Tag Archives: Merle Hodge

Carib Lit Plus (Mid to Late February 2022)

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).

Transitions & Remembrance

I wasn’t going to write about Calvin Holder. This letter I came across in Guyana’s Staebrok News when googling to see if news of his passing was true (it was, February 7th 2022) changed my mind. Mr. Holder was a teacher of mine and one of the mentors along the way to me becoming the writer that I am. His English classes (at the Antigua State College) drew me out, I shared my writing with him and received feedback, I wrote plays for the college drama group he led. After college we lost touch – though we reconnected from time to time, though not in a long time. The writer of the February 21st 2022 letter, Roy Brummel, referenced Mr. Holder’s PhD thesis, Victim and Vehicle: The Political, Cultural and Intellectual Contexts of Martin Carter’s Poetry, which he successfully defended on April 5th 2007: “Calvin had served as a teacher in different parts of the hinterlands and, after graduating from UG, he returned, giving more years before being transferred to work as an education official on the East Coast of Demerara. Calvin migrated to Antigua to teach, but he came back to UG to read for his Masters in English and later completed his PhD at the University of the West Indies, with his thesis being on Martin Carter….I have been informed that Dr. Gemma Robinson of England has written a thesis on Martin Carter, but I don’t know of any Guyanese besides Calvin who has written a PhD thesis on Guyana’s national poet. Therefore, Calvin’s work is very significant. I’ve asked people whether they have knowledge of a Martin Carter biography, and they said no. Assuming there is no Martin Carter biography, the works of Drs. Robinson and Holder are even more important as they are the closest to that biography.” Sounds like a good idea to me. Rest in Peace to Mr. Holder. (Source – a friend)


Sarah White, who was the co-recipient of the first Bocas Henry Swanzy Award in 2013, has passed. She was described by Bocas as co-founder of New Beacon Books with her partner John La Rose, and “a true and practical friend to generations of Caribbean writers, artists, and activists…Her death is a great loss to Caribbean and Black British publishing and bookselling, writers and readers.” Sarah was born in 1944 and died in 2022. (Source – JRLee)


On Thursday, February 3, 2022, the Rex Nettleford Foundation celebrated Professor Nettleford’s life and legacy with a viewing of “Renaissance Man” A Documentary of the Life of the late Jamaican professor. Nettleford (full name Ralston Milton “Rex” Nettleford) was a scholar, social critic, choreographer, and vice chancellor emeritus of the University of the West Indies.

(Source – JRLee email)


This recent addition to the A & B Artistes Discussing Art page:

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.” She added that while so much of our Caribbean fiction deals with our historical trauma she just wants to write about people meeting, falling in love, and having sushi.

Click here to watch the full Tim Tim Bwa Fik series by podcaster Maëlla K on Apple podcasts. It includes interviews with several Caribbean writers. (Source – WordPress feed)


(Source – Me)


You can now view ‘The Journey of a Book’, a webinar co-organized by The Antigua and Barbuda Intellectual Property and Commerce Office and the World Intellectual Property Organization, online. The presenters were Antigua and Barbuda’s Barbara Arrindell, Award winning authof of Love after Love Ingrid Persaud, Barbados’ Erica Smith, CEO of COSCAP – a collective management organization, and Brian Wafawarowa of South Africa, chief content and product officer, Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd.

Pictured during the webinar, above, are, left, Ricki Camacho, registrar of Intellectual Property and Copyright, and, right, Ingrid Persaud.

“Own your work and find your voice…voice is the key,” – Ingrid Persaud said during the webinar, held on February 10th 2022, giving the writer’s perspective. Arrindell, an author and bookseller, spoke about practical resources for writers (what we have and what we need in Antigua and Barbuda). Camacho hinted that one of the things writers have been asking for, the ability to legally copyright their writing locally, may be in the works. But don’t take my word for it. Watch the entire video. Follow this link and use this password (&F9+t1&r). Thanks to the organizers for making this available. (Source – Me)


The Filmmakers Collaborative of Trinidad and Tobago has announced an online workshop with Los Angeles based South African writer/director Phumi Morae. It will cover screenplay titles, loglines, taglines, and short impactful synopses. Dates February 22nd and 23rd 2022. More here. (Source – Ministry of Culture, Trinidad and Tobago on Facebook)


The PEN Out Loud series which has booked a number of Caribbean and/or Caribbean diaspora writers for conversations over the years has Aida Rodriquez who is American of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent coming up on March 22nd 2022.


After a two-year break due to the pandemic, Antigua’s Carnival is coming back. No, the pandemic isn’t over (at February 17th 2022, our dashboard shows 135 lives lost to date , 76 active cases, 75 isolated, 5 new, and blessedly only one hospitalized, with vaccine numbers around 60 percent) but (keeping in mind that a vaccine is not a get out of COVID unscathed card, we can still get it and transmit it) hopefully we’ll find ways to party safely to avoid a post-fete surge. (Source – Antigua Festivals Instagram)


‘Dreadness: the Mystic Power, Philosophy and Performance of Shadow 1941-2021’, in celebration of Trinidad calypsonian the Mighty Shadow’s 80th birthday, is a virtual symposium announced for March 3rd and 4th 2022. Organizers are the Groundation Foundation and the University of the West Indies St. Augustine. Go here for details and registration information. (Source – Amilcar Sanatan email on this issue of Tout Moun Caribbean Journal of Cultural Studies)


The NGC Bocas Lit Fest has been set for April 28th 2022 to May 1st 2022. The events will be live streamed. Stay tuned. (Source – Bocas email)


The short list of books for the Bocas Prize has been announced.

They are Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer (Cuban-American), Things I have Withheld by Kei Miller (Jamaican), The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, & Dreams Deferred by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (American of Barbadian descent) contesting for the Non-Fiction prize; Pleasantview by Celeste Mohammed (Trinidad and Tobago), How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Barbados), What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy (Haitian-Canadian) competing for the Fiction prize; Thinking with Trees by Jason Allen-Paisant (Jamaican), What Noise Against the Cane by Desiree C. A. Bailey (Trinidad and Tobago), Zion Roses by Monica Minott (Jamaican) in the running for the Poetry prize.

The judges will announce the winners in the 3 genre categories on 27 March. These will go on to compete for the overall #OCMBocasPrize2022 of US$10,000, to be announced on 30 April, during the 12th annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Each category winner will receive US$3,000. (Source – Twitter)


Late last year the Antigua and Barbuda JCI Youth Empowerment Programme recognized a number of young people. They are humanitarian award winner and Red Cross volunteer Daniela Mohamed, entrepreneurship award winner and Dadli Dose juice brand owner Kwesi Jarvis, sports awards winner and professional bikini fitness athlete Kimberly Percival, agriculture award winner and beekeeper Jamaul Philip, music award winner and pannist Jah-fari Joseph-Hazelwood, education award winner whose sede project is Eat ‘n Lime Tours Tiffany Azille, mental health activist awardee and associate clinical psychologist Regina A. Apparicio, leadership award winner and history teacher Kamalie Mannix, and culture award winner and translator Alfonsina Olmos.

(Source – Facebook)


Guyana born British based writer John Agard in late 2021 became the first poet to win the Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award. “I feel happy that I’ve stuck with this craft since I was a 16-year-old boy writing in a classroom in a Caribbean ex-colony. It’s not just me receiving this award, but all the people that inspired me,” Agard said. Read the full article here. (Source – Repeating Islands blog)


Jamaican writer Kei Miller (Things I have Withheld) was on the Baillie Gifford Prize long list late last year. The prize ultimately went to Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Industry by Patrick Radden Keefe. The prize recognizes the best in non-fiction. (Source – JRLee email)


Twenty early-career writers from seven different Caribbean territories have been shortlisted for the 2022 Bocas Emerging Writers Fellowships, to be awarded in two genre categories for poetry and prose. Scheduled to run for a period of six months, and offering tangible support for emerging writers to advance or complete a body of work, the two Bocas Emerging Writers Fellowships will include a cash award of TT$10,000, six months’ mentorship from an established author, participation in an intensive online workshop hosted by the UK literary organisation Arvon, and publication of a chapbook by Peekash Press. From a total of over 100 applicants, the shortlisted writers are, in alphabetical order:


Topher Allen (Jamaica)
Xan-Xi Bethel (The Bahamas)
Neala Bhagwansingh (Trinidad and Tobago)
Johanna Gibson (British Virgin Islands)
Ubaldimir Guerra (Belize)
Jannine Horsford (Trinidad and Tobago)
Jay T. John (Trinidad and Tobago)
Gillian Moore (Trinidad and Tobago)
Ruth Osman (Guyana/Trinidad and Tobago)
Allyson Weekes (Trinidad and Tobago)


Tracy Assing (Trinidad and Tobago)
Heather Barker (Barbados)
Ayrïd Chandler (Trinidad and Tobago)
Rachael Amanda Espinet (Trinidad and Tobago)
Amir Denzel Hall (Trinidad and Tobago)
Michelle John (Trinidad and Tobago)
Garvin Tafari Parsons (Trinidad and Tobago)
Rajiv Ramkhalawan (Trinidad and Tobago)
Ark Ramsay (Barbados)
Alexandra Stewart (Trinidad and Tobago)

The shortlists were selected by authors Andre Bagoo of Trinidad and Tobago (whose essay collection The Undiscovered Country was the winner of the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction) and Ann-Margaret Lim of Jamaica (whose book of poems Kingston Buttercup was shortlisted for the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry).

“Caribbean Lit is in good hands,” remarked Lim of the fellowship applications. “Good, serious writers from the Caribbean, unafraid of subjects traditionally ‘taboo’ in their countries, are writing their truths, and doing so beautifully and as well as any international poet or fiction writer…. The voices are not stilted or affected. They are bold, true, and indeed shaped by skill and attention.”

“These writers all demonstrate a mastery of language in service of an artistic vision or point of view,” added Bagoo. “Their writing samples provide glimpses of a future in which Caribbean literature is bolder, more exhilarating than ever.”

The call for fellowship applications asked for writers working in innovative, genre-crossing forms, exploring themes of individual and personal identity, and ideas of belonging, displacement, and home.

The two successful fellows, selected from the shortlists, are expected to be announced in late March 2022, and will present their work in progress during the 2022 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, running from 28 April to 1 May.

The fellowships are made possible by generous donations from Canisia Lubrin, winner of the overall 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature; Dionne Brand, winner of the 2019 OCM Bocas Prize in the fiction category; Christina Sharpe, judge for the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize in the fiction category; and Allyson Holder, Friend of the Bocas Lit Fest. (Source – Facebook)


Motion, Wendy Braithwaite, a Canadian writer of Antiguan and Barbudan descent, is a Canadian Screen Awards nominee for her writing on the drama series, ‘Coroner’. From Motion’s Facebook: “Wow! So much of our heart and souls went into this one! To see Ruby (played by talented Avery Grant) on screen. To write a story inspired by the culture. To integrate the sounds and the artwork of our artists in this city. To tell a story about art, family, legacy and a courageous girl – young, creative and Black. To work with an awesome room of writers, and create/collabo once again with visionary Charles Officer! 10 Canadian Screen Award noms for Coroner, and 2 for this special episode – DRAMA SERIES, BEST WRITING and DRAMA SERIES, BEST DIRECTING!” Motion’s nomination is for the episode ‘Eyes Up’. (Source – Facebook)


Shouting out artrepeneur Barbados’ Nikisha Toppin, winner of the MicroPitch Best Female Entrepreneur Award at Micro Pitch Caribbean with her business Elaine’s Caribbean Crochet – “a registered social enterprise that provides Caribbean crochet artists with the knowledge, tools and resources needed to help their businesses be sustainable”.

Image from @elainescaribbeancrochet instagram

MicroPitch is a combination of entrepreneurship trainings and a business plan competition that gives entrepreneurs and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) of the Caribbean region the opportunity to boost their business by offering them capacity building and a platform to present (“pitch”) their business plans, solutions or ideas to a jury and audience, receiving personalised and instant feedback. Other finalists (more in the entrepreneur lane) are Jamaica’s Venice Irving, winner of the MicroPitch Export Award with her business Happy Teachers and Kavelle Hylton, winner of the MicroPitch Jamaica Award with her business STEM Builders Learning Hub; Dominica’s Jodie Dublin Dangleben, winner of the MicroPitch Best Entrepreneur Award with her Jaydie’s Naturals; Belize’s Miguel Huertas, winner of the MicroPitch Audience’s Favourite Award with his business Apilife and Mark Jacob, winner of the MicroPitch Belize Award with his business DML Foxtail Bamboo Straw; and Haiti’s Joseph Kendy Jules, winner of the MicroPitch Haiti Award with his business Haispot. (Source – N/A but finalists pulled from Micropitchcb Facebook)


Rise up, Sista by Kristine Simelda came out late last year. It tells the story of a Jamaican reggae artist and a British rocker who meet in London in 1963, sparking a powerful story of friendship and cultural revolution. . It is dedicated to the life of Nelly Stharre, a Dominican reggae artist who passed away in 2015 and explores the amazing diversity of music written and broadcast during the 1960s and beyond—rhythms that served as a uniting force during times of change and political unrest. The book was published by Simelda, an American who has lived in Dominica since the mid-1990’s, River Ridge Press.


Horizon, Sea, Sound: Caribbean & African Women’s Cultural Critique of Nation by Andrea A. Davis was released in January 2022. Calling for new affiliations of community among Black, Indigenous, and other racialized women, and offering new reflections on the relationship between the Caribbean and Canada, Davis articulates a diaspora poetics that privileges our shared humanity. In advancing these claims, she turns to the expressive cultures (novels, poetry, theater, and music) of Caribbean and African women artists in Canada, including work by Dionne Brand, M. NourbeSe Philip, Esi Edugyan, Ramabai Espinet, Nalo Hopkinson, Amai Kuda, and Djanet Sears. Davis considers the ways in which the diasporic characters these artists create redraw the boundaries of their horizons, invoke the fluid histories of the Caribbean Sea to overcome the brutalization of plantation histories, use sound to enter and reenter archives, and shapeshift to survive in the face of conquest. The book will interest readers of literary and cultural studies, critical race theories, and Black diasporic studies. (Source – Twitter)


Rohan Balkin and The Shadows by Juleus Ghunta with illustrator Rachel Moss was an end of year Caribbean Reads release.

Rohan Bullkin is haunted by sinister Shadows that fuel his fear of reading. He hates books so much that he often rips their pages. But when the Shadows become intolerable, Rohan accepts an offer of friendship from a special book. This marks the beginning of a remarkable journey during which he not only learns how to conquer Shadows but also develops a love of books and life. (Source – Caribbean Reads email)


You know we’re all about promoting Antiguan and Barbudan books via our book lists, including Antiguan and Barbudan children’s literature. You know that we also promote Caribbean literature. Here’s a new one (or new to us), Jako Productions’ listing of St. Lucia Children’s Books. Just scrolling through it, I’m fascinated by Talking Talia Tattles or Tells – do I know the difference between tattling and telling? do you? this may be a book not just for children; lots of adventure tales – go Wyetta; love the use of the French creole – sak sa…sa ka fet…did I use those right?; the folklore – compere lapin to soucouyan… who looks as frightful as I remember from childhood tales in Antigua (my mother’s family is French creole from Dominica). Anyway, check out the listing of books for children and #readCaribbean (Source – Jako Productions email)


This is book news more than books, and the news is that American author of Haitian descent Roxane Gay has a new (new in 2021) imprint and a fellowship programme to provide opportunities to publish and/or learn the business, respecitively, to underrepresented voices. Read the announcement in this article in Poets & Writers, and then do your research. (Source – Poets and Writers email)


US based Trinidad and Tobago author Danielle Y. C. McClean’s The Whisperer’s Warning is the second book in her Secrets of Oscuros series after the Burt Award winning The Protector’s Pledge. It is illustrated by Rachel Moss and published by Caribbean Reads Publishing. Twelve-year-old JV has discovered that he’s one of a select few entrusted with preserving the balance between the world’s natural and unnatural realms and is now more driven than ever to know who his birth parents are. But there’s another mystery in the usually quiet village of Alcavere that he can’t ignore. He and his friends, Carol and Riaz, have received a cryptic warning from a supernatural being who dwells in the Oscuros Forest, launching them into a high-stakes mission. (Source – BCLF email)


The second book in Jamaican writer Marlon James’ Dark Star Trilogy Moon Witch Spider King landed in February. It follows on National (US) Book Award Finalist Black Leopard, Red Wolf. In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It’s also the story of a century-long feud—seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch—that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable—and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own. Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon’s world as she fights to tell her own story. James is a US-based author whose many accolades include the Man Booker Prize (only one of two Caribbean authors to claim that coveted prize) for A Brief History of Seven Killings. (Source – BCLF email)


Sabine, the first short story collection from Hazel Simmons-McDonald, St. Lucia-born linguistics professor emerita, first head of the UWI Open campus, and poet, was published in December 2021. The book presents a deft exploration of class, of how values are shaped by religion, and of the tensions that undergird family life. She makes a place for voices hitherto not heard and creates characters who closely guard the secrets of their hearts but who through her narrative dexterity come to experience moments of truth and clarity of memory. Sabine is published by UWI Press. (Source – JRLee email)


Co-founder of gender activist group Intersect Antigua and Barbuda Sarah Gresham has created a free online library. The purpose, to share reading recommendations from the Intersect team on each theme of the Caribbean Feminist Stories project. Access podcasts, articles, videos, blog posts, and books that illuminate the themes Resilience in the Face of Natural Disasters, Critical Green Theory, and Black in Environment! As the weeks progress, more resources will be added. (Source – Twitter)


Ana Portnoy Brimmer’s To Love an Island came out in late December 2021. Portnoy Brimmer is a poet and organizer from Puerto Rico. To Love An Island begins with the aftermath of Hurricane María and spans the summer insurrection of 2019 and subsequent earthquakes in Puerto Rico. It was originally the winner of the YesYes Books 2019 Vinyl 45 Chapbook Contest. (Source – N/A)


A Lantern in the Wind: A Fictional Memoir was released in 2021 by Hansib. It was written by Ameena Gafoor and offers rare insight in to Muslim life in Guyana. Additionally, her description of being an immigrant in London is a relatively rare revelation of the female experience. Ameena Gafoor is the Founder of The Arts Forum Inc; the Founding Editor of The Arts Journal; and author of Aftermath of Empire: The Novels of Roy A.K. Heath (2017). She has received two National awards as well as recognition from the Guyana Indian Commemoration Trust and the Guyana Cultural Association of New York for her outstanding contribution to the literary arts of Guyana and the Caribbean. She has also received an award from Caribbean Voice for her social work with Support for Vulnerable People through The Gafoor Foundation. Her critical articles are published in selected Journals. (Source – Hansib email)


One Day, One Day, Congotay by Trinidad and Tobago’s Merle Hodge is described, on the website of publisher Peepal Tree Press, as ‘A novel, like George Elliot’s Middlemarch that celebrates the small, hidden lives that make the world a better place. Like any richly documented historical novel, it has much to say, by implication, about the present’. It was released in January 2022. (Source – JRLee email)


St. Lucian writer Mac Donald Dixon’s A Scream in the Shadows launches this month. It is a crime story set in the rural Caribbean where traditional allegiances and a flawed criminal justice system provide a backdrop to the rape and murder of a young girl. When her father is accused of the crime, her brother joins the police to try and clear their father’s name. While the suspect languishes in jail on remand, the young detective makes some alarming discoveries. (Source – Jako Productions email)


Olympic swimmer and Atlantic rower from Antigua and Barbuda Christal Clashing has written a water-based photo-illustrated (coffee-table-ish) book of fiction entitled Yemoja’s Anansi: A Short Story. It has been added to Antiguan and Barbudan Writings and Antiguan and Barbudan Fiction Writings here on the blog. Read about it in CREATIVE SPACE and Blogger on Books; also check our interview on my AntiguanWriter YouTube channel. (Source – Me)

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. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Personal Highlights from NILF and the Nature Isle

So the question I think I got most at the Nature Island Literary Festival was some version of what do you do? Ironic, considering I was at a literary festival, but understandable when you consider that most of us aren’t able to live by the pen. I ought to know. I’m living it, and way too often, it’s touch and go; other times though, weekends like this, it’s filled with words and laughter and opportunities to connect with other writers from our too far apart islands, to bathe in the language and creative spunk and spark of my people.

Me, with Barbadian poet Adrian Green who much to the delight of the audience performed twice during the festival. (Photo courtesy Celia Sorhaindo)


I was able while at the NILF to re-connect with a former professor and mentor from my University of the West Indies days, Mervyn Morris

With former mentor and professor, Mervyn Morris. (Photo by Natalie Clarke)

; to re-connect with a newer friend from the land of publishing, Mario Picayo; to connect for the first time with the supremely talented Bajan brother Adrian Green, one of my festival favourites; to sit and chat with literary elder and engaging storyteller George Lamming (whomI’d seen speak a couple of times and whom I’d met before but never heard read from his work nor got the opportunity or maybe the nerves pre-NILF to sit and chat with).

It was also an opportunity to share my writing.

Photo by Celia Sorhaindo.

I read a new poem, Ode to the Pan Man, an old favourite, Ah Write! and, of course, an excerpt or two from my book Oh Gad!  one of the first readings I’ve done incidentally where nerves weren’t eating out my insides right beforehand – something I can only credit to how distracted I was by the opportunity to hear and listen to such great Caribbean talent, too distracted to wonder what I was doing among them and worry if I was about to fall flat on my face.

Photo by Celia Sorhaindo.

I didn’t, by the way. The reviews to my reading were largely positive and I’m hoping (as I do after every such event) that word of mouth will be positive and it will be reflected in my sales going forward.

But honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about that, then.

Such sentiments were drowned out by the festival energy, out under the tent, flanked by the green mountains of Dominica, on the grounds of the UWI campus, which was filled with music: from the Sisserou singers who opened the festival to the Venezuelan musician and dancers who provided lunch time entertainment to the Rastafarian (Nyabinghi) drummer who spontaneously accompanied some of the poets or just played for pleasure during the breaks so that it never felt like there was nothing happening to the blast of the trumpet during the poetic performances by Reseau Poetique Guadeloupe…

If you missed it, and I hope you won’t again, hint hint, you also missed:

Roger Bonair-Agard: the coolest things about him aren’t even the “duende” he has tattooed into his arm or the Mohawk he sort of seems to be growing out, though those were pretty cool, not when his words of fire are the main attraction;

Lennox Honychurch: the esteemed Dominican historian still has a charmingly boyish enthusiasm for his subject and an ability to make history come alive – as his audience, we were well and truly enraptured as he did a literature review of books mentioning Dominica by visitors, all the way back to Columbus’ time, all the way forward to the near-present (one of the striking things was how people really do see what they want to see, which is not necessarily the same as what’s right in front of their nose);

The Book Fair: though I would have liked to see my book and books by all the participating authors on sale at the event, it was for any bibliophile, a temptation, especially the Papillotte Press and local books section in no small measure because these, well, they are books by local authors and/or books reflecting local culture, and if you’re like me you kind of want to take a piece of wherever you visit with you (case in point the book of french creole sayings that I bought);

The Craft Fair: And how inspired of them to marry a craft fair to the book fair and literary festival, as if they just knew that Creatives (or is it just women?) can’t resist well crafted jewelry (I got three, count ‘em, three pieces – let’s just say that artisans Albert Casimir and Julian James are also persuasive salesmen);

The Workshops: It was nice sitting in a class led by Professor Morris again with whom I was paired in the UWI mentorship programme and who also taught my first fiction writing course, and subsequently recommended to me the Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute at the University of Miami, which I applied to and was accepted, where I started The Boy from Willow Bend during my first grueling workshop experience, and the rest is history, as they say. What I remember of Professor Morris, apart from the things that he introduced me to (including the Jamaican theatrical scene), was that he was one of the early readers and critics and encouragers of my work (perhaps the most significant since previous mentor Calvin Holder, who taught me English Lit at the Antigua State College). I didn’t think he’d remember me (it was so long ago). But he did and it was nice to see him again and to sit quietly (mostly quietly) while he gently nudged writers to discover the best in their work as he’d done for me all those years earlier. On a morning such as that, even the buzzing cell phones (sorry, this is one of my pet peeves… should you have to tell people to silence their cell phones in certain settings) were a mild nuisance, at worst. I enjoyed the bit of play he brought to the session and indeed, Professor Morris, randomness can be quite logical and illuminating, revealing things that are surprising and true (because, as you said, if you’re only using your conscious mind, you’re only writing about what you think you know);

The opportunities to engage in impromptu discussions around artistic issues and the issues that spring from that – from Dominican artistes lamenting some of the unexpected realities of attempts to collect artiste royalties to book publishing it was illuminating…and a reminder of how far we still have to go as writers in the Caribbean to creating an environment that encourages us along our path;

The organized discussions around issues like the lyrics in the bouyon music (which echoed the controversy surrounding Antigua and Barbuda’s road march winning song, Kick een she back doh and made me wish that just as WCK founders readily stepped to the stage to explore the meaning and the music, our artistes here could be similarly engaged) and the challenges (and contradictions) vis-a-vis press freedom (again, an issue all too familiar to Antiguan and Barbudan people);

The opportunities to reflect – like I’ll be musing over this point from George Lamming’s keynote address, borrowed I believe from Norman Manley: “There is a difference between living in a place and belonging to it”;

The opportunity to be engaged by fiction and poetry with which you feel a real sense of belonging – a connection – because at heart it’s about you, your world whether written by Merle Hodge in Trinidad or Adrian Augier in St. Lucia.

It is that sense of connection that no doubt stirred the audience to laughter and stirred other darker and more heated emotions, leaving us all (or certainly me) feeling filled, fulfilled, and enlightened, if a little wet – this is the nature isle after all.

Kudos to Alwyn Bully and his team, especially my host Natalie Clarke

who, combined with all the above, made this a truly enjoyable experience.

Please note all except one photo used in this post are courtesy Celia Sorhaindo. Other images from the festival can be found here. Please do not use any of her photos without her permission.

Find out more on the festival here.

A reminder that as with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, 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.

As for that recurring question about what I do for a living. This might answer the question.


Filed under A & B Lit News Plus, Caribbean Plus Lit News, Literary Gallery