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Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), check Wadadli Pen through the years. You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesemwhich has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.
Claude McKay is a Jamaican born writer though my favourite book of his Home to Harlem is actually set in the U.S. where he was a pivotal part of the Harlem renaissance. Another of his novels from that period was recently discovered. And while this poem isn’t a new discovery, it’s definitely one of my favourites. If you’ve heard of Claude McKay’s If We Must Die.
Lorna Goodison is a mistress of the pen, no two ways about it. Here’s another one I recently came across: Some of my worst wounds
Sharing Kimolisa Mings’ She Wanted a Love Poem…because I like it …and because sometimes a girl kinda does.
This is priceless …Langston speaks… and the negro speaks of rivers
The Preachers Eat Out by Camille T. Dungy and the same, audio-visual version. Speaking of audio, the first link takes you to the poem’s posting at From the Fishouse, a free online audio poetry archive featuring emerging poets (cool idea) and co-founded by Dungy.
Still sharp, Wadadli Pen alum posted this Untitled poem to her blog and I just had to share it (it’s sort of an un-love poem):
“I cannot not love you, yet,
I cannot explain it anymore than I can explain my existence
or the state of the universe before God spoke it into being”
This Helen Klonaris story, Addie’s House is sensual, seductive …and sad.
From the forthcoming (at this writing) Womenspeak collection out of the Bahamas comes The Serpent and I, ariveting revision of the Creation story told, by Keisha Lynne Ellis, from the female (the Eve) perspective as she becomes self aware and discovers her world. Interesting twist on the Serpent as well, a decidedly more interesting character than the male (the Adam of the tale). Here’s an excerpt from her painful first sexual encounter between ‘Eve’ and ‘Adam’: “My muscles contracted and with each of his movements a deep, throaty cry moved up my stomach and escaped from my mouth.” Read more.
Some of the wonderful short stories I discovered at the Callaloo Writers workshop (2012) are Edward P. Jones’ The First Day – of course we didn’t have the benefit of the author reading it as he does here, Sherman Alexie’s What You Pawn I will Redeem – we read two of his; this was my favourite, and Junot Diaz’s How to date a Brown Girl – which weirdly I preferred reading for my self over listening to this audio 🙂
Not sure this is the best spot for this but not sure where else to put it. Still, it spoke to me today because as any freelance writer knows, as the pendulum swings, you sometimes doubt yourself and your choices especially on the days when you just feel burnt out, tapped out, just plain out of energy, motivation, and ideas.
I can relate to Andre Bagoo’s post at Exit Strata about notebooks, to the desire to keep journalistic and other ‘work’ writing separate from my creative writing, and to the reality that they sometimes overlap. I can’t say, like he does, that “I find I have rejected the separation” I still feel a bit like George Costanza on Seinfeld – my worlds are colliding, my worlds are colliding! But I guess I’ve begun to realize that that’s not always a bad thing.
Jewell Parker Rhodes, author of Ninth Ward, writes about the angst and ecstacy…The Rhythms of a Writing Life. One of my favourite lines: “Writing a novel is an impossible dream. Like Don Quixote, we tilt after windmills.”
Permission to write (from yourself and others) – Anton Nimblett gets personal on this topic, here.
Andrew Blackman’s posts from the BIM Literary Festival on Earl Lovelace, Derek Walcott, and Austin Clarke; also check out his reviews of the poetry readings which formed part of the festival while there.
Discussing the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel starring a who’s who of British geriatric thespians and Dev Patel with an associate recently, the question of stereotypes came up. We both agreed that the film was charming but where he was over the moon about its portrayal of India, I shared with him that some with first hand experience of India expressed displeasure at the the outsider perspective (let’s call it the Western gaze) and the way the film stereotypes India. He dismissed these concerns and you’ll have to judge and see for yourself. I think you’ll find it both charming and at the same time stereotypical. But then most stereotypes kind of start from a bit of truth or a solid impression that loses authenticity and nuance in repetition and overuse, don’t they; stereotypes are lazy and overly simplistic and where they appear in art often under-serve the group or culture they hope to illustrate. So, while black athletes dominate the NBA, it’s stereotypical to assume that all black boys are good at or have a natural affinity or inclination for basketball. Tennis or golf, as it happens, may be their sport; or they may not be into sports at all. I googled common Caribbean stereotypes and in this article and other places came across things like hard working and (paradoxically) laid back, religious and (perhaps connected to this) homophobic, love to party and yet loves/values education; plus there’s some stuff about voodoo… and do you know anybody that actually says “Hey, Mon”? Now there might be a bit of truth here and there in some of these assumptions but it would be silly to think that this is reflective or even representative of Caribbean society. If you’re Caribbean and you don’t talk like a walking stereotype you might even be asked if you’re actually from the Caribbean or have maybe lived somewhere else. So, why am I saying all of this. Because it strikes me that that adherence to stereotype about African culture, certainly as presented in literature/art, is at the heart of this biting commentary by Binyavanga Wainaina. By now you’ve seen Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s TED talk on the danger of a single story and Wainaina’s Granta article, in a much more sarcastic (much much much more sarcastic) way makes a similar point; challenging people engaging with (and yes writing about) a culture to abandon the stereotypes – the starving African, the loyal servant, the resplendent African sunset – for a richer experience. Check it out.
“‘Til Shiloh was a decisive turning point in the artist’s stellar career. It marked his transition from dancehall DJ to roots reggae Rastafari icon,” writes Dr. Carolyn Cooper in her blog posting Happy Birthday all the same, Buju. I agree wtih her about Til Shiloh – one of my favourite albums by my favourite dancehall artiste; an artiste whose musical insights evolved as he matured, evolved beyond the single song that has hung over and, in the minds of some, defined that career. Looking forward to more great music…someday. Read the rest of Dr. Cooper’s thoughts re Buju his music and his incarceration, here.
“There is a Haitian saying which might upset the aesthetic images of most women. Nou led, Nou la, it says. We are ugly, but we are here. Like the modesty that is somewhat common in Haitian culture, this saying makes a deeper claim for poor Haitian women than maintaining beauty, be it skin deep or otherwise. For most of us, what is worth celebrating is the fact that we are here, that we against all the odds exist. To the women who might greet each other with this saying when they meet along the countryside, the very essence of life lies in survival. It is always worth reminding our sisters that we have lived yet another day to answer the roll call of an often painful and very difficult life. It is in this spirit that to this day a woman remembers to name her child Anacaona, a name which resonates both the splendor and agony of a past that haunts so many women.
When they were enslaved, our foremothers believed that when they died their spirits would return to Africa, most specifically to a peaceful land we call Guinin, where gods and goddesses live. The women who came before me were women who spoke half of one language and half another. They spoke the French and Spanish of their captors mixed in with their own African language. These women seemed to be speaking in tongue when they prayed to their old gods, the ancient African spirits. Even though they were afraid that their old deities would no longer understand them, they invented a new language our Creole patois with which to describe their new surroundings, a language from which colorful phrases blossomed to fit the desperate circumstances. When these women greeted each other, they found themselves speaking in codes.<!–
How are we today, Sister?
-I am ugly, but I am here.”
Interesting Toni Morrison interview. But then when is Toni Morrison not interesting, right?
As writers, we sometimes feel stumped or blocked. Walter Mosely urges us in this NY Times article (For Authors, Fragile Ideas Need Loving Everyday) to write anyway: “You don’t go to a well once but daily. You don’t skip a child’s breakfast or forget to wake up in the morning. Sleep comes to you each day, and so does the muse.”
This is from a 1979 interview with James Baldwin. What I think as I read this is we’re living in the future he speaks of. How do we measure up to his optimism in spite of all?
“Hah,” he burst out, clearly tickled. “Yeah, sure, I don’t mind being considered a badjohn myself!” This is an excerpt from a report on a discussion in NY with Trinidadian writer Earl Lovelace. Read the full report here.
In this interview African American writer Ashley Bryan, whose parents are from Antigua, talks about making picture books in kindergarten and how this set him on track to become an award winning children’s story book writer and illustrator. Go check it out…and whatever their talent, dream, or potential, encourage a child you know every chance you get.
Do you think that part of the role of the writer is to remember or collect history?
I have a very clear understanding that I write about what interests me. I write about whatever happens to be my focus, obsession, and preoccupation. I write for no one, not even myself. I allow the story, or essay to “arrive,” and recognise that I am an instrument for allowing the piece to take shape, rather than contriving a topic or focus that is not interesting to me. My freedom to focus on whatever is of interest to me supersedes any role that might be attributed to writers from outside of their creative vision. Read the rest of this interesting 2011 interview with Antiguan-Barbudan-Canadian author Althea Prince.
Gossip sweet bad, ent? Think so? Check out this innovative art project by Bajan Sheena Rose with Adrian Richards, Natalie McGuire, and Yasmin Espert. Sweet Gossip where visual art meets street theatre meets performance art meets the internet.
Friday Night Fish Fry (fiction) @ Sea Breeze – http://www.liberiaseabreeze.com/joanne_c_hillhouse.html
After Glow (fiction) @ Tongues of the Ocean – http://tonguesoftheocean.org/2009/11/after-glow
How to Make Cassava Bread and Other Musings on Culture (non fiction) @ Antigua Stories – http://antiguastories.wordpress.com/food-2/food
At Calabash (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/at-calabash
Defining Moments (non fiction) @ Geoffrey Philp’s blog – http://geoffreyphilp.blogspot.com/2010/12/defining-momentsjoanne-c-hillhouse.html
Off the Map (non fiction) @ Signifying Guyana –
What Calypso Taught Me About Writing (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/what-calypso-taught-me-about
At Sea (fiction) @ Munyori – http://www.munyori.com/joannehillhouse.html
Pushing Water Up Hill (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/pushing-water-up-hill-one
Wadadli Pen – Nurturing Another Generation of Antiguan and Barbudan Writers (non fiction) @ Summer Edward’s blog – http://summeredward.blogspot.com/2010/08/guest-post-by-joanne-c-hillhouse.html
Cold Paradise (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_ColdParadise.htm
Somebody! (fiction) @ St. Somewhere – http://visitstsomewhere.blogspot.com
Reflections on Jamaca (non fiction) @ Caribbean Literary Salon – https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/reflections-on-jamaica
Portent (fiction) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/Hillhouse_Portent.htm
Philly Ramblings 8 (poetry) @ Ma Comère – http://dloc.com/AA00000079/00004/36j
Ghosts Laments (poetry) @ Small Axe – http://smallaxe.net/wordpress3/prose/2011/06/30/poem-by-joanne-hillhouse
Benediction before the Essence (poetry) @ Women Writers – http://www.womenwriters.net/aug08/fiction_poetry/hillhouse_poetry.html
Prospero’s Education, The Arrival, Da’s Calypso (3 poems) @ Calabash – http://www.nyu.edu/calabash/vol4no2
Interview @ Caribbean Literary Salon – http://caribbeanliterarysalon.ning.com/profiles/blogs/interview-with-joanne-c
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.