A reminder that the process with these Carib Lit Plus Caribbean arts bulletins is to do a front and back half of the month, updating as time allows as new information comes in; so, come back, or, if looking for an earlier installment, use the search window. (in brackets, as much as I can remember, I’ll add a note re how I sourced the information – it is understood that this is the original sourcing and additional research would have been done by me to build the information shared here)
This is an opportunity to support Haiti relief – Films For Haiti is a September 17th -18th 2021 event – donate. share. watch. Make a donation, access the films, watch the films.
(Source – Karukerament email)
Opportunities Too has the full schedule of Bocas workshops for 2021; so this is just your reminder that I (Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse) am scheduled (re-scheduled) to facilitate a workshop on writing children’s literature in October 2021. (Source – Bocas on Facebook)
As you’ll see if you check our Opportunities Too page, it’s Commonwealth Writers Short Stories submission time and they’ve shared some tips.
Bocas’ children writing (as in children doing the writing) contest winners have been announced.
David is 8 and Josh is 9. (Source – Bocas email)
Trinidad and Tobago born, Canada resident M. Nourbese Philip has been named one of two recipients of Canada’s Molson Prize which comes with a $50,000 purse. She is the author of the award winning Harriet’s Daughter and other works like the genre-bending Zong!“NourbeSe Philip is a Guggenheim and Rockefeller Fellow (Bellagio), and in 2020 she was the recipient of PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.” This is no small victory for a writer who in an interview on the Canada Council website said the biggest thing she has had to overcome is “Canadian racism in its myriad forms.” That same site asked her for advice for up and coming writers to which she responded: “Learn how to trust their gut instincts about their own work—sometimes the critics are wrong; be willing to risk—failure or success; and have someone in your life who loves what you do and will critique your work honestly.” (Source – John Robert Lee email)
Jamaica’s Musgrave awards are given to people who demonstrate excellence in their respective fields. The 2021 literature recipients are Ishion Hutchinson (gold), Shara McCallum (silver), and Veronica Blake-Carnegie (bronze). They will be awarded in October. Read all about it in the Jamaica Gleaner. (Source – John Robert Lee email)
The winning stories in this year’s Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival short story competition have been posted. They are ‘Daughter 4′ by Patrice Grell Yursik, winner of the Caribbean-American writers’ prize, and ‘The Wailers’ by Akhim Alexis, winner of the award for writers in the Caribbean. Both are of Trinidad and Tobago. Congrats to them both. (Source – BCLF Facebook)
Environmentalist Brian Cooper was the Antigua and Barbuda selection for the Global Portrait Project, a mission to paint a person per country involved in conservation work. The artist explains about the project and why Dr. Cooper, originally from the UK and later Trinidad before moving to Antigua in the 1980s, was chosen for this project.
(Source – Antigua and Barbuda’s Daily Observer newspaper)
Antigua and Barbuda’s Dorbrene O’Marde was one of three recipients of the President’s Award at the St. Martin Book Fair this past June. The other recipients were Deborah Drisana Jack and Fabian Adekunle Badejo, both of St. Martin.
“The Presidents Award is presented to individuals and institutions whose work is noted for its excellence and for combining literary, cultural, and liberation components in the service of progress, of their people or nation, and of humanity,” said Lasana M. Sekou from House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). O’Marde has written many plays and calypsos, and a couple of books. He has been a leading cultural worker in the Caribbean region for decades. (Source – Nehesi House press release via email)
New BooksReading Material
Allies: Real Talk About Showing Up, Screwing Up, And Trying Again, co-edited by Barbadian writer Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy just dropped. It includes essays by 17 writers in the teen/YA space on needing an ally, being an ally, and/or showing up for friends and families.
This collection on rejection includes the voices of Caribbean writers like Olive Senior and Colin Grant. Another Caribbean writer Caryl Philips described it as “an important anthology that spans generations, circles the globe, and embraces all forms of imaginative writing. Uplifting and inspiring.” (Source – N/A)
I do hope that more and more of you are reading my CREATIVE SPACE series spotlighting local art and culture. I’m really enjoying doing it, I’m happy that it’s growing, and that it allows me to keep my hand in journalism which is my background. For the first installment of September 2021, I visited Clarence House within the National Parks. I was interested in the restoration work and the history. Did you know by the way that Nelson’s Dockyard within the National Parks, right below Clarence House, marked its 5th anniversary as a World Heritage site in 2021. I’m glad I got to do something in that space in this year – as I explored in the article the history of the relationship between us, the descendants of enslaved Africans and that space is complicated. Here’s a link to that article and other recent installments of CREATIVE SPACE.
Cuban-American writer Achy Obejas released a new book this September. It is Boomerang/Bumeran, a bilingual poetry collection exploring themes of identity, sexuality, and belonging. (Source – author email)
Cover reveal. This one won’t be out until August 2022 with Peepal Tree Press. Synopsis: Gay men search for sex, adventure, pleasure, self-realisation and love in Woodbrook, Trinidad.
(Source – Nature Island Literary Festival’s Facebook)
Content includes a tribute to late former director Vaughn Walter – “a man who personified culture”, DIY Craft with DOC head of craft Sylvanie Abbott, a music focused article on copyright, features on music artists Andrew Dorsett and Zamoni, the behind the scenes of a local documentary – Own It, an interview with Pan-o-Grama founder Nevin Roach; then they have some listicles – one on the Top 150 Antigua and Barbuda Soca Songs by DJ Illest, who, judging by the list prefers midtempo tracks.
Scrolling through this one, I find Antiguanisms, a recipe for bread pudding; articles about the role of government in the development of pan by Stafford Joseph, copyright (so, this seems to be a series), coverage of a craft exhibition, ‘Stamp 268’, organized by Culture, a history of Halcyon, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2021, and reflections by Gilbert Laudat on dance in Antigua and Barbuda. Featured artists include cover artist Guava (Ron Howell) and pannist Alston M. Davis. This edition’s listicle is by bookstagrammer Lalabear, a teacher named Lakiesha Mack, who shared her top 5 Caribbean books. Since it’s only 5 and this is primarily a lit arts site, I’ll share them: Tea by the Sea by Donna Hemans of Jamaica, The Girl with the Hazel Eyes and The Vanishing Girls by Callie Browning of Barbados, whom she identifies as her favourite author, Where there are Monsters by Breanne McIvor of Trinidad, and How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones of Barbados. (Source – initially lalabear’s post about her listicle which sent me looking for the article and ended with me finding both issues of Fu Arwe Ting)
Witness in Stone by Barbados poet laureate Esther Phillips actually debuted in April 2021 (sorry to be so late, Esther).
From the summary on the site of publisher Peepal Tree: “Esther Phillips’ poems are always lucid and musical; they gain a rewarding complexity from being part of the collection’s careful architecture that offers a richly nuanced inner dialogue about the meaning of experience in time. Not least powerful in this conversation are the sequence of poems about Barbadian childhoods, poems of grace, humour and insight. When Barbados chose Esther Phillips as its first poet laureate it knew what it was doing: electing a poet who could speak truth, who could challenge and console her nation – and all of us.”
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, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, The Jungle Outside, and Oh Gad!). 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.
But that’s not the point. The point is….there is no point just an opportunity to acknowledge some of the people who’ve helped shape life in Antigua and Barbuda over the last hundred years or so according to … a very small group of people …with internet access … and a facebook presence … who had time today (not today) … and were aware that there was a poll being run by a random person on the internet.
Like I said, it’s not scientific.
But it was fun and educational, and culturally-relevant; all reasons I thought sufficient to bring the top 10 here to the Wadadli pen blog. My primary interest was in seeing how many of our artists made the list but it’s an opportunity for us to reflect (especially as the year winds down, and as we lose more and more) on the people who have shaped life in Antigua and Barbuda.
So, here we go.
Top 10 Most Influential (in Antigua and Barbuda) of the last 100 years … (according to some people on facebook):
10 – tied – Elvira Bell, Christal Clashing, Samara Emmanuel, Kevinia Francis, and Junella King (i.e. Team Antigua Island Girls – first all Black, all female team to row the Atlantic), Baldwin Spencer (former Prime Minister and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers’ Union),
Jamaica Kincaid (celebrated international author of fictionalized memoirs like Annie John, Lucy, and See Now Then whose newest book is a children’s picture book based on one of her early short stories), Lester Bird (former PM and officially designated National Hero who published his autobiography The Comeback Kid in 2019), Prince Ramsey (Doctor/HIV-AIDS awareness activist, calypso writer and producer who died in 2019) – one social media commenter said of Dr. Ramsey “I think he’s the most inspiring of them all”
Edris Bird (former resident tutor of the UWI Open Campus who in 2019 also became a Dame), Andy Roberts (bowler, first Antiguan and Barbudan to play for the West Indies Cricket team, knighted),
Winston Derrick(deceased host of Observer Radio’s Voice of the People and co-founder of Observer Media Group which transformed the media landscape and broadcast media especially after a legal battle for the right to broadcast that went all the way to the privy council and with its victory opened up the broadcast media door for others to enter)
6 – Alister Francis (late former principal of the Antigua State College, a groundbreaking tertiary institution of its time for Antigua and Barbuda and the eastern Caribbean)
5 – George Walter (Antigua and Barbuda’s second premier and former leader of the Antigua-Barbuda Workers Union; officially designated National Hero)
4–Nellie Robinson (late former educator, founder of the TOR Memorial school which is credited with breaking down class/social barriers in Antigua and Barbuda, and officially designated a Dame and our only female National Hero)
3– V. C. Bird (deceased; second president of the Antigua Trades and Labour Union, which is credited with boosting the voice and fortunes of Black and working class people in late colonial era Antigua and Barbuda, first Chief Minister, Premier, and Prime Minister – Father of the Nation, and first officially designated National Hero)
2– Tim Hector (late pan African political activist; media pioneer – founder of the Outlet newspaper and writer of the Fan the Flame column; fighter for press freedom through his investigative reporting, and battles in and out of court including the privy council, arrests, and alleged arson; award winning journalist; commentator on politics, culture, sports; and political candidate)
1 – Viv Richards (second Antiguan drafted to the West Indies cricket team, the only Windies captain never to have lost a Test, one of Wisden’s top five cricketers of the 20th century, and officially designated National Hero)
So a handful of artists made the top 10 which is always good to see. But I did wonder who were the top 10 artists in the poll overall, hence this second list. According to the same poll – but in reverse order – and highlighting only the arts side of their life – these are the top 10 artists among the Most Influential in Antigua and Barbuda of the last 100 years or so…according to the voters in this particular social media poll:
1 – Obstinate
2 – Short Shirt
3 – tied – Prince Ramsey,Jamaica Kincaid
4 – tied –Swallow(who with Obsinate and Short Shirt make up the Big Three of Antiguan calypso, known especially for his road march hits), D. Gisele Isaac (writer, cultural critic, author of Considering Venus, The Sweetest Mango, No Seed), Burning Flames (iconic jam band)
9 – tied – Stachel Edwards (musician), Rupert Blaize (singer), Wendel Richardson (musician, one of the founding members of Osibisa), John S. Laviscount (musician, founder of the island’s oldest band Laviscount Brass), Isalyn Richards (director of the combined schools choir), Winston Bailey (musician), Althea Prince (writer), Oliver Flax (writer, playwright), The Targets (music group), The National Choir, Shelly Tobitt (calypso writer known for many Antiguan and Barbudan top calypsos of the 70s and early 80s especially through his collaborations with Short Shirt e.g. classic albums Ghetto Vibes and Press On), Ivena (calypsonian, Antigua and Barbuda’s first and to date only female calypso monarch), Bertha Higgins(musician, involved with Antigua Artists Society, Hell’s Gate), Veronica Yearwood (Afro-Caribbean dancer and choreographer, founder of the Antigua Dance Academy), Zahra Airall (writer, award winning dramatist and playwright – Zee’s Youth Theatre, Honey Bee Theatre, Sugar Apple Theatre plus her work with Women of Antigua, poet, arts event producer – notably Expressions Open Mic, photographer), Hilda McDonald (writer)
10 – tied – Novelle Richards (writer), Conrad Roberts (actor)
Apologies if I’ve offended anyone or breached protocol by leaving off all honorifics; that was a choice I made to leave off all instead of forgetting some as I am likely to do (better to have you mad at me for something I chose to do than for something I didn’t mean to do). All honorifics are, however, of course, acknowledged. Also acknowledged is that the named people have done much more than captured in my mini-bites. Some books are pictured in this post but remember to check our listing of Antiguan and Barbudan literature for books on or by any of the named influential Antiguans and Barbudans – if you’re looking specifically for biographies/autobiographies, scroll through the non-fiction list. Also, if someone’s picture is not included it’s because they’re not in the Wadadli Pen photo archives and time constraints didn’t allow for scouring the internet. Hopefully, that covers it – this is just FYI and for fun and I would encourage you to continue the conversation by sharing your picks for most influential Antiguans and Barbudans of the last 100 years or so (the or so is really 20th century forward to this year – I think those were the parameters).
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on 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.
This page has grown fairly quickly, so I’m breaking it up in to two pages.For A – G, go here, for H – N, go here, for U – Z, go here, and for books, go here.This is exclusively for creative pieces by Antiguans and Barbudans accepted to established literary journals, festivals (and other notable literary platforms), and contests (not pieces posted only to personal blogs) as I discover (and in some cases, re-discover) them. Primarily, the focus is on pieces accessible online (i.e. linkable) because those are easiest to find; but it is not limited to these. It is intended as a record of our publications and presentation of creative works beyond sole authored books. Naturally, I’ll miss some things. You can recommend (in fact, I welcome your recommendations), but, as with all areas of the site, additions/subtractions are at the discretion of the admin.
“In the weeks between her death and being
Laid to rest, life became COVID-19.
Both the living and the dead shared one air.
Then the service came, and I was not there.
I watched from the safe distance of an app
As my mother and uncle, masked among
The masked few in a pewless space, made peace
With the orphans who’d come to take their place.
Looking at them on screen was like looking
Out at the world through the bars of a cage.”
PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDO – Screens (poetry) – The Night Heron Barks – 2020
PHILLIPS, ROWAN RICARDO – reading at Poets Out Loud – Fordham University – 2011
PRINCE, ALTHEA – How you Panty get wet? (fiction, from her book Ladies of the Night) – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007
RICHARDS, ROSALIE – Smitten – (poetry, 2012 award winning Wadadli Pen Challenge poem) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
RICHARDS, ROSALIE – The Creation (fiction, 2006 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special edition) – 2011
RICHARDSON, BERNARD – ‘True Blue’ and ‘Colourful Smiles’ (visual art – photography) and 1996 band of the year award winning mas ‘Oh Barbuda!’ (visual art – costumes interpreting features like the frigate bird and Martello Tower) for Vitus Mas Troupe – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007
ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Neighbour’s in the Wood Shack, Desiree’s Revenge, Flawless, Play-Mamas, and A Kind of Refuge/Living in Limbo (poetry) – Womanspeak: A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, Volume 7 – 2013
ROMEO-MARK, ALTHEA – Burdened (poetry – which is quoted below along with six others) – Published in KRITYA Poetry Journal – 2012
Excerpt: “Everything is on her head. She trudges forward. A straw mat tops the aluminum basin filled with rescued essentials. Her face, veiled in dust, masks the fear beating her breast. Her feet, swollen from endless trooping, take her where others go. Carrying memories of death, she follows a long trek to nowhere, and pauses only to suckle the child strapped to her back.”
Excerpt: “They say if you come back they goin’ block the entrance to the church.” “For what? What I do to them?” “They say you make the man leave his wife of twenty years to marry you.” “But, that’s their business?” “They don’t see how Joseph could leave his wife to marry you. You know what they call you?” “What?” “Black, ugly, long mouth. . .”
Excerpt: “Bokrah man
lashing whip ‘pon bank.
lashing whip ‘pon back
done gone long time.”
ROSE, BLAIR A. – The Day I became a Man (fiction, 2006 award winning Wadadli Pen short story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special edition) – 2011
S., CALVIN – ‘Animale’ (visual art – designer gown done in leopard print, worn by Kai Davis in 1998 when she won the Antigua Carnival Queen and 1999 when she won Ms. Caraval title in St. Vincent), ‘Le Papillon’ (visual art – designer gown worn by Jermilla Kirwan who won the best evening wear prize and the crown in the 1996 Antigua Carnival Queen competition), and ‘Rumours’ (visual art – designer gown worn in 1999 by Antigua Carnival Queen contestant Kim Phillips; Rumours was part of a theme chronicling a year of Jealousy, Rumours, Scandal, Fame, and Triumph) – Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007
SIMON, DAVID – Open Secrets (poetry) – in intersectantigua.com – 2020
SIMON, MONIQUE S. – Color of Love (poetry) – Calabash Volume 3 Number 2 Fall/Winter 2005
Excerpt: “It was night, so it was light Island light Home for the night light Man whispering to woman light Child teasing child ‘bout daytime, schoolyard game light Extension chord attached to hanging bulb over old wood tables with dominoes, cards, and checkerboards light Bob Marley, Short Shirt, King Obstinate, Charlie Pride, old-time calypso light Home from ‘de week doing live-in maid job light
It was night, so it was light carried like electric current throughout the night in the small village…
Tonight, Saturday night Bolans was dark but it was light, real light”
SIMON, MONIQUE S. – Raven in my Arms (poetry) – Calabash Volume 3 Number 2 Fall/Winter – 2005
SPENCER, CHARLENE – Stranger (poetry) – (p. 31) in The Caribbean Writer Volume 28 – 2014
TAYLOR, YORIE – You (poetry) – intersectantigua.com – 2020
THOMAS, DEVRA – Her Missing Fingers (fiction) – Tongues of the Ocean (special issue – Artists and Writers of Antigua and Barbuda edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse) – 2014
THOMAS, DEVRA – Sands and Butterflies (fiction, 2011 Wadadli Pen award winning story) – Anansesem (Wadadli Pen special issue) – 2011
TOBITT, WILLIAM ‘SHELLY’ – Look what they have done to my song (calypso) – in Carnival is All We know: an Anthology Celebrating 50 Years of Antigua’s Carnival and the Creativity of Our Writers & Artists (edited by Joanne C. Hillhouse and published as a supplement in the Daily Observer) – 2007
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, Musical Youth, Oh Gad!, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and The Jungle Outside). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page onauthor blog and/or facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen, my books, and my freelance writing-editing-coaching-workshop services. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.
Primarily, in this space, I’ll be sharing discussions, in Question and Answer format, of craft, and insights to not only the author/artist’s journey but the story of the arts in Antigua and Barbuda. This is a Work in Progress. The main criteria, so far, for inclusion, apart from the Q & A structure and the arts/art history focus, is that these are interviews not conducted by someone who is part of the artistes’ publishing and/or promotional team, and are interviews that are in the public sphere on a platform independent of the artistes and/or their publishing and promotional team. Beyond that, it’s what I come across and you can also link me interviews that fit the very broad stated criteria by emailing wadadipen at gmail dot com
Barbara Arrindell in Cacique magazine – January 2023
“We speak of this orange (creative) economy quite a bit these days, and we need a greater investment in the arts so that creatives and those involved in the craft can continue to create without worrying about being able to sustain themselves.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today –
– (January 12th 2022)
Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
“One of the early writings I did was a play called Dreams…Faces…Reality…and that play was actually performed over 25 times in Antigua and Barbuda… it was used as a tool to help students in the schools understand everything concerning HIV/AIDS.” – Barbara Arrindell with ABS TV (2020)
“Nellie Robinson, Dame Nellie Robinson is listed somewhere in our history as being the first chairperson of the artists association of Antigua and Barbuda, but so is a lady named Elizabeth Pickney…back in 17something… I found one in the 18th century too… we’ve had an artists association here many times and it’s been so far apart that each person thinks of themselves as the first chairperson of… in terms of history, there’s a book called A Brief History of Antigua written by Brian Dyde. Brian Dyde wrote brief histories for about four or five islands around the Caribbean, if it was five, four of them are still in print, guess which one is not in print, the other four were taken on and used in the school systems in the other islands, guess which one they couldn’t even sell one print run for…?” – Barbara Arrindell in conversation with Dorbrene O’Marde, Heather Doram, and Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
“I don’t really have a routine, I just take advantage of times when I don’t have anything to distract me, when I can get stuck into writing for as long as I want. I like to write with my feet cocked up on a comfortable sofa, and a good view in front of me. We have a small apartment in the old walled city of San Juan, Puerto Rico, which looks out onto a plaza with trees, a few birds singing, passing salsa music, and sounds of people chatting and relaxing. That’s my spot. When I am researching, of course, it’s different: if I’m not working online on the above-mentioned sofa, I’m usually sitting at a table in a research library somewhere in the Caribbean, or in Cornwall.” – Sue Appleby, author of The Cornish in the Caribbean (2019)
“If I was to specify what path I’m on and what matters to me the most I think it would be inspiring people…I have a reservoir of information that I could then pass on.” –
‘I was literally born into the theatre. My parents met each other through the Antiguan drama company “Harambee Open Air Theatre”… and since then they have both always nurtured the love and appreciation for the arts, exposing me to varying types of performances, including visiting ensembles to the island, and performances whenever I traveled. I remember my father taking me to see Cats on Broadway at a young age…it was exciting, and just cemented the fact that that was what I wanted to do with my life … perform and create productions that would make people feel the way I felt as a child sitting in that theatre. My mom then enrolled me in a drama programme called Child’s Play, under renowned Jamaican dramatist and storyteller Amina Blackwood-Meeks.’ – Zahra Airall talking to The Uncaged Phoenix (2018)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 2 (2022) – “When writing, where this was concerned, the one thing that I really wanted it to feel like and be like was Antiguan… I was very intentional with everything from the food choices to the music…but I also wanted them for the most part to be not necessarily heartwarming but …my general brand, for everything I write…Antiguan, full of love, and spicy.”
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Rilzy Adams part 1 (2022) – “I started writing epic fantasy. I think that’s what I wrote for a very long time…but eventually I said to myself, well, this is what I like to read so I’m really confused as to why I’m not writng it and that’s when I started to segueing into trying my hand at writing romance novels.”
Glenroy Aaron participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Mark Brown, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “To be honest, I have learned a lot more about the Antiguan aesthetic from this conversation than from my years of observing art in Antigua. I say this because there is so little indigenous Antiguan art to observe, and historic recording of it is also quiet faint. My art is basically an attempt to capture the beauty around me and the moments in which they occur. My techniques and methods continue to evolve as exploring New continues to excite. Forays outside my comfort zone to explore deeper emotions have produced interesting results; with some apprehension as to the commercial viability of such ventures. The balance between creativity and viability is tricky but can be done, as others have found ways to make it work. Themes and scenes indigenous to an artist’s place of birth will ultimately make its way onto an artist’s canvas but considering the fusion of influences and cultures that have existed on the islands for some time now, an Antiguan aesthetic may be a bit difficult to define. Further, holding that many view art as a visual expression of the artist’s thoughts and emotions, we can appreciate that some of these ideas and emotions may not be “local” in scope.” Read in full.
“When I was growing up there was the WPA…a programme the government set up for free schools in art and music for all the communities throughout the United States and my parents with six children…sent us all out to the free classes, so we were all painting and drawing and playing the piano… I was not able to get a scholarship (to art school) because they said it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a black person.” – Ashley Bryan talking to BBC Sounds about his early development as an artist.
Tammi Browne Bannister talking to David DaCosta (December 28th 2016):
“When I was little, I loved reading Aesop’s Fables and was attracted to the humor, the lessons, and the tragedies and of course the way these tales made me think about the characters long after reading. I’ve written a few.” Full interview.
Mark Brown participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “I view art making as a human activity which cannot be defined as mine or yours, and this is based on the type of work which I engage in. My work, in my mind, is about responding to stimuli, that act of engaging with my feelings about my environment, religion, identity, sexuality, all of which most, if not every human being faces at some point in life. As a result, for me Antiguan Art, like Art elsewhere, is individual voices singing their own tune. Of course we may use objects specific to our culture [that have] distinct meaning but many times these same objects may have a different name in another culture and [be] used in different contexts, but then it is also specific then to that locale. How else do we explain lending your voice in paint or any other medium to a specific issue in a way that you deem visceral and then later on somewhere else, Google for instance, you discover another artist on the opposite side of the globe exploring the very same idea in very similar ways. To me it is just the act of discovering, in visual format, that which is buried deep within with the ultimate aim of finding out the real reason for my being “here” and at this time.” Read the full discussion here.
Mark Brown (2015) on Popreel, Swedish TV: “The main aim of the Angel in Crisis series was to bring a sort of humanness to people like her (the nun), priests, people who have to bear that burden of conforming to what society expects of them.” Interview begins at 7:35.
Jazzie B. talking with Chris Williams for Wax Poetics (May 14th 2014): “’Keep On Movin’ actually came about lyrically because we were at the Africa Center in Covent Gardens, and we were being put under a lot of pressure by the police. It was due to the fact that other clubs in the area were empty and ours kept being full. Every so often, we would get the squeeze put on us. At one particular moment, they threatened to close us down. The whole concept of this song came from there.” Full interview.
“We shot this at Half Moon Bay and this was supposed to embody just light and sand and turqouise waters, and just playfulness and joy, like there was supposed to be an innocence to it because this is where you meet the Yemoja character and so this was really just about having fun and just playing with my body and the dress under the water and trying to imagine what Yemoja wuld have felt just being in clear chrystal blue waters.” – Christal Clashing discussing Yemoja’s Anansi in a February 2022 CREATIVE SPACE art and culture column
‘Of the many pieces that Shane has drawn over the years, one of his favourites features former Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer squatting in his office chair. The caption below it read, “Dem say me a squat, but squatters have rights.”
The inspiration for this cartoon, Shane shares, “This was done at a time when UPP’s position as government was uncertain, and they were awaiting the results of the three seats. [Then] ALP said Baldwin was squatting in the Prime Minister’s office.”’ – Shane Daniel, cartoonist with the Daily Observer newspaper, interviewed about his art by the Daily Observer by Newsco
“Sometimes I try to have this hope that we have reached a stage where black people are not being treated unfairly and [this news] just dropped me into a rabbit hole again.” – Heather Doram (Daily Observer, 2021)
“In my current creative phase, I feel so invigorated, so inspired, so playful, and so expressive. As both an artist and a woman, I am exploring new spaces, taking on new challenges, transcending my past, and shaping my future.” – Heather Doram (2020 interview with findyello.com)
Heather Doram on Observer Radio in a discussion which also included Joanne C. Hillhouse, Barbara Arrindell, and Dorbrene O’Marde (October 2017): “My feeling is that I have lived under several administrations and I really do not get the feeling that there is that widespread support for the visual and performing arts…you just use them when you need them…we do not even have a national gallery in Antigua and Barbuda so we the artists are there producing work in sort of isolation. I’ve seen it in many other countries where the national gallery would commission work; this sort of spurs the whole generation and activity of work and then the artists start to feel that sense of involvement and that their art work can actually support them…the same thing I’m sure applies to the literary artist…something like the cultural development division should be that nexus of that sort of leadership, this is where the cradle is…I would really like to see more support for the arts generally.” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Heather Doram participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Mark Brown, Emile Hill, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): “They were reactive and passionate. They were not satisfied with the realistic interpretation of the Antiguan landscape. They wanted to push boundaries, they wanted to produce work with the visual language of engagement with their audience. Many of their works responded to and explored social, political, gender issues and self. The younger generation sought to explore their roles as messengers in their visual language. I think artists like Mark [Brown], Emile [Hill], and Zavian [Archibald] can be included in this group. They are much more open to expressing themselves and exploring a range of media and techniques in their work.” Read the full discussion here.
Cray Francis talking with Good Morning Antigua Barbuda (April 5th 2016):
“I felt like I had to write my own stories.”
Claudia Ruth Francis talking with Italy’s Conoscere TV about her book Six Steps: An African-Barbudan-Caribbean Story (2022):
“I was very surprised when I realized that I was only six steps away from my ancestor who was on the slave registry in Barbuda.”
“It’s always a burning passion but it’s not a fruitful burning passion. You do the arts cause you love it and you have something you want to say.” – Gayle Gonsalves (2020) on ABS TV
“I’m a Caribbean poet foremost, I was not born in the BVI. I was born in Trinidad to a BVIslander father and a Trinidadian mother. His mother is Antiguan, her mother is Grenadian. He grew up in Guyana, and I grew up in the BVI. Because of that chain of connections, I think that the vibrations that drive my work are deep in the currents of this sea, those currents that touch each island – I would invoke that famous image of Brathwaite’s from ‘Calypso’, ‘the stone had skidded arc’d and bloomed into islands’.” – Richard Georges in Pree. 2018.
“As far as my poetic horizons go, I try to let the tides tug me along, and trust that they will take me where I’m meant to go. I thought I’d write a book of poems and then move on to spend some time experimenting with fiction, but poems seem to keep coming. I think I have to trust that.” – Richard Georges in Caribbean Beat. 2017.
Linisa George reads and talks about ‘In the Closet’, which was the Antigua and Barbuda Poetry Postcard for the UK series featuring works from the Commonwealth in time for the 2012 Commonwealth Games. “I’ve always been a poet…” she says, then explains the journey toward stepping in to that power. Link.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on WTP 93.5 for Wadadli Pen (May 20th 2023) –
Joanne C. Hillhouse with Margaret Irish and Barbara Arrindell for Wadadli Pen on Observer Radio 91.1 FM’s Voice of the People (May 9th 2023) –
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed on Observer AM about Anthony N. Sabga Award and #TheWritingLife (April 5th 2023) –
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed by Jacqueline Bishop for Jamaica Observer Bookends #InConversation series (March 26th 2023) –
“Your books are all exceptionally written, and the stories pull the reader in. Once you start reading, it is very hard to stop. What specific techniques do you find yourself employing in your writing to hold the perspective of young audiences?
I would probably say character, curiousity, detail, surrender. I think those elements are there no matter what I’m writing. It’s all story. And when I’m writing, I’m discovreing the story. Character leads me in; when it’s flowing, they walk around with me, even when I’m not engaged with the page. When writing Lost! , for example, one reference point was the school playground; those early days when some children cry every day, like the world is ending, while other children look around in excitement, and new friendships are formed. That feeling is what I remember trying to capture when Coral and Dolphin first meet – not a jellyfish and seal, two kids in a foreign land (the playground, the sea) feeling each other out. The fact that my writing is typically visual and detailed is a plus in this genre. I lean into details – in terms of language, taste, all the senses, all the ways we are specific, and I don’t try to manage the writing. I fall into the flow of it. Then with each writing session, rip up some of the thread and begin to crochet again to find the pattern. Because writing is revisions and rewrites and tweaks and fiddling and every bit of uncertainty and playfulness that comes with that.”
One correction: On the second page where it says “where the lick”, it should say “were the lick” (from the Antiguan-Barbudan vernacular). Pointed out as the error changes the meaning of the sentence.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on ABS TV’s Good Morning Antigua Babuda for March 8th 2023 International Women’s Day –
“It actually started as a conversation between me and my nephew and his mother that became this sort of bedtime story.” (speaking of To be a Cheetah)
Tim Tim Bwa Fik podcast discussion with Joanne C. Hillhouse part 2 (2022) – “Part of it is that I knew that world: I was the girl with the guitar slung over her shoulder, going to practice, playing in the choir, being shy about it, being self-conscious about walking with the guitar..for me the interesting things were the kids discovering their love of art, and discovering their potential within the art space, and connecting with each other through art…and the instinctive urge to explore colourism in that space because it exists in our spaces, our Black spaces, our people of colour spaces, it exists, so all of those things were interesting to me; the romance, yes, but all of those other things as well.”
Barbara Arrindell and Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing creative writing on ABS TV’s Antigua Today (January 12th 2022) – “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is not for you to judge what you’re creating as you’re creating it. Let it be. Let it breathe. But part of what I’m doing in my current stream of workshops is now when you come back to the work, how do you begin to edit it, how do you being to redraft it? Because if you are serious about putting your work out in to the world, that is going to be a part of the process. And one of the things I always encourage budding writers to do is to begin to think of putting their work out in to the world. Whether it’s submitting to journals, or contests, or beginning the process of starting to query longer works that they wish to publish. But before you get to that point, once you get past the ‘just write’, once you get past the ‘let it breathe’, is beginning to dig in to the work and refine it, and begin to put it out in to the world.”
“One of the things that you grow up hearing in the Caribbean is girls shouldn’t climb trees because they going blight the tree, meaning that the tree not goin’ grow or not goin’ bear, so I wanted to put a girl in a tree; we need to break those sort of stereotypes. One of the magical things about children’s picture books is that they are what begins that process of socializing children in to who they are and who other people are.” – presentation by Joanne C. Hillhouse at Write the Vision’s Aspiring Authors and Writers Virtual Literary Event
“Even the idea of taking on an internship as a writer, because he’s an aspiring writer, is a luxury…you have to be able to support yourself in order to do an internship that can help you figure out this writing thing sometimes; so all of the things you need to feed the life that will allow you to do the creative thing is sometimes the biggest challenge.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse on taking on her first personal intern; just one of the things discussed in this conversation with Diaspora Kids Lit
Joanne C. Hillhousein conversation with Andy Caul of ACalabash: “To write those kids in Musical Youth, I reached back to my own teen-hood when I had my group of friends and I used to play the guitar. I used to go to guitar lessons, to play guitar in the choir. We went to fetes, Carnival, talent shows, walk-a-thons, the beach, we walked from school together. We had our clique. We had shared experiences. And I know in the reviews, they particularly commented on the Black joy in Musical Youth. And I appreciated that because that, in a way, was a joyful existence. The thing that people misunderstand about Caribbean life and Caribbean people is that while it can be very hard, marked by poverty and other things, it’s not just that. It is just life. It is love and laughter and we have some of the most inappropriate sense of humor when it comes to some of the darkness and the things that we joke about and the things that we find funny. So, yes, there’s poverty. Yes, there is political victimization. Yes, there is all the narratives but there’s also friendship, laughter, fun, music and all that stuff. I did not feel like I was writing against anything. It felt like I was just writing what was true.” (2021)
“I wanted her to be blacker, I wanted her to be on the dark-skinned side of the spectrum and I wanted her to be natural, have natural (hair) …because part of it for me …in the world of children’s picture books we don’t see enough people at the darker end of the spectrum, especially as characters that children can feel affection for and love and recognize themselves in.”
–Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Trinidad writer-artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune in a World Book Day chat (2021) that involved audience questions.
– March 12th 2021 – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Wadadli Pen on the ABS TV morning show.
“The Boy from Willow Bend is by any measure growing up in abject poverty and in an abusive situation, and yet there is laughter and yet there is love and yet there is hope and yet there is dreaming and fancifulness because that is life. Life is not just one thing. It’s a myriad of things, and so that’s what I try to capture of this young boy coming of age in Antigua in this particular time.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse is the first National Public Library Author of the Month in January 2021
“For me they were people first and, of course, I had to research just how the world of the underwater would move, what I would need to know about arctic seals, what I would need to know about jellyfish, what I would need to know about sea turtles. So there was a lot of research in that regard. But in terms of the voices of the characters, they were children. They wanted to play and explore the ship, and, of course, Dolphin the Arctic Seal wants to get back home so he can tell his own adventuring grandmother about his own Caribbean sea adventure.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in 2020 self-made video on her own platform but with audience submitted questions for the #Catapultartsgrant (specifically a Catapult Caribbean Creative Arts Online grant). She answered questions submitted via social media about story, craft, theme in Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure and all her books
“Songs are universal and you don’t even have to know the lyrics sometimes to feel it.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Musical Youth with gender advocacy group Intersect (2020)
“The first storytellers I knew were the calypso writers the Shelly Tobitts of the world,these were the people that taught me how to tell a story and how to tell Antiguan stories in particular.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse, ABS TV (2020)
“With writing, the story is there sometimes in the accumulated experiences, observations, and questions of your life. I had been a guitar student like the main character, I had done musical theatre and musical stuff with my crew as a teen, I had had my experiences of coming of age and colorism; it was all there, waiting to be pulled.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse 2019 interview with Ravishly
Joanne C. Hillhouse Emma the Little Bookworm blog interview. 2019: “I was interested in the dynamic between the sisters – sisters who are very different, and in the way, in a relationship, two people are experiencing the same moments in very different ways. So it was definitely character driven but I don’t think of it as writing the book to accommodate the characters or vice versa, so much as my discovery about my characters shaping the plot in the most natural of ways – I tried not to get in the way of that. In a way it became as much a conversation between them (Michael and Selena) as between my characters and me, as the story moved forward, chapter to chapter, with alternating character points of view on the evolving relationship.”
Joanne C. HillhouseLinda’s Bookbag interview, 2019: “Selena felt a strange kinship with his mother, this woman she’d never met.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse interview on Caribbean Literary Heritage (June 2018): “Honestly, the first thing that flashed in to my mind is Antiguan and Barbudan calypso and Paul Keens Douglas – especially Tanty and Slim at the Oval – on the radio. Neither of which qualify as reading but which were foundational to my introduction to Caribbean literature. It’s there in Antigua and Barbuda’s King Obstinate’s Wet You Hand – a song which was fun and funny to me as a children and which I’ve used as an example of scene building and character description in my workshops, or in the way he knits the story of Anansi stealing the birds’ feathers into another of his songs – songs that did what Calypso did which was be bold-faced and satirical and reflective of our lives and our truth (especially the truths we didn’t dare speak) while bearing our unique brand of humour and matter of factness about life’s tragedies. It’s there in the writings of Shelly Tobitt – named for Romantic era poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; though I wouldn’t see the connection until college. A romantic idealist in his own right, or so his lyrics would suggest, as a child Shelly, the calypso writer and frequent collaborator of Antigua and Barbuda’s best calypsonian and inarguably one of the best the region has ever produced the Monarch King Short Shirt (who Dorbrene O’Marde writes about in his Bocas longlisted biography Nobody Go Run Me), was to me a poet who used the frustrations of the people to comment on economic, social, and political issues in a way that was deeply and enduringly philosophical, with melodies that captivated. So, the calypsonians and the oral tradition (including the jumbie stories) would have been my first reading of Caribbean writing.” Full interview.
“When Heather was culture director…I remember her starting a national collection where she commissioned pieces featuring Antiguan and Barbudan icons…what has become of that? What has been the continuity with respect to that national collection?… things like that, like you can have someone with a good idea start something… but there was no continuity, so if there’s no continuity it’s like you’re starting from scratch every time someone gets fired up and passionate about something so that’s the whole point…if you have that continuity then this person’s efforts will connect with that person’s efforts and we’ll have progression instead of starting from scratch every time…one of the things I do on the Wadadli Pen website is I have a project where I record the books that are put out and the plays and the songs that are put out by Antiguan and Barbudan creatives and there’s no shortage of stuff in the last 10 or so years, there’s a lot of people just feeling inspired and doing their own thing… there is stuff happening independently by artistes who feel inspired and creative but not by any system that’s giving them foundation or supporting their efforts.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with Heather Doram, Dorbrene O’Marde, and Barbara Arrindell on Observer Radio (2017). Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Observer AM (November 2017)
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to The Culture Trip (July 2017): “in The Boy from Willow Bend, Vere’s mother leaves Antigua for better economic and personal opportunities in the U.S., and Vere himself leaves at the end; in Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Selena and her sisters move to Antigua from the Dominican Republic for better opportunities, and at some point one of the sisters moves away from there as well; in the story, ‘The Other Daughter’, the title character moves to the US for educational purposes. I don’t know if it holds significance to me (there are many stories in which people don’t leave) so much as being a reflection of the reality that movement is a part of the Caribbean existence—whether it’s to seek higher education, economic opportunities, or a different kind of life—the Caribbean diaspora (i.e. the number of Caribbean people no longer resident in here or in the Caribbean country of their birth) is significant. We are a region of small islands with intelligent and talented people, sometimes the desired opportunities to recognize our full potential or even the cover needed to brave the economic storms stirred up in bigger places isn’t there. So, it’s just a reflection of the reality, I think (but just one part of the reality that I write).” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in the Meet the Writer series at Grab Life by the Lapels: “I just enjoy experimenting within the story writing form, short and long. Much of what I write is character driven and distinctively Caribbean with (I like to believe) universal resonance – because I do believe the stories that are about the human condition can cross over without having to be diluted.” Full interview. 2016.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in Books, Inc’s Hamlet Hub (2015) – in response to “what’s the last great book you read?” – “I’m going to name two – Kei Miller’s Writing Down the Vision, which is non-fiction and Tayari Jones’ Silver Sparrow, which is fiction. I blog the reasons why here, but what it comes down to is writing that transports me from physical reality while grounding me in certain truths, truth being relative of course, and writing that just moves me, you know.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on ABS TV (2015) – “The idea is that cost should not be a barrier to you being able to participate in something that could help you find your voice and express yourself” – re Jhohadli Summer Youth Writing Project
Joanne C. Hillhouse in conversation with book blogger Geosi Gyasi (2015): “I don’t think about it like that. I just tell the story. Sometimes the protagonist is a child, sometimes a teen, sometimes an adult, sometimes an old person, sometimes a jelly fish named Coral. The writing is always character first, not audience. During the editing process that’s when I’m challenged, often by the assigned editor, to think about things like can the target age group for this picture book understand abstract thinking, do I maybe need to be more literal, more detailed, more specific, provide clearer resolution, like that.” Read the full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed by Wandering Educators (2015): “Musical Youth is, as the name suggests, the story of young people who are exceptionally musical. Throughout the course of the novel, the course of one summer really, we see them coming together through music and being transformed by it. It is the story of Zahara, a girl and her guitar, and Shaka, a boy and his moves, it’s about the families we have and the families we make, and the potential that exists inside of us, if only…”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Popreel, Swedish TV (2015): “The characters come to me; they don’t always reveal their stories fully, so for me writing is a journey of discovery. I can’t always see where it’s going but I’m kind of wandering my way through it and trying to figure out what is it all about.” Interview starts here at 8:50.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t know any writers from here, from Antigua, until I discovered Annie John, Jamaica Kincaid; the writers from here that I knew, and I have great respect for them, were the calypso writers, people like Shelly Tobitt and Marcus Christopher, because when I was coming up, calypso was the literature that I would hear that had some relevance to my community, the other literature that we read was mostly from America or from Britain. So it was a while before I could wrap my mind around this idea that this was what I was called to do.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse (2015) on Bookworm, Swedish radio
Joanne C. Hillhouse talking to M. J. Fievre at the Whimsical Project (November 21st 2014): “Calypso, the calypso at that time, sang the things people were afraid to say and reflected the concerns and reality of the folk, authentically, in their voice, in a way that stirred spirits. I think there’s a part of me that strives for that in my writing.” Full interview.
Joanne C. Hillhouse British Council interview (2014): “I think the dialogue in most of my work as written is important if I want the reader to hear it, to truly hear the character’s voice. The acceptance and the use of our mother tongue is still a struggle in the Caribbean where we’ve been colonized into this idea where it’s nothing more than bad English. Thankfully that way of thinking is changing, albeit slowly…but for me it’s never been a case of bad English, not when you’re talking about a language with a vocabulary and rules and history all its own, born out of a fusion of cultures, like so much else that makes us Caribbean.” Full interview reposted to Repeating Islands.
Joanne C. Hillhouse in Bookends in Jamaica Observer (June 29th 2014): “I’m not a genre. I know publishing likes to pigeonhole but I just write.” bookendsjune29
Joanne C. Hillhousein Tastes like Home (March 12th 2014): “when I wanted to include a kitchen scene in my book, Oh Gad! I went straight to Pepperpot. It’s my favourite dish and since I only eat my mother’s Pepperpot I really identify it with my mother and got her to explain the making of it to me for incorporation in the book, which is unusual in itself since she’s the typical: if you want to learn come-and-put-hand type of Caribbean cook.”
Joanne C. Hillhousetalks to the Frugal Feminista (2013): “I didn’t write with the children’s market in mind at all; I just told the story and because the first novella was a coming of age story, it was a natural fit for that market. But what it taught me is that sometimes you get pigeonholed by what you’ve done or how what you’ve done is defined by others and not by the full scope of what you can do and do do.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on phd in creative writing blog (2012): “I’ll mention three. Jamaica Kincaid because like me she’s an Antiguan writer and because after reading Annie John, I knew that I had a lot of work to do but becoming a writer wasn’t as improbable as it seemed. Edwidge Dandicat whose writing I admired and whose geographic landscape (she was also from the Caribbean and only a few years older than me) made me see possibilities. Zora Neale Hurston because I like both her writing and her spirit and, like her, I’m committed to rendering my world in its full-bodied authentic self.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse discussing Oh Gad! in Your Style magazine (2012): “It’s about sisters, and identity, loss and recovery, love and betrayal, politics and belongings – I suppose all the things that are on my mind.”
Joanne C. HillhouseOh Gad! launch in New York (2012): “I try to give a great sense of atmosphere, and just to make it come alive for the reader so they can see it and feel it and smell it and touch it so that whatever it is, you can connect with it. That’s what I try to do because that’s how I think I interact with the world. I always have a notebook with me, and things strike me; it might be the way the sun feels on your skin or the way the colours are bleeding across the sky at sunset, whatever it is, it’s a moment and you can use that moment at some other point in your writing and so I tend to capture it. I steal moments.”
Joanne C. Hillhouse in Caribbean Book Blog (2012): ” It’s a part of what I try to capture in my books from reminiscing on chasing butterflies during the summer in my first book The Boy from Willow Bend to ‘borrowing’ my mother’s pepperpot recipe for an epic pre-picnic cook-down in Oh Gad!”
Joanne C. Hillhouse on Mindy Hardwick’s Blog (2012): “It’s reciprocal; you give and you get. A recentish example…I remember feeling a big grin form on my face and a big whoop storm up within me on receiving in the email a poem written by a girl I used to read to/with when she was much younger, at the Cushion Club, a kids reading club with which I’ve volunteered for several years. I didn’t even know she wrote until then; and I remember feeling so proud and doing with her what others have done with me, offering frank assessment and encouragement. But that’s just one example of how delightful it is to see them grow into themselves. I know I’m such a small part of their world but whenever I come across the kids whom I’ve had the opportunity to interact with through the Cushion Club, Wadadli Pen, the Great Young Minds art camp, or some other workshop activity, or even personal interaction and see them doing their thing, sometimes I can’t help feeling like a proud mama – or big sister.”
Joanne C. Hillhousein conversation with Danielle Boodoo-Fortune (2011): “I can’t think of any specific elemental metaphors that re-occur. But I do find that I tend to write the working class experience (because that’s where I’m coming from), and some version of my tanty who died when I was a child sneaks in more often than I realize, and that while most of my stories are set in Antigua there’s often some reference to Dominica, where my mother is from but which I’ve only visited twice. And I suppose I play with the senses a lot; light and shadow, sounds – whether it’s birdsong or music (yes, a lot of music); the taste and smells of our environment – from the fruits the pit latrine and, yes, water. It’s such a rich environment; I suppose when I write I instinctively want the reader to taste it and smell it and really see it – how nuanced and interesting it is. I believe in detail.”
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.
Joanne C. Hillhouse interviewed on Caribbean Literary Salon (2010): “In the end, though, it all comes back to the writing. And that’s why I say write, not for anyone else, not to publish – all of that will come or not – but because you have to; because you love it.”
Emile Hill participating in a virtual roundtable chaired by issue guest editor Joanne C. Hillhouse on Tongues of the Ocean along with Heather Doram, Mark Brown, Glenroy Aaron, and the now late X-Saphair King (October 2014): ‘Ok so I’m a bit of a texter (cell phone, social media etc.) and on more than one occasion I’ve found myself engaged in several conversations, all completely different subject matter and all requiring a different “Emile” to deal with each of them. And I think, in this day and age, this happens to most persons at some point in time. The series I’m working on presently deals with the “multi-sidedness” of human interaction and relationships. It’s caused me to ask myself some questions, looking at whether this is a means of masking the true self and why? Is Survival a reason? What makes us accommodate each other so, switching faces? Is the face we see real, fake (and sometimes, does it even matter)? With regards to the Antiguan and Barbudan aesthetic, I think that every artist’s contribution is one that continues to make up the grand tapestry of who we are and so I think it fits simply as a local artist’s perspective on things… another thread in the tapestry.’ Read in Full.
“There’s a piece that I did that I call ‘8-8-21’ that I wrote after teargas Sunday last year. I call it ‘Freedom 8-8-21’…it starts by saying, I think, ‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When the youth are protest ready, they become revolutionary’. And it goes on from there and it just kind of encapsulates the entire Sunday, everything that happened that Sunday. Because I happened to be there. That was my personal experience. I was caught up in it. I was gassed as well… that piece means a lot to me not only because it was my experience but also it’s history, it’s chronicling what happened that day.” – Dotsie Isaac, in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE
“No it was not difficult getting started because I was always writing” – D. Gisele Isaac on ABS TV. 2020. Full interview below.
Foster Joseph, jazz vocalist and musician, in conversation in 2021 with Joanne C. Hillhouse for CREATIVE SPACE –
Clifton Joseph in Never Apart: ‘…the first person to really encourage me into the writing/performing arts was an older man in my village of New Winthropes in Antigua, Mr. Murray, probably, visually, the most black, blackest person in “Blizzard” as we called our home on the northern coast of the island. I think I was around ten years old and in addition to singing the Antiguan calypso songs we heard on the radio, Mr. Murray would actually pay me a penny, or sometimes two-pence (we were still using the British colonial currency at the time) to make up my own “calypso” verses. The only snippet I remember from then are three lines: “in January they called me clinky, then in February they start to call me sebassie, and in June they start to call my cousin boone”…I have to give Mr. Murray maximum props for sparking that early interest in writing and performing.’ Full interview.
Clifton Joseph talking with Ian Ferrier (2007): “Hip Hop, Dub Poetry, Dancehall, Reggae all sort of come out of the same African inspired, Caribbean, American, emphasis on words, rhythm, repetition; all of those things pull from the same pool of stylistic influences.”
Tameka Jarvis-George interviewed about her comic series August by Jump magazine: “I wrote to escape everything I didn’t like and anything that made me uncomfortable. I love my fictitious world.” Full interview. 2018.
Naomi Jackson, a New Yorker of Antiguan and Barbadian descent, author of critically acclaimed novel The Star Side of Bird Hill, in conversation with Writing Home: American Voices from the Caribbean –
“The Caribbean was both this place of joy and possible exile.” Listen here.
Shabier Kirchner‘s Love Letter to Antigua, an interview with Penelope Bartlett on Criterion Collection: “We are very proud people and yet we are so underrepresented on-screen by ourselves. I think Ousmane Sembène said it best: If we continue consuming images solely from abroad, and telling the stories of other people or absorbing others’ perspective of us, we will eventually lose our identity—and I truly believe that. The Caribbean is my home. Our people are the most interesting to me, and I just want to share the truth of who we are through local eyes.” Full interview. 2020.
Shabier Kirchner talking to Caribbean Beat magazine about his film Dadli: “While I was shooting this test footage, there was no agenda. I wasn’t looking for a main character. We weren’t recording sound, so there weren’t any interviews. I was just walking around shooting things that were interesting. It wasn’t until many months later that we realised there was this boy who kept appearing in the footage. So Tiquan became the force behind the narrative. After we had an idea of what we wanted the film to be, we tracked him down and interviewed him.” Full interview. 2019.
“(Shabier) Kirchner: That’s Antigua’s old sugar factory. It’s been abandoned for many years; I used to go there as a kid. It was like Tarkovsky’s Stalker. You could completely lose yourself there, let the imagination would run wild. I always loved that place. Visually, I’ve been shooting it for years, and I knew I had to shoot it on 16. It’s a coincidence that Tiquan was talking about running away from home and finding a place where he could just let loose. It wasn’t that specific place for him, but I’m assuming it was similar. What he described was what the sugar factory was for me.” Full interview. 2018.
“I suppose that my work is always mourning something, the loss of a paradise—not the thing that comes after you die, but the thing that you had before. I often think of the time before my brothers were born—and this might sound very childish, but I don’t care—as this paradise of my mother and me always being together. There were times when my mother and I would go swimming and she would disappear for a second, and I would imagine the depths just rolling over her, that she’d go deeper and deeper and I’d never see her again . . . And then she would pop up somewhere else. Those memories are a constant source of some strange pleasure for me.” – Jamaica Kincaid conversation in the Paris Review, 2022
“Writing, it seems to me, depends primarily on a kind of chaos [so] that categorisation . . . only hinders the reader and the writer,” says Kincaid, explaining that she prefers to think in terms of “different forms” because “when I started to write, I just wrote”. – Jamaica Kincaid, from interview in the Financial Times, 2022
Jamaica Kincaid talking with the BBC (in an interview which also included Jacob Ross and Claire Adam, 2018): “I didn’t know I wanted to tell stories. I knew I wanted to write and I thought I wanted to write about my mother and me, and a lot of my writing is about mother and daughter. But really I could early on see before any critic, I may have pointed it out to critics, that I was really writing about imbalance of power. And the mother country and the domestic mother is quite intertwined. If you really give a cursory and then thoroughly investigation into colonialism, you will see how much the colonial world has to do with the domestic and the domestic is almost always the female domain.” Full programme.
Jamaica Kincaid talking with Mother Jones (January/February 2013): ‘I think I was trying to understand how, short of an accident—you know, you pick up the phone, he says, “Your mother is dead. Her car. The Earth fell”—I never expected the everyday to suddenly become an accident. Suddenly you go downstairs and the pine floor is a gravel pit. I was trying to understand how the everyday suddenly becomes the unexpected.’ Full interview.
Natasha Lightfoot talking with Renee Goldthree for Black Perspectives (April 4th 2016): “In the UWI archives, there was an almanac for the West Indies in the nineteenth century, and it contained an entry in the year 1858 for Antigua. The entry mentioned that there had been a riot and that the island’s jails were completely full, but it also claimed that the riot was nothing of any political significance. The entry suggested that the rioters were basically rabble in the streets causing trouble—and not at all political. That entry raised my antenna so to speak. I thought that the way the entry was written was a sign that whatever had occurred was very political: there had been a riot in the streets for several days and the jails were full of rioters. I wanted to figure out what happened and why.” Full interview.
Joy Lawrence in conversation with Joanne C. Hillhouse for Wadadli Pen (2013): “The history books we are familiar with are usually written from the European or American perspective. I want people to understand our story from our perspective – how we feel, our likes and dislikes, our goals and aspirations. No outsider can tell our story the way we can.” Full interview.
Joy Lapps talking with Joanne C. Hillhouse (December 2nd 2012): “I think that my strengths lie in composition and writing lyrics for music composed by others and by myself. My inspiration comes from my lived experience and some things I read about or see on the news, my spirituality and love of God, falling in love with my husband, the everyday challenges of life…etc.” Full interview.
“That’s the direction I want to go with my writing, where I want it to be a small Caribbean island, I want it to be genre fiction, category romance, in the Caribbean, because sometimes those are the books you want to read, you know, you don’t want to be thinking of the heavier literary fiction or whatever – sometimes you just want ice-cream.”
– Kimolisa Mings, CREATIVE SPACE interview, February 2023
“I was the representative for the Clare Hall Secondary school, my alma mater… I fell on stage…the crowd’s reaction was a mixture of *gasps* and laughs, and at that point I had to make a decision, ‘hey, you go continue or you go stop.’ Cause you can either be poor thing and people laugh at you for the rest of your life or you can act the shit out of this and make it worth it. And I stayed on that floor and I continued my entire performance from the floor. The next day, I was the front page article: If at first you don’t succeed, you try and try again . The next year, I was the billboard for the website. I had my own billboard on the road…which is something that is not normally given to an unplaced contestant…that experience that you would think would have deterred me or broken me down in some kind of way was something that opened a whole big spectrum to me as a person in terms of confidence and being able to think on your feet, you know, ‘you need to get this done, wha you go do.'” – Kevon Moitt, designer
(the self-produced documentary series was released in 2021)
Jelani ‘J-Wyze’ Nias, author of Where Eagles Crawl and Men Fly, talking about following his path to publication: “The biggest wall I encountered, not that there weren’t others, but the biggest was my own fear. And once you get through that fear/feeling of will people understand this, will people accept this, are people gonna see my vision, once you go through that then everything else tends to be a lot more easy to deal with.” – Watch the video.
Dorbrene O’Marde about writing Nobody Go Run Me about King Short Shirt (2022):
Noting that he had written the first chapter five years before beginning the book – “Writing is interesting in that sense…you start, you put it down, and sometimes you just don’t get back to it for a long long time unless something prods you, and it was this celebration of the 50th anniversary, that says ‘wow, I have written this thing here’.”
Dorbrene O’Marde in conversation with Heather Doram, Joanne C. Hillhouse, and Barbara Arindell on Observer radio’s BigIssues (2017): “We’re definitely not doing enough…you talk to groups today and mention Tim Hector …in schools, the name is not know; what he does has not been heralded…my interactions with young people…points to this particular void…history clearly is the subject of interest here, that we know who we are…the decisions about where we’re going will be made on the basis of that knowledge…if you understand the history of how we came to own these lands…then we wouldn’t behave the way we’re behaving, for example, with our land…” Read a transcription of the (2017) interview or listen to the interview.
Dorbrene O’Marde talking with Judd Batchelor at Batchelor of Arts Theatre Online (2016): “And one of the comments I made -which seemed to rattle some of the young writers, was the total absence of socio political concerns in this region, at this particular point in time when there is so much need for concern and there is so much need for understanding the post-colonial independence bind that we find ourselves in, that our leaders find themselves in that we as persons trying to inform leadership have not really clarified for ourselves. And my view of the role of the artist is to help in that clarification.” Full interview.
Dylan Phillips interview with Observer after his appearance on the media group’s Big Issues radio programme to discuss Art Week in April 2023: “In secondary school I was introduced to the Japanese comic genre of manga and that piqued my interests in art. I would draw my own little comics in the back of my books. I found comfort in it. I took art from forms one to two. Academically I wasn’t the best, so when it came time to choose my subjects for third form, the school decided to allocate subjects they thought I would have a chance of passing. Art wasn’t one of them. But I picked it up again when I entered form five, hoping to attempt it for CXC, but I wasn’t advanced enough so was not allowed to continue…Art is seen as a lesser occupation. If we can change the perception of art, I think that would be a good starting point. If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will always seem like a fool and sadly the school system here forces fish to climb trees. Our curriculum needs to be updated with the artistically inclined in mind, and there needs to be an avenue where a young aspiring artist can see a path leading to an economic future in this field.””
Althea Prince talks about her research and her writing with A Different Booklist bookstore in Canada: “We need to hear from women about their experiences, their creative journeys, so The Black Notes brought together older and younger women. The contributors include some young girls who are just reaching the age of maturity. The book seeks to bring together the two generations. We have then the viewpoint – not a complete cross-section of those, but as far as I was able – of those women and girls from the African-Canadian community. So the same objectives: the same business of giving equity, giving voice, allowing space for these voices to express their creativity. Some of it is non-fiction, some of it is fiction and some of it is poetry.”
Rowan Ricardo Philips talking with Deadspin about his tennis themed book The Circuit: a Tennis Odyssey: “Carribeans love racket sports. My dad played a lot, so I started out going to his matches and serving as a terrible ballboy. The only thing we watched as a family on television was tennis, Breakfast at Wimbledon was big in my house. I had forgotten about those days, but I am fond of them. I never would’ve written the book without it. Here’s a good example: My dad rarely calls with breaking news, but one day he rang me up and said, ‘Turn on the TV, there’s a tennis poem being read on the air.’ It was Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated encapsulating his time at one of the big tournaments. Dad wanted to make sure I saw my personal Venn Diagram becoming one circle.” 2019.
Rupert Littleman Pelle, final interview, with the Cultural Development Division Research Department (2021): “I never believe I write a good song until I hear somebody criticize it. If I write a song and we can’t sit down in a group and discuss the song, and add and subtract, something wrong with the song, something definitely have to wrong with the song. And you can’t just change a line in a song like that. You write a song and somebody take it and they change a line can destroy the whole song. Because you na know what is leading up to the second verse or the third verse that have to do with the line in the first verse that you interfere with.”
Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards: “We’re prophets; a lot of things we write about comes true.” (King Obstinate on calypso, September 2013)
“…my little house is my own piece of paradise and it’s very conducive to creativity because it’s so peaceful and quiet. Singles’ Holiday and Sweet Lady are set on the island, and I’ve also developed a writing career over there. I wrote a TV series called Paradise View, which was shown on Antigua TV. When I last left the island, the people at the check-in desk were asking when they would get to see more. I’m now working on another show called Maisie and Em, which I describe as Golden Girls set in the Caribbean.” – UK writer Elaine Spires who made Antigua a home away from home speaking to Write’s Editing Services on the impact of island living on her writing
“They were great times – with the most amazing, talented, creative, strong, wonderful women. Their writing and innovative theatre pieces were daring and searingly truthful and just blew me away. I was honoured to be asked by Zahra Airall one of the founder members of Women of Antigua to write a piece for their show When A Woman Moans. I wrote the first Maisie and Em sketch which I performed as Em with my great pal Heather Doram taking the role of Maisie. Heather is an internationally famous artist and actress who has since become a TV host. The sketch brought the house down which was rewarding and humbling and so I was invited to write for them again the following year. It was a thrill and honour to be a part of it.” – Elaine Spiresspeaking with The Publish Hub
“One of our goals was to have the Cultural Division of Government fully support this organization and work alongside us and our artists. A fraction of that goal has been achieved as the Festivals Division recently came on board to sponsor our signature event, The Ink Project.” – Spilling Ink, for CREATIVE SPACE. 2020.
“When I was growing up as a boy, they had great man like Quarkoo. He was good but he was not really my influence, so to say, to bring me to this point; but quarkoo was a genius in his days. I can recall he would sing on the latest murder. Anything happen, in a matter of an hour he on the street with a piece of paper selling it and making it very popular.” – Short Shirt, The Making of the Monarch
“What I’d like to see really is, to be honest, is not just for Halcyon but steelband in general, especially at Carnival time apart from panorama, the bands, they not that important. …You know before time steelband used to dominate the road and be an integral part of the whole Carnival thing. Now apart from panorama, after panorama, nobody waan here no pan again. …steelband will have to move to a next level, they will have to amplify the bands an’ dem.” – George ‘Scenty’ Thomas, former captain of Halcyon Steel Orchestra, on the occasion of the Grays Green band’s 50th anniversary, 2021
Amber Williams-King talking to the Toronto Arts Foundation: “The reality is that the voices, experiences and identities of those who are not a part of the dominant culture are often erased and disappeared away. As a Black femme who grapples with suicidal ideation, disability and the medical industrial complex, imagining myself in the future has, at times, been almost impossible. Art offered me the space to name these parts of myself, connect with others, and help build a world that does not thrive on the absolute destruction of me and my people.”
“You send the draft to the editor and you sit nervously for the next two weeks or how ever long …waiting for that email or that call…then you take the feedback, you kind of sit with it for a while, you think about it, then you try to work on another draft. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you won’t agree…it should be a conversation…it’s a dance back and forth that you have to be patient with, and, once again, give it some space, read the review, and give it some space before you go and work on the redraft.”
PHOTO credits: Pictures of Joanne C. Hillhouse and Joy Lapps are from the 2011 event Telling our Stories at the University of Toronto – event photo; of Tameka Jarvis George is from the 2006 Wadadli Pen/Museum literary showcase Word Up! – event photo/Laura Hall; of Jamaica Kincaid is from the 2014 University of the Virgin Islands literary festival – event photo; of Jelani Nias is a screen grab from a televised interview; of Nicoya Henry – event photo (credit unknown). Barbara Arrindell, Foster Joseph, Sonalli Andrews, and Floree Williams-Whyte video links are to Joanne C. Hillhouse’s CREATIVE SPACE vlog. Video links also pulled from ABS TV, Words Aloud, the Dan David Prize, Novek Designs, edwin1030, Petra the Spectator – this is believed to be within the realm of fair use – no copyright infringement is intended. Some of my own appearances on platforms by Write the Vision, Diaspora Kids Lit, Badass Black Girl, ABS TV, National Public Library, Intersect Antigua, and some videos produced for my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel are also included.
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, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com 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.
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 artists by rippling the water together. For earlier iterations of the Reading Room and Gallery, use the search feature to the right. This is the 21st one which means there are 20 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.
Judd Batchelor: What advice would you give to young writers
Dorbrene O’Marde: Two things. Firstly, I want them to write, keep writing it will get better as you write more – read the full interview
“I just looking to give back, I looking to show that you can be some body, especially in the arts.” – Sheena Rose
“I didn’t set out to write a faerie story, just write myself out of the headspace I’d landed in because of this unexpected negative encounter. As I wrote, I was drawn in by the challenge of doing something I hadn’t done, I enjoy experimentation, and something about taking this negative and working through it in a genre where typically good and bad are clear, and they all lived happily ever after, appealed. Also appealing was this idea of how passion for something can help it flourish, and how good can attract good, do good and good will follow you; and then the faerie was there awakened by, responding to the goodness that this girl was sending her way. It was an interesting development, and I enjoyed exploring it – and that this became a faerie story is the thing I’m most excited about. I like when something I’m writing surprises me.” – Joanne C. Hillhouse
“The heart wants what it wants. But I chose to, and aspire to, becoming as good a writer as possible in the circumstances, given the relatively short space of time I’ve got left.” – Andre Bagoo
“I am a writer first and foremost, but I did a lot of side jobs and odd jobs while I was writing my novel,” Islam says. “I freelanced. I wrote copy for Uniqlo. I modeled for an Al Jazeera campaign. But as I was finishing my book, it struck me. I was like, ‘What am I going to do next? I can’t sit in an office all day. I just can’t.'” She found her answer in her final revisions of Bright Lines. For starters, the patriarch of the story is an apothecary. And as she delved deeper into his persona during the decade she spent at work on the novel, Islam fell hard for fragrance. Besides, she adds, “Brooklyn is such a place to launch a brand. I was really inspired by other beauty brands that had started here. I wanted to have a part in that movement.” And, finally, Islam points to a scene at the end of the novel in which a trio of girls throws wildflower seed bombs into different areas of Brooklyn. The women want the crops to “grow up and into something.” – from Elle.com interview with Tanwi Nandini Islam
“The assumption was very real. And then it was actually named, ‘does Solange know who is buying her records?’ So it became a totally different conversation than what I was first approached to be a part of and then it became a conversation yet again about ownership. And here I was feeling so free, feeling so independent, feeling like I had ownership finally over my art, my voice, but I was being challenged on that yet again by being told that this audience had ownership over me. And that was kind of the turning point and the transition for me writing the album that is now A Seat at the Table.” – Solange Knowles talking to Helga on Q2 Music
“My mother also tells me that for Celeste different children and their various broods would be assigned various colours in her quilt-making schemata which is all quite interesting to me, one set of children being red, one being yellow etc. What I think is lost to us is the stories that my great grandmother was telling in her funky multi-coloured quilts about her family, because no one knows who was assigned which colour. I also mourn the fact that when my great grandmother died my cousin Mary told me that she was wrapped in two of her biggest and best quilts and taken to the morgue in Port Antonio Bay and no doubt those quilts were simply discarded. This is why I so appreciate your interest in this subject and you doing this interview Veerle because we might all be discarding and getting rid of quite valuable things.” – Jacqueline Bishop
“Is it lazy to look at the Caribbean as a unified whole rather than individual states?
I think it’s lazy to look at a country as a unified whole. But there are resonances and reasons why I think of myself as writing Caribbean literature more profoundly than Jamaican literature. The Caribbean isn’t a whole but there are aspects of unity and Jamaica isn’t a whole either, which is what this book is trying to say.” – Kei Miller
‘But Theo never remembered that the pedal of the trashcan was broken. He would step on it without looking and drop the banana peel or the wet tuna-juicy baggie directly on top of the still-closed lid, and then walk away, leaving the garbage there for Heather to clean up, a habit that had finally caused her, just last night, to spit at him, in a voice that came straight from her spleen, “Pay attention, for Christ’s sake! Why don’t you ever, ever pay attention!”’ – Amy Hassinger’s Sympathetic Creatures
“I don’t know what gods watch me, or how it came to be that my fate brought me to an island in the Caribbean sea. It was miraculous, not least because, in the novel I am currently writing, there is a shipwreck in that same sea. I would not know how to write it if I had not found myself in a Jamaican fishing boat one wet and windy day in June, contemplating the whims of the sea and the alligators up the river. But it is equally miraculous to find myself in a humble neighbourhood in my own country, face to face with women who quietly go about their lives, walking between worlds, singing up salvation by connecting us with our own roots.” – ‘On All Our Different Islands’ by Tina’s Makereti, Pacific regional winner for the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize
“It’s sick and it’s soulless but it’s one of the things I love about my job; here you can force the world to be something it’s not.” – audio reading of The November Story by Rebecca Makkai
“The blue plumes of the peacock’s tail were shot through with filaments of silver and, twenty years on, the ink hadn’t faded. It sat on her long slim body like a birthmark.” – from Peacock by Sharon Millar
“Now, listen to this next bit carefully: in the morning THE WHOLE KIPPS FAMILY have breakfast together and a conversation TOGETHER and then get into a car TOGETHER (are you taking notes?) — I know, I know — not easy to get your head around. I never met a family who wanted to spend so much time with each other.” – from Zadie Smith, On Beauty
“I do not lie,” Crispín replied. “Adannaya is not only the most beautiful mulata of this hacienda and the best bomba dancer; she can also change brown sugar into white. Yes she can! And if I only had some brown sugar, I would prove it to you.” – from Adannaya’s Sugar, a fairytale by Carmen Milagros Torres
“We were surprised to find ourselves thinking again, it had been so long.” – from We by Mary Grimm
“It was a joyous occasion in a young woman’s life when her mother blessed life into her child. The two girls flushed and smiled with pleasure when another woman commended their handiwork (such tight, lovely stitches) and wished them well. Ogechi wished them death by drowning, though not out loud. The congratulating woman turned to her, eager to spread her admiration, but once she had looked Ogechi over, seen the threadbare dress, the empty lap, and the entirety of her unremarkable package, she just gave an embarrassed smile and studied her fingers. Ogechi stared at her for the rest of the ride, hoping to make her uncomfortable.” – Who will greet you at home by Lesley Nneka Arima
“The three of us, smelly and itchy, clinging to each other, waiting for the gasoline and vinegar in our hair to start the killing. We had lice. Our heads were wrapped in bright turbans made from my mother’s old hippie skirts. She was reading my left palm to see if I was going to pass my math test. With one hand, my sister was holding my nose, and with the other she was drawing skulls and bones on my brother’s arm with a red pen. With his left hand he was holding her foot, and with his right, the table. We were always prepared in case somebody tried to separate us by force.” – from A Bunch of Savages by Sofi Stambo
“But what angered Zeke even more than the ancestors’ silence was the knowledge that he was helping Sonia to seduce a man who, sometime in the foreseeable future, would beat her for burning his dinner or create any other excuse he could think of to abandon her, as he done to all his other baby mothers after he had gotten what he wanted.” – Myal Man by Geoffrey Philp
CREATIVES ON CREATING
“I think, there’s a couple of songs. I’m, I’m really proud of “How far I’ll go.” I literally locked myself up in my childhood bedroom at my parents’ house, to write those lyrics. I wanted to get to my angstiest possible place. So I went Method on that. And really, because it’s a challenging song. It’s not ‘I hate it here, I want to be out there.’ It’s not, ‘there must be more than this provincial life.’ She loves her island, she loves her parents, she loves her people. And there’s still this voice inside. And I think finding that notion of listening to that little voice inside you, and, and that being who you are. Once I wrote that lyric… It then had huge story repercussions. The screenwriters took that ball and ran with it.” – Lin Manuel Miranda on writing songs for the animated film Moana
‘So much as it is possible in a manuscript, every scene should be followed by another scene that dramatizes either a “Therefore” or a “But,” not an “And Then.” So if, in one scene, a girl has intimate eye contact with a beautiful male vampire, the next scene should either dramatize the consequences of that eye contact, which will likely raise the stakes or escalate the emotion—THEREFORE she kisses him; or introduce a complication/obstacle—BUT she remembers she hates vampires, so she drives a stake through his heart. If they continue to stare into each other’s eyes, or maybe they just get some tea, that’s an AND THEN—nothing new is happening, because it’s at the same level of emotion as the previous action, and so while movement is occurring in the plot, it isn’t necessarily dramatic action. And action is ultimately what keeps readers reading: change, challenge, consequence, growth, for a character in whom they’re invested.’ – Trey Parker and Matt Stone
“Now this: mistakes are everything. Write, abandon, start again. But understand you will do this on your own, over and over.” – Ellene Glenn Moore
“At one point, I got the idea to ‘set a clock’ in the Antarctica thread. Instead of making her time there quasi-borderless, I would limit her stay at the station to four or five days. This simple question about literal time led me to a host of new questions and discoveries: Instead of a scientist, she was now a civilian, which would account for why she, as a kind of interloper, would have limited access. From there, I wondered: what would a civilian want with an Antarctic research station? What is she in Antarctica to do? What will happen if she fails? Eventually I located the timeline that unfolds in the past, and explores the nature of the estrangement and how a secret shared between the narrator and her sister-in-law brought about an irrevocable fracturing. In this version, the past informed the way the narrator experienced the present; it helped the present to matter.” – from Inventing Time by Laura van den Berg
“The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
“I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish
and she said honey
she calls me that sometimes
she said you can do just exactly
what you want to” – from God says Yes to Me by Kaylin Haught
Painting by Antiguan artist Rachel Bento, on commission from the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda, of Team Wadadli, which took the Talisker Whisky Challenge (2015-2016) rowing approximately 3000 nautical miles across the Atlantic – from the Canary Islands to Antigua – in 52 days. They set two world records – oldest team and oldest rower – in the process. Bento’s commission commemorates their historic achievement. See more of Bento’s work here.
‘I have not yet had a student turn me down. Some of the ARCs came back after a few days with a negative review, but most of the time the readers would seek me out before school in the morning to tell me they had finished the book and thought it was, “GREAT!” The readers who brought back the “GREAT” ARCs often brought a friend with them who wanted to be the second person in the building to read the book. And before my eyes, dormant readers woke up!’ – teacher, librarian Mary Jo Staal on the Power of the Arc in stoking her students’ interest in reading
“Dobrene O’Marde was born on March 24th 1950 to James and Ruth O’Marde in Antigua. He grew up in the Ovals Area and started his education at St. Michael’s Primary. From there he went to Antigua Grammar School and then to The University of the West Indies where he graduated with a BSc in Physics and Chemistry.
Dobrene known to family and close friends as “FATZ” is married to Ingrid Williams from St. Vincent and is the father of 3 adult children –Kaloma, Kayode and Khari.
To say Dobrene is a well-rounded individual – no pun intended- is simply too mild a description for such a multi-faceted person.”
This is an introduction on one of our esteemed cultural workers and icons, Dorbrene O’Marde as presented during a public speaking class facilitated by Barbara Arrindell & Associates. Follow the link to read the entire piece.
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, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and Oh Gad!). 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.
This review (edited) was originally published in The Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books Volume 8 Number 1 Fall 2015.
Dorbrene O’Marde, foreground left, pictured at the launch of his book Nobody Go Run Me. Also pictured, receiving a copy of the book, is the now departed songwriter Marcus Christopher, and behind Dorbrene in yellow, Valerie Harris-Pole, also departed, who was there in her capacity as the chair of the Short Shirt 50th anniversary committee. In the audience that night, you’ll see also pictured the then Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer. The book was launched in 2013 and you could get whiplash from how much has changed since then. This picture being a visual example of that. This remains the same though, do not re-use without permission. The copyright of this image belongs to Colin Cumberbatch.
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Short Shirt is a master of the calypso art form. His titles – among them 15 local Calypso Monarch titles – testify to that. But you know what’s the bigger testimony: throngs packed into the Antigua Recreation Grounds for a legends show, belting out “Lament oh my soul!” (Lamentations) like they were in church and being touched by the spirit; total recall, word for word, notwithstanding that the song had contested and lost its bid for the crown 30 years, give or take, earlier. This happened some years ago and is testimony to not only Short Shirt’s five decades long dominance of the art form, but the enduring power of his songs. During his 70th year and year-long 50th anniversary celebrations, 2012 to 2013, there were two notable productions: one a documentary film by Dr. James Knight, the other a biography by Dorbrene O’Marde.
Both were important cultural and artistic pieces but the focus of this article will be the O’Marde biography. While the documentary was much more specifically the story of the Making of the Monarch, it’s something of a misnomer to call O’Marde’s Short Shirt book, a biography. Though Short Shirt is the impetus for this work and its main character, the book really positions him at the centre of a tale mapping Antigua’s social, cultural, political, creative, and economic transformation. Sounds heavy right? But, for me at least, it was a remarkably brisk read, as enjoyable as it was enlightening – its lyrical breakdown of Short Shirt’s songs comparable to what Ghanian-Jamaican-American poet Kwame Dawes does in his impressive book Bob Marley: Lyrical Genius. O’Marde positions the Monarch’s songs in space and time, gives context tied in to not just the lives of Short Shirt and his writers – notably Marcus Christopher who is less than a week departed as I write this, Stanley Humphreys, and especially Shelly Tobitt, one of Antigua’s great wordsmiths – but the life, the heartbeat of the society from which they sprung. You get, through O’Marde’s exploration of the music, a sense of a society transitioning to self-ownership and all the birthing and subsequent growing pains that come with that.
The book was reader-friendly, for me, not just because I happen to be an avid Short Shirt fan, and a fan of his writers, but because O’Marde is not only in his element but clearly chest-deep in a subject he’s passionate about; calypso. That the former Calypso Talk publisher sees calypso as something much, much more than frivolity and fun is never in doubt as you read this book; but that he’s also having fun convincing his reader is also evident. And his skills as a writer and analyst are sharp, convincingly so. So that even when you find yourself arguing with him – as I do during his dismissal of one of my favourite Short Shirt battle songs, Uneasy Head (Kong), as ungracious sportsmanship or his takedown of Lamentations, which he’s publicly stated is among his least favourite Short Shirt songs – you feel like you’re in a heated but friendly calypso parley, and you’re enjoying the cut and thrust of the debate.
O’Marde’s first book after a well-established reputation as a playwright, the fictional book Send out you Hand, was weighted and slow by comparison – exposition heavy, the characters too often coming across as mouthpieces for the writer’s intellectual concerns rather than fully drawn people.
In Nobody, O’Marde invests more successfully in the characterization and humanization of his subjects, making them (Short Shirt, Short Shirt’s writers, and, in fact, calypso, more relatable, complex, and interesting) while at the same time tying them all, Short Shirt and calypso especially, in to the larger cultural and societal shift. For instance, writing on the roots of Carnival and its subsequent shifts: “The growing sense of working class entitlement could no longer dress up and perform to the upstairs penny-throwing sugar barons and the Syrians/Lebanese merchants as it did during the traditional Christmas parades. The stage and street performances – sponsored, policed, regulated – offered a more egalitarian space to build a national culture. The enduring image of the white woman jumping in a [steel] band is but metaphor for the classless and non-racial future dancing in the imagination of middle and working class Antiguans.” (p. 34) The white woman referenced calls immediately to mind the “pretty little Yankee tourist…from Halifax” here for a taste of Antigua’s Carnival in Short Shirt’s Tourist Leggo; though here, of course, she is meant to represent something beyond herself.
The deftness with which O’Marde makes deeper connections is just one reason why Nobody Go Run Me is not only a good read but a book that matters.
For the social and cultural historian, it is a gift, covering if not the birth per se then certainly the popularization of Antiguan calypso – from the days when “seasoned Trinidadian calypsonians controlled the calypso entertainment sector” (p. 32), to the days when the Monarch took Antiguan calypso, specifically Tourist Leggo from the Ghetto Vibes album to the kaiso ‘mecca’ and but for some legal wrangling would surely have come back to Wadadli with the win – let’s call those the halcyon days, to the plateauing and declining of what was once great: Short Shirt and Calypso and Carnival; and, yes, the tome suggests indirectly Antiguan and Barbudan society.
There will be errors; nothing is perfect. But students, who these days seem to think research starts and ends with Wikepedia, could learn from this book which draws from personal papers, periodicals -including Calypso Talk, academic papers, interviews, personal reflections, and when he thought they got it right, as with the definition of picong (p. 32), Wikepedia. As D. Gisele Isaac said in a review at the launch subsequently posted at https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com and in volume 27 of the Caribbean Writer, a journal produced by the University of the Virgin Islands, the book is “exhaustively researched” and with its extensive end notes, “so interesting and educational” in their own right, “you could easily say that this is two books in one.” (quoted from https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/d-gisele-isaac-reviews-nobody-go-run-me-by-dorbrene-omarde)
This is important, too, because, in a society in which so much is undocumented, the facts of the matter are often dependent on who you speak to – see O’Marde’s end notes re the facts surrounding the start of Carnival (P. 42) for a striking example of this ‘it depends on who you ask’ type of record-keeping. It’s unfortunate that we live in a landscape where even with the papers of record you are forced to ask, who’s record? Assuming there’s a record at all – I remember years ago suggesting a virtual (i.e. online) Hall of Fame, if a physical one was not financially feasible, to lionize our cultural icons; as I think of the life of someone like Marcus Christopher, someone too important to the art form to have such an invisible footprint, online or otherwise, the absence of this feels huge. That’s one of the reasons this book matters.
The book is important too for marking the societal shifts in modern Antigua and to some degree the wider Caribbean. For instance the birth of black power: “By Carnival 1969, Edris Thomas [Edris Silston of Edris Clothing Store] produced a mas’ troupe ‘Back to Africa’. The Point’s troupe ‘Africans from the West’ emerged around this time and continued playing the same mas’ for years. Calypso Franco was singing ‘Negroes have the ability’. Short Shirt sang ‘Hearty Transplant’.
“Across the region, the consciousness of calypso had already absorbed and addressed the Black struggles in North America, a racial consciousness it had previously espoused in the nineteen thirties through the work of Attilah, Houdini, and others in praise of Emperor Selassie and Ethiopia and in defiance and rebuke of Mussolini and Italy.” (P. 64)
O’Marde references Short Shirt’s foray into these weighty racial issues with 1970s era tracks like Christopher’s Black Like Me – “a stirring anthem of racial affirmation”; and Afro-Antiguan of which he said, “as powerful and relevant as ‘Black Like Me’ and ‘Antigua Will Redeem are, it is the acrostic ‘Afro Antiguan that deepened Short Shirt’s appeal to the revolutionary.” (p. 65). Interesting as well, re the latter song, is O’Marde’s observation that in it “the difference between ‘race’ and ‘nationality’, a concept that even very intelligent people in Antigua today find hard to grasp, is critically analysed. Antiguan nationals – in the main – are proclaimed to be of African race and heritage. The African Caribbean movement had found its spokesman, that artiste capable of translating its social theories and polemics to the language of popular culture; youth had found a message beyond the nascent Bird/Walter politics that would plague the country for generations.
“Antigua calypso had found its voice. It had proved its ability to fulfill its traditional African functions.” (P. 66)
In this moment, he seems to be suggesting, Short Shirt was Antigua, and possibly the Eastern Caribbean’s James Brown – “say it loud!”
The book tracks other themes in Short Shirt’s calypso; for instance, its exposure of the hypocrisy and rabid greed of imperialism in songs like the Anguilla Crisis.
At the same time, it exposes the artiste’s – and perhaps his writers’ – if not hypocrisy, then blindspots, when it comes to certain other issues; women’s issues for instance. The Shelly Tobitt-penned Lamentation, one of my favourite Short Shirt songs, has a line that makes me, a feminist, smile wryly every time I sing it; O’Marde speaks to that very line in his takedown of the classic track.
“It is dismissive in its lack of appreciation of the human development necessity of equal rights for women: ‘Female liberation/ ‘even’ women want their freedom/Riot and demonstration.’” (P. 84)
Though as relates to the blatant misogyny in this and some other Short Shirt tracks, O’Marde does attempt to give some context: for instance, he quotes these lyrics – “Me man – Darling, you woman/Honey, me master and you slave/And you ain’t go tell me how and where and when/you want/for is me who supposed to take” but then reminds that “these were the dominant male attitudes of the Antigua, and dare say Caribbean society in the male-female relationship…Feminism as a political ideology was in its infancy, not yet finding root in even the progressive elements.” (p. 61) The feminist in you might want to debate this point as this was the early 1970s and second wave feminism started rippling out as early as the 1960s, that plus, frankly, misogyny remains rampant in our modern Caribbean. But let’s move on.
O’Marde brings an activist’s eyes and heart to his discussion of the treatment of many of the themes in Short Shirt’s calypsos. So that when he discusses social and political movements like the Grenada revolution, he doesn’t, as another writer might, simply recount the facts of the overthrow, he writes “On 13th March 1979, the New Jewel Movement overthrew the supposed duly elected government of Eric Gairy” (p. 139) – the use of supposed here casting the legitimacy of the Gairy government into doubt and making clear that in the writer’s view they were no such thing. His entire handling of this subject – tone to choice of references – make clear that this is not just history but history with perspective – emphasis on the perspective, albeit a well-informed one.
Musicians and students of music will appreciate that O’Marde doesn’t just break down Short Shirt’s lyrics but what it is that makes his music so compelling. For instance, while there’s no love lost between him and Lamentations, O’Marde does show appreciation for “the power of the melody, the inviting call-and-response structure and Short Shirt’s vocal wizardry.” (P. 84)
He speaks as well to the lyrical and musical innovations Short Shirt – and especially the Short Shirt/Shelly Tobitt partnership brought to the genre. In discussing Starvation, for instance, O’Marde wrote, “the guitar work is steady and compelling. The rhythm is up-tempo. ‘Starvation’ represents the initiation of one of Short Shirt’s and Antigua’s contribution to the world of calypso – the social commentary sang at dance pace. There is no other body of work in calypso where social commentaries are so executed consistently.” (P. 93 – 94) – O’Marde, and this is not just a matter of opinion, has the cred in calypso to make such an assertion.
His voice on these issues – the crafting, the content – has the ring of authority; so that when he writes, for instance, “that is his amazing vocal power, his ability to reach any note – high or low – that he or Shelly, in their melodic creativity found; and to do it with stellar clarity; while dancing in costume in competition or in live performance” (p. 94), he’s not just fanboying.
The literary nerd in me appreciates his dissection, for instance, of how Tobitt transmutated the calypso lyrical structure. “Very few lyricists would write a line this envious greedy conniving blood sucking attitude in calypso. The simplicity of ‘Starvation’ is replaced here by long complex verse and chorus. Multiple rhyming patterns are engaged and a riveting but unusual melody is forced to the fore. Few calypsonians in the business could handle the lyrical and melodic complexity – at tempo.” (p. 95) He applies his own analysis, layers on another authoritative source by direct quoting a 1975 review in the Outlet – footnoted. And then he lets the record speaks for itself: “Short Shirt sang ‘This Land’ and ‘Lucinda’ to win the 1974 crown and the Caribbean competition.” (p. 95)
On the subject of the songs, another thing to appreciate about this book is its extensive quoting of lyrics. It’s ridiculously difficult – especially in this internet age where you can google lyrics to any song plus just about any trivia you want, and some you don’t, on that song – to find information on Antigua and Barbuda’s songs, calypso or anything of that nature, really. Neither the artistes, the fans, nor our young people, notwithstanding all the tablet and laptop giveaways, have seen fit to create content that could see our culture adequately represented online, the way users in places like America and Europe do for every minutiae they find of interest; my own attempts to build an online data base of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, including songwriters, at https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com has been slow going on the songwriting end, despite the fact that I’ve reached out repeatedly to songwriters and producers for information. We’re just slow off the mark on this. Slow, slow, slow. As such, I doubly appreciate the lyric share – and crediting in Nobody Go Run Me. I would love to see some of this content shared online, and would do it myself if I had the time. As it is, I’ve been able to use the book as a go to resource when blogging on song and/or song writer related matters.
Beyond the songs, Nobody Go Run Me, albeit it’s not a straight-up biography, does zero in on the man behind the myth. And though it mostly takes an academically sound approach in terms of sourcing, unlike some academic texts it gives equal weight to the anecdotal, mostly oral, evidence in painting a complete picture – e.g. the incident in Barbados (P. 92 and 93). “Oral history in Antigua and Barbuda is laced with tales of his physical encounters with man and woman, accounts which the Christian Brother Emmanuel denies or doesn’t remember…” (P. 93) – it’s implied in the tone and in his decision to relay some of these tales that the author is giving these denials the side eye.
The tone sometimes edges up against snide – “The lows, like his failed attempts at competition during the last decade, he scrubs from his memory or dismisses as inconsequential aberration of judges. ‘True? I didn’t make finals that year? No!’” (P.218)
Still, Short Shirt is given a fair shake in this book. O’Marde is generous with respect to the artist’s talents and accomplishments but also clear on his blindspots, failures, and contradictions. The fading, retirement, conversion, and return of Short Shirt are all covered. Writing of his return from retirement, O’Marde observed, “this is the calypso protest tradition and stance that Maclean Emanuel re-joined in 2001 – one that he as Short Shirt, helped create, one that he led for three decades. But first he had to explain the apparent backslide that allowed his return to calypso and the ‘decadence of Carnival’. Brother Emanuel had to release Short Shirt.” (P. 200) Of course, fans of Brother Emanuel’s gospel could credibly argue that the message may have been re-directed but the calypsonian was never caged. But his comeback CD The Message and particularly the title track and the Handwriting song was a welcome return to form for the beloved calypso icon. That would be the post-return peak – at least so far – the offerings since being uneven at best.
The book delves into the complexity of the musical marriage and divorce of Short Shirt and Tobitt – those who’ve always wondered will appreciate the gossip-but-not-just-gossip-ness of O’Marde’s excavation of this touchy issue. It’s clear that O’Marde had deep access to both the artiste and the writer, the notoriously reclusive Tobitt speaking to issues he hasn’t spoken of since the break-up. Even so, there is still no clear resolution: “Short Shirt affirms that Shelly Tobitt is the best writer he worked with and mourns the loss. ‘I love Shelly up to now…up to now I don’t know what I did to turn him against me. It couldn’t be about one song or money.” (p. 146)
Other complicated Short Shirt relationships such as the one with “frivals” like King Obstinate are touched on. Sidebar: O’Marde’s treatment of Obsti songs like Children Melee, Fatman Dance, Elephant Walk, Coming down to talk to You, songs he describes as “vacuous” (p. 162), in fact his categorizing of the calypso of the late 1970s/early 1980s, when I would have been introduced to calypso, the calypso of Short Shirt, Latumba, Obsti, does take the shine off of some of my fondest childhood calypso memories – but never let it be said that he is a not a critic with bite, and he is right to call out the ways politics (or the appropriation of calypso by political interests) had begun to blunt “the sharp edge and excitement of the calypso in Antigua”. (p. 183)
At some point in each biography/autobiography, you grab hold of an insight beyond the individual and their story, an insight to life. It’s not always reassuring. And this quote, O’Marde extracted from Short Shirt is a sobering reality check for any artiste trying to create and make life in this small place: “I am still a struggling man…after fifty year man…everything gets ploughed back into producing my albums…feeding my family.” (p. 218) The struggle is real – even for one considered by all to be the best among us; sobering indeed.
And speak of sobering, though we perhaps no longer live in an Antigua and Barbuda where “Hotel managers and owners and their trained snarling dogs were determined to keep the beaches free of Black people.” (p. 35) or are perhaps less obvious about it, as we consider the economic paradigm in which we do live, the deals ‘we’ negotiate that maintain the hierarchical status quo, and the erosion of rights we have come to take for granted – beach access for everyone, for instance – the book, deliberately or not may inspire reflection on how much has really (not) changed.
That in mind, because this is a thought provoking book, you might find yourself reflecting, after closing off the last chapter, on the players who have attempted to step into the void, but failed not because they didn’t have a good song or even a good run; but because none since has shown the epic depth, reach, span, and consistency of the man who inspired the book Nobody go run Me. Because of Short Shirt’s impact on all these points – for all those who would, as some have, question why Short Shirt and not this or that other one – a book on the Monarch is long overdue. And for all the reasons given in this article, Dorbrene O’Marde was just the man to do it justice.
Writer’s Note: In between the time I drafted this and came back to edit it, Dorbrene O’Marde’s Nobody Go Run Me became the first ever Antiguan and Barbudan book (one of only nine overall and three non-fiction in 2015) to be long listed for the OCM Bocas prize previously won by Derek Walcott, Earl Lovelace, Monique Roffey and Robert Antoni making him already a winner whatever the final outcome.
REVIEWER’S BIO: Joanne C. Hilhouse is the author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight – and its 2014 edition Dancing Nude in the Moonlight: 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water – a children’s picture book, and Musical Youth – a teen/young adult novel and finalist for the Burt Award. Her creative and journalistic writing has appeared in other books and periodicals, and she blogs online at http://jhohadli.wordpress.com and https://wadadlipen.wordpress.com
The thing tying these two events together is the venue and the purpose…which is related to the venue: Government House. The historical site is in need of an US$8 million (yes, million dollar) rehabilitation and a series of arts events – including a black tie dinner and art show earlier in the year – have been had (have been had?) to draw public attention and interest and raise some funds. Ramble ramble. Click the links to relive those highlights and find out how you can support. Meantime check out these great pictures by Photogenesis courtesy of the folks at the Government House. You’ll notice there are no pictures of me…I’ll try not to take it as a commentary on my photogenic…ness (?)
Enjoy…and, yes, you should feel bad that you weren’t there! You missed some good readings. Let that be a lesson to you. *smile*
Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis is holding up the Tides that Bind, but she actually read a very powerful piece from Missing. You should know that these books are international thrillers – kidnappings, family dynasties, continent hopping, big money, terror…
Reading Roy Dublin’s poetry. Roy Dublin is the late author of Tomorrow’s Blossoms. And this is his…daughter (?)
Dorbrene O’Marde read a timely Carnival story.
Michelle Toussaint read from her book, Now Taking a Lover.
Fashionable Joy. Joy Lawrence.
As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). Excerpting, reblogging, linking etc. is fine, but PLEASE do not lift ANY content (images or text) wholesale from this site without asking first and crediting the creator of that work and/or copyright holder. All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.
The long list of the OCM Bocas Prize was announced this weekend and an Antiguan and Barbudan writer/book/subject is on the list! The writer, Dorbrene O’Marde; the book, Nobody Go Run Me; the subject, Short Shirt . Maybe it will get some press here at home – whether you believe as I do that Short Shirt is the epitome of Antiguan and Barbudan calypso artistry, he is one of our cultural and calypso icons after all – whatever he does is news (right?), and Dorbrene is a well-established arts and media personality in his own right – from his days as Head of Harambee, widely acclaimed as the best of Antiguan theatre, to his current role as head and mouthpiece of the Antigua and Barbuda Reparations Support Commission (his profile certainly makes him news, right?). Plus Nobody Go Run Me was part of the news story that was the year-long anniversary celebration of Short Shirt’s 50 years in Calypso – something I, as a freelance journalist, covered for local publication Daily Observer, regional publication Zing, and, with specific reference to the book, am in the process of writing about for the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books which has ties, through its editor Dr. Paget Henry, to Brown University in the USA. All of that to say, this news of O’Marde and Nobody Go Run Me making the long list of a major Caribbean prize is news and probably won’t get lost in the shuffle. Probably. But, just in case, I want to bring a little perspective.
When Antigua and Barbuda’s name is hollered for major literary prizes – PEN/Faulkner, the Guggenheim, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Book Award to name a few, it’s usually followed by Jamaica Kincaid. You won’t find her face on any of our many, many roadside billboards but she is a literary celebrity by any stretch of the imagination and, though her nom de plume references a larger island in the northern Caribbean, she is from the Ovals community right here in the 268. She has been and continues to be an inspiration for writers like me and others – from places like Ottos, Antigua and places far removed from it, where young girls dream of daring to write unconventionally, compellingly…uncomfortably, truthfully.
For many, Antiguan and Barbudan literature in as much as it even exists – and for many it doesn’t – begins and ends with Jamaica.
Because of this oversight, every pebble that ripples the water, reminding the larger Caribbean and international community that we are here (arwe yah!) matters.
There weren’t headlines here at home for either of these breakthroughs, both administered by the team behind the BOCAS literary festival in Trinidad, and presented during the awards ceremony there, but as far as creating ripples in the water, they mattered.
Well, the OCM Bocas Prize is the biggest award presented at that festival. For Caribbean writers, with the Commonwealth Book and First Book awards now just a memory and the other major literary awards of the world not impossible to reach – as 2015 Frost medalist Kamau Brathwaite’s accomplishment recently reminded us – but a stretch (and, don’t get me wrong, stretching is good), the OCM Bocas Prize is one of the few opportunities remaining. It is specific to us, demands the best of us, rewards the best among us. Since its launch in 2011, it has been won by Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott (White Egrets); Earl Lovelace (Is Just a Movie) – who also took the Grand Prize from the Caribbean Congress of Writers for the same book; Monique Roffey (Archipelago) – previously shortlisted for the Orange Prize for another book, White Woman on the Green Bicycle; and former Guggenheim fellowRobert Antoni (As Flies to Whatless Boys). Its long list has been a who’s who of Caribbean literati – Edwidge Dandicat, Kendel Hippolyte, Lorna Goodison, Kei Miller… and no Antiguans and Barbudans, until now 2015 with O’Marde’s book, Nobody Go Run Me. The book is in formidable company as there are no also-rans in this line up – Miller’s the Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion is already the winner of the prestigious Forward Prize in the UK, Marlon James (did you catch him this past week on Late Night with Seth Myers on NBC?) landed on several year-end best of lists in 2014 (TIME, New York Times, Amazon etc) and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the US thanks to his Brief History of Seven Killings, Roffey’s House of Ashes was a finalist for the Costa Award, Tiphanie Yanique’s Land of Love and Drowning has already won the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, Elizabeth Nunez’s Not for Everyday Use has been dubbed by Oprah.com as one of the Best Memoirs of the past year, the author of Dying to Better Themselves, Olive Senior, is a previous winner of the aforementioned (and no longer) Commonwealth Writers Prize, and Tanya Shirley’s The Merchant of Feathers and Vladimir Lucien’s Sounding Ground have been receiving all kinds of critical acclaim. Nobody Go Run Me (described in the Bocas release as “…a carefully researched biography of Antigua’s most celebrated calypsonian and a history of Antiguan society and culture in the crucial decades after independence.”) deservedly claims its place among these great works. I hope that isn’t overlooked, as things of this nature tend to be, here at home.
As with all content (words, images, other) 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, Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad! and Burt Award finalist 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 WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles, images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. Respect copyright.