November 28, 2008

“Trust the Darkness – My Life as a Writer" by Tony Winkler

Tony WinklerAnthony (Tony) Winkler, will officially launch his autobiography “Trust the Darkness – My Life as a Writer” at Bookophilia 6:30pm on Monday, December 1, 2008.

Winkler was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He attended schools in Kingston and Montego Bay and left Jamaica when he was 21 to pursue a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English. A teacher in his 2nd form English class at Cornwall College, one Mr. Findlay, first noticed his talent for writing.

Years later, working as a textbook salesman in California, he realized that he could improve on the writing in the books he was trying to sell. Instinctively, he wrote and submitted two chapters which earned him his first book advance of $1,000. He has been writing passionately ever since.

He is a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and he was elected president of the Atlanta Jamaica Association for two terms. Winkler’s first novel, “The Painted Canoe”, took ten years to write, and a similar length of time to find a publisher, with Jamaica’s Kingston Publishers releasing the book in 1984, followed by “The Lunatic” (1987), “The Great Yacht Race” (1992), the autobiographical “Going Home to Teach” (1995), and “The Duppy” (1997). The U.K.-based Macmillan Caribbean acquired Winkler’s catalogue and published “The Annihilation of Fish and Other Stories” in 2004, and “Dog Wars” in 2006. He also wrote the film scripts of “The Lunatic” and “Fish”, and co-wrote “Bob Marley, My Son” with Cedella Marley Booker.

Tony and his lovely wife, Cathy, were married 33 years ago on All Heroes in the small village of Colgate in St. Ann, Jamaica. Cathy travels with him to various appearances.

Host: Bookophilia
Date:Monday, December 1, 2008

Time: 6:30pm - 7:30pm

Location: Bookophilia

Street: 92 Hope Road

City/Town: Kingston, Jamaica

Contact Phone: 9785248


As a lover of all things Winkler, I'm going to be one of the first to get this book.

November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving, 2008!

My mother’s first impression of America was the abundance that it offered. She’d just left Jamaica in 1977—a time of shortages and privation—and came to live with her sister in Hollywood, Florida. As soon as she landed, my aunt took her to a local supermarket and as my mother walked through the doors, she was confronted literally by a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables. Tears ran down my mother’s face. It was a scene she would never forget and she repeated this story so many times that it became a part of our family’s story: America’s promise of opportunity and abundance.

And yet, America is so full of contradictions! For even as our extended family sits down to eat our Thanksgiving dinner, there are many in our neighborhood who are now facing foreclosure and with barely anything to be cheerful about this year. These are hard times and its difficult to reconcile my mother’s story with some of the things I’ve seen and experienced. Over the years, it has also been difficult to celebrate this holiday because I came to America as an adult and I did not grow up with the mythology surrounding Thanksgiving.

But I’ve learned and I have my children to thank for this. There is a saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes,” or as David Foster Wallace once said, “There is no such thing as not worshipping.” My version would be, “Parenting makes you a believer.” It takes a lot of faith to be a parent—trusting that despite everything and as long as they don’t do something crazy that everything will be all right. It’s the crazy part that keeps me up at night.

Over the years, however, my children have taught me how to celebrate this season of giving thanks and though I was slow to get into it (like the other celebrations such as Halloween—pirate, indeed!), they have taught me that this holiday is about family—sharing a meal, breaking bread with those whom we love and cherish and who in return love and cherish us. Come what may. Come what may.

Enjoy yourselves and each other.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all & see you next week. I’m on holiday.


November 26, 2008

Patwa Bible?

At first, I was very skeptical about this, but after listening to the translation, I was moved by its power.
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The Bible Society has completed half of its translation of the New Testament of The Bible into Jamaican Patois. Religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott reports on how it has received an emotional reaction both among native speakers and critical traditionalists.

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November 24, 2008

Literary Authenticity & the Caribbean Writer

Ruel Johnson and Michael Gilkes (thanks, Nicholas) have been discussing “Guyanese (and by extension Caribbean) literary authenticity” in Stabroek News and Living Guyana. Although this question of “authenticity” is connected to the idea of limited resources (i.e. we don’t have a lot of money; therefore, we should publish only those who are “worthy”), it seems as if we have been having this discussion for decades.

And while these debates are useful, they become tedious when they limit “authenticity” to the time spent in a locale (or to race, gender, or sexual preference). For what these arguments have in common is a focus on the
identity of the storytellers rather than the “authenticity” of the story—which is the real issue at stake. Storytellers come and go, but the story of the Caribbean continues to evolve--waiting for storytellers to respond to the relationship between a people and a place through time.

So how do we know if a story is authentic? According to Walter Fisher, an audience evaluates a story by two criteria: fidelity and coherence. Based on Fisher’s theories “Coherence can be best defined as if a story makes sense structurally. Is the story consistent, with sufficient detail, reliable characters, and free of any major surprises? The ability to judge coherence is learned, and improves with experience.” Narrative fidelity is "concerned with whether or not the story is true and Fisher has five guidelines for evaluating narrative fidelity:

  • questions of fact that examine the values embedded in the story, either explicitly or implicitly

  • questions of relevance that consider the connection between the story that is told and the values being espoused

  • questions of consequences that consider the possible outcomes that would accrue to people adhering to the espoused values

  • questions of consistency between the values of the narrative and the held values of the audience

  • questions of transcendence that consider the extent to which the story’s values represent the highest values possible in human experience

Therefore, the identity of the storyteller—however that is defined—is irrelevant to the story of the Caribbean which I’ve defined as “The nations of the Antilles that share a common history of colonialism under European dominance and whose Creole identity has been shaped primarily by the merging of African and European cultures and most recently by Asian influences.”

I suppose these debates over literary authenticity and the identity of our storytellers are part of the racial, political and social struggles of the region and will continue as long as the idea of Otherness (based on race, creed, gender, sexual preference—and now time spent in the Diaspora) persists. But these are extra-literary criteria. The real question is how can we increase the publication of stories that illuminate the evolving story of our region: Who are we? Where are we going?


Geoffrey Philp@ Tavares Public Library

Beth Sindler,Harry Coverston, and Geoffrey PhilpI had done my usual research about the city of Tavares and I’d prepared the list of poems for my reading on Sunday, November 9, 2008. But halfway through the very generous introduction by Harry Coverston, I realized that I’d have to change everything.

It wasn’t the first time that I’d changed the format of a reading and when I follow my gut, things work for the best. So I went with reading most of the poems from Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas, and based on the audience reaction, I made the right choice.

Twelve Poems and A Story for Christmas presents the story of Mary and Joseph from the point of view of a newlywed couple, and its starting point was a couplet from the poetry of Angelus Silesius, the mystic poet who rendered in verse some of the teachings of Meister Eckhart:

Of what use, Gabriel, your message to Marie

unless you can now bring the same message to me!

Although it was a small audience, which included my sister and niece who live in Orlando, they seemed genuinely interested in the poems and in the history of Jamaica, Reggae, and Rastafari.

Give thanks to Beth Sindler of the Tavares Public Library, Harry Coverston, and the Florida Humanities Council. It was a pleasure to be invited to read and I am sure our paths will cross again.


November 21, 2008

Anancy @ Bob Graham Education Center

Me and Anancy were in the news again. This time in The Miami Laker (thanks, Eddy Glenn) for my reading from Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories at the Bob Graham Education Center on November 13, 2008.

This reading was particularly memorable for me because of the enthusiasm of the children which came out in their questions and their request.

You see, I normally follow the routine of introducing myself and Anancy, and then, I begin my PowerPoint presentation about Anancy, the Middle Passage, and Tricksters in mythology and folklore. I usually end with a reading a chapter from Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories and answer a few questions.

The children at Bob Graham Education Center took me out my routine. They asked lots of questions. I mean lots! And they wouldn’t allow me to leave until I read another chapter from the book.

Thank you Bob Graham Education Center and all the children, teachers, media specialists, and administrators for inviting me to your school. I will never forget how special you made me feel.


Four Poems From the Past: Geoffrey Philp

Geoffrey Philp
A blast from the past--from when I was a yute at the University of Miami's Caribbean Writers' Summer Institute: "Packing Song," "Tamarind Time," "Last Will," "Heirlooms," and "Exile."

You will need Real Player to view the video: Geoffrey Philp reads @ CWSI


November 19, 2008

Anancy @ Miami Book Fair International

Geoffrey PhilpLast week, as part of the Miami Book Fair International's Student Literary Encounters, I had the privilege of reading at these four schools: Howard Doolin Middle, Jorge Mas Canosa Middle, Bob Graham K-8, and Miami Lakes K-8.

I've never felt more useful in my life!

The students, faculty, media specialists, and staff of Dade County Public Schools made me feel right at home, and I must congratulate them for their courage. For in this FCAT driven climate, it's quite easy to give in to a test driven curriculum and teach only to the test. Instead, these teachers and administrators welcomed me into their schools and exposed the children to a little extra learning--which is always a sign of a healthy academic environment.

And what can I say about the students? They were attentive and asked me some really tough questions. I mean it. Some of them had already read through the book and at Miami Lakes K-8, they came prepared with questions that they'd written on index cards. They delved deep into my past and asked questions about bullying at Jamaica College, the themes in Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories, and the differences between writing a children's book and my other books. And those were the easier questions!

At all the schools I visited, I could tell that the teachers and media specialists had done their homework. They provided the students with my bio, a list of my books, links from Wikipedia, and at all four schools, they had bookmarked my blog. Talk about making me feel special. Thank you!

Finally, I'd also like to Roberta Kaiser and her staff from Dade County Public Schools, who arranged for me to visit the schools. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the unwavering support of Alina Interian of the Florida Center for Literary Arts and Penny Thurer of the Miami Book Fair International, who have been a blessing for the past twenty-five years. Give thanks!


For more photos of this event, please follow this link: Anancy @ Miami Book Fair International

November 18, 2008

"Let No Harm, for Barack Obama" by Mervyn Taylor

Mervyn Solomon and Mervyn TaylorWonderful synchronicities happen at the Miami Book Fair International. For it is not only a place to listen to local and international writers, but it also presents the opportunity to make new friends and to meet old companions. I was lucky enough to literally bump into Mervyn Taylor on Sunday.

We talked a bit about Tony McNeill’s poetry and the need for a definitive edition of his collected poems, and then, he offered me this poem about Barack Obama that I am pleased to share on this blog.

Thank you, Mervyn, for this gift.

Let No Harm

for Barack Obama

I pray no harm comes to this man

walking along a lonely stretch of road

that the bandits with ideas of robbing him

retreat upon seeing his face, and hearing him

calculate the size of the world.

He has traveled long on the way to the market,

the junction where the barterers come with mules

and millet, the harvest of their labor.

They have heard he has enough resources

to redeem the debts of sufferers,

That into his clothes are sewn pockets

that hold the weight of coins minted

in the currency of every country.

He has been coming for years, redoubling

through villages where curtains part to fling

yet another message. And now he counts

on the mercy of the stars, that he has not

read them wrong, that the people

who have come to trade have not grown

impatient, and packed up and gone.



Mervyn Taylor was born in Trinidad. He is the author of three books of poetry: An Island of His Own (1992), The Goat (1999), and Gone Away (2006), and a CD, Road Clear (2004), done in collaboration with bassist David Williams. About the poems in his latest collection Debbie Jacob wrote in her column in the Trinidad Guardian, "Lost in the cold and unable to return home to the tropics, the West Indians of Taylor's poems reach as far as they can: Florida." Mervyn Taylor lives in Brooklyn, New York.


November 17, 2008

"The Torturer's Wife" by Thomas Glave

Thomas GlaveAuthor of the acclaimed story collection Whose Song?, award-winning Thomas Glave is known for his stylistic brio and courageous explorations into the heavily mined territories of race and sexuality. Here he expands and deepens his lyrical experimentation in stories that focus—explicitly and allegorically—on the horrors of dictatorships, war, anti-gay violence, the weight of traumatized memory, secret fetishes, erotic longing, desire, and intimacy.

Thomas Glave is an O. Henry award-winning author and was named a Village Voice Writer on the Verge in 2001. He is the author of Whose Song? and Other Stories, Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent (winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Nonfiction), and editor of Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles. He is the 2008-2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Professor in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Praise for The Torturer's Wife:

"The Torturer's Wife is one of the most interesting American books I [have] read in the last years. It is not the usual publisher's product, but a literary text that incites the reader to become a conscious and seduced re-reader."

—Juan Goytisolo, author of State of Siege and A Cock-Eyed Comedy

Praise for Thomas Glave:

"Glave's disruption of form is a powerful metaphor for sexual, racial, and geopolitical disjunctions. Glave is a gifted stylist . . . blessed with ambition, his own voice and an impressive willingness to dissect how individuals actually think and behave."

New York Times Book Review

"Thomas Glave walks the path of such greats in American literature as Richard Wright and James Baldwin . . . He cuts to the bone of what it means to be black in America, white in America, gay in America, and human in the world at large."

—Gloria Naylor, author of The Women of Brewster Place

"What a writer! What a book! Glave is a brilliant writer of startlingly fresh prose . . . His stories are intricate tapestries of life rendered through a triumphant act of the imagination.”

—Clarence Major, author of One Flesh

Publisher City Lights Publishers

ISBN-10 0872864669

Publication Date December 2008

List Price $15.95


Miami Book Fair International: A Recap

Bob Graham and Geoffrey PhilpThe twenty-fifth anniversary of the Miami Book Fair International ended last night and besides the enormous pride of having been invited to read a few times and to meet authors and personalities whom I admire, the overwhelming emotion is gratitude for having been a part of this journey with so many of my friends and their families who have grown up with the fair.


Okay, so I didn't make it to all the writers that I wanted to see, but the ones that I saw were remarkable.

I started off the morning with Jeffrey Renard Allen, Nina Revoyr, Preston Allen, and Brenda Flanagan. Then, I slipped out during the Q&A to listen to the Trinidad massives: Lisa Allen-Agostini, Elizabeth Nunez, and Willie Chen, who I had longed to meet after reading Chutney Power. Mr. Chen lived up to the humorous persona of his stories, and although his short story in Trinidad Noir was unlike many of his other tales, he managed to inject some comedy into the reading: "I'll skip over to the salient parts because the book fair people are so gracious, they have prepared some good food for us. And I don't know about you, but I prefer to eat than to eat." And I wanted to say, "No, Mr. Chen, no. Read. Read."

After a brief meet-up with Sharon Millar of My Chutney Mind, I introduced Dennis O' Driscoll, whose droll sense of humor emerged between poems for Robert Haas and Csezlaw Milosz. Next, came Cyril Dabydeen, who read from Drums of my Flesh and paid homage to his three identities: Guyanese, Indian, and Canadian. Sindiwe Magona followed with her harrowing tale in Beauty's Gift, the story of four women who lose their best friend prematurely to AIDS.

By the time I caught a late lunch, I met up with Lisa Allen-Agostini and we managed to chat away most of the evening--talking shop and gossip before promising to meet her at the author party later that night.


I didn't make it to the author party (sheer exhaustion), but I went to the reading by Brian Antoni and Steven Gaines--two avid chroniclers of South Beach excess.

Next I was off to hear Lili Bita and Peter Hargitai, my former teacher at UM, and then, to Richard Blanco and Michael Hettich, who read selections from Tigertail: A South Florida Poetry Annual, Brazil issue.

I barely had enough time to catch my breath or a brief snack before running off to Junot Diaz, Amitav Ghosh, and Austin C. Clarke--three writers described by Miami Herald critic, Ariel Gonzalez, as "uniquely qualified to explore themes of displacement and oppression."

I decided to buy their books online rather than wait in the line and went over to listen to Elisa Albo and Vicki Hendricks, and ended the evening with the poetry of Ricardo Pau-Llosa. Ricardo's poetry was the perfect ending for the days of mental excitement and gave me the time to reflect as I was lulled into the majesty of his imagery and the beautiful art that accompanied his presentation.

If the next year's program promises to be anything like this year's, then I can hardly wait for the twenty-sixth anniversary.


For more photos of the Miami Book Fair International, please follow this link:
Miami Book Fair International, 2008.

November 15, 2008

"Father Poem" @ Terry Howcott

Every now and then, some generous people come along and they combine a poem of mine with some stunning photography.

Terry Howcott is one of these people.

Please visit her web site and see what she has done with "Father Poem."

Thank you, Terry!
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November 14, 2008


Geoffrey Philp

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November 14, 2008

Miami Book Fair International: My List of Writers

Miami Book Fair InternationalThis is another year when I will attempt to do the impossible—listen to all of these writers at the Miami Book Fair International.

I will also be introducing Sindiwe Magona (Beauty's Gift, Kwela Books), Cyril Dabydeen (Drums of My Flesh, TSAR Publications), and Dennis O'Driscoll (Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney, Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Reality Check: New Poems, Copper Canyon Press) at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 15, 2008 in the Prometeo Theater.

You can click here to download the complete Fairgoer’s Guide:

Miami Book Fair International Guide.

Adelman, Robert: Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Civil Rights Struggle, Time Inc. Home Entertainment

Allen, Preston: All or Nothing, Akashic

Allen-Agostini, Lisa: co-editor, Trinidad Noir, Akashic

Antoni, Brian: South Beach: The Novel, Black Cat

Askowitz, Andrea: My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, Cleis Press

Atlas, James: publisher, Atlas & Co.

Baker, Phyllis: A Dreamer's Journey, Educa Vision

Banks, Russell: Dreaming Up America, Seven Stories; The Reserve, Harper

Bass, Rick: Why I Came West: A Memoir, Houghton Mifflin

Bita, Lili: Women of Fire and Blood, Somerset Hall Press

Blanco, Richard: contributor, The Portable Island: Cubans at Home in the World, Palgrave MacMillan

Bragg, Rick: The Prince of Frogtown, Knopf

Butler, Robert Olen: Intercourse: Stories, Chronicle

Campbell, Rick: Dixmont, Autumn House Press

Castro, Adrian: poet, CINTAS Foundation

Chen, Willie: contributor, Trinidad Noir, Akashic

Cisneros, Sandra: The House on Mango Street, Bloomsbury; Caramelo, Vintage

Clark, C. M.: The Blue Hour: Poems, Three Stars Press

Clarke, Austin C.: More, Thomas Allen Publishers

Corley, Linda: The Kennedy Family Album: Personal Photos of America's First Family, Running Press

Cruz, Nilo: Anna in the Tropics, Dramatist's Play Service; Two Sisters and a Piano and Other Plays, Theatre Communications Group

Dabydeen, Cyril: Drums of My Flesh, TSAR Publications

Davies, Carol Boyce: Left of Karl Marx: The Political Life of Black Columnist Claudia Jones, Duke University Press

Díaz, Junot: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: A Novel, Riverhead; La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao, Random House

Dufresne, John: Requiem, Mass., W. W. Norton

Flanagan, Brenda: Allah in the Islands, Peepal Tree; You Alone are Dancing, Peepal Tree

Garcia, Cristina: I Wanna Be Your Shoebox, Simon & Schuster; A Handbook To Luck, Vintage

Gassenheimer, Linda: Mix 'n' Match: Meals in Minutes for People with Diabetes, American Diabetes Association

Giovanni, Nikki: Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky; Lincoln & Douglass: An American Friendship, Henry Holt

Grippando, James: Leapholes, American Bar Association;Last Call, Harper

Hall, James W.: Hell's Bay, Simon & Schuster

Hargitai, Peter: Millie, iUniverse

Hass, Robert: Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005, Ecco

Johnson, Charles: Mine Eyes Have Seen: Bearing Witness to the Civil Rights Struggle, Time Inc. Home Entertainment; Middle Passage, Scribner

Lehane, Dennis: The Given Day: A Novel, William Morrow

Leonin, Mia: Unraveling the Bed, Anhinga Press

Manigat, Max: editor, Cap-Haitien Excursions dans le temps, Educa Vision

McGrath, Campbell: Seven Notebooks: Poems, Ecco

Medina, Pablo: translator, Federico Garcia Lorca's Poet in New York: A Bilingual Edition, Grove

Meeks, Brian: Paint the Town Red, Peepal Tree

Moore, Carlos: Pichón: A Memoir, Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba, Lawrence Hill

Nunez, Elizabeth: contibutor, Trinidad Noir, Akashic

Pau-Llosa, Ricardo: Parable Hunter, Carnegie Mellon University Press

Philp, Geoffrey: Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories, Mabrak Books

Rushdie, Salman: The Enchantress of Florence: A Novel, Random House

Santiago, Esmeralda: El amante turco/The Turkish Lover, Alfaguara

Simon, Scott: Windy City: A Novel of Politics, Random House

Souljah, Sister: Midnight: A Gangster Love Story, Atria

Soyinka, Wole: author, Cities of Refuge Program

Standiford, Les: The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career & Revived Our Holiday Spirits, Crown

Strand, Mark: Blizzard of One: Poems, Knopf

Trelles, Emma: Little Spells, Goss 183

Walcott, Derek: Selected Poems, Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Omeros, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Wish me luck & if you get a chance, drop by and see me , nuh?


November 12, 2008

Outstanding Writer Award 2008: Geoffrey Philp

Jamaican writerFirst, I want to thank the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission and the judges for this award. It means a lot to me to be counted among the many great writers who have been honored by this body. The "Outstanding Writer" award is a recognition that my work has brought a little discernment to the two questions that a literature must answer: Who are we? Where are we going?

In order to answer these questions, I've had to explore the affinity that I, like many Jamaicans, have with the stories of the Bible. Jamaicans, as an Israeli friend of mine once said, are the "Jews of the Caribbean." We take our Bible stories seriously. We believe that they are our stories and they were written just for us.

Then, there is the relationship between fathers and sons, which I've explored in my novel, Benjamin, my son and in an upcoming collection of short stories, Who's Your Daddy? and other stories.

The poem I'm going to read, "Isaac's Sacrifice," an excerpt from Dub Wise, tries to answer these questions. The poem examines Abraham and Isaac's father and son story from Isaac's point of view. This story has always troubled me. I've often wondered how Isaac must have felt after his father's attempt to murder him in the name of his god. As a son, the inheritor of his father's promise and legacy, how could he fit his father's actions into his belief system? The story asks these questions and many more.

So, where are we going? As a storyteller, I can give only tentative, plausible outcomes. But if it's any solace, one thing that the biblical narratives reveal is that despite the sometimes horrendous actions of our elders, our stories will survive us. But we must be truthful in our telling and collecting if we are to remain alive, and perhaps, find a way to forgive.

Isaac's Sacrifice

I wonder if he ever spoke to his father
again? I mean, there he was playing
marbles in the dirt with his friends,
or out in the fields flying a kite
while John Crows circled over the tamarinds.
And then, his father's familiar bellow,
"Isaac, get the donkey, and stop
with those fool-fool games!
And what have I told you
about playing with those little hooligans
who don't wear any sandals?" But this time
it was different. This time his father was as cross
as a jackass with a burr on its tail.

They climbed the hill without a word
between them, and Isaac gathered the sticks
and bramble, washed himself clean in the cool
springs the way his father had ordered him,
before he left to gather stones…

And when they were both finished,
Abraham, tears in his eyes, asked Isaac
to lie down on the makeshift altar
and being a good son, Isaac obeyed,
even when he saw the long knife
hovering over his chest and didn't blink,
even as Abraham said, "This is not about God,
it is to teach us who we are,"
then turned, as if he had heard
another voice and found a new sacrifice.

As they descended the hill,
and Isaac was kicking stones
out of the path without Abraham
complaining about ruining his new sandals,
and patting him on the head, saying,
"My boy, my only begotten son,"
trying to be his friend, again,
Isaac probably held Abraham's trembling
hand against his cheek, and forgave him,
yet he couldn't help but think,
"What would have happened
if the old goat hadn't been so lost?"


November 10, 2008

Geoffrey Philp Wins Outstanding Writer Award

Jamaican writerGeoffrey Philp, author of Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories, won the "Outstanding Writer" award from Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. Mr. Philp also won a gold medal for his poem, “Isaac’s Sacrifice,” and a silver medal for his short story, “Bobby Bijani and the Rolling Calf” in the national competition.

The National Creative Writing Competition Awards Ceremony & Exhibition Opening 2008 was held at the Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica, on Wednesday, November 5. The ceremony marked the official opening of an island wide exhibition tour to the thirteen parish libraries and features the medal winning pieces in the categories of poetry, short stories, plays, novels, and essays.

“The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission has been an integral part of Jamaica’s literary development and I am honored to receive these awards,” said Philp, who will be appearing at the Miami Book Fair International Book Fair with the Student Literary Encounter series on November 12-13, 2008.

The JCDC National Creative Writing Competition encourages writers to sharpen their skills through the annual competition. Writers are invited to improve their craftsmanship and style, writing in Standard English or Jamaican Dialect. The Creative Writing Competition has spawned and celebrated many recognized professional writers in Jamaica including playwright Basil Dawkins whose 2005 gold medal winning entry “Hot Spot” has not only gone successfully to the stage locally, but has also toured internationally..


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. He 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 May 2009

For more information, please contact:

Danielle Hopkins
Public Relations Coordinator,
Jamaica Cultural Development Commission
The Public Relations Department
Tel: 926-8768/ 371-3423


November 5, 2008

Morning in America Redux: Barack Obama's Presidency

Barack Obama

The ability of Americans to turn a page in history has always amazed me. Yet the election of Barack Hussein Obama to the highest office in the country has done just that—changed the course of history.

On many levels, Mr. Obama's election has meant a change in the way we think about each other. Many white Americans have had to put aside their fears of race retribution and their doubts that an African American had the intellectual acumen for the presidency—a canard that was often used to deny many talented African Americans the position of quarterback in major league football. Within the African American community, there is a sense of triumph and euphoria--one of their own has risen from the nightmare of slavery, racism, and segregation to realize the theme encoded in the so-called "Negro Spirituals"—the dream of freedom.

And yet as revolutionary as Mr. Obama's election appears, there is also something profoundly traditional in the choice that is steeped in American values. First, there is American pragmatism. Mr. Obama was elected because he seemed to be the only candidate who was ready to get the job done: to change the course of the country, economy, and America's standing in the world.

There is also the American resistance to privilege. It is ironic that both men came to represent the opposite of their racial stereotypes. For whereas Mr. McCain's campaign stressed his long years of service, almost as if he was "owed" the job—a charge often leveled at many African Americans—Mr. Obama never took anything for granted and fought for very vote. And this is why he won. For in the end, Barack Hussein Obama embodied the traditional values of the republic.

This, however, is only the beginning. Mr. Obama's presidency is symbolic of the change we desire. But as my Sunday school teacher used to say, "Faith without works is dead." And as Mr. Obama early in the campaign reminded us, "This election is not about me, it's about you." How much were we willing to give up, sacrifice, to become better versions of ourselves?

Well, we've taken the first step. But this change won't be easy. For just as in our personal lives, once we decide to make a change, old demons rise up to test us if we are worthy of the new role, in the same way, America's demons will surely rise up to challenge our collective will. Mr. Obama has already warned us, "Power never concedes easily." We have powerful demons in our past that have now been awakened, and I hope that for all our sakes, we are ready for the work of change.


Photo: London Daily News

November 3, 2008

"Listening is an Act of Love" @ Books & Books

On Thursday, November 6, 2oo8, Dave Isay, legendary radio producer and founder of StoryCorps, will be at Books & Books (256 Aragon Avenue) at 8:00 pm to answer questions and listen to stories from New York Times Bestseller "Listening is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project."
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The paperback edition of Listening Is an Act of Love was released on October 28, 2008, and Dave Isay is traveling the country once again. We hope that you will come out to meet him and listen to stories from the book. Watch our short video from our reading last year in Los Angeles.

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Esau Jenkins and the 2008 Elections

Esau JenkinsAs many Americans prepare to go to the polls tomorrow, I’d like to livicate this post to Esau Jenkins, a civil rights leader in South Carolina and founder of the Progressive Club, "which encouraged local African Americans to register to vote."

I never met Mr. Jenkins, but I learned a lot about him when I attended an educational leadership workshop in South Carolina. Our table captain told us about the civil rights movement in South Carolina and about the work of Esau Jenkins in St. John’s islands and his founding of citizenship schools.

What stuck with me, however, were the words of our table captain when the topic of conflict in the workplace came up. When I seemed to suggest giving up, he looked at me and told us the story of Esau Jenkins and concluded with these words:

As a leader, you may think you have it tough. But every time you think of quitting or giving up, I want you to think of Esau Jenkins. They tried to kill him, but he kept on going. I can bet you, whatever opposition you face as a leader in your workplace, nobody is going to try and kill you. Keep going.

I won’t say that since then I have not sometimes said to myself, “Why bother?” But I will also say that the moment the thought entered my mind, the memory of Esau Jenkins and my table captain come back to me.

So give thanks to Esau Jenkins and all the civil rights leaders. For whatever the outcome, you never gave up, never lost faith, and this is why we can vote tomorrow.


November 2, 2008

Notes Towards a Longer Work 1

My question for the critics of Caribbean writing:

What are the patterns in Caribbean literature?
It is not necessary, in fact I think it is rare, that a story teller or a writer be a wise person. What is essential is that the writer be able to create a trustworthy pattern, a pattern in the modern idiom that serves the reader in her effort to remember who she is, and where she is going.
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