December 1, 2010

Notes on Dub Wise

A few weeks ago in a conversation with Malachi Smith, he made a comment about Dub Wise that has stuck with me. He said that unlike my previous collections, I have moved away from Walcott toward Brathwaite. He asked me why.  I gave him a short answer which needs expansion.

If as Malachi contends I have moved more toward Brathwaite, I think that by living in Miami, I have become much more aware of what Charles Pollard in New World Modernisms (who confirmed many of my readings of these two poets) describes as Brathwaite’s attempts  “to address the historical neglect of the Afro-Caribbean cultural connection” (34).

But I also think I have been trying to reach the state of maturity, which Walcott describes in “The Muse of History” as “the assimilation of the features of every ancestor” (1). This is why the poem, “Red,” has become important to me. For I have been trying in Dub Wise to assimilate the vision of these two ancestors, Walcott and Brathwaite.

So, if as Pollard asserts, Walcott and Brathwaite share common aesthetic principles that arise from T. S. Eliot’s writings,  when Walcott  cites Eliot’s  phrase that the “culture of a people” is the “incarnation of its religion,” then I would extend this idea by saying that the representation of a culture is best found in its music (38).

In my case, that music was reggae (the visceral music that at best moves the mind and the body in a single accord—beyond what Bob calls “just ‘Baby, baby I love you’”—fiah bun Eliot’s “dissociation of sensibility”) and the dub: the pared down essentials, drum and bass, (Lee “Scratch” Perry says they are the heart and brain of the music) of a musical representation after which there is only the silence of the Void.

Specifically, then, while acknowledging the nod to Brathwaite’s influence in privileging an Afro-Caribbean identity, Dub Wise seeks to reconcile the visions of Brathwaite and Walcott by using the following strategies:

Recovery of an Afro-Caribbean identity in the poems about reggae, Haiti, and Rastafari (Brathwaite).
Mimicry of forms (sonnet, ballad, sestina, and ghazal) and recasting them in a new mode (Walcott)

I have also included imagery from Buddhism, Rastafari, Christianity, and Voudoun—the sacred in Caribbean life—to include as many voices as I can which represent the various faith traditions in the Caribbean.



FSJL said...

To write from the Caribbean, in the end, is to have many ancestors.

Geoffrey Philp said...

True words, Fragano.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Fragano, I cut myself off before I finished.

Yes, there are many ancestors and in all my books and on this blog, I have acknowledged even the "minor" ancestors.

In my Father's house, there are many mansions...

Gillena Cox said...

onward... growth maturity and creativity

much love

Geoffrey Philp said...

Give thanks, Gillena. Give thanks.

Geoffrey Philp said...

Fragano, the reason i focus on Brathwaite and Walcott is that they are engaged in a serious discussio about what Caribbean creole culture should resemble.
In some ways they have both taken idiosyncratic paths that are less than useful, but others have been more productive...I think as writers we can learn a great deal from them and continue the discussion about this imporatnt issue...