September 30, 2008

100,000 Hits!

When I wrote my first post on 12/13/05, I never thought I'd get 100 visitors--much less 1,000. Yesterday, Geoffrey Philp's Blog Spot had its 100,000th visitor.

Give thanks to everyone who has supported this blog by reading, subscribing, commenting, and buying my books. It has been a real pleasure writing these posts and developing some very interesting relationships--many with people whom I've never met, but feel a deep sense of comradeship.

One Love,


September 29, 2008

Writers of Africando

On Saturday, September 20, 2008, I had the honor of reading with several writers of African descent at Africando 2008 at Miami Dade College, North Campus. Besides listening to new work by Preston Allen (All or Nothing), we were also treated to the life stories of Chief Adedoja Aluko (Sixteen Major Odu Ifa from Ile Ife ), Sam Grant (The Opposite Sex), and Joseph McNair (O Se Sango).

Here are some pictures from Africando: Writers of Africando

And an excerpt from Joseph McNair reading from O Se Sango:

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September 27, 2008

Unveiling of the Poster for the 25th Annual Miami Book Fair International

The unveiling of the poster, designed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman, for the 25th Annual Miami Book Fair International took place on September at Texas Brazil Restaurant, Miami Beach on Thursday, September 18, 2008. The event, which was covered by local and international media, featured a few of Miami authors and celebrities.

For more information, please follow these links:

September 26, 2008

"Ibises" by Geoffrey Philp


Slowing to a halt under the withered
arms of a poinciana that shaded

my windows against summer's glare,
I am greeted by a swarm of police cars

among the yellowing notes of foreclosure
on my neighbor's lawn, the red and blue

lights almost blind me to the lifting
wings of ibises digging for rumor

and insects in the wet grass blackened
by the grunts of SUVs lumbering

towards chaos and traffic
flowing under a sickle moon

that binds this earth with one promise
as she catches the tails of overhead

cargo planes--the raw music of the city
clinging to my shirt, as I drag my shadow

up the driveway, open the door to the usual
quarrel about mortgages and money

that silts my eyes with soot, my tongue
with grime, and bows the head of rain

lilies, their pursed lips barely whispering,
"Let there be peace in this house."

Geoffrey Philp is the author of Benjamin, my son, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, numerous poetry collections, and a children's book, Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories. Geoffrey teaches English at Miami Dade College where he is the chairperson of the College Prep. Department at the North Campus. His next collection of short stories, Who's Your Daddy? and Other Stories will be published by Peepal Tree Press in March 2009.

September 25, 2008

The Caribbean Review of Books: August 2008

The Caribbean Review of BooksYesterday evening I got my anxious hands on the latest copy of The Caribbean Review of Books which I began reading immediately.

Here are a few highlights from August 2008 issue:

Marcus Garvey

Hail to the Chief

Jeremy Taylor on Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey, by Colin Grant

Olive Senior

What Lies Within

Lisa Allen-Agostini on Shell, by Olive Senior

Lorna Goodison

I Know the Language is True

Lorna Goodison talks to Nicholas Laughlin about writing her family memoir From Harvey River

My reading lasted way into the night—hence the brevity of this post. Even the marginalia was great!


Source of photos: The Caribbean Review of Books

September 24, 2008

New Book by Sasenarine Persaud

From TSAR Publications:

From the very first piece in this collection, the title poem “In a Boston Night,” Sasenarine Persaud signals a return to the passionate and sensuous that informed much of his earlier work. Persaud, the poet as craftsman, is ever present in this collection, using a complex series of personas and “voices” moving back and forth in time and place. Boston, the focal point of this collection, is like a needle hole through which the poet deftly threads his reflections about places, events, and histories: a conflict between Anglo- and Franco-Canadians at a Brookline art exhibition; Georgetown and Mumbai; Tampa and Toronto; the “Boston Tea Party” as a symbol of resistance to American English, subtly underlined by the description of a Walcott reading in an overflowing university hall. This is a fine, multilayered collection of poems by an important and accomplished contemporary poet.


Burn this shell of tea-stained teeth

and graying hair, when consciousness

takes flight from body—if you can.

Scatter my ashes in the clucking Atlantic

as we did your grandfather’s and mine.

And if by chance it is in some remote place

or wayward village, and I am coffined

like my mother, shoved in a tomb

surrounded by palms, do not pelt me with earth;

someone placing a wet clump in my tiny hand,

women chanting strange songs from a holy land,

and when no one looked letting the dirt fall at my foot.

Long after, when my uncle came from his jaunt

deep in the South American bush he placed the soil

I dropped, and a stone, on her grave—why, why,

I cried. If you will, plant a tree for flower

or fruit or shade, for bird, for beast, for bat.

But do not place a stone on my head

at any time, please do not place a stone on my head


Sasenarine Persaud is the author of three books of fiction and six collections of poetry. His awards include: the Arthur Schomburg Award for his contribution to Caribbean Literature; the K.M. Hunter Foundation Award; two Canada Council awards; and fellowships from the University of Miami and Boston University. He was born in Guyana and has lived for several years in Canada.


September 23, 2008

Will Troy Davis Die Today?

In what he phrases as a "failure of the justice system," Rethabile urges us to write "American Sentences."
With no evidence blacks don’t walk but on a technicality, die.
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September 22, 2008

House Slaves, Field Slaves & Dead Slaves

SlaverySometimes I feel it's better not to say anything--to keep quiet rather than to get into a pointless argument. This is not to say that I haven't gotten into a few verbal sparring matches. Once in high school, the verbal sparring even got physical and almost cost me an eye after one of my classmates blindsided me with a punch the day after I had torn his argument to shreds and ridiculed him. I've learned from that experience.

Perhaps this is why I said nothing during a recent conversation which went something like this:

Man: What I'm saying is that back during slavery there were three types of slaves. House slaves sort of like your complexion, Geoff. No offence.

Geoffrey: None taken.

Man: Field slaves and dead slaves. I couldn't have been a house slave. I wouldn't have been a field slave because I'm so much of an individual…I believe in freedom. I would probably have been whipped to death. I could only have been a dead slave!

I let him continue without saying a word.

Up to that point it had been a delightful evening and I knew I'd never see him again. Besides, despite the scars, I still like to think of myself as a JC Old Boy--one who continues the tradition of a Jamaican gentleman (an idea that is now lost in our current vocabulary) by upholding a code of personal honor and integrity.

I probably would have forgotten about the incident if I hadn't heard the idea repeated by a young brother in a different locale and realized how pervasive the idea had become.

Besides being illogical, the idea continues the old slavery paradigm and the division among Black people based on the melanin factor. Rather than saying "Never again" and stopping this idea from gaining life in the next generation (there are many ideas/behaviors that we must end in this lifetime), this line of thinking continues the old "one drop"--not Bob Marley's--and allows this noxious, racist seed to bloom in our lives.

Most importantly, however, the idea dishonors the sacrifice of our ancestors who gave their lives so that we could be free. If an ancestor had not swallowed her pride, I would not be typing these words and my brother would not have been alive to demean her memory. The premise of his argument and his seeming moral superiority is that our ancestors were cowards for living under slavery, and that such conditions would have been so unacceptable to him that it would have resulted in his death. He would no doubt like think of himself as comparable to those Africans who threw themselves overboard from ships like the Zong rather than accept slavery in Plantation America.

But I've had enough of these latter day heroes whose bravery exists only in their febrile imaginations. They denigrate the memory of our ancestors who sucked salt, bore the whip and the yoke of slavery, and invented stories in the dark so that one day their children could argue on luxury liners in the Caribbean about slavery, freedom, heroism, and death.


Both memories should be honored. Those who died rather than enter into servitude and those who lived through the holocaust. (And for someone like me whose ancestors stood on both sides of the whip, sometimes forgiven.)

But we should never forget that we are here today because of ancestors who never gave up on the hope of freedom and cut the cane, cooked the ham hocks and the tripe, made miracles out of the mundane, and continued to live even when their backs were breaking, their hands were tired, and their souls were weary with worry. Yet, they continued.

They continued to live.


Update (9/26/08): Make sure to check out the Comments!

September 19, 2008

Reggae United.

Reggae UnitedIf you’re interested in the latest in news about Reggae with interesting articles about artistes such as Sizzla, Anthony B, and Capleton, then head over to Reggae United.

They have also reprinted a few posts from my blog, “Many Rivers to Cross: The Theme of the Diaspora in the Reggae Lyric,” “The Rastafari Memeplex,” and “So Jah Seh: Telling I-Story Inna Babylon.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be writing a review of Brother Man by Roger Mais, so check out Reggae United. They’re only a click away.


September 18, 2008

Nalo Hopkinson Wins Sunburst Award

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo has won her second Sunburst Award for New Moon's Arms.

Congratulations, Nalo!

About The New Moon's Arms, the jury said: "Nalo Hopkinson crafts an engrossing story featuring an unforgettable character. With generous doses of mystery, humour, magical fantasy and insight, The New Moon's Arms is an entrancing read."

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September 17, 2008

"Flying" by Olive Senior

Olive Senior

For those longing to read a good short story grounded in Caribbean reality, history and mythology, check out “Flying” by Olive Senior at The Maple Tree Literary Supplement.

Here’s a taste:

His father had bought him a return ticket, first class at that, but as the plane banked sharply for its descent, he wondered if airlines reimbursed for the portion unused in case of death. He knew he would never return on that ticket. He was twenty-six years old, and he had come back to the island to die. His father didn’t know that, although he had recognised he was ill enough to warrant the comfort of first class. He was touched: his father was normally tight-fisted. Perhaps he did know. Perhaps everyone knew. Family, friends, strangers on the street. Everybody knew but nobody wanted to know.

Olive Senior was born in 1941 to peasant farmers in Trelawny, Jamaica, the seventh of ten children, and later migrated to Canada. She is the author of several collections of short stories: Summer Lighting (1986), Arrival of the Snake-Women (1989), and Discerner of Hearts (1995); collections of poetry Talking of Trees (1986), Gardening in the Tropics (1994), and Over the roofs of the world (2005); and non-fiction about Caribbean culture: A-Z of Jamaican Heritage (1984) – greatly expanded and republished in 2004 as The Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage – and Working Miracles: Women’s Life in the English Speaking Caribbean (1991).


A Rubric for Poetry?

writingAs the chairperson of the College Prep. Department at Miami Dade College, North Campus, I am now a team leader on "Authentic Assessment," and we are using the methods developed by Jonathan Mueller to enhance our measurements of our learning outcomes. To this end, we have been developing rubrics with performance based criteria in order to evaluate holistically student essays in our department.

Of course, deciding on these descriptors for the criteria are never easy, especially if the team uses standards of performance such as unacceptable, acceptable, and excellent to develop a rubric. One method that Mueller suggested in our workshop was to start with the finished product and to work backwards. In other words, if you have a clear idea about "excellence," you can then decide by degrees the categories of unacceptable, acceptable, and excellent.

This, of course, got me thinking about my criteria (especially after a spirited discussion over at Jahworld with Pam, Fragano and JDID) for evaluating poems:

The poem has a distinctive "voice" or point of view.

The economic, connotative language seduces me into thinking and feeling about the subject in a new way. In other words, after reading the poem, every time I see the subject, I think and recall the emotional tone of the poem.

Although the language suggests new ways of thinking and feeling about relationships/connections among subjects, the word choice and imagery are unified and coherent.

"An image or group of images that are analogical, melodic, and rhythmical.”

Language does not draw attention to itself, but allows the reader to enter a "vivid and continuous dream."

(9/30/07) Using these criteria, a teacher could then develop a simple grid using performance levels such as Never, Sometimes, Always to create an analytic rubric or merely keep the criteria in mind while evaluating holistically a portfolio of poems or book.

Here is my poetry rubric: Poetry Rubric

By evaluating analytically a teacher could assign different weights to each criterion depending on one's particular bias. The importance of this exercise is also to recognize one's bias, especially since some of the best poems convince by inference. For as I always say to my students, a successful poem is like a dirty joke: you are talking about one thing, but you really mean something else.

Do you, Dear Reader, have similar criteria that you'd like to add?

12/9/08: Jonathan Mueller has linked to the rubric: English/College University

Thanks, Jon!

"...poems are, or should be, experiences
in themselves, and not just accounts of or
commentaries on experience; they should be
additions to the world, not simply annotations
to it."
~~ Reginald Shepherd

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September 16, 2008

Help for Haiti

After the devastation in Haiti, we are all pulling together to help.

Miami Dade College, where I work, is also assisting in these efforts:

In cooperation with the City of Miami and other community partners, MDC is participating in a community-wide effort to bring relief to the Caribbean nations hit by the storms, including Haiti and Cuba.

Beginning on Monday, Sept. 15, through Friday, Sept. 19, MDC will collect nonperishable food, baby supplies and new or used clothing in good condition at the drop-off points listed below. Food items may include powdered milk, peanut butter and canned goods. "

One day, when true democracy reigns in the republic where "the modern world was invented," the damage caused by deforestation, perhaps, will be lessened.

After the island was hit by four successive and powerful storms (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike), several humanitarian organisations – including the United Nations, World Food Programme, World Health Organization, Red Cross, Pan-American Health Organization, Oxfam and others – have launched an appeal for funding to support relief efforts in Haiti.

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September 15, 2008

In My Own Words: Ian Jerome Mair

Ian Jerome MairThere Are No Yellow People is the story of my odyssey in Asia. My name is Ian Jerome Mair, a Jamaican American resident, and I’ve been a yoga practitioner/instructor for almost thirty years. I first arrived in the United States at age 20, and I have lived here for approximately eighteen years. I have traveled extensively – several times to Europe, Africa, Canada, and Central America. There Are No Yellow People tells the story of my encounters with the cultures of the Far East.

When I was sixteen years old, I was first introduced to yoga by an American public television program. At that time, the broadcast was aired on the only television station in Jamaica. The program, hosted by Richard Hittleman, an American yoga instructor, captivated me. Soon, I began practicing yoga asanas and I followed the program every Wednesday afternoon. Within a few weeks, I purchased a hard cover edition of Mr. Hittleman's book, Yoga: 28-Day Exercise Plan. In hindsight, the influence of this program on my eager, impressionable mind appears to have been a harbinger of the course that my life would follow.

In 1993, I moved to Miami, where I continued my practice of yoga and started teaching yoga to friends and small groups. In 1997, I met Duncan Wong, a well-known yoga practitioner, and he immediately became my friend. Wong would return to Miami periodically to do workshops, and on our last meeting in Miami, in April 2005, he invited me to China to teach yoga.

The people whom I met during a 6- month sojourn in China and India were the inspiration for There Are No Yellow People. It is an account of, among other things, the unique experience of a Jamaican, a black man, teaching yoga in the fabled, but not well known city of Hang Zhou, Zhejiang Province, China. I might very well be the first black man to teach yoga in China. This book is a travelogue of my 4 -1/2 months experience in Hang Zhou, and Shanghai, and 6 weeks in India. Here, I share my personal experiences about working with people from a culture who had never had any contact with anyone from my racial or cultural background.

There Are No Yellow People presents me with an opportunity to share the dynamics of my engagement with two ancient cultures as they surge, full speed ahead, into the twenty-first century. I wrote about the impact, as I saw it, of rampant capitalism on the most communist of countries in the world, China, and arguably, the holiest country in the world, India. The tentacles of globalization, from cricket to Big Macs and Starbucks coffee, track their way throughout the narrative as I observe the commoditization of the spiritual practice of yoga through American influence. The education received and insights gained by socializing with mainly Chinese women as well as several men are also registered. The illumination of chance encounters with strangers and the disenchantment of prejudice from people with whom I am familiar are reflected in my travelogue.

The refreshing and enlightening experiences that I shared with fellow travelers from around the world serve to enrich my memoir. I share with readers my engagement with the landscape, the arctic tundra from 30,000 feet above, the bamboo forests and tea fields of Hang Zhou, and the mighty, mythic river Ganges. Born and raised in rural Jamaica, I reconnect with the flora of my childhood in the bamboo forests of China, half a world away. And my education in urban planning gives me the latitude to comment in a lucid and poignant manner on the cities of Shanghai and New Delhi, two of the most populous cities in the world.

There Are No Yellow People is about us, mankind, inhabiting this lonesome planet wrapped up in our garments of ethnicity, religion, race, nationality, politics, and class. It is about stripping away these illusions of separateness and identifying the common thread that weaves us together. This thread, I discovered, is as luminous and vital as the one sun and moon that shines upon all of us. I revisit the trivial, the magnanimous, the mystical, and the ordinary in this account. It is about myself, my battles with my demons and my spiritual quest, as I remain fully engaged with the world that I live in - the material, the physical, and the sensual. It is about my passions, my foibles, and my constant self-discovery.


September 12, 2008

"Learning to Drive" by C.M Clark

This week's Video Friday features "Learning to Drive" by C.M Clark.

C.M. Clark’s poetry has appeared in a variety of publications, including Gulf Stream magazine, the Florida Center for the Literary Arts anthology Write Here, and she is a frequent contributor to the online journal, Asili. She has also been involved in a number of multimedia collaborations with other artists, including “COMPLEMENT/Art Basel,” a video project, as well as “Now Taste This,” an annual event pairing poets and local gourmet chefs. Her work has been published in the recent collection The Blue Hour, and in the artbook Pillow Talk, a joint project with painter Georges LeBar. For several years running, she has appeared at the Miami Book Fair International as part of the Write Out Loud reading series. Clark lives in Miami, Florida, with her husband.


September 11, 2008

Reginald Shepherd (1963-2008)

Reginald Shepherd
Florida and the world lost a great poet yesterday. Reginald was a kind, generous man. He will be missed by those who loved his verse, but eve more his gentle soul.

Peace, my brother.

You, Therefore
For Robert Philen

You are like me, you will die too, but not today:
you, incommensurate, therefore the hours shine:
if I say to you “To you I say,” you have not been
set to music, or broadcast live on the ghost
radio, may never be an oil painting or
Old Master’s charcoal sketch: you are
a concordance of person, number, voice,
and place, strawberries spread through your name
as if it were budding shrubs, how you remind me
of some spring, the waters as cool and clear
(late rain clings to your leaves, shaken by light wind),
which is where you occur in grassy moonlight:
and you are a lily, an aster, white trillium
or viburnum, by all rights mine, white star
in the meadow sky, the snow still arriving
from its earthwards journeys, here where there is
no snow (I dreamed the snow was you,
when there was snow), you are my right,
have come to be my night (your body takes on
the dimensions of sleep, the shape of sleep
becomes you): and you fall from the sky
with several flowers, words spill from your mouth
in waves, your lips taste like the sea, salt-sweet (trees
and seas have flown away, I call it
loving you): home is nowhere, therefore you,
a kind of dwell and welcome, song after all,
and free of any eden we can name

Reprinted from Fata Morgana by Reginald Shepherd, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Copyright © 2007 by Reginald Shepherd

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Bodhisattvas: (In memory of the New York firefighters)


(In memory of the New York firefighters)

For Lisa Berman-Shaw

Wherever there are sentient

beings in need of compassion, sick

in need of comfort, hungry

in need of food, they arise

summoned by the cries of the innocents--

a love so strong, they count

their own lives as nothing

to awaken the bounty of our sleeping

lives, lost in the labyrinth of the city;

and they cannot rest until the stones

themselves find solace.

So when we were strapped

securely in our SUVs in Key West,

Van Buren, Providence, Nome

burning money like Saudi oil,

thinking we were safe in our towers

of steel and glass, cages

of mortality that turned to smoke,

ash, soot--they did what they have always

done through time and space, dropped

their lives and rescued us

in the midst of the fire.


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September 10, 2008

Soon Come: A Primer on Jamaican Poetics and Religions

Soon ComeBesides having a highly readable style, Hugh Hodges' Soon Come (University of Virginia Press) provides a useful context for understanding Jamaican religions such as Myal, Kumina, Revivalism, and Rastafari and their connection with the work of poets such as Mervyn Morris, Dennis Scott, Pam Mordecai, Anthony McNeill, Lorna Goodison, Olive Senior, and other post-Independence writers*. By his examination of these two important facets of Jamaican life, Hodges has created a true work of criticism by completing the feedback loop and revealing the premises upon which many Jamaican poets base their work.

Hodges begins his analysis with the earliest settlements in Jamaica and the impact of the slave trade on the Jamaican worldview. From the growth of Myal with its emphasis on communal rites and the work of the Baptists with their emphasis on freedom and personal experience, what emerged was an ethos that combined the personal and the communal into a potent mix that continues to shape the Jamaican character.

What intrigued me was the connection that Hodges was able to establish among Myal, Revivalism, and Rastafari, the role of the individual and the community, and the concept of "I and I": "The functions of prophet, healer, and redeemer are shared by "I and I." In the Rastafarian worldview there can be no uplift of "I" without the uplift of "I and I" (135). Although I still believe that InI was part of the mystic revelation of Rastafari, the historical linkage of Myal, Revivalism, and Rastafari cannot be overlooked.

It is, however, his analysis of the salient features of the Jamaican worldview that drew my attention: "The belief in the mystical power of the spoken word; the related belief in the eudaemonic power of music; the belief that divine rewards and punishments will be meted out in this life, and the conviction that all things are religious" (133).

For me, this was like staring into a mirror and recognizing myself for the first time.

As artists we only know that we are intuitively driven to write a poem this way or to tell a story that way. We work with images and dramatic situations that are suggested by our imaginations to create our fictions, and because we are concentrating so much on our craft (words, images, plot, imagery and rhythm), we are quite often blind to the full meanings of our work. The images and characters that flit into our imagination are usually formed during our formative years when we unquestioningly accepted these influences.

But the whole point of being an artist is to question these images. Our methodology, however, has a fatal flaw: we are using the same methods (image, character, and symbol) to decipher our experiences. and to create a text. Soon Come fills the gap between our art and our meanings and provides the critical vocabulary and the distance to chart new directions for artistic growth.

Hodges has given me a criterion, not only to understand my own work, but also that of my contemporaries, and for anyone wishing to learn more about the connection between Jamaican religious thought and Jamaican poetry, I highly recommend Soon Come.


*Full disclosure: Soon Come gives a favorable mention to some of my poems.

September 9, 2008

Geoffrey Philp for President!

Follow the Link Below to Vote for Geoffrey Philp!

Geoffrey Philp
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London Calling: Derek Walcott on the World Book Club

Derek WalcottThe World Book Club is soliciting questions for their programme on Derek Walcott's Omeros. Readers of Walcott's work may submit questions for Derek Walcott in the comment section of the web page:

clipped from

Last call for questions for the St Lucian Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott on Omeros, his epic poem re-imagining the ancient-Greek story of the Odyssey in a Caribbean setting.

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September 8, 2008

Walcott , Dabydeen, and Jagdeo Agreement for Caribbean Publishing House

As publishing opportunities for Caribbean writers continue to shrink with Heinemann and Macmillan closing their Caribbean series (Peepal Tree Press being the lone standout in this area), Derek Walcott, David Dabydeen, and Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo have agreed to pursue the development of a Caribbean publishing house located in Guyana.

The debate over CARIFESTA continues at

The encounter at the symposia, the issues raised there and the dialogue that followed prompted President Jagdeo to commit his government to another major investment in his decision to put some $20 million into the development of a Caribbean publishing house located in Guyana. Details of how this is to work were agreed on by Jagdeo, Dabydeen and Walcott. Dabydeen in the Opening Symposium had revealed that there is a decline in the publishing opportunities provided for West Indian writers by the leading houses in the UK. Both Heinemann and Macmillan have closed their Caribbean series, the Macmillan-Warwick series is coming to an end and most of the other large houses focus on sales and the promise of sales. This new publisher will help to fill a huge vacancy in the opportunities for Guyanese and West Indian authors.

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Miami Book Fair International’s 25th Anniversary Nov. 9 – 16, 2008

The celebration of Miami Book Fair International’s 25th Anniversary will officially begin onThursday, Sept. 18, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. when the Book Fair Board of Directors and the leadership of Miami Dade College (MDC) unveil plans for the Fair, along with this year’s official poster, at Texas de Brazil restaurant in Miami Beach. The Florida Center for the Literary Arts at MDC, presenter of the Book Fair, will also unveil season plans.

The Miami Book Fair will take place Nov. 9-16 at MDC’s Wolfson Campus, 300 NE 2nd Ave., in downtown Miami. The nation’s largest and finest literary gathering will again treat book lovers to more than a week of activities, including author readings, book signings, its beloved Evenings With series, the IberoAmerican Authors program, the popular Street Fair, Nov. 14 – 16, Children’s Alley, the International Pavilions Village, and, for the first time, Comix Galaxy and the Cultural Fringes Festival. Details will be discussed at the unveiling ceremony.

The 2008 Book Fair poster artist is Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Spiegelman. Widely considered one of the most important artists of our time, Spiegelman is the author of In the Shadow of No Towers, and the classics of American literature, Maus and Maus II. He is co-founder of the acclaimed avant-garde publication, RAW, and co-editor of The Little Lit series for children. His new book, Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!, will be published by Pantheon Books this October. A book for children, Jack and the Box, published by TOON Books, will also appear that month. Spiegelman is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Pulitzer Prize for Maus, which was also nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. Spiegelman’s drawings and prints have been widely exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. A major exhibition of his work was arranged by Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of the "15 Masters of 20th Century Comics" exhibit in 2005. That same year, Art Spiegelman was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France and named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. Spiegelman lives in New York City with his wife, Francoise Mouly, the art editor of The New Yorker and editorial director of TOON Books. He will present Breakdowns and sign his poster for fans at the Fair in November.

WHAT: 2008 Miami Book Fair International Unveiling Ceremony

WHEN: Thursday, September 18, 6:30 PM

WHERE: Texas de Brazil Miami Beach – 300 Alton Road, Suite 200

The unveiling ceremony is an “invitation only” event. The working media is welcome. For regular updates on these and other events please visit


September 7, 2008

Happy Grandparents' Day (2008)


Free ebook!

Chapter Two of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories

In this chapter, Jimmy encounters a bully, Kevin, and Jimmy’s situation is similar to that of Anancy as the smallest, weakest individual in a community who must use his intelligence to survive.

You will need Adobe or a similar program to open the ebook.


Praise for Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories

Jamaica Observer: Geoffrey Philp's Anancy Stories

The Daily Gleaner: Review of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories

For Educators, Librarians & Community Leaders

And please, share this with a friend.


You can buy the full text of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories @ Mabrak Books


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September 6, 2008

Watching for Hurricane Ike

Most of the computer models predict that Hurricane Ike will stay to the south of South Florida. We're not taking any chances though. We're starting to board up the house (again) and we've got water, food, and other supplies.

And while the phones are charging and the batteries are being checked, my son is updating my iPod with Mos Def: "A Soldier's Dream" and "Mathematics".


September 5, 2008

Anancy and the Jamaican Diaspora

AnancyMoving to another country is never easy. And when your children are growing up with you as “strangers in a strange land,” it makes the situation worse. You worry about the new habits that they will pick up, and your worry if they will lose their roots as they gain their wings. In short, you worry about their identity and whether they will lose their sense of self in America and become a lost child in America. For America is full of lost children.

This was the dilemma that I faced when my children were growing up. And although, I made sure that they ate Jamaican, listened to Jamaican music, and I even took them down to Westmoreland, Jamaica (the place of my parents’ birth), so that they could have a full sensory experience of Jamaican culture, I always felt that I could do more.

Then, in May 2008 while talking with some children in our neighborhood elementary school about Caribbean American Heritage Month, I realized that many of the children from Jamaica and the Caribbean did not know about Anancy and the importance of Anancy stories in our culture. Through an amazing turn of events, I decided to remedy the situation and the result was Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories, and on Sunday, September 7, 2008 (Grandparents’ Day) I will be offering a free ebook--an excerpt from Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories.

Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories is the story of a Jamaican boy, Jimmy, who is growing up in Miami, Florida with his parents, Winston and Donna, and his grandfather, Sydney. Jimmy’s father, Winston, is a security guard and his mother, Donna, is a nurse, so Jimmy spends most of his time with his Grandpa Sydney, who reads to him from a book of Anancy stories.

Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories is also told as a story-within-a-story, so that in the middle of the book, Jimmy’s grandfather reads the story of “Brer Anancy, Snake, and Tiger,” and Jimmy learns the lesson that he uses to outsmart the bully. This, to me, is the essence of Anancy stories and one of the lessons that our children should carry with them into the future and they should pass on to their children and the children’s children:

Always outsmart/outwit the bully or overcome the situation that threatens you. You are greater than any situation or circumstance.

So, check back this Sunday for a free download of an excerpt of Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories.


September 3, 2008

In My Own Words: Cyril Dabydeen

Cyril DabydeenPoetry has always been closest to me: it’s what makes up my inner being, my consciousness expressed through the images and the rhythms; and, in a sense, it wasn’t totally surprising to be told that “Easter Poem” in my new book, Uncharted Heart, has echoes of T.S. Eliot’s “Ash Wednesday.” In my youth I’d read a fair bit of Eliot, and the deeper resonances of the spirit in Eliot’s poems and plays have stayed with me in unexpected or just amorphous ways.

But I’m not a religious poet, though religious contexts have always interested me. See, I wrote “Easter Poem” (for two dramatic voices) over twenty-five years ago; and, later, came poems such as “Remember the Light” and “Things We Are,” in this new collection which have religious reference points; and maybe it’s what burgeoned in me growing up in Guyana, South America, where religion and the lack of religion are central, though ours was, and still is, a secular state. In my early novel The Wizard Swami (Peepal Tree Press), set in a 1950's Guyana, religion forms a backdrop to the overall irony and parody: a work fundamentally about the little man’s struggle in a colonial setting as everything is couched in the central character’s odd or idiosyncratic, if not just picaresque, ways.

In Uncharted Heart I’ve tried to capture internal climates (an epigraph from Mallarme adumbrates this); and, essentially, it’s about trying to find meaning in order to make sense of our complex world. The poet as “maker,” or “myth-making” has always been uppermost, even crucial, I believe; and words, meanings and inferences are about what’s deep in the spirit and expressed in symbols and metaphors oftentimes pulled together–yoked--in the longing for wholeness, or oneness. A transcendental element too informs everything (yogic, maybe: I’ve been reading recently a lot more about Buddhism and Hinduism, if subliminally to find some deeper connection with my forebears, all with Vedic impulses linked into my composite western self).

In many of the new poems in this collection–some written over the past four or five years, and coming after Hemisphere of Love (TSAR) and Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press)--I’ve tried to link the deeply personal with the occasional, as everything is tied to history, geography, the sense of destiny and identity while living in North America, with memory being the mother of the muses. Shaping the poem–or simply “staging the poem” as has been said by Billy Collins, I think –is also integral to my overall poetic attitude and process. For me, how the poem appears on the page, and how words meet the eye and silent ear, and the rhythm of the lines and line-breaks (enjambment) in free verse (but not so free) are instinctual in me. It’s what I constantly dwell upon in composing the new poems (and in most of the poems in my previous books).

But in Uncharted Heart the process has frustrated me more than usual (angst all writers go through, no doubt). And maybe I’ve written my poems in not entirely dissimilar ways from how I write prose (my novel Drums of My Flesh does have a genuine poetic impulse; and the same goes for my Dark Swirl, recently reprinted by Peepal Tree Press).

A stream of consciousness aspect is inevitably present in trying to make sense of what’s around me: what I feel intimately; and always for me in the poems, the image is central. In Guyana in the 60's as a beginning writer I recall wrestling with imagism–the image being everything. Then I continually read the British and American poets: Eliot, Spender, Auden, Sitwell, Thomas, and others from east and west, local and international, eclectic as my taste already was. I was also imbued with Lawrence Durrell’s idea of making the image solid as diamond, going beyond loading every rift with ore, it seems, as everything kept impacting on my sensibility: in a tropical environment of jamoon and blacksage amidst birdcalls of the kiskadee and blue-sackie and simultaneously engaging, if only numinously, with Hopkins’ “God’s grandeur” with dialectal sprung rhythms nonetheless. One of the first poems I wrote in Canada was “Green Land”–which is pure imagism, I think; and in Uncharted Heart, I kept going back to images that have lingered on over the years while coming to grips with a changing self and changing perspectives, and adapting my feelings and emotions while not overlooking history and the sense of timelessness of things. Poems such as “The Visitors Have Come,” “Prehistory,” “New World,” and “Dancing with Girls from China” are counterpointed with their varied and particular echoic effects, I figure.

The new place and home and belonging, more than notional, even if seen in an individual experience of India impacting on the imagination, with a hint of drama, as in “ Burnt Offering” or in “Madurai,” no doubt conveying a hybrid self in the making. Geography, inevitably, is juxtaposed with changing climates, the temporal and spatial: as in “My Arctic Space,” where the persona comes to grips with a pioneering life and the “idea of the north” (Margaret Atwood). Precise language-use and expression seen in “Assault” (an epigraph from Eliot: about the poet’s aim being to “purify the dialect of the tribe”), is integral to the poetic process: the desire to invest language with aesthetic energy in writing that is free of cliches and bureaucratic shibboleth, especially for a poet like myself in Ottawa, where the federal government is located.

These new poems are essentially about formed and unformed spaces and changing tonalities, as I’ve tried to express my feelings without fancy image-making; but through the poems’ particular rhythms, I hope to extend boundaries to a wider, more intricate world. And I keep hoping for epiphanies that awaken to inherent mythologies in poems as diverse as “Praising You,” “My Own Tribe,” “Bear on the Road to Agra,” and “El Dorado.” Indeed, I will keep delving into the human heart, if only to discover what’s still uncharted: what’s just ongoing and is timeless.


Cyril Dabydeen’s books of prose and poetry include the novel Drums of My Flesh (a Guyana top prize winner in fiction) and a nominee for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize; Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press, UK) and Play a Song Somebody: Selected Stories (Mosaic Press). His work has appeared in over 60 literary journals, such as the Critical Quarterly (UK), The Fiddlehead, Canadian Literature, Prism International, Grain, The Antigonish Review, Kunapipi (Australia), Wasafiri (UK), and World Literature Today (USA), and in anthologies such as the Oxford, Penguin and Heinemann books of Caribbean Verse. He has also edited A Shapely Fire: Changing the Literary Landscape (Mosaic Press)and Another Way to Dance: Contemporary Asian Poetry in Canada and the USA (TSAR). Cyril has done over 300 readings across Canada, the US, UK and Europe, Asia and the Caribbean (including Trinidad, Guadeloupe, Jamaica, and Cuba). His varied work experiences include activism in social issues; he currently teaches writing in he Department of English, University of Ottawa. He is a former poet laureate of Ottawa, Canada.

September 2, 2008

The Caribbean Writer 2008

The Caribbean WriterI've published a book review of Kei Miller's, There is an Anger That Moves, and two poems, "Erzulie's Daughter" and "Poetry Woman," in the latest issue of The Caribbean Writer.

Other highlights in the current volume are a special section on Virgin Islands artists Roy Lawaetz and Maud Pierre-Charles, and an interview with renowned Jamaican writer Rachel Manley. Additionally, the poetry and fiction components include work by Opal Palmer Adisa, Arnold Highfield, Tregenza Roach, and Althea Romeo-Mark.

Happy Reading!
The Caribbean Writer, published by the University of the Virgin Islands, is an international anthology with a Caribbean focus, publishing poetry, short fiction, personal essays, one-act plays, translations, book reviews, and interviews along with special sections on such topics as Columbus in the Caribbean, Cuban poetry, Cricket in poetry, Surinamese short fiction, Hurricanes, Poetry and Fiction from Belize, Poetry from the Bahamas, and Special Birthday Tributes to Kamau Brathwaite and Derek Walcott. Our Advisory Editorial Board consists of established Caribbean writers, namely, Opal Palmer Adisa, Kamau Brathwaite, Alwin Bully, Edwidge Danticat, Zee Edgell, Merle Hodge, George Lamming, Laurence Lieberman, Earl Lovelace, E. A. Markham, Caryl Phillips, Olive Senior, and Derek Walcott. We also showcase art by Virgin Islands artists.

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