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Friday, 15 June 2007

Nikolai Noel's Scottish "diary"

Nikolai Noel in his studio in Tanera Mor

Trinidadian Nikolai Noel is one of twenty artists currently participating in the Tanera Mor International Artists Workshop (Cuban Jimmy Bonachea Guerra is the other Caribbean participant). At the workshop website, he's been keeping a semi-blog-format artist's diary, which so far includes images of work in progress and a short description of a sort of performance called "The Drowning". The cover of the forthcoming August issue of the CRB will feature an example of his artwork.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

"If you're going to smoke..."

Though there are no Jamaican writers on the bill this year (Channer says that writers only get a chance to appear "when they're ready"), there is a buzz of enthusiasm among the mainly Jamaican audience. People come from a range of age groups and social backgrounds--from teens in baggy skate jeans to rastas to smartly dressed elderly couples. This creates a lively ambience; indeed, it'll be a strange day when the audience at the Hay festival is told: "If you're going to smoke spliff, please do so outside the tent."

--Three weeks later, Calabash 2007 is still popping up in the press. The latest: a report by Daniel Trilling in the New Statesman.

Quick links

- Geoffrey Philp on his recently completed novel, a love-story-cum-murder-mystery "whose narrative, if it can be called that, is held together by blogs, e-mails, and Instant Messages (IMs)".

- One of Nalo Hopkinson's "writing log" posts leads to a stream of comments discussing the way the Caribbean is portrayed in mainstream culture.

- Kwame Dawes asks, where is the pulse of poetry today?

- In the London Review of Books, Hilary Mantel reviews a biography of Jamaica-born adventuress (how else would you describe her?) Elizabeth Marsh.

- In the North Carolina News & Observer, Dean C. Smith reviews Derek Walcott's Selected Poems.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Dear diary

"The best diarists aren't necessarily the best of men," writes Alastair Harper at the UK Guardian books blog, "though the best are, as it happens, usually men: grumpy, defeatist, perverted, drunken, misanthropic and misogynistic." My own favourite diarist is not a man, nor is she grumpy, defeatist, perverted, drunken, misanthropic, or misogynistic. Instead, Virginia Woolf is gossipy, neurotic, a wonderful mimic with a good memory for conversation, and the sheer pleasure she gets from unbuttoned, relaxed writing shimmers from every page. --But Harper's blog post makes me think how few diaries or journals by Caribbean writers have ever been published--none that I can think of, actually, if you don't count Andrew Salkey's Havana Journal and Georgetown Journal, which take the form of diaries but were always intended to be published, public narratives.

Whose diaries would I most like to read? I'd say Naipaul, but he almost certainly doesn't keep one. C.L.R. James's, but I don't believe he kept one either (and when, o when, will we get his full correspondence published?). Did Selvon? Martin Carter? Does Walcott? Does Lamming? The Caribbean seems to have excelled at just about every other literary genre--who might our great diarist be?

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

"More democratic"

Drowned out by the brouhaha of Hay, and then by the miles of column inches devoted to the Orange prize, the Commonwealth prize deserves more attention.... For Colin Channer, director of Jamaica's Calabash literary festival (where this year's winners were announced) and one of this year's final judges, the Commonwealth is more genuinely international than the Booker, and more democratic. It is certainly more likely to showcase a broad range of fiction.

--Toby Lichtig, arguing at the UK Guardian books blog that the British media should pay more attention to the Commonwealth Writers' Prizes. He also quotes Colin Channer's recommendations for "modernising" the prize. "Too many of the regional judges are academics."

"Rodney did not sleep to dream"

Rodney died in 1980, a mere twenty-seven years ago. It is quite remarkable that in such short historical time, a generation would become virtually oblivious to Walter Rodney's intellectual stature, his political contribution to the struggle for democracy in Guyana, and his approach to politics that transcended narrow, racial mobilization and class elitism. Rodney did not sleep to dream but dreamed to change Guyana. The question is why would there be such ignorance about Rodney's monumental contribution in his country of birth?

--In the week of the 27th anniversary of Walter Rodney's assassination, Linden Lewis writes a short essay in the Stabroek News on historical forgetfulness and Rodney's legacy.

Monday, 11 June 2007

CRB archive: "Goodman's Bay"

A poem by Christian Campbell, first published in the February 2005 CRB

Not even a chewed bone,
a used rubber in the seaweed, cut glass
smiling beneath the sand.
We don’t see them.

He is my brother.
Our hearts beat the same.
I have bad shoulders,
he has bad knees. We have
given our bodies an atlas.

He breathes softly,
on time, and we talk
very little, the good things, gasping.
I have long legs, one stride
to every two from him.

We run the dusk
at dusk. Everything
is open and live
with silence. All viscera.
God, there is too much
red in the sky.

Making braille in the sand
like this, we feel it in the lower back.
The sinking, the slipping,
all the little slopes and mounds.
We are listening to the body.

Whoever needs to howl
should howl. The warm breath
coming from the sea. The full moon
pulls the tide like a stubborn skirt.

Everything will last.

Children squawk on a swing, flying.
Bahamian children in the night.
The hotels are a glance away.

You feel it when you run
the sand. All of it,
the whole of your body
in the world. The swing
creaks slow, like love
in the morning. God,
the night is so blue.

Man and woman in the dark
water. Ghost and ghost on the seawall.
Someone sews false hair
into a slim girl’s dreams.
She does this at night for no good reason.
All this beauty for nothing.

Walking back with our chests
blooming, I taste my own sweat.
There are people dusting off
their feet as if dancing.
We pass a woman in a large,
damp t-shirt, nothing but salt.
We can’t see her face,
the smile or the frown, the hard
look of judgment. But the moon
is bareback and blind and the ground
is an altar of piss and rum and we know
that somewhere on this split tongue
of stone, someone just died, just finished
making love.

["Goodman's Bay", along with ten other poems by Campbell, appears in the anthology New Caribbean Poetry, edited by Kei Miller.]