Category Archives: Literary Gallery

Images of the Antigua and Barbuda literary scene

Under the Carpet (2002)

by Marcus Christopher (as posted to Tongues of the Ocean special Antigua and Barbuda issue, 2014)

Around here things use to give man fit
The way they does sweep bad deeds under the carpet
You and I know what I saying is true
How them does cover up what certain people do
Once you up there with rank and file
You get away clean—a tap on the wrist and a smile
Though you get catch red-handed in corruption
Like a reward you get transferred with promotion

Chor: And everything get swept—under the carpet
………..Ask Outlet ‘bout Christian Children funds—if it’s under the carpet
………..And if the forensic report tried to put anything—under the carpet
………..Like the hurricane lumber business went—under the carpet
………..Etc. etc.. etc etc ————-

Around here man use to get real vex
But had no means to take out their text
You could only grumble and take your blows
You were exclusively held in check by the likes of Mr. Rose
No matter how you frustrate stress out yourself and tug
They will sweep whatever they want to, under the rug
It’s the order of the day once you in the club
Your punishment for misdeed is transfer to a bigger job

But ’round here like things changing over
Since the advent of Radio Observer
School Children say they watching with the eyes of the Eagle
And nothing go pass—everything go get the needle
They say all the under-hand boo-bul, they go make disable
And is only clean cards they can play on top the table
From captain to cook, nobody getting no break
That’s why they investigating the video tape

Chor: Cause no longer will things be swept—under the carpet
………..No corruption cesspool can be swept under the carpet
………..Etc. etc. etc etc

More Antiguan and Barbudan song lyrics in the song lyrics data base and writer credits in the song writer’s data base.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved.

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Reading Room and Gallery 34

Here I share things I like that I think you might like too. But not just anything. Things related to the arts – from the art itself to closer examination of the art to the making of the art…like that. There have been 33 installments in this series before – use the search window to the right to find them; and there’ll be more additions to this installment before it too is closed – so come back.


“The story of why my own family came to be in the Caribbean had been blurred over time: it was something to do with the British, something to do with slavery, but that was all that was shared. Decades later the Guyanese-American journalist Gaiutra Bahadhur published the seminal book Coolie Woman, which brought much insight, but there have been few other notable works. Guyana doesn’t feature in the history books or the school curriculum in Britain. Consequently, when I tried to explain to my schoolfriends where my family was from – ‘What Ghana?’, ‘No, Guyana in South America’, ‘What like Ossie Ardiles?’, ‘No, he’s Argentinian’. When the Falklands War began in 1982, there were even more questions to navigate.

This is astonishing when you think that the British had such a role to play in that nation’s birth and how central that colony was to the United Kingdom’s industrial wealth and growth in the nineteenth century. Unlike the Caribbean islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad, it is possible that Guyana’s unique geography (being attached to the South American mainland) has rendered it and its history all but invisible from the collective British consciousness. Perhaps fittingly, it was the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.” – The Forgotten World: How Scotland Erased Guyana from Its Past by Yvonne Singh


‘The Southern writer Rosemary Daniell once looked at me as we sat on a panel at an early Atlanta Book Festival and murmured with wonder, “Hmm, a writer with a happy childhood.” Well, of course, it was not all happy. We all have our own bag of rocks, and a writer of color in this country has more than her share. But it was my childhood.’ – Tina McElroy Ansa


“She’s still being sexually abused but now she also has three children to watch and a farm to keep, and he’s just brutally beating her constantly.” – the Margos discuss movie vs. book, The Color Purple (Alice Walker)


Discussions of Antiguan and Barbudan art by the artistes can be found here.

Discussion of Antiguan and Barbudan art by critics can be found here.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out Please note that, except otherwise noted, images on this site also need to be cleared if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

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Mailbox – Commonwealth Short Story Prize

This email I received as a (failed) entrant indicates that there were 5,081 entries this year; and 21 short listed entries. Regional winners will be announced in May and the overall winner will be named in July.

And FYI: “The Short Story Prize is Commonwealth Writers’ flagship project, attracting entries from almost every single country of the Commonwealth. We appreciate all the entries we receive: not only do we celebrate the winners and shortlisted writers, but a number of entries also feature in our anthologies and on our sister website, adda. We also run a series of creative writing workshops related to the Short Story Prize, and will be sure to contact you if any of these are organized for your area. Please do keep writing and sending us your entries.” Their email address is:

So the email links to the actual news re winners – and right away I have to shout out Barbados’ Shakirah Bourne and Alexia Tolas of the Bahamas (both of whom I participated in a Commonwealth Writers workshop with last year – though I knew Shakirah before).

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That’s Alexia and Shakirah, also a 2018 finalist for the Burt Award, second and third from left during a hangout at the Commonwealth Writers workshop in Barbados last year. Also pictured are far left Sharma Taylor, a Commonwealth Short Story Prize shortlisted writer last year and is short listed this year for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Prize which will provide mentorship for a Caribbean writer; fourth from left workshop co-facilitator with Jacob Ross, Karen Lord; and me (JCH).

They are two of the four from the Caribbean still in the running – Shakirah for ‘A Hurricane & The Price of Fish’ and Alexia for ‘Granma’s Porch’; the other two are Guyana’s Kevin Garbaran for ‘The Ol’ Higue on Market Street’ and Trinidad and Tobago’s Rashad Hosein for and ‘Oats’ by Rashad Hosein.

There are short listed writers from across the Commonwealth and you can read the full list here. Of the list internationally acclaimed author and 2019 prize judge Caryl Philips (whose roots are in St. Kitts-Nevis) said, “The vitality and importance of the short story form is abundantly clear in this impressive shortlist of stories from around the world. These authors have dared to imagine into the lives of an amazingly wide range of characters and their stories explore situations that are both regional and universal. Almost as impressive as the number of entrants and the quality of the shortlist, is the amount of work that the panel of judges have invested in this process. They have read carefully, debated with great sensitivity, and been mindful of cultural traditions as they have collectively reached their decision. Compared to many literary prizes, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is still young. However, with each passing year the prize gains importance within the literary world. It offers a unique opportunity to read and think across borders, and to connect imaginations from around the globe. It has been a great honour to be a part of the judging of the 2019 prize.”

The announcement gives some teasers; I’ll just share the blurbs of the Caribbean ones:

“The unlikely romance between a no-nonsense market vendor and a retired swindler has dire consequences on the price of fish during hurricane season.” – A Hurricane & The Price of Fish

“Folktales and Jumbie stories take a dark turn after young Devika decides to investigate the rumours of an Ol’ Higue living in her village.” – The Ol’ Higue on Market Street

“Fearing for his life, Forceripe Frederick obeys the blind obeah man after breaking his window. His request: read to him. This is a story about an old man who keeps oats in his pocket and a troubled teen who learns why.” – Oats

“Abandoned by her father on her grandmother’s porch, Helena fumbles along the delicate border between adolescence and adulthood, guided by the past traumas of her friends and family and her troubled first love.” – Granma’s Porch

Congrats to all the winners; Caribbean, come through.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, 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.



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Good News for Six Caribbean Writers, Bad News for the Burt Award (Update)

The Burt Award finalists have been named. Congratulations to them all. They are Jamaica’s Diana McCaulay, a repeat finalist having also made the cut in 2015; Trinidad and Tobago’s Tamika Gibson, who previously won the prize in 2016; and Jeanelle Frontin, also from the land of the hummingbird – which has been especially dominant in this year’s Bocas administered prizes. See details here:

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Six shortlisted writers have been named though dampened by the concurrent announcement that the CODE sponsored Burt Award for teen/young adult Caribbean literature is coming to an end. The award was first bestowed in 2014 but with the death of its founder Canadian philanthropist Bill Burt in 2017 has come a shift in priorities – reportedly to environmental matters, which is a pressing concern in these perilous times. The Caribbean leg of the award has been administered these five years by the Bocas Literary Festival in Trinidad and Tobago  in partnership with the Canadian non-profit CODE which runs similar programmes in Africa and among the indigenous community in Canada – all of which will need alternative funding if they are to continue. The purpose and effect of the award has been to generate and distribute new writing from typically marginalized communities with the youth population as a specific target.

This year’s short…

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April 15, 2019 · 5:06 pm

Bocas Long List Announced (Now with update re the Short List)

The Bocas Short List has been Announced and (you know where you are; we at Wadadli Pen still wish to see more Antiguans and Barbudans – as far as Bocas is concerned we’ve had only one make the long list ever – and more smaller islanders – there’ve been a few – but…) Yay! Wadadli Pen fam Danielle Boodoo Fortune has made the cut. Boodoo Fortune, a Trinidad and Tobago writer and artist, you may remember was a Wadadli Pen judge in 2014 – 2015, and has contributed some of her art products as prizes as well; you’ve also seen me hype her up around here since we were on a women writers panel together in 2008, and talk about her through the years sharing interviews and her poetry and art in our Reading Room and Gallery series (as I write this I literally remember a participant in one of my Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project saying “wow” in that full of wonder way on reading one of her poems which I had brought to the session), and most recently celebrate her as illustrator of my book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. She’s one of the illustrators I recommended to my publisher specifically because I thought her aesthetic was right for the project. Bottom line, I’m a Dani fan and like I said, she’s Wadadli Pen fam so we’re rooting for her debut collection Doe Songs to take the win. She’s dope; we’ve been knowing it and saying it. On the subject of Doe Songs, the Santa Barbara Independent recently complimented “the fanciful shape of her concrete poems …(and) her deft use of imagery and metaphor”. If you’ve read any of her poetry or seen her art for that matter, even if you haven’t read Doe Songs, you know what they mean. Danielle for the win! (Yes, we’re showing our hand). That said, shout out Dionne Brand and Kevin Adonis Browne, also short listed for Theory and High Mas respectively. All three writers are from Trinidad and Tobago. Bocas, administered out of Trinidad, is the only book prize of its type specific to the region (and a substantial monetary prize as well). Congrats to them on another successful year and to the judges (we know this isn’t easy work), but especially congrats to all the long and short listed writers for all the good writing and reading and for continuing to raise the bar. Here’s the full report:

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Doe SongsRicantations

Nine books by writers from four Caribbean countries have been announced on the longlist for the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, sponsored by One Caribbean Media.

Widely recognised as the leading literary award for Caribbean writers, the Prize recognises books in three genre categories — poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction — published by Caribbean authors in the preceding year.

In the poetry category, the longlist brings together three writers considered part of a new wave of talent pushing Caribbean poetry in fresh directions. Doe Songs, the debut book by Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné of Trinidad and Tobago, “investigates the personal and the political, deploying a stunning range of imagery and themes,” write the judges. “Mothers and daughters, hunters and the hunted, metal and fire meet in this dazzling constellation of archetypes that moves us to a new understanding of the Caribbean landscape.” Loretta Collins Klobah of Puerto Rico is…

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Arts in the News (Unfortunately)

Usually we’re happy here at Wadadli Pen about arts and the youth being in the news and try to keep you updated. Sometimes, not so much.

First up is this back and forth between Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister and a member of the calypso fraternity in response to criticism (or questioning?) of cultural ambassador designation being given to the British-based Kanneh-Masons (Antigua-descended family of classical musicians). The Kanneh-Masons are dope. Their Playing to Inspire series of concerts to raise funds for the national youth symphony orchestra (I believe) is a worthy pursuit and one of them has distinguished himself internationally as a soloist, notably performing at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. No shade against them AT ALL. That said, these appointments can seem arbitrary and questioning how these things are decided is fair (and forwards transparency).  It’s inevitable for some to wonder why some people get to be at the front of the line, (AGAIN) without any shade on them, and why some we would consider worthy artists who work and sometimes die overlooked despite accomplishments locally, regionally, and globally stay at the back. Disappointing then that, instead of engaging on that level, the conversation (as reported) seemingly descended into broadsides against Antigua and Barbuda’s calypso artistes because their lyrics are perceived as being too local (you can read the articles for yourself above – click on them to get a full sized view). I have personally found in the calypso I grew up listening to, including the music of the artistes both sides seem to agree represent the best of us, that the local/the specific can connect to the universal thematically and emotionally (especially if the music sweet – not necessarily always jumpy but melodic and soul touching in some way) without diluting itself and thus losing both its poetry and its potency. There are lots of reasons why something might be underdeveloped (and some of our arts is) and reasons why it might not travel that do not necessarily have anything to do with the lyrics or narrative – among those reasons, opportunity.


This one is not unfortunate per se, correcting the record – as Pledge writer Stanley Humphreys and singer Short Shirt did with these letters to the editor in response to an article (not the first one I might add from personal experience) crediting someone else with writing this particular song (I can think of a book with a similar claim and another book that actually went a long way in correcting the record on a whole lot of songs) – is always a good thing. The credit is correct in our song lyrics data base by the way though the past confusion is addressed in the actual Pledge link (above). I do wish to take this opportunity to underscore that one of the challenges for those seeking to get the record right is the sparseness of documented information – one of the ways to fix this is through comprehensive liner notes, the kind often lacking from local music CDs. Some liner notes include not only production credits but song lyrics. As someone who has long covered the local art scene and who has for several years on this site worked to build a data base of our songwriters and their songs for some time, it’s easy to get things wrong due to lack of available, accurate information (oftentimes, even when you ask).


Okay, this one isn’t related to the arts but it is related to the youth which is the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize constituency. I don’t want to get too deep into this one – it’s too easy for the message to be missed for reasons that have nothing to do with the message itself – but I am disappointed not only with the delay in turning this facility over to the youth of the Grays Green (and I would add Ottos community and beyond) but that the optics for me say, the youth can wait, which is not a good look. The work of the Magistrate’s Court is important but I wish we had gone with an alternate site on this one, and proceeded with opening this facility post haste with all the fan fair our youth deserve. I can’t help feeling that whenever they get it now, it won’t be the same.

Let’s end on an upbeat note. I haven’t seen this in the paper – doesn’t mean it wasn’t there as admittedly I am a few days behind on the papers – or on my social media (apart from posts by individual winners) but it is one of my favourite events (celebrating our youth); I always take the time to make nominations (not just in lit arts) and I like to share the outcome here on the blog (click here to see who won what this year). Shout out to lit awards winner and Wadadli Pen 2018 Challenge winner Kyle Christian and to Latisha Browne of the Cushion Club (pictured below with her award).


As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, 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.

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Mailbox – Remembering Claude McKay

Claude McKay is a Jamaican born author associated with the Harlem Renaissance in the US. His books include 1928’s bestselling and award winning Home to Harlem (this was the first book of his that I read while at the University of the West Indies and it remains a favourite), 1933’s Banana Bottom (a classic of Caribbean literature), and other works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. McKay’s most well-known poem is perhaps ‘If we must die’. The 1937 Paul Robeson film Big Fella is based on his novel Banjo. A 1941 manuscript of his – Amiable with Big Teeth: a Novel of the Love Affair between the Communists and the Poor Black Sheep of Harlem – was published in 2017.

McKay, though deceased since 1948, has not been forgotten in his home village in Jamaica as Dr. Honor Ford-Smith, a Jamaican Canada-based playwright, actress, scholar, and founder of the renowned theatre collective Sistren discovered. Her adventure (with images) is recounted below with her permission.

Yesterday I went with some friends to offer respect to one of my favourite writers and one of the world’s most extraordinary beings – Claude McKay. I had never ever been but Winston James (who wrote “Fierce Hatred of Injustice”) suggested it last year and since then it’s been one of the items on my bucket list . This is a trip everyone should make…Thanks Winston…..

We drove to James Hill in Clarendon which likely still retains much of the beauty it had in McKay’s time. It hard not to romanticize the place and to be in awe of what he achieved. James Hill is still much as he describes it in My Green Hills and Banana Bottom. It is “country” in the best and most beautiful sense of that world. Green mountains lined with bamboo and tree ferns. Folks growing food – yam, banana, tomato, pak chow and carrot; folks hanging out playing dominoes on the corner, women dressed up for church in sparkling white to dazzle your eyes. Ni(ce) night music blaring from the shop….”A come wi jus a come. a come wi jus a come and wi no waan no bodderation here.” Folks stopping to chat – asking us who were were and why we had come and how we knew about McKay.

We went up to the Claude McKay High School to see the poetry garden in his memory. The security guard Mr Joseph Anthony Thompson, was wonderful and took time to show us around and he was very gracious. There are hand painted poems mounted on boards and a little platform with a plaque in his name….(All fenced off – in true Jamaican style as we have become a place of gates and fences). We read the poems aloud….”If we must die” and “I shall return” and more. And we saw his grave which needs a big cleaning and a new stone. The writing on the present one is illegible and a tree has fallen on it in protest against the state it is in.

But, he is far from forgotten by his community. His memory lives and even if most folks haven’t read the books, people are so proud of him.

We went down to Sookie River which is where he actually lived. His descendants Sparrow McKay and Jenny McKay talked to us about their grand uncle and Jenny, without being asked, dropped what she was doing and insisted that we see his birthplace. So we climbed up the hill, puffing and blowing all the way to the site where he grew up and where his parents are buried. Shelley slipped and fell on the mud coming back down but we made it. Family members still live there but the original house has been replaced.

What a man James Hill gave to the world at a time when what he did was for many, unthinkable…….His way with sonnets, his insight into the rural consciousness of the Black farmers that made him, his commitment to the writing life, his audacity, imagination and courage, his “fierce hatred of injustice ” in the midst of colonialism (title of Winston’s Book) and when you go to Clarendon you feel this grounded bassline of wisdom as a legacy he has left us all.

There are so many places like this dotted around the region.  So inspiring they take your breath away and so lovely they drown out all the bickering and the bad mind and the fashionable cynicism and there is much to be cynical about but when you go there you feel as if you are rooted in the energy of the forces that speak through the voices that call out  the remaking of the world.

And guess what? – he’s virgo like me.

I was moved by this when it landed in my mailbox and thank Dr. Honor Ford-Smith for granting me permission to share.

As with all content on, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, 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.

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