December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas 2009

Over the Christmas holiday, this blog will celebrate its fourth anniversary. It’s been an interesting journey and one that has had many twists and turns I would never have anticipated when I wrote my first post: Why Do I Continue to Write?

Since then, the blog has become a means of sharing my discoveries in the virtual, material, and literary worlds. And though not stated explicitly, it is also a collective repository of knowledge about writing that many published writers from South Florida and the Caribbean are sharing with readers of this blog. I want to convince younger writers that although the Caribbean literary tradition is less than 100 years old that their experience, their voice is the source of their creative power and to give them examples of published writers who are acting on that faith--call it virtual mentoring for younger writers to figure out the "how" of writing.

Next year promises to be filled with all kinds of new experiences. I’m looking forward to the publication of a new book of poems, Dub Wise, of which I am very proud. Dub Wise brings together all that I have learned from thirty years of reading, writing, brothering, fathering, sonning, husbanding, loving, and listening to reggae.

Some of the poems in Dub Wise were first published on this blog and others were published at Poefrika, Black Looks, Asili, peony moon, tongues of the ocean, The Caribbean Writer, Ocho #26, and with prompts from Read Write Poem.

During the new year, I also plan to finish editing a new short story, “Bob Marley and Bradford’s iPod,” and as follow-up to Grandpa Sydney's Anancy Stories, a new children’s book, Anancy’s Christmas Gift.

I'll be back on January 11, 2009, but look out for a guest post over by Dave Lucas on December 21, 2009. In the meantime, why not rummage through the archives? I'm sure you'll find something useful.

Have a great holiday and cherish the holidays with your loved ones.



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December 16, 2009

"Christmas Evening"

The story of Joseph in this poem is that of a man who is seeking a sign while believing that whatever he is enduring is worth it. The poem is grounded in the faith that if we seek the Divine and we are open, then in some of the most subtle moments, the gaze is returned.


December 14, 2009

A Year's Worth of Posts

An end of year roundup is always the most difficult because at the time of writing each post I always think: “This is the best post that I’ve ever written!” This year has also been challenging because of the publication of my book, Who's Your Daddy? And Other Stories, which I believe tells some interesting stories about the relationship of fathers and their children and provides a context for the discussion of fatherhood. Some of the stories are funny too.

Still, the exercise of writing a roundup is useful because it gives me the chance to review how my blog has evolved from merely being a chronicle of my experiences in the virtual, material, and literary worlds to a platform for writers to showcase their works and a space to discuss topics with which younger writers may be struggling.

The last point is very important to me because the issue of mentorship, especially in the Caribbean, is essential for the sustenance of a literary tradition. And although I cannot provide mentorship in the form of reading unpublished manuscripts, I can add to the conversation about subjects that are of interest to beginning writers: How to Use Allusions; How to Use Symbols, Am I a Writer? (Parts 1, 2, and 3).

I’ve also broken out of the mold on a few occasions to write about events that were not literary, but were of global significance: the Inauguration of Barack Obama,  Blog Action Day, World AIDS Day, and World Press Freedom Day. I also noted the passing of Michael Jackson and two Caribbean writers, Trevor D. Rhone and Wayne Brown, as well as the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

There are many other posts that I could mention, but here's a list that I hope will give readers a taste of what to expect on my blog:

As a member of Read Write Poem, I took part in read write prompt #61: reveal your dialect with a poem from my latest manuscript, Dub Wise, which will be published next year by Peepal Tree Press.

February: I Love You.Three simple words. But they are the most difficult words to say to a friend or partner and especially within Black and Caribbean families. This became painfully clear to me as I sat on a panel to discuss Reaching up for Manhood by Geoffrey Canada

Giving thanks to the mentors in my life, but especially to Kamau Brathwaite.

A big thanks to Middle Zone Musing for helping me to gain perspective on the near cancellation of the Calabash Literary Festival and for exorcising some of the demons that have plagued my life.

Give thanks to Michelle for publishing this little poem that is fast becoming a reader favorite

A momentous month for me: reading at the Calabash International Literary Festival.

For travelling children everywhere.

It’s always good to get a little praise from readers.

South Florida and Caribbean poet, Adrian Castro, wrote about the release of his latest book of poems, Handling Destiny.

October: “Always Think It’s Bigger Than Me” Dr. Joe Leonard’s Visit to Miami Dade College, North Campus.It’s easy to become jaded about public servants, but Dr. Joe Leonard’s visit was not only inspirational for me, but also for our students who benefitted from his words and deeds. Dr. Leonard also lived up to his promise and returned on December 4, 2009.

Book reviewing is an area in which I’d love to expand the blog. But seeing as my blog is a one person operation, it is now sporadic. Any volunteers?

It was a honor to publish this original poem by one of Jamaica’s finest poets.

Next year looks as if it’s going to be another great year of blogging and publishing. I can’t wait!

This ia part of a group write project @ Middle Zone Musings.

Words from flickr

Created by kastner


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December 13, 2009

Blog Disclosure Policy

When the FTC made a recent decision “that ‘material connections’ (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed,” I had a choice. I could either go the route of The Field Negro and remove all paid links or I could comply and reveal the following:

Geoffrey Philp’s Blog Spot receives a percentage of the purchase price on anything you buy through links to Amazon, Shambala Books, Hay House, or any of the Google ads or Google Custom Search.

As you can see from the sidebar of the blog, I’ve chosen to continue endorsing books such as Natural Mysticicm by Kwame Dawes as an Amazon Associate, not because Kwame is my friend, but because Natural Mysticicm is one of the best books I’ve read about Bob Marley. In fact, all of the books at my online bookstore, Mabrak Books, are books that I own and recommend.

But, then again, I thought everyone knew about paid links. And I don’t need the FTC to teach me about ethical behavior. For example, the FTC ruling doesn’t require me to disclose that whatever reimbursement I receive is used for subscriptions to Flickr or for equipment such as digital cameras or camcorders so as to have a permanent archive of writers from the Caribbean and South Florida. I am also not required to disclose that most of the book reviews that I’ve written, for example, Caridad Moro-McCormick’s Visionware was done without the writer’s knowledge and that Visionware was purchased with my own money.

Now, of course, I could have written to the publisher and requested a review copy and they probably would have honored my request. But that’s not why I blog.

Geoffrey Philp’s Blog Spot exists not only to promote my work, but also to share with my readers the discoveries that I’ve made while reading books or other blogs. As an extension of my other forms of writing, my blog relies on the trust and the commitment that I have to Caribbean and Floribbean literature.

I’ve never believed in publishing for its own sake or for doing anything purely for material gain. I guess that’s why I took the “safe” route of academia so I’d never have to make the kinds of compromises that a prominent online agent decribed: “If a career is the path you choose then sometimes it’s important to remember that career writing, like any career, sometimes means doing things we aren’t necessarily passionate about, but that pays the bills.”

God bless ‘em. I know I couldn’t do that.

Life is too short to be wasted on useless cyber ink and I value my readers’ and my own time too much to blog unless I can, like Hemingway said, “Write a true sentence.”I’ve meant ever word I’ve written and I would never compromise that for a few shekels.

This is how I’ve always written and how I will continue to write. I owe it to myself and to you, dear Reader, to always give the best that I can give.


December 10, 2009

El Numero Uno by Pam Mordecai Opens in Toronto

Pam Mordecai's play, El Numero Uno,  directed by b current's ahdri zina mandiela, with design and music in the hands of Astrid Janson and Cathy Nosaty respectively, and featuring a cast of Canadian/Caribbean actors, the play opens on Thursday February 4, with previews on Jan 31 (2:00 p.m.), February 1 (10:15 a.m.), February 2 (10:15 a.m.) and February 3 (1:00 p.m.). There's a Teacher Preview at 7:00 p.m. on February 3 as well.

More @ Jahworld

Photo Source: Jahworld

December 9, 2009

Essential Lines from 2009: "Big Wheels Keep on Turnin'"

You’d have thought that with eight previously published books that I wouldn’t be nervous, yet I was. I was reading at the Calabash International Literary Festival 2009: “The only international literary festival in the English-speaking Caribbean.”

And I was reading from a new book, Who’s Your Daddy? And Other Stories.

I wrote “Big Wheels Keep on Turnin': Calabash 09 (Part 2)” to capture my experience of reading “The Day Jesus Christ Came to Mount Airy” because it was a turning point for me in my writing career. It was the first time that I’d read to so large an audience in Jamaica, and as everyone knows, Jamaicans can be a tough audience. Especially with our own.

For you can write a technically competent story with a beginning, middle, and end about a character with whom you think the audience will empathize; you can set up the plot in such a way as to make the hero’s choices (whether is a comedy or tragedy) seem plausible; you can even try out the story with a few friends for a "dry run," and still fail to connect with an audience. 

Luckily, the reading was a success and I was proud to have been one the Calabash authors for the 2009 season.


This is part of a group write project: Essential Lines from 2009: Group Writing Project.


December 8, 2009

Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa Appointed as New Editor of The Caribbean Writer

The Caribbean Writer is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Opal Palmer Adisa as its new editor. Her appointment will begin in January 2010.

Jamaican born, Dr. Adisa is a poet and prose writer who brings extensive editorial experience to the anthology. She has published 14 books, and her writings have appeared in over 200 journals and anthologies. She is also a much sought-after speaker and has traveled throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. 

She has been recognized for her work in the form of many awards and honors, among them the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award for her poetry collection Tamarind and Mango Women and the Master Folk Artist Award for Storytelling from the California Arts Council. She has also received awards for both poetry and fiction from The Caribbean Writer and has served as an Advisory Board member of The Caribbean Writer since 1998. Her interview with renowned poet Kamau Brathwaite appears in Volume 23 (2009). Dr. Erika J. Waters, founding editor of The Caribbean Writer said she was “delighted the magazine was in such capable hands.”

Adisa, who has a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, most recently was a professor at California College of the Arts. She previously taught both graduate and undergraduate courses at several universities including Stanford University, University of California, Berkley, and San Francisco State University.

Dr. Adisa’s editorship will begin with the 24th edition of The Caribbean Writer, submissions to which are currently being accepted. As usual, the Caribbean should be central to the work, or the work should reflect a Caribbean heritage, experience, or perspective. Besides poetry, fiction, essays and one-act plays, special sections are planned on Trevor Rhone and Wayne Brown. Deadline for submission has been extended to December 31, 2009. Visit for more information.


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2009 Top Ten Hits

The end of the year always brings opportunities to evaluate things that are important to us. As the old adage goes, “Whatever we value, we measure.”

For the past week, I have been reviewing the stats on my blog and I’ve been participating in several group write projects. This is part of a group write project @ Daily Blog Tips.

Using Google Analytics, I’ve compiled the 2009 Top Ten Hits—posts that received the most hits.

The results were surprising because they differed slightly from the posts that I considered to be the most important for other group write projects.

Here, then, are the 2009 Top Ten Hits:

10.       Remix Tonight: Does Jamaican Dancehall Music Incite Violence?

9.         The Commonwealth Short Story Competition

8.         Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Rastafari

7.         Am I a Writer? (Part Dos)

6.         2009 Short Story Competition

5.         Video: Dancehall Music and Jamaican Society: Which Influences the Other?

4.         Bad T'ings Mek Joke: Jamaican Humor

3.         Who's Your Daddy?: Gender Issues

2.         Master of the Tragicomic: Trevor D. Rhone (1940-2009)      

1.         Michael Jackson: Spirit Dancer

You’ll have to come back tomorrow (12/9/2009) and on Monday (12/14/2009) to find out my choices for my other group write projects @ Middle Zone Musings and Confident Writing.


Words from flickr
Created by kastner


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For My Children: Christmas 2009

I want you to know, you were chosen at birth
by a sheltering providence that guides your ways
that soon will reconcile your mind with this clay

thrust up from the depths of the earth
to become the mouth of limestone longing to say:
I want you to know, you were chosen at birth.

And from the music in your cells will come forth
the rhythm of your destiny, so that you can repay
the sun and rain on your face with gratitude each day.
I want you to know, you were chosen at birth.


December 7, 2009

"PALIMPSEST" by Mervyn Morris


Grandma, much younger

than her age-paper,

is giggling on the floor

with baby Jon

as with his daddy

forty years ago. ‘Age

is just a number,’

as the slogan says.

Grandpa, seeming

buried in a book,

gives thanks for her

endearing gift  

and mumbles Larkin,

‘What will survive of us

is love.’ 


MERVYN MORRIS is the author of six books of poetry, including I been there, sort of:  New and Selected Poems (Carcanet Press, 2006).

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December 5, 2009

Lorna Goodison on Claude McKay's Signature Poem

Jamaican poet Claude McKay wrote a poem in 1919 called, "If we must die" in response to race riots across American cities. 

It was a poem of such quality that it became an anthem of resistance everywhere. Twenty years later British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used it as a rallying call to encourage troops in the second world war and to persuade the US to join the war. But Prime Minister and his speech writers never attributed the words to McKay.
BBC's Mark Coles recently discussed the poem with Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison.

Listen to Mark Coles' interview with Lorna Goodison


Photo by James L. Allen
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December 3, 2009

Mark Your Calendar: December 12, 2009

Book Launch: Reception and Lecture: Eroticism, Spirituality and Resistance in Black Women's Writings by Donna Aza Weir-Soley

Come out and bring your friends and family for good Caribbean food and an exciting discussion on the nexus between black female sexuality and spirituality.

Dr Donna Aza Weir-Soley will be reading from her latest book, Eroticism, Spirituality and Resistance in Black Women's Writings, on Saturday, December 12, 2009, at Broward South Regional Library/Broward Community College campus, 3700 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines.

Praise for Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women's Writings.

"In Eroticism, Spirituality, and Resistance in Black Women's Writings, Dr. Weir-Soley successfully undertakes an analysis of how black women writers, beginning with Zora Neale Hurston in her masterpiece Their Eyes Were Watching God, have used overlapping narrative depictions of sexuality and spirituality to recast the denigrated black female body and rewrite an empowered and fully actualized black female subject."
~Candice M. Jenkins, Associate Professor of English, Hunter College, City University of New York

"Weir-Soley speaks with an authority that comes from real knowledge of, investment in, and attention to the details of the African cosmologies and textual complexities she unearths."
~Carine Mardorossian, SUNY-Buffalo

"The most original and significant contributions are the often brilliant readings of Morrison, Adisa, and Danticat. The work is riveting, both methodologically and critically."
~Leslie Sanders, York University

Saturday, December 12, 2009
1:00pm - 4:00pm

Broward South Regional Library,
3700 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines


December 2, 2009

Black Virgin - Modern Art Exhibition - Paris

For your Christmas pleasure, another view of the Virgin, who has appeared under various guises, most notably at the Chartres Cathedral. We know her in the Caribbean as Erzulie.


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December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009: "not another aids poem."

Back in the early eighties when “not another aids poem” was written, our family was living in fear. My wife’s cousin, Hernando, was dying and nobody knew why. The doctors tried everything—interferon and other drugs used to treat cancer—but nothing worked. Then, we learned he had been diagnosed with AIDS.

My wife, who was pregnant with our first child, wanted to visit Hernando in Colombia, not only because she loved him, but because he was one of the first in our families who gave us his support. I still remember sitting in a small bar in Bogota, drinking aguardiente, listening to Andean music, and Hernando explaining to me why the preservation of indigenous music—the music of his people—was important.

In the end, my wife and I decided against the visit because we still didn’t know how AIDS was transmitted. Was it airborne? No one had any answers.

Today is World AIDS Day and we now have more information about the disease, but we are no closer to a cure. And it still doesn’t diminish our guilt and the pain that we feel at the loss of a life that was brilliant and filled with cariƱo.

Rest in Peace, Hernando.

not another aids poem

(for hernando)

when did the tissues,

the invisible barrier between cells,

break and send nuclei,

intent on their own destruction,

alerting an armada of antibodies

in your body's mutiny against itself?

i ask

because it's the only question

that i can understand,

with which i can console myself

while i mutter

a new alphabet of ddc, azt, ddi...

and you become a mottled ghost,

in a gown, transparent as

your skin, a part of the bed,

a network of tubes,

roots i cling to

that connect this life to the next

From:  hurricane center (1998)

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