October 31, 2011

Bawon Samedi's Halloween

I know you won't believe me when I tell you this. But you should. Your life depends on it.

Last Halloween Bawon Samedi, who can take any shape he desires, left the tent cities in Haiti, was detained in Krome, and then, moved into our neighborhood. When we heard he was looking for a partner, everyone was scared except my mother.

"He's just one of God's children," she said. "Like you and me."

But I didn't believe her. I've never had any faith in the stories she told me about why she left my father in Jamaica and took me with her. I don't think she knew how much it hurt me when the other boys teased me: "Where's your father?" they would say as they laughed. "Look, I just saw him coming out of a window and running down the road."

Yet, I remained devoted to my mother. She has been the only woman in my life. Even in her seventies, she was still a good-looking woman. So when Bawon Samedi came to court her, I made sure I bought new locks for the front door.

When I told her I wanted to install a security system, she said, "It's good that you're protecting me now and you can take care of yourself."

I called Brinks Security and a salesman with a funny hat came to my house. "Trust me," he said. "State of the art. No one will ever harm you or your mother with this system. And you won't have to pay anything up front. I can set you up on our credit system."

I refused to bow to the temptation. I paid the full cost and we slept soundly every night.

But little did I know, my mother was betraying me.

Late at night—the neighbors just told me this—she would disarm the system, unlock the door, and invite Bawon Samedi into her bedroom. Or on some nights, they would steal away into the backyard, sit in the swing under our umbrella tree, and admire the moonlight.

That was how I found her when the paramedics came this morning. She was wearing a necklace he had given her and a wedding gown I thought she had donated to the Salvation Army. She clutched a handwritten note in her right hand:

"Don't be upset, my son. My darling says I've always looked pretty in white. So I searched and I searched until I found my old dress. This only goes to show, as I've always told you, 'Nothing is ever lost in God's vineyard'"

And for once, I believed that old woman. For once.

So, this Halloween I'm not taking any chances. For Bawon Samedi loves to entice the unwary. And especially those who don't believe in him. 

I'm leaving an offering of peanuts, a glass of rum with twenty-one Scotch bonnet peppers, and a Cuban cigar by my doorway.

How are you protecting yourself?


"Bawon Samedi and his Bride" by Christina Philp
© Christina Philp 2011

"Bawon Samedi's Halloween" by Geoffrey Philp

© Geoffrey Philp 2011

October 28, 2011

(for Anya) by Jennifer Rahim

To a stage that rivals any brand of farce, a light–
a young woman comes, a rainbow. No sign
taken for wonders hitched to dead pasts,
but witness of prophecy’s advent –Walcott’s
new Athens. Her field, a runway stylin’:
raiment as phenomenal as the language
islands stitched from worlds made seamless
as the weave of sea her hands command
into artefact . The eye astonished as at the dawning
of a star – the bright that explodes the possible,
even as we punish time for our failure to draw
nearer the distance for which Carter’s every-
child dreams: to live the will  to change tense– 
make miracle present, be blessing cup
that redeems the fault we all fit and silences
the mind’s bench of bats eager to tie millstones
about the necks of sunbeams. Anya,
architect of how we may wear our tomorrows, 
delight in this sad carnival of waste and mamaguy,
may your challenge be always what Thursdays
have come to mean, for us: our colours lifted up 
and the inexhaustible grace that is your name. 

© Jennifer Rahim, 2011

About Jennifer Rahim

Jennifer Rahim is Trinidadian. Her first collection of poems, Mothers Are Not the Only Linguists was published in 1992, followed by Between the Fence and the Forest (Peepal Tree, 2002). She also writes short fiction and criticism. She currently teaches at The Liberal Arts Department, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad.

Her poems have appeared in several Caribbean and international journals and anthologies. Some of these include The Caribbean Writer, Small Axe, The Trinidad and Tobago Review, The Graham House Review, Mangrove, The Malahat Review, Crossing Water, Creation Fire, The Sisters of Caliban, Crab Orchard Review and Atlanta Review. Short stories have appeared in The New Voices, The Caribbean Writer, and Caribbean Voices I.

Awards include The Gulf Insurance Writers Scholarship (1996) to attend the Caribbean Writers Summer Institute, Univ. of Miami; The New Voices Award of Merit (1993) for outstanding contributions to The New Voices journal; The Writers Union of Trinidad and Tobago Writer of the Year Award (1992) for the publication, Mothers Are Not The Only Linguists.

October 26, 2011

New Book: Lantana Strangling Ixora by Sasenarine Persaud

This collection is as much about love and people in and out of relationships as it is about origins and the process of estrangement. The lantana is a flower of South American origin, and the ixora of Asian origin. The lantana, a creeper that grows profusely, often engulfing other plants, provides a ready metaphor for the consciousness of the Americas overcoming that of India in the Americas—the mainstreaming and divesting of yoga from its Indian origins being the most visible manifestation. This collection ranges widely in its geographical and historical concerns, from Canada to Guyana to India and places in between, exploring the contradictions in our lives: familial influences, terrorism, literature, politics, race, and the power of language and representation. As always in Persaud’s work, love is ever present. This is a collection that displays mastery over nuances of language, and is at once quirky and humorous as it continues an engagement with the theme of “place as muse.” 

About Sasenarine Persaud

Sasenarine Persaud is an essayist, novelist, short story writer, and poet. He is the author of ten books: seven poetry collections, two novels, and a book of short stories. His latest book, In a Boston Night, was published by TSAR in 2008. He was born in Guyana and has lived for several years in Canada. He has served as a vice-president and chair of the membership committee of the League of Canadian Poets, on the Board of Directors of the Scarborough Arts Council (Toronto), and on juries for the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council. He presently resides in Tampa, Florida. 

All TSAR Publications books are available from bookstores, online booksellers, and wholesalers 

October 25, 2011

Rosanne Cash Opens 28th Miami Book Fair International

Miami, October 25, 2011 - Chart-topping singer/songwriterRosanne Cash, daughter of music legend Johnny Cash, will kick-off the 28th edition of the Miami Book Fair International (MBFI), presented by Miami Dade College’s (MDC) The Center @ MDC. As part of the Fair’s popular Evening With series, Cash will present her memoir, Composed, at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13.

The Evening With series treats book lovers to live presentations by some of the most celebrated contemporary authors in the world. This year’s eight-night lineup includes award-winning artist and activist Harry Belafonte, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and bestselling authors Nicole Krauss and Dorothy Allison.

Unless otherwise noted: All Evening With presentations will be held in the Chapman Conference Center (Bldg. 3, second floor) at the Wolfson Campus, 300 N.E. Second Ave. Tickets for each session are $10 and must be purchased in advance. To purchase tickets, visit www.miamibookfair.com.

Opening day will also feature an Afternoon With young-adult novelist Christopher Paolini, who will discuss his latest book, the fourth and final installment of the Inheritance cycle. This author presentation is at 4 p.m. and is free with a ticket, which can be obtained on the Fair site. In addition, from the Ibero-American program, author and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner will present his new book, La mujer del Coronel, at 7 p.m. in Room 2106 (Building 2, first floor). This event is free (no ticket required).      

Kick-off festivities will begin at 5 p.m. with the Miami Book Fair International Inaugural Ceremony in the Wolfson Campus Auditorium (Building 1, second floor). Immediately following the ceremony, the Chinese Pavilion will officially open its doors and host an opening reception. Both events are free and open to the public.

The Fair will take place November 13 - 20, 2011, at the college’s Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami. Free parking is available in the Building 7 garage (500 N.E. Second Ave). The popular Street Fair runs Friday, November 18 through Sunday, November 20, featuring more than 200 exhibitors from around the country. This year, the Fair will celebrate the literature and culture of China.

Evening With programs are as follows:

·         Rosanne Cash (Composed) – 7p.m., Sunday, Nov. 13

·         Calvin Trillin (Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin) – 6 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14

·         Dr. Paul Farmer (Haiti After the Earthquake) – 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14

·         Harry Belafonte  (My Song) – 6 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14

·         David Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement) – 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14

·         Eric Robert Greitens (The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL) – 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16

·         John Sayles (A Moment in the Sun) – 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 16

·         Ron Suskind (Confidence Men) – 6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17

·         Dorothy Allison (Bastard out of Carolina, Cavedweller) – 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17

·         Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes (Go the F**k to Sleep) with special celebrity guests, actor Jenna Elfman and singer/songwriter Nikka Costa –          6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18

·         Nicole Krauss (Great House) – 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18

Other evening events during the week, Monday through Friday, Nov. 14 - 18 include:

·         A presentation and discussion with artist and writer Kadir Nelson on We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro Baseball and Heart and Soul: The Story of Africa and African-Americans, followed by a tour of an exhibit of Nelson’s paintings. Monday, Nov. 14, 6:30 p.m., Auditorium

·         Screening of film, “Discover the Gift,” companion to the book of the same title, a collection of stories of tragedy and redemption featuring some of today’s most transformational leaders. Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., Auditorium

·         Round table discussion on the role of literature and the arts in contemporary China, featuring some of China’s most important writers, moderated by Chinese-American author, Da Chen, Friday, Nov. 18, 6:30 p.m.

Plus, Twilight Tastings every weeknight – delicious morsels and drinks courtesy of popular Miami restaurants – and a wealth of activities, from folk dancing to calligraphy demos and more, at the Chinese Pavilion.


Miami Book Fair International is the largest and finest literary gathering in America. It is the premier event of The Center for Literature and Theatre @ Miami Dade College. The Center promotes reading and writing throughout the year by consistently presenting quality literary activities open to all in South Florida. Literacy projects target children of all ages — from kindergarten to high school — as well as college students and adults. Additionally, established and emerging writers from all over the U.S. read, lecture, and teach workshops. The Center is also the home of the Prometeo Theater, a Spanish-language conservatory style program that presents full productions and dramatic readings; in addition to offering a professional training program in theatre arts, continuing education acting classes for adults as well as Prometeitos, dancing and acting program for children. The Center envisions South Florida as a nexus of literary activity in the Americas and beyond, and will continue to champion its mission of promoting the advancement and appreciation of literature in all forms.

Miami Book Fair International is made possible through the generous support of the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Recovery Act; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council, the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; The Children’s Trust, Peacock Foundation, Inc., Publix Super Markets Charities, Miami Dade County Public Schools; the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Miami Downtown Development Authority, the Alvah H. and Wyline P. Chapman Family Foundation, Inc., the Kenneth A. Lattman Foundation, and the Friends of the Fair.

The Book Fair’s corporate sponsors as of this date include: Chrysler, Florida Blue, American Airlines, Bank of America, Miami Parking Authority, Miami Dade Transit, Mystery Writers of America, Southeastern Recycling, Cafeina Wynwood Lounge, City Hall the Restaurant, Graspa Group, Hyatt Regency Miami, Barefoot Wine, Florida Power & Light, First and First Southern Baking Company, Scholastic Books, Jackson Health System, Kork Wine & Cheese, Tri-Rail, Costco Wholesale, and the Doral Chamber of Commerce. The 2011 media sponsors include:  The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, Comcast, CBS4 and TV33, Univision23 and Telefutura69, BookTV on C-SPAN2, Univision Radio, WLRN Public Radio & Television, WPBT Channel 2, WDNA 88.9 FM Public Radio, Classical South Florida 89.7, WIOD Newsradio 610 AM, WEDR 99JAMZ, Diario Las Americas, Caribbean Today, Miami New Times, South Florida Times, The Miami Times, Bookreporter.com, FUEL Outdoors, and the Welcome Channel.


Miami Dade College has a long and rich history of involvement in the cultural arts, providing South Florida with a vast array of artistic and literary offerings including the Miami Book Fair International, the Center @ MDC, the Miami International Film Festival, the MDC Live! Performing Arts Series, the Cuban Cinema Series, the Miami Leadership Roundtable speakers’ series, numerous renowned campus art galleries and theaters, and the nationally recognized School of Entertainment and Design Technology. With an enrollment of more than 174,000 students, MDC is the largest institution of higher education in the country and is a national model for many of its programs. The college’s eight campuses and outreach centers offer more than 300 distinct degree programs including baccalaureate, associate in arts and science degrees and numerous career training certificates leading to in-demand jobs. MDC has served nearly 2,000,000 students since it opened its doors in 1960.

For updates on Miami Book Fair International, please visit www.miamibookfair.com, call 305-237-3528, or email wbookfair@mdc.edu.

Media-only contacts:
Juan Mendieta, 305-237-7611, jmendiet@mdc.edu, MDC communications director
Tere Estorino, 305-237-3949, testorin@mdc.edu, MDC media relations director
Sue Arrowsmith, 305-237-3710, sue.arrowsmith@mdc.edu, media specialist
Tarnell Carroll, 305-237-3359, tcarroll@mdc.edu, media specialist
Alejandro Rios, 305-237-7482, arios1@mdc.edu

October 21, 2011

New Book: I Am Going Where I Belong

From the Publisher

Hans Lindor’s I Am Going Where I Belong is a stirring coming-of-age tale set amidst the backdrop of Haitian history.

In the midst of a democratic presidential election, the victor will inherit a torn country which is battling a cholera epidemic—that has already killed thousands living in remote areas— and is still in the recovery and reconstruction stage after the devastating earthquake. Described in more vivid and grim terms in the book, Hans Lindor sums up Haiti’s existence in one sentence: “The existence of the Haitian people seems based on despair, vicissitudes, and destitution.”

I am Going Where I Belong revolves around the cold-blooded murder of Hans Leger’s father and gang rape of his mother. Removed from their wealthy status, Hans and his family move to Florida where they are essentially the same people that Hans Leger watched from the car in downtown Haiti—destined to poverty. Surrounded by violence, poverty, and racism, Hans manages to launch his writing career and lift his family out of poverty.

Written masterfully by Hans Lindor, one of the moving images of the book—at the beginning—describes Hans Leger looking on as a fifteen-year-old girl is forced into prostitution. Though this is a fictional tale, it is not far from reality. The Miami Herald reports that earthquake survivors are being smuggled into the Dominican Republic and used as prostitutes, drug peddlers, and beggars. It is astonishing to see innocent individuals at the mercy of their grim circumstances. The question arises, however, that if the Haitian Diaspora continues, who will be left to save the nation and restore peace and order?

Despite the tragedy-filled events of the book, I Am Going Where I Belong sends the message of hope, positive thinking, and overcoming adversity and hardship. The fact is that many Haitians have fled the country in fear for their lives. Democracy is practically invisible while the state of nation has been unchanged for decades. To this day, it remains vulnerable, treacherous, and violent.

About Hans Lindor

Hans Lindor, novelist, screenwriter and playwright, has a singularly unique perspective on life and has earned many accolades for his fiction and poetry.

Hans Lindor has used his extraordinary life experiences to inspire young people, and has given motivational speeches and workshops to students in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Florida, advocating against guns, drugs and violence and giving students hope for rising above hardship and social struggles.

October 19, 2011

Andrene Bonner to Speak at National Council of Teachers of English

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased to announce that Andrene Bonner will be speaking at the 2011 NCTE Annual Convention.

Bonner, of Mount Vernon School District, New York, will be presenting during the panel session, "MINING GOLD: THE WRITER, THE STORY, AND THE STORYTELLER." An excerpt from the description of this session in the Convention Program reads:

This workshop and panel presentation explores ways to engage students in writing their memoirs and fictional stories. The storyteller refers to best instructional practices for bringing literature to life in the classroom.

The session will be held from 1:15 PM to 2:30 PM on Saturday, November 19, 2011.

Each year, the NCTE Annual Convention draws thousands of K-12 teachers, college faculty, administrators, and other educational professionals from around the world. They gather to hear award-winning speakers, attend idea-packed sessions, share best practices, participate in workshops, and test the latest teaching materials. The 2011 NCTE Annual Convention will be held November 17-22, in Chicago, Illinois.

For more information, or to register for the Convention, visit http://www.ncte.org/annual.

About Andrene Bonner

Andrene Bonner is an educational consultant, arts administrator and writer with over twenty years of experience in theatre production and education, child advocacy both in the non-profit arena and the public sector, school reform, motivational storytelling and diversity. The Jamaican, who first trained as an actress, toured extensively as a solo performer. She got her feet wet in film and television production at Warner Bros. and Stan Lee Media in Los Angeles, but soon changed direction to serve in the classroom. She teaches English, dramatic arts, and public speaking at Mount Vernon High School in New York. Her research interests are in Classical Literacy in Urban and Rural Schools; Linguistic Variations Across Cultures; and Reading and Writing as Ritual and Identity.

Bonner’s coming-of-age novel, Olympic Gardens garnered the 2009 Lorna Goodison Caribbean Award for Transformative Literature. Selected poems have appeared in Kapu Sens Literary Review and The Caribbean Writer. She attended Merl Grove High School and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica. She holds an M.A. in Language and Literacy, M.S. in Education, and a B.A. in Theatre Arts and Dance, Acting and Directing. When not teaching and writing, the veteran actress continues to perform selected theatrical works. Visit her websites at www.andrenebonner.com and www.egwechipublishing.com.

Call for entries: Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Call for entries: 
Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize
Commonwealth Writers – a world of new fiction

Today the Commonwealth Foundation made the call for entries for the new Commonwealth Book Prize and Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  The prizes are part of a new initiative, Commonwealth Writers, an online hub to inspire, inform and create a community of writers from all over the world. Together with the prizes, Commonwealth Writers unearths, develops and promotes the best new fiction from across the Commonwealth.

Awarded for best first book, the Commonwealth Book Prize is open to writers who have had their first novel (full length work of fiction) published between 1 January and 31 December 2011. Regional winners receive £2,500 and the overall winner receives £10,000. The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000-5000 words). Regional winners receive £1,000 and the overall winner receives £5,000. The winners will be announced in June 2012.

Chair of the Commonwealth Book Prize, Margaret Busby said “The significance of a prize such as this becomes greater with each year.  It is vital to encourage and celebrate the talent of newly emerging novelists whose words have the potential to inspire and enrich the entire literary world.  Searching out and promoting the best first books of fiction internationally is a serious task, a great honour and a wonderful challenge.”

Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Bernardine Evaristo said “This wonderful prize will turn the spotlight on the increasingly popular short story form and aims to support and encourage short story writers worldwide.”

As one of the Commonwealth Foundation’s culture programmes, Commonwealth Writers works in partnership with international literary organisations, the wider cultural industries and civil society to help writers develop their craft. Commonwealth Writers is a forum where members can debate the future of publishing, get advice from established authors and ask questions of our writer in residence.

Commonwealth Foundation Director, Danny Sriskandarajah said “As one of the Commonwealth Foundation’s flagship projects, I’m delighted that we’re putting the prizes firmly on the contemporary map of new writing and launching a dedicated Commonwealth Writers website to extend our global reach.”

 Full rules and entry and eligibility information is available at www.commonwealthwriters.org 

Occupy Wall Street & Marcus and the Amazons

When I began writing Marcus and the Amazons, I never dreamt that I would live in a time when I would witness the confluence of a movement such as Occupy Wall Street and the revival of interest in the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose role in the Civil Rights Movement has always been an inspiration for me.

One of the most common ways of telling the story of the African-American Civil Rights Movement is to invoke the name of Dr. King. While the intent is noble, the narrative of the movement is simplified, and in many children's books, young readers are confronted with a monolithic figure who does not engage their imagination, nor their "moral intelligence."

Marcus and the Amazons avoids that. On the surface, Marcus and the Amazons is the story about a courageous ant who saves his colony from an evil tyrant. But Marcus and the Amazons is more than that. This multilayered story, which explores themes of freedom and non-violence, dramatizes the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, which are eloquently stated in “Letter From Birmingham Jail”:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.

Indeed, when I wrote the chapter "Jailed!" I had a pen in one hand and a copy of “Letter From Birmingham Jail” in the other.

By placing the struggle for equal rights in a different context, Marcus and the Amazons allows a young reader to set aside her prejudices and to examine the values that Dr. King dramatized in the historic March on Washington.

Because Marcus Formica, the hero of Marcus and the Amazons, is a less imposing figure than Dr. King, young readers will experience the internal and external conflicts in a new way and gain a better understanding about this important era in American history.

I can only hope.


Marcus and the Amazons is available from Amazon.com as an E-book:

Or in print:

October 17, 2011

Howzat! Mid-Day Thoughts of a Late Cut Artist

By Geoffrey Philp

I love to play cricket. Sometimes I like to think I was born with a bat in my hand. Or at least it seemed that way when I was growing up in Mona Heights, Jamaica. Many of my holidays were spent playing cricket with David "Griffo" Griffiths, Paul "Pat Chow" Chin, Paul "Pablove" Smith, and our friends from Geranium, Orchid, or Daisy Avenue. In fact, you could substitute some of the characters from my short story, "The Day Mrs. HoSang Got Arrested"  in Uncle Obadiah and the Alien for Griffo, Pat Chow, Pablove, and me playing cricket on Plumbago Path.

We all had individual skills at which we excelled. David was a good pace bowler; Pat Chow had a wicked leg break, and Paul had a mixture of off-break, leg break, and googly. And when we had our version of test matches against teams from Hope Pastures, we'd call on Ian Carey, who was also a good spin bowler, to be our opening batsman. The competition was always a means to hone our skills in the three essential positions of a cricket team.

When you are fielding, you have to be aware of your surroundings by paying attention to the bowler and the batsman's reactions. A bowler has to confuse the batsman either by pace or spin, spotting his weaknesses or bowling him out by indulging his strengths. As a batsman, my favorite position, you must possess a combination of skill, patience, and confidence to master each shot. You have to focus on each ball to either play defensively or to create an opportunity for your team to make runs. My favorite shot was a late cut off the back foot for four runs between backward point and third man.

You also learn every ball is different. If, as a wise philosopher once said once said that you never step in the same river twice, then every ball is an opportunity for defeat--Howzat!; victory--six runs!, or a resounding truce--"Nooooooo!"

For nearly every summer until we graduated from primary school, Griffo, Pat Chow, Pablove, and I played cricket against different teams. Griffo went to Wolmers, Pat Chow to Ardenne,  Pablove and I went to Jamaica College. I was chosen for Murray House and Paul was inducted into Hardy House, our perennial rivals. Mid-way through our first term, Paul stopped playing cricket and started playing football. I, however, continued playing cricket, and as a first former, I was assigned to the "B" team. I thought I deserved to be on the "A" team, but the events proved me wrong.

I was the opening batsman in a limited overs match against Hardy House, so every ball counted. The pace bowler, who I think went on to play for our Sunlight team, had me pinned from the first ball. I was forced to make defensive plays: "Nooooooo!" Our housemaster, Mr. McLeod, didn't like what was happening. Didn't like it one bit.

After the second over, my partner and I had only scored four runs. Mr. McLeod walked over to me and said I needed to make runs or he would declare me out. I didn't think it was fair, but I couldn't protest or do anything about it, I was only a mere first former. Pressure was mounting on and off the field. I tried hard to remember the advice that Griffo's father had once given us, "Play the ball. Not the crowd."

The next ball came at a blistering pace, and I showed the bowler the face of the bat, "Nooooooo!" I looked over at Mr. McLeod. He looked me dead in the eyes and tapped his watch. Mr. McLeod was angry with me.

More pressure. The bowler delivered a ball that swung from the offside toward mid-wicket and I countered with another, "Nooooooo!" Mr. McLeod threw his hands in the air and pointed to another first former to get ready.

I was losing my cool and the bowler sensed it. He slammed a crushing bouncer at my head, and I tried to lift the ball over his shoulders for six runs, but it didn't work. He jumped up and caught the ball. I was out for three runs.

And then, the bowler laughed. I've never forgotten the smirk on his face or his raucous cackle.

I walked off the field with my bat under my arm and my head hung low. As I passed Mr. McLeod, I said, "I hope you're happy now."

"What did you say?" he screamed at me.

"Nothing, sir," was all I could say and sat on the sidelines. I didn't want to get a caning, so I kept my mouth shut for the rest of the game.

The worst was yet to come. Our team lost. My wicket had been sacrificed for expediency, and it was all in vain. My only comfort was I hadn't made a duck.

From that day, I made a decision that no one would ever force me to give up my wicket for any reason. As long as I could hold the bat between my hands, I would never give up my wicket for anything or anyone. I would dig in and if I had to play defensive strokes, then so be it. Either bowl me out or I would parry with "Nooooooo," for the rest of my life.

I've never forgotten that day or the bowler's derisive laughter. It has been the spur in situations that I've faced as a teacher and writer where the odds have been against me.

In fact, a few years ago when I worked as an English teacher in Dade County Public Schools, I was confronted with a situation where I had to be defensive. I was a young father and I needed every penny I could get. So, in addition to teaching English, I taught journalism and I was the yearbook/newspaper advisor and soccer coach. But that, sports fans, is another story.

There had been a change in the administration and I sensed that the new principal wanted to replace me so she could give the yearbook/newspaper job to one of her cronies. She tried every trick in the book to get me out, but I wouldn't budge. With every charge she delivered, my reply was "Nooooooo!"

When the situation became obvious to my coworkers, one of them said to me, "Why are you trying so hard? Why don't you just quit?"

My response? You guessed it. "Nooooooo!"

It is that kind of determination--my wife says stubbornness--that has also helped me as a writer. Every morning I get up to practice my writing as I had done with batting in the nets because it takes a special kind of perseverance to dig in when the rejections are coming from publishers: "Nooooooo!"  Call me Bartleby with a cricket bat.

During my writing apprenticeship, I went for years without making a run or taking a wicket. But I figured as long as I could hold my pen between my fingers--I still write by longhand--I would never be discouraged by anything or anyone. And whenever I saw an opportunity to transform the issues that plague my culture intopersonal stories, it would be a late cut off the back foot for six runs.

That's the kind of persistence that I've had to possess to continue writing, and I've never settled for expediency. A good writer, like an experienced batsman, has to have faith in his skills, which according to Malcolm Gladwell can take up to 10,000 hours of hard work todevelop, so he can get through those times when it seems as if you're facing Michael Holding at the peak of his powers, and it doesn't seem as if Mikey is going to tire any time soon.

But every now and then, I look at the scoreboard, the runs that I've made and I feel confident that even though the innings may not have been as spectacular as I would have liked, I still haven't lost my wicket.

I'm still batting.

October 15, 2011

An Anthem for the 99%

Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" should be the anthem of the 99% movement:

Old pirates, yes, they rob I
Sold I to the merchant ships
Minutes after they took I
From the bottomless pit

In this song, Marley recounts the experience of New World Africans who have been treated as commodities rather than as human beings. Indeed, Marley's career was devoted to emancipating his people and their downpressors from the kind of thinking that values profits over people. From as far back as the song, "Slave Driver," written in 1973, Marley demonstrated his opposition to the Babylon system:

Ev'rytime I hear the crack of a whip,
My blood runs cold.
I remember on the slave ship,
How they brutalize the very souls.
Today they say that we are free,
Only to be chained in poverty.
Good God, I think it's illiteracy;
It's only a machine that makes money.
Slave driver, the table is turn, y'all.

It's a theme that Bob returns to time and time again, even in the deceptively bouncy tune, "One Drop":

They made their world so hard (so hard):
Every day we got to keep on fighting (fighting);
They made their world so hard (so hard):
Every day the people are dyin' (dying), yeah!
(It dread, dread) For hunger (dread, dread) and starvation
(dread, dread, dread, dread),
Lamentation (dread dread),
But read it in Revelation (dread, dread, dread, dread):
You'll find your redemption
And then you give us the teachings of His Majesty,
For we no want no devil philosophy;
A you fe give us the teachings of His Majesty,
A we no want no devil philosophy:

New World Africans have borne the brunt of the system that began in the Americas with the resistance of the Taino against genocide. This struggle continued with the opposition to colonialism in the Caribbean and Jim Crow in North America through the work of the heroes celebrated on this blog, Marcus Garvey, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bob Marley.

It's a struggle in the name of love, which extends to the 1% who have "hurt all mankind" as Bob sang in "One Love":

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One love)
There is one question I'd really love to ask (One heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Believe me

The 99% movement has roots in the historic opposition to profiteering in human misery and the prophetic tradition rooted in Judeo-Christian ethics with which Marley repeats in "Redemption Song":

But my hand was made strong
By the hand of the almighty
We forward in this generation
Won't you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
'Cause all I ever have
Redemption songs
Redemption songs

For us, the 99%, the dispossessed and disenfranchised sufferahs, it's all we've ever had.

We are the 99%

Image source: "Freedom March" in Marcus and the Amazons

October 14, 2011

"Stone" by Geoffrey Philp

All you need is one smooth stone
To fling your rage, buss Babylon head:
Watch downpressor stagger, drunk from the blood
Of sufferahs, who have not sworn
Their lives to the beast, waiting to be fed.

All you need is one smooth stone,
Clean as a skull or a shinbone
Raked from the Atlantic sea bed
An altar for ghosts, who will not be comforted.
All you need is one smooth stone.

October 13, 2011

Marcus and the Amazons: KART Kids Book List, 2011

Geoffrey Philp 

Lynn Bartel 

Angelina's Angels

Vivian Dubrovin 

Storytelling Discoveries

Ken Howard 

The Young Chieftain

Bill Kirk 

No Bones About It 

(The Sum Of Our Parts series)

Lee Mandel 

Frog Burgers

Kay Michaels

Golden Tassel’s Graduation

Mrs. Aileen Stewart 

Fern Valley - A Collection of Short Stories

Shaunda Wenger 

Little Red Riding Hood, Into the Forest Again

Lauren Zimmer 

Salaratin's Song: A Tale of Fire and Water

Accepting Submissions: The Caribbean Writer

The Caribbean Writer, the University of the Virgin Islands’ international, refereed, literary journal with a Caribbean focus, announces a submission call for its 26th edition. Issues unique to the Caribbean should be central to work submitted, or the work should reflect a Caribbean heritage, experience or perspective. Besides the usual poetry, short fiction and personal essays, Volume 26 will be dedicated to the environment – nature and ecology.

As we move into the 21st century we have to be mindful of our environment, how we care for it, how we preserve and maintain its pristine beaches, lush mountains and diverse, extraordinary bird, insect and animal life. The Caribbean Writer seeks works that celebrate as well as explore our relationship to nature, how tourism impacts our environment, the role nature plays in our lives, and nature’s rich flora and fauna.

Volume 26 will also celebrate women writers. We welcome interviews, essays and personal narratives on Sylvia Wynter, Olive Senior, Paule Marshall, Claire Harris, Lorna Goodison, Nancy Morejon, Velma Pollard, Erna Bordber, Zee Edgell and any other prominent Caribbean women writers.

Individuals are encouraged to submit poems (five maximum), short stories, personal essays or one-act plays. Only previously unpublished work will be considered. (If self-published, give details.) Include brief biographical information and put all contact information, plus the title of the manuscript, on a separate page. Only the title should appear on the manuscript.

All submissions are eligible for these prizes: The Daily News Prize for best poetry ($300), The Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for best short fiction ($400), The David Hough Literary Prize to a Caribbean author ($500), The Marguerite Cobb McKay Prize to a Virgin Islands author ($200), and The Charlotte & Isidor Paiewonsky Prize for first-time publication ($250).

Send e-mail submissions to: submit@thecaribbeanwriter.org as attached Word or RTF files, or submit via our “Submissions” page at www.thecaribbeanwriter.org. Submissions may also be sent by postal mail to: The Caribbean Writer, University of the Virgin Islands, RR 1, Box 10,000, Kingshill St. Croix, VI 00850-9781. Submission deadline is Nov. 30, 2011.

For more information, visit www.TheCaribbeanWriter.org or call (340) 692-4152.

October 12, 2011

Two the Hard Way: New Titles from Peepal Tree Press

In Wheels, Kwame Dawes brings the lyric poem face to face with the politics, natural disasters, social upheavals and ideological complexity of the world in the first part of this century. The poems do not pretend to have answers, and Dawes's core interest remains the power of language to explore and discover patterns of meaning in the world around him. So whether it is a poem about a near victim of the Lockerbie terrorist attack reflecting on the nature of grace, a sonnet sequence contemplating the significance of the election of Barack Obama, an Ethiopian emperor lamenting the death of a trusted servant in the middle of the twentieth century, a Rastafarian in Ethiopia defending his faith at the turn of the twenty-first century, a Haitian reflecting on the loss of everything familiar, these are poems seeking a way to understand the world.

One sequence is framed around the imagined wheels of the prophet Ezekiel's vision, mixing in images from Garcia Marquez's novels, passages from the Book of Ezekiel and the current overwhelming bombardment of wall-to-wall news; another reflects on Ethiopia and Rastafarian faith; and a third dialogues with the postmodernist South Carolinian landscape artist, Brian Rutenberg. At the heart of the collection is a book's worth of poems written in homage to the people of Haiti following repeated visits after the earthquake of 2010. The collection ends where Dawes' poetry began: on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica.

Somewhere between prophecy and meditation, this major and extensive new collection of Kwame Dawes' work illuminates our confusing world.

Since the publication of her first collection, The Water Between Us, Shara McCallum has steadily created a rich body of poems that have mined the rich deposit of emotional and intellectual capital found in her background of multiple migrations, culturally and geographically. The poems reflect her rooting in a Jamaican experience unique for her childhood in a Rastafarian home filled with reckless idealism, the potential for profound emotional pathology, and the grounding of old folk traditions. Her work has explored what it means to emerge from such a space and enter a new world of American landscapes and values.

The Face of Water collects some of McCallum's best poems, poems that establish her as a poet of deft craft (and craftiness), whose sense of music is caught in her mastery of syntax and her ear for the graceful line. She manages to enact the grand alchemy of the best poets--the art of transforming the most painful and sometimes mundane details of life into works of terrible and satisying beauty. The Face of Water is an excellent introduction to the poetry of Shara McCallum, a vital and exciting poet of pure elegance.

Sunday Morning Delight

Sunday morning. Outside my window, a gentle rain falls on the grass and palms agree with the wind. The headlines of a newspaper announce: "Holness to be the next Jamaican PM." I yawn and turn the page. Behind the newspaper, steam rises from a plate of ackee and saltfish, boiled banana, two festivals, fried plantains, and boiled dumpling. John Holt croons in the background:

Time is the master
But time can be disaster, if you don’t care
You, young and gay
You, old and grey
Time is the master
But time can be disaster, if you don’t care

Easy rockers. I could be in Jamaica at my childhood home in Mona Heights. But I'm not. I am sitting behind a hand painted table at Irie Isle Restaurant for their new Sunday Brunch Medley.

I pick up the fork and dig into the ackee and saltfish. All the spices, remembrances of home, dance on my tongue. And the fried plantains, festivals, dumpling, and boiled banana round out my memories.

"Looks like this is the new Sunday spot," says one of the customers to the owner, Dean Nevins, who has come into the dining area to talk with the customers.

"All we need are some dominoes," Dean replies as he makes eye contact with the rest of the customers around the table.

Dean laughs, but I can see that the wheels are already turning in his head. Dean and his wife, Jamaican writer Andrea Shaw, have big plans for Irie Isle. One of their plans is to transform the dining area into a "cozy literary space" for book launches and readings. I can see it. It will be Irie.

Dean Nevins 954-822-2547.

Irie Isle Jamaican Restaurant
1480 S Palm Avenue
 Pembroke Pines, FL 33025 / 954-345-5070