Reading Room lV

Yep, it’s a new Reading Room; lots of stuff to share so it was time to expand from Reading Room and Gallery, Reading Room and Gallery II,  and Reading Room and Gallery III. But I still hope you’ll check them out.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

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.

This poet acknowledges that her English is broken an not by accident. The poem’s a quick read but it will stick with you.


Tanya Shirley’s poetry is vivid and steeped in the rhythms of rural Jamaica and the tensions between the characters that inhabit it…if these three  (Matey*Shall not Conquer, Waiting for Rain (Again), and Every Hoe have him Stick a Bush) are any example.


I had mixed feelings about the poems in Aloud Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café Nicole Breedlove’s An Open Letter to Myself was one I liked. Also her ‘Front Page or Bust’ but I can’t find a link to that one. Also on my must-read list
Diane Burns’ Sure You Can Ask me a Personal QuestionTough Language and American Sonnet by Wanda Coleman;
Martin Espada’s Two Mexicanos Lynched in Santa Cruz, California, May 3 1877  and Latin Night at the Pawn Shop ; Pedro Pietri’s Telephone Booth Number 905 ½ , La bodega sold dreams , the Book of Genesis according to St. Miguelito , and the Records of Time by Miguel Pinero; Born Anew at Each A.M. by Piri Thomas; Asha Bandele’s In Response to a Brother’s Question about what he should do when his Best Friend beats up his Woman; and For the Men who still don’t get it by Carol Diehl.


When Antiguan and Barbudan folk history writer and poet Joy Lawrence said this is her favourite poem, I had to look it up. Like she said it has a force that impresses on all the senses.


W. H. Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts is one of my all time favourite poems. I also like Stop all the Clocks.


“My beauty was never the common beauty of a pampered and petted whore
Whoever seeks such beauty deserves whatever uselessness he finds.
Tepid and tasteless like watered down coffee.
My beauty is so fierce,
so dark, so thick
so ancient, so strong,
you will have to grow new eyes to drink it in.” – love these lines from Donna Aza Weir’s Uncommon Beauty in the Afro Beat Journal… in fact I love the entire Haiti-themed poem.


Opal Palmer Adisa writes of

“Obedient daughters.
Patient women.
Compliant wives.
Loving mothers.”

in Watching and Waiting.


Poetry posting by Althea Romeo Mark – I especially liked ‘Whisperer’ and ‘Because I am Woman’.


She by Eric Merton Roach – posted to the Caribbean Writers tumblr.



West Virginia native Natalie Sypolt writes of her struggle with writing what she knows in a way that resonates as both powerful and true: “My decision to move away from ‘what I knew’ to safer stories also had to do with the rejections I’d been receiving from literary journals, the models I’d been reading in class (which were nothing like my stories), and, ultimately, the old fear that who I am and where I’m from is seen by the rest of the world as a joke.” The last one is what really bites. Read the whole piece here.


What to call this? A reverse rejection letter? Not throwing any shade but it’s fun when writers are able to get their own back now and again. Here’s the End of the World of Books from Letters of Note – a pretty cool site with letters of note like that. Such as the letter exchange re the evolution of the Outsiders, a movie I remember for its beautiful sunsets and poetry (nothing gold can stay…) and music (Stevie Wonder’s ribbon in the sky), the delightful teenage angst and suburban style class warfare, across the tracks romance, the epic rumble at the end and all the Rob Lowe-Matt Dillon-C. Thomas Howell-Ralph Macchio hotness; a movie both my sister and I loved back when we were tweens crushing on Pony Boy and Soda Pop.


I found this to be an interesting read. It includes references to teaching Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy and other Caribbean books in college/university level courses in the US where the culture of the book is so different from the students’ lives; how do you access and understand the nuances of that culture without having a knee jerk sort of superior response. Here’s an example:

‘One of the things students often say when I teach a book like      this (Lionheart Gal) is “Oh, my gosh, their lives are so rough. They’re      so mistrustful of men. It’s supposed to be nicer than that.”      And “Why can’t they just get along?” I ask them to      answer the same questions that the women in Sistren were asked      to answer in order to create these stories. Questions like “When      did you first realize that you were oppressed as a woman?”      not just “What is your life like?” I ask my students,      “If you were to ask the same questions, what would your      story come out sounding like?” That is often a very good      way to make them understand the parallels between the issues      they are dealing with and the commonsense wisdom, the women’s      wisdom, articulated in these stories.’

Beyond the themes, it also talks about the challenges surrounding how students (including creole speaking students socialized to reject the creole in an academic space) engage with the language in these texts. For these and the other issues it explores, I found this article by Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander to be share-worthy.


So I’m intrigued by this Lorna Goodison interview for a few reasons. Because she’s a kick ass poet. Because of what she said about measuring (or not measuring) yourself against others. Because she always comes across like a cool down to earth Caribbean sister in spite of the lofty heights to which her talent has taken her. Because she loves Keats. And because of the question and answer re Antigua at the end.


Beware self censorship…that’s the moral of this story.


“These days, I have been learning to write with optimism. The kind of writing that enjoys life, whether it’s a talk on the phone, sunlight on a pier, or the wild joy of a rumba.” This is from Summer Edward’s article, On Writing for Adults. It’s a novel idea for too many of us writers who write from such dark spaces. I like this idea.


Two things…what she said here… but also how our stray words can sometimes stifle an emerging creative light… one of the things Wadadli Pen urges is to write/draw/express your truth freely…if you can’t be free in the imagination, then where.


“It isn’t personal. It feels personal, you’re sure it’s personal, how could be anything BUT personal…but it isn’t. The work is simply a widget, and this particular widget didn’t fit. So try again. If it comes back, re-examine your widget and edit as needed. Then try again.” Yeah, you guessed it, this is about processing and handling rejections (the bane of every writer’s existence).


“Truth be told, some of my most rewarding research didn’t feel like research at the time I was experiencing it; it just felt like life.” Read more.


Rex Nettleford wrote of dance:

“So, you know, the power of the body, it’s your instrument, it doesn’t  belong to anybody else, and you can use it to carve designs in space — by  which I mean create a vocabulary. I learned from early that just a turn of  the head, the drop of a shoulder, can say a thousand words.”

Read More.


Words can be powerful deterrents; this blog post by Danielle Boodoo Fortune is a reminder that we should be about using our words to encourage our young people to express not repress.


That fine line between when it’s still yours and when it isn’t anymore is not an easy one  to walk. But the writing is still… you just (just, ha!) have to learn how to switch gears.


Publishing may be changing, and this article breaks down how, but it also says in simple terms that what we do remains the same – tell good stories.


What I like about this article (Extended Family: When Fictional Characters show up in your Living Room by Nancy Kricorian) is how it illustrates what a slow, subtle, deliberate process writing often is. Ten years sounds like a lot especially compared to the “six months” or less spouted by other writers but this is a reminder that it’s not about time but about space, about worlds inhabiting each other. And that’s not to say that that can’t happen more quickly than 10 years; after all Zora Neale Hurston wrote one of the classic works of literature Their Eyes were watching God over seven weeks while on a trip to Haiti. But there’s no rush (publishing deadlines notwithstanding). I haven’t read Nancy’s book (All the Light There was) but the author’s attention to detail in building the world of her characters makes me want to. Plus I can relate to the need to steal time from the demands and expectations of your life, time to write.


“That is how I feel sometimes with my art, that you have ideas but to some persons, it looks like nothing. But to me…nothing is something.” That’s a quote from Bajan artist Sheena Rose’s first performance piece (if you don’t count this intriguing Sweet Gossip project). I like this review because it gives enough of a play by play that you can kind of see it but it also provides an interpretation of the actions that it’s not simply a play by play. As a long distance fan of Rose’s, I’m liking the daring suggested by this brave new step. I had an online discussion with someone who wondered if the nudity was necessary to communicate all the piece hoped to. Necessary? Perhaps not…but gratuituous, I sense not…there is substance behind the artifice and figuring out what that is is the interesting bit.


This is an interesting piece on publishing from the Caribbean Book Blog. It addresses what to do if your book goes out of print. This is something I’ve actually had to deal with with my first two books which were originally published with Macmillan and which despite positive response didn’t sell as well as the publisher anticipated and as such were allowed to go out of print. It was a low point for me, but I rebounded when after seeking the reversal of rights, I was able to get The Boy from Willow Bend so far back in print with Hansib. This article deals with one of those things writers need to consider about publishing contracts when it comes to rights. Now, it would be ironic if I posted this and found myself, despite my best efforts to be well researched and well advised each time before signing on the dotted line, ensnared in the very things it warns against down the road…but I won’t let that possibility stop me from sharing this because if you’re thinking of publishing, you need to be mindful of the pitfalls and the potholes. We all need to be.


Emily Raboteau on memoir writing and her book Searching for Zion.


Maya Angelou’s poetry and prose are legendary; so too the woman herself. Here’s a recent interview. In it she talks about her writing rhythms, heartwarming encounters, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and much more. Part of what stood out for me was the challenges of the writing process itself because sometimes you imagine that it comes easy for the greats while you struggle to find the right word. She said: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” and every writer, every writer struggling for the right word, feels the truth of that. I was struck by the condescension with which one writer spoke of her decision to write for Hallmark. To quote Rick Santorum (and I never thought I’d say that), what a snob. Glad to have Maya confirm that not only does a well worded greeting card have the power to affect people as surely as a work of great literature, it’s just as difficult to find the right word: “I would write down a paragraph that expressed what I wanted to say, and then try to reduce it to two sentences.”


Recently someone who knows Edwidge Dandicat indicated that she’s just as warm and generous as she appears to be in her interviews. All that and talented too. She remains one of my literary inspirations. Check out her frank discussion on women writers, tokenism, and more hard truths from the world of publishing…don’t worry, while she doesn’t sugar coat, she still manages to inspire. Oh, and like her, I, too, think Alice Walker’s In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens should be required reading especially for black women writers. As for Dandicat’s books, for my money you can’t go wrong with the Farming of Bones and Create Dangerously.


Junot Diaz interview at the Caribbean Literary Salon. If you haven’t read Diaz yet, you should; meanwhile, go read this interview.


Zadie Smith on The Root, frank discussion on a lot of literary issues including reviews …my favourite line on the question of multiculturalism “We are people; we exist.”


My interview at PhD in Creative Writing; a blog that asks writers in five not so easy questions, how’d you become a writer.


The relationship between sisters is so much a part of my writing, how could I not share Claudette Dean’s Sisters? One of the things I find beguiling about it is how at first glance you see the obvious similarities – notably the shape of the face and eyes but that the longer you look you see that each of those eyes tell a different story. I find myself wondering what those stories are. It’d make a great writing prompt.

Love this! (Requiem for Haiti by Chantal Bethel)

N.B. For some of my stuff, visit


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2 responses to “Reading Room lV

  1. Pingback: Reading Room and Gallery | Wadadli Pen

  2. Pingback: Reading Room and Gallery lll | Wadadli Pen

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