September 30, 2010

DUB WISE is Here!

Dub Wise

The poems in Dub Wise have had many beginnings. From the first time I read Uncle Time by Dennis Scott and the poem, “For the Last Time, Fire,” I was intrigued by Scott’s use of the myth of the phoenix to explore the cyclical nature of revolutions. Equally impressive was Scott’s manipulation of the many registers of Caribbean English. After reading the poem, I wanted to write a poem that contemporized myth within a Caribbean setting. But then, after re-reading the poem at least fifty times, I thought, “Forget it, Geoff. You’ll never be a poet.” And it didn’t help that while I was studying for my GCE “A” Level in literature at Jamaica College I was confronted by Scott’s genius. Every day.

Still, I persisted. The desire had already been kindled. Scott’s poem also sparked my interest in the writing of James Baldwin. But more anon.

Fast forward, thirty years (more or less) later. I’ve re-read Uncle Time at least fifty more times and I’ve become a student of myth via Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell. Then, I recognize the gift of West African mythology in the poetry of Kamau Brathwaite. The question that the Omowale asks in “The New Ships” from Masks in The Arrivants: “Whose ancestor am I?”  haunts me. Moreover, The Arrivants, leads me to appreciate West African religions in the Caribbean and the distortions that surround them. I soon realize that the lwas of these Yoruba-based religions, which have only been imagined as a source for horror (the most extreme form of Otherness), represent what Jung has dubbed the “collective consciousness.”

All of these disparate ideas, including events in my personal life, came together when I wrote “Erzulie’s Daughter”—the first poem in the Haitian trilogy of “Marassa Jumeaux” and “Limbo. The direct influence of Scott and Brathwaite guided the composition of these poems—Derek Walcott lurks in the background. There is also the indirect influence of Haitian poet/scholar, Felix Morriseau-Leroy and Cuban-American poet/babalawo, Adrian Castro, from whom I’ve have learned so much about Caribbean literature and religions.

Some Caribbean writers still argue whether a Caribbean literary tradition exists. Dub Wise posits the continuation of that tradition—a line of thought that extends across generations, which is either enriched or even if rejected, is nonetheless acknowledged by the inheritors.
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