village has posted the Villager's Black Blog Rankings for July 2008, and they are also inviting all Caribbean bloggers to become a part of the Village.

Also, while you are at the Village, check out this post:

Afronary.net provides a quick summary of what is happening in the afrosphere. There is news, opinion, gossip and pretty much everything that Black people are blogging about.

I encourage you to check it out if you have time or inclination. As an aside, there are other efforts to aggregate Black blog information such as Black Blog Watch and RSSpect.

and the Blogging While Brown conference in Atlanta

(Thanks Persistence!)
Today, we are proud to share with you Villager's Black Blog Rankings (BBR) for July 2008 with 1,269 blogs in the mix! Have you seen the growth over the past few months?

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Jamaican Flag
The Jamaica Information Service in Miami is now accepting entries for the annual Independence Essay Competition, which forms part of the Jamaica Independence celebrations throughout the Florida communities.

Essay topics are as follows:

  1. Write about your two favorite places in Jamaica. These could include historic landmarks, places of recreation, cities, or even your family home. Name them and describe why they are your favorite.

  2. How do you think Jamaican youth in the Diaspora can best contribute to the nation’s development in the global arena.

  3. Do you know of a Jamaican group or Jamaican individual who has made an outstanding contribution to their community? If so, write about their contribution and its impact on that community in which he or she resides. (e.g. anyone with an extraordinary achievement.)

  4. What is the origin of ‘reggae music’ and explain the role that this genre of music has played in Jamaica’s social, cultural and economic development.

  5. Who was Jamaica’s first Prime Minister? Describe briefly how his life and work impacted our nation during his tenure.

  6. Briefly describe the significance of Jamaica’s five national symbols.

  7. There are several prominent Jamaican landmarks (e.g. Port Royal, Devon House, Rose Hall Great House, Spanish Town, etc.) Choose any Jamaican landmark that you know and explain briefly its context to Jamaica’s rich cultural heritage.

* * * * * * *

Each entrant must choose only one topic. The response must NOT exceed two pages and should be double-spaced.

Essays can be emailed to jismiami@bellsouth.net or mailed to the Jamaica Information Service, 25 SE Second Avenue – Ste 609, Miami, FLA 33131.

Each entry must be accompanied by the contestant’s name, address, telephone number and age.
There are three age categories for entrants: five to eight (5-8); nine to twelve (9-12); thirteen to eighteen (13-18).

The deadline for entries is Thursday July 24th.

* * * * * * *

Cheryl Wynter (305-374-8431 ext. 232)

July 9, 2008

The Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog

Geoffrey Philp and Janell Agyeman
The following article was part of a writing workshop "Paths to Publication" hosted by Janell Agyeman and the Florida Center for Literary Arts at Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus on July 8, 2008.
The Top 5 Reasons Why I Blog

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

~Albert Camus

Blogging Extends Storytelling

Blogging and storytelling go hand in hand.
Just below the masthead of my blog is the phrase, “Every blog is telling a story. What’s your story?” I really believe that, and blogging is definitely a part of my storytelling.
My blog is an extension of the non-fiction narratives about my identities (husband, father, son, brother, teacher, writer), my life within my communities (Jamaica, South Florida and the Caribbean) and my concerns (the dilemmas facing fatherless children in the Caribbean, the disruptive effects of the Jamaican Diaspora on family and community life, and the spiritual and political dimensions of Reggae and the Rastafari movement). And I apply the same principles of writing as I do when I am working in other genres: inspiration, selection, distillation, and revision.
I also practice three important parts of storytelling:

Capturing the reader’s attention

Maintaining the reader’s interest

Creating a resolution

The main difference between blogging and other forms of storytelling is the openendedness of blogging. At least for now my blog does not have an ending, so the narrative (while it does have certain themes) is episodic. This is an idea that I have been pursuing in my hypertext novel, Virtual Yardies, which uses a series of connected blogs to tell a story about a group of Jamaican bloggers who are being murdered one-by-one by a religious maniac who threatens to “kill all battymen and fornicators.”
Blogging is merely another means of expressing ideas, some of which should only be expressed through a non-fiction narrative.

Increases Sense of Autonomy

I really hate the word “submit.” It sounds too much like begging. I also hate work that has no integrity.

One of the things that annoys me is when I see and hear commercials with Jah-Fake-an accents and Jah-Fake-an actors. And this has been going on now for at least thirty years. We have worked too hard and suffered too much for our voices to be abused by people who have no respect for our culture. Jamaica has a particular sound, a particular rhythm, a particular world view that is expressed through the people. And just as a visual artist must be true to the light that she is trying to capture, a storyteller must be true to the accents, the particular way that stories are told within her culture. Without that consideration, the work loses its integrity.

This is one of the problems that Bob Marley, whom I consider to be the quintessential example of the "reggae aesthetic," faced and overcame through the formation of his own recording label, Tuff Gong. Through his company, Bob released songs such as "Jah Live" and “Simmer Down” which at the time of the recording were thought to have limited commercial appeal and therefore unsuitable for Island Records.

Bob as a Rastafari was merely following the example of Marcus Garvey who preached a gospel of self-reliance, and to back up his word gave seed money through the UNIA to many small businesses during the Harlem Renaissance. If Garvey could have had his way, every black family would have owned a small business.

This is the legacy that I inherited and for a writer like me who grew up in post-Independence Jamaica, I view it as my responsibility to capture the way that Jamaicans tell stories. It’s like the music. The reader has to suspend his or her beliefs of “what is” in order to encounter a different reality that is only a fingertip away. Because the stories are different.

The stories are not burdened by the “double-consciousness” of African-American fiction or the glamorized view of the “islands” with happy-go-lucky natives who at the drop of a hat will break out into, “Day-O, Mi say Day-O, daylight come and mi waan go home.” As Mervyn Morris said in “Valley Prince”: “my world/ don' go so, that is lie.”

But an artist must eat and we live in a world of traders, many of whom live in the capitals that try to silence other sounds or they only want to listen to their versions of what they consider to be the “island sound.” It’s like how they try to pass of “Electric Avenue” or “Caribbean Queen” on cruise liners as authentic reggae.

So, I continue to submit my work to editors, many of whom have a cookie cutter template in their minds about what represents “island culture” and if the work doesn’t match that template, then the work isn’t published. I’ve even encountered some of the criticism that my friend Preston Allen has gotten—that the characters aren’t black enough.
But writing is about persistence, and throughout my writing career, even though I’ve frequently received handwritten rejection slips from editors: “This is well-written, but it doesn’t meet our needs,” I’ve continued to publish in many venues.

I’ve published poems and short stories with Peepal Tree Press, self-published with I-Universe (Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas), and then, formed my own company, Mabrak Books. LLC when I self published Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories. I am also one of the few Caribbean writers whose work has been anthologized in both the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse.

Blogging changes the equation with publishing and allows us to take some of our power back. As I stated in an early post, Liming in Cyberspace”: “blogging bypasses the gatekeepers of Caribbean culture who control the importation of books and publicity.”
And the gatekeepers are real. Children of Sisyphus, a cornerstone of Caribbean fiction, was once banned in Jamaica.
Blogging also allows me to publish work that I think is good, but has been rejected elsewhere: “Warner Woman.”

This does not mean, however, that I’ve given up on other publishing outlets. I still publish short stories in Avocado and poems in Canopic Jar. Later this summer, The Caribbean Writer will publish two of my poems, “Erzulie’s Daughter” and “Poetry Woman,” as well as a review of There is an Anger That Moves by Kei Miller.

We’re in the Middle of a Revolution

With the advent of the Internet, the digital revolution and diminishment of the power of the print media began. And now with the growing influence of Generation Y, for whom the Internet is their primary source of information-- if it isn’t on the Net, it doesn’t exist.

As a teacher and writer, this has had enormous implications. One of these its that many minority and women writers who were already marginalized with print media, may now disappear from the literary landscape.

There is an African proverb that says, “When an elder dies, a library burns to the ground.” I've seen too many libraries burn without a memorial to their passing.

And I didn’t see anyone else doing it, so I’ve had to learn new ways of preserving voices and images of my literary elders who have been important to my development as a writer. According to Google, I’ve become an authority on these topics:
Mass Man” by Derek Walcott

Epitaph” by Dennis Scott

“Colonial Girls’ School” by Olive Senior

“Little Boy Crying” by Mervyn Morris

And there are two images (Dennis Scott & Anthony McNeill) and one podcast (Ramabai Espinet) of which I am extremely proud because they either didn’t exist or were extremely rare.
Ramabai Espinet's reading is one of the many podcasts that I’ve done of important Caribbean writers whose work needs to be preserved and I’m glad that my blog has played a part in preserving a small part of our cultural heritage. And now that I’ve moved in video, who knows what the future will hold.

Blogging Creates Community

Besides being activity in which only free people can truly participate, blogging has created a worldwide community of readers. In the nearly two and a half years of its existence, my blog has had over 84,000 visitors, and this has been due to the existence of blog aggregators such as Global Voices and other bloggers such as Maud Newton and Dave Lucas. Some readers stay for a few seconds and some stay for as long as an hour. Sometimes two. Some are from as far away as India and some as near as North Miami Beach.

This has had enormous advantages. Through my blog, here a few of the things I’ve been able to do:

Advertised my books

Kept in contact with my readers

Made contact with literary groups and organizations

Showcased the work of Caribbean and South Florida writers

Published announcements for literary events and workshops

Alerted writers to opportunities for publication

In addition, I've met a few blog friends (Rethabile Masilo, Fragano Ledgister, Nalo Hopkinson, Stephen Bess, Kyra Hicks, Guyana, Professor Zero, MadBull, Jamaican Dawta and Crafty Green Poet). We comment on each other’s posts and offer constructive criticism--a sort of writers roundtable on the Net.
Also, the publication of Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories would not have been possible without the invaluable input of Rethabile, Stephen, and Kyra, to whom I am eternally indebted.

The ability of other writers and readers to comment on the blog completes the healthy circle of call and response in writing and creativity. You could say that it is InI creating this blog.

It’s Fun!

Last night, my wife, the family matriarchs, and I watched The Bucket List and I was struck by the Egyptian legend about the two questions you are asked before you can enter heaven:

“Have you found joy in your life?”

“Have you brought joy to others in your life?”

When I was younger, playing football (North Americans call it soccer) gave me an incredible feeling of joy. Playing shirtless down at the Bottom Park in Mona Heights and organizing/creating a play that ended up in a goal for our side made me feel alive.
Now writing gives me joy. Writing is my way of “being in this world” As I said on John Baker’s blog a few months ago, “We write because of the pleasure. We write when no one is looking. We write even when the world is sleeping. To mangle Gertrude Stein's aphorism: A writer is a writer is a writer.”

Writing and blogging are synonymous with the pleasure I get from observing an idea move from the unmanifest to the manifest. The big difference between blog and writing in other fora is that I don’t have to wait six months to a year to see something in print. Once a piece of writing has met my standards of excellence, I will post it.

I dream it, write it, publish it and it’s done. It's free to take on a life of its own with my other creations, which I hope have given others joy.

(I'm still working on bringing joy to my family, friends, and especially my students.)

Blogging has also increased my sense of discovery and I’ve learned about RSS so that readers can subscribe to the blog, and basic html to create my own favicon.And there’s always more to learn from other blogs such as Darren Rowse, Peter Chen, or Liz Strauss.

As a lifelong learner, I couldn’t ask for more.
For more photos of this event, please follow this link: Paths to Publication


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July 7, 2008

Peepal Tree Press: Caribbean Modern Classics

Great News from Peepal Tree Press!

Over the next three or four years Peepal Tree Press plans to publish at least 60 titles of Modern Caribbean Classics, including Children of Sisyphus.

Anyone looking for important Caribbean novels on Amazon will know that much of the writing published from the 1950s through to the 1980s is out of print. They will also know that these are books in demand, if the evidence of some of the wildly inflated prices of second-hand copies is to be believed.
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July 2, 2008

“Wòch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti.”

Wòch nan Soley
The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ), Partners In Health (PIH), the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center (RFK Center), and Zanmi Lasante, have issued a report on the water situation in Haiti: “Wòch nan Soley: The Denial of the Right to Water in Haiti.” 

As the journalist John Maxwell stated on Sunday, June 29, 2008 in the Jamaica Observer: "Read it and weep with rage."