1. Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood.
I’m from Ottos, Antigua – first Comacho’s Avenue, then Bird Road, then De Souza Road. I am the youngest of three; working class childhood, Catholic (and Catholic school upbringing), lots of outdoor adventure, lots of reading and music and Carnival etc (your typical Caribbean childhood), and a vivid imagination.
2. Where did you grow up?
3. What is your alma mater?
Holy Family primary school; Christ the King High School; Antigua State College; University of the West Indies (Mona, Jamaica)
4. Have you always wanted to be a poet/writer?
b. If no…what was you other choices?
When I was very little I used to play teacher but that wasn’t a serious dream; writing is what I always wanted to do. As it happens I work in the field of journalism and balance that with being a full time writer and editor.
5. What and who inspired you to be a poet/writer?
I’d say first and foremost I’m inspired by the world around me and my own internal imaginings and questioning…I’m very curious and very passionate about thingS (sometimes to the annoyance of friends and family). All of that plays out in my writing. In terms of writers who inspire me; I grew up on calypso and the poetry of calypso (especially the calypso of Short Shirt and Obstinate and Latumba) had a hand in me falling in love with the literary arts. The death of my tanty when I was a child had a profound impact on me as did receiving her journal which I started writing in…picking up where she left off…to this day it’s one of the first things I’d grab in a fire. Discovering Jamaica Kincaid had a hand in me believing this could be more than just a pipe dream. My mentor while at UWI, Mervyn Morris, an esteemed Jamaican poet, helped guide and encourage me, as did my English teacher at college, Mr. Calvin Holder. (and really so many others, people along the way…including my family especially for not putting pressure to be this or that and for encouraging me to value learning). I remember one of my favourite lecturers at UWI was Dr. Carolyn Cooper and all the writers she and other lecturers introduced me to. Variously, their works inspire me; they include Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Edwidge Dandicat, Langston Hughes, and so many others. I love to read and reading good writing inspires me.
6. Do you have kids?
b. If yes…do you encourage them to write?
I have nieces and nephews with whom I’m very much involved and the kids from the Cushion Club with which I volunteer. I encourage them to read because I believe reading opens doors and the imagination. I encourage them to find their own passion; for me it’s writing, for them it’ll be something else. I do encourage young people with a talent for writing via my interactions with them whether during school visits, workshops, or the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize which I coordinate. For more on this see https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com
7. Do you like being a poet/writer?
Honestly, some days more than others. It’s not an easy road. But when it comes together; when I feel the urgency to create and have the time to do so, there’s nothing that can compare. And when people react and respond to what I’ve written in a way that says to me that it has touched them profoundly I feel humbled and happy. I don’t have a choice about writing, it’s what I do; it’s innate. I love it. Some days begrudgingly. But I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else; just to be better at it and more successful doing
it, I suppose.
8. How long have you been a writer?
Well, my dad says that before I could read I would look at the pictures and make up the story. So, I guess all my life. I started writing in earnest in my teens. I had my first piece published as a fiction writer serialized in the local paper in my teens. I started writing as a journalist in my teens. I think I was born a writer and it’s just taking me time to claim it. Yes, it took me too damn long to be able to say, I’m a writer as if it weren’t a practical or worthy pursuit.
9. About how many poems have you written?
I don’t count. I’ve written much more poetry, novels, fiction, non fiction, plays, screenplays than have ever been published; even songs. So, I can’t put a number to it.
In terms of published pieces, well, there’s the two short novels – The Boy from Willow Bend and Dancing Nude in the Moonlight; and a self-published poetry collection On Becoming. I’ve also had fiction published in Tongues of the Ocean (a Bahamian journal), Sea Breeze (a Liberian journal), The Caribbean Writer (a Virgin Islands anthology) twice,
Calabash (a Caribbean journal out of New York), St. Somewhere (a Caribbean journal produced in the US), Observer literary arts in Jamaica, several times in the local press; poetry in Calabash, Women Writers (out of the US), Mythium (out of the US), Ma Comere (out of the US), Caribbean Writer, and locally and a few other places. Non fiction too numerous to mention especially since I freelance for various local, regional, and international publications.
b. Which do you prefer the most and why?
Fiction. It challenges me and I fall in love with the characters and enjoy discovering the story. Poetry, because it’s my outlet; it’s not always about publishing, often it’s just about getting it out. This is the medium I use for that type of writing more than any other…for me, the most accessible, I guess. Though it is it’s own kind of challenge (technically). But I like all forms for different reasons.
10. Are any of your poem based on real life scenarios?
I think everything I write steals from reality a little bit. The thing is in writing the imagination helps make it something other than the thing that inspired it.
b. If yes… do you get emotional while writing it?
Emotions sometimes drive me to write and in writing I become calm – less angry, less depressed, happier. Writing helps me make sense of the world.
11. Have you ever been discouraged from writing?
Not discouraged from writing, but certainly discouraged by so much else that comes with it, especially when you’re trying to make it as a published writer. Reality is writers unless they’re J K Rowling, Stephen King, or Dan Brown don’t make a lot of money and writers deal with a lot of rejection (from prospective agents and publishers, reviewers and readers). I have to pick myself up after each rejection and stumble through each dry period. But writing is how I deal with those feelings too. So…I’m most discouraged I think when I can’t write. When life doesn’t give me (or I don’t demand from it) the time and
space and inspiration and discipline to just write.
12. What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of being a poet/writer?
I don’t know if I can put this into words. It’s not a black and white thing.
What can I say, three times these past couple of weeks, I’ve gotten emails or facebook comments about some writing whether my book or a short story that affected the reader (one in St. Kitts, one in Switzerland, one in Antigua) to the point where they felt the need to reach out to me and tell me so. I can’t describe the unexpected surprise of opening up those comments (like a Christmas present). From sitting in a corner reading of some faraway place to having my own readers that’s indescribable.
Growing into my craft is…a joy. When I opened the most recent publication with a story of mine and read the story, and read it again…and fell in love with the character all over again. (I wrote this!) Writing gives me all of that. But what it gave me most of all, from the beginning to now, was an outlet for all the things pent up inside of me. Writing is my therapy.
It helps me to see and appreciate the good and the bad around me, and work it out on the page. It keeps me together and at the same time sets me free.
It’s also what pays the bills.
The biggest downside is publishing (because it’s so hard to get your foot in the door), and performing, and making a living. Anything having to do with the business of writing and selling your writing is a drag for me.
Oh, and writer’s block’s a bitch!
13. What is the best thing that has ever happened to you
It’s hard to pick a single moment. And really I hope that the best is ahead of me.
14. What advice would you give to young children who wish to take up this
Read. Read a lot.
And embrace every opportunity to learn.
There is fear in stepping out on any kind of limb. Feel the
fear but follow your heart.
And realize that you need money to live but don’t live for money.
15. Can you please explain your poem “The Arrival”?
The Arrival was actually inspired by a friend of mine and a conversation we had about that feeling she would get on returning home from the U.S. where she lived. It was about that outsider/insider feeling (a recurring theme, I realize, in my work).