The Reading Room and Gallery is a space where I share things I come across that I think you might like too – some are things of beauty, some just bowl me over with their brilliance, some are things I think we could all learn from, some are artistes I want to support by spreading the word, and some just because. Let’s continue to support the arts and the artistes by rippling the water together. For earlier installments of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 27th one which means there are 26 earlier ones (can’t link them all). Remember to keep checking back, this list will grow as I make new finds until it outgrows this page and I move on to the next one. – JCH
“I am a black woman writer from Trinidad and Tobago. I was born here to Trinidadian parents. I have lived here all my life. I do not have an escape route to Elsewhere, whether the route is through money, family connections or non-TT citizenship.” – Lisa Allen-Agostini, A Black Female Writer’s Story
Read the winning Wadadli Pen Challenge entries through the years and across several genres here.
this too is disputed – not the flowers – rather, the origin
of bananas; they may have come here with Columbus on
a ship that in 1502 slipped into Orcabessa the way grief
sometimes slips into a room. …” – Place Name: Oracabessa by Kei Miller
“Which is to say, it wasn’t easy for me. And it wasn’t easy for the professors, agents, editors, publicists and publishers who each took a risk and supported my work in first getting published. But fucking miracles of miracles—it happened. I deserved it, for sure. But so do a shitload of others for whom the miracle hasn’t happened as yet. We’ve got to try and do right by those writers and those books. And even those of us who have one or three books published—we have to keep proving ourselves and the industry has to keep taking a chance on us.” – Tiphanie Yanique
“Why does the land speak your poem?
The land is doing what all good poets do, it is speaking for people – the Taino who were the original inhabitants – who have no voice.” – Lorna Goodison speaking on her poem “Reporting Back to Queen Isabella”; also read the poem.
“We don’t see you. The future is not you. The future is not your story. And the future is not black sci fi. So if we don’t exist in the future, where do we exist? Only in the past.” – Canadian film director Sharon Lewis on her film Brown Girl Begins, based on Nalo Hopkins’ Brown Girl in the Ring
“Sometimes I listen outside closed doors, a thing I never would have done in the time before. I don’t listen long, because I don’t want to be caught doing it. Once, though, I heard Rita say to Cora that she wouldn’t debase herself like that.” – excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale
(Audio reading by Ali Smith of Grace Paley’s A Conversation with My Father) “Story here is a matter of life and death; the father is old, ill and dying; they both know it, and so does the reader. But this breathtaking, breathgiving short story, which never compromises on this truth or the admittance of inevitable tragedy, is profoundly, comically generous in its open-endedness, and leaves you both shaken and renewed by the heart, the fight and the life in it.” – link for full listen
“I sharpened the knife on the bottom of a saucer and quartered the potatoes, and then fried them with the garlic and a fistful of coriander. My mother returned from the garden holding a cluster of beets, her hands black and her feet black, and she asked why we never had any napkins and she must always wipe her hands on the pages of English grammar books.” – from Waiting for the Electricity by Christina Nichol
“Swami did not listen to the naysayers. He continued to sit and fast on his pulpit while the highway took shape around him and stretched further and further into the west. The road shone just like when Charlton Heston parted the sea to rescue the Jewish people and lead them to the Promised Land. Swami continued to chant while Friendship Village slowly disappeared. One by one, families succumbed to the generous compensation offered by the government for their feeble acres. Some agreed to relocate to more affluent areas in the west, to houses blessed with running water and electricity. Others even moved overseas to start a new life. Many bought second hand Japanese cars. The children who sat in the backseat often waved at Swami as they passed him on their way to the Promised Land of cineplexes, shopping malls, American chain restaurants and coffee shops.” – “How the Professor Made History” by Suzanne Bhagan
“That was the day I learned you should never try to pull your fingers out of an eel’s mouth, not a live one or a dead one. Not if you want to have any skin left to carry him home with, and especially not if it’s a twenty-pound silver-belly.” – Eel by Stefanie Seddon
“Still, he shut up and drank the tea, the sweet-milk making it go down more easily. Sweet milk was his favourite thing next to an ice-cold soursop suckabubby. As with the suckabubby, he would clamp his mouth to the opening and coax out the thick liquid when Tanty wasn’t looking. Tanty preferred to buy the sweet-milk since it lasted longer un-refrigerated than the evaporated sort, and their fridge did little more than take up space.” – excerpt from The Boy from Willow Bend by Joanne C. Hillhouse
“When I tell you, I could only love you in England, I also mean that you could only love me here, as well, but I cannot say this because you would not understand, you would argue, and tell me that love conquers all. We speak in English, and I cannot tell you that I know this is not true.” – I am a Bird by Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud
“Jules Poitevin is 54, he has three children, two sons of 17 and 14 and a nine-year-old daughter. He had felt that two children were more than enough, but his wife really wanted a little girl.
To keep a marriage running, you had to make sacrifices.” – Paxadol by Arnon Grunberg
“Their memories had become muddled with what they had been told, and what they wanted to believe.” – Paddle to Canada by Heather Monley
“But he did not touch her. Instead, as he watched her check the soup, he felt sadness for her, too. He felt awful that she had to make this soup base every Tuesday. He knew that years ago, she had a miscarriage. He knew that the daughter she did give birth to, the one who survived the pregnancy, didn’t call home often enough and that her son could only call collect from jail. Touching her breasts would make her less important than what she was, and she wasn’t important at all.” – DeMisty D. Bellinger’s French Fry Soup
CREATIVES ON CREATING
‘When I arrived at the gallery, I found other unsure-looking writers waiting for the salon to start. Unless we’re behind a desk and a mountain books, we writers often look lost. We spend much of our writing lives isolated, and we forget what it’s like to be surrounded by others who speak the same creative language…. When the salon ended, I walked up to the Great Hall where an opera singer gave “the gift of song” to visitors who accepted her offering. Her voice filled the vast hall as she sang to a little girl who sat on her mother’s lap. Afterward, I poured over images and artifacts from the “One Life: Sylvia Plath” exhibit. I might have missed it all had I decided to stay home that day.
Sometimes we must force ourselves into different environments and open ourselves to art outside of the modes we work in. I’ve written before about visual work that inspires my own craft, but I must continually remind myself to resist spending day after day in front of a computer screen. When we open a channel of inspiration, we enrich and broaden our work.
As spring (finally) arrives for many of us, let’s force ourselves into the sunshine, into worlds outside our usual routines to shift our perspectives, even when we don’t particularly feel like it. There is never a perfect time. To wait for a perfect time is to risk running out of time altogether, and that would be truly missing out.” – Dorothy Bendel, managing editor, Atticus Review (from their e-newsletter)
“I wasn’t keeping it simple. By keeping it simple I don’t mean abandoning any intricate details of what I envisioned. I simply mean that I was leaving out some fundamental basic things that would strengthen the work I was doing. I had to revise my approach to these fundamental aspects of how I was working and keep it simple. In this case, keeping it simple meant, for me, not to overlook the fundamentals.” – from Levi King’s Emerging Director Residency – Week 2 Blog Post
“The poem stalled here. I went back to my journal later and edited a few times, and you can see the lines I crossed out as well as how the final draft came to be. I think it is important for the poet to trust that first voice that a poem appears in, insomuch as that first voice often contains a several different possibilities that cannot all be explored. Now, I may try to split that voice and discover more than one poem, but more often than not, it is a process of whittling away and discarding to find the right direction and emotion that I need to capture.” – British Virgin Islands’ poet Richard Georges
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, Oh Gad!, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Musical Youth). 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.