Tag Archives: The Roots

Caribbean Voices: a History

Caribbean Voices is a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) programme that was critical to the establishment and amplification of Caribbean literature. It didn’t give Caribbean literature a voice (your voice is your own) but it gave it a megaphone.

The programme, initially Calling  the West Indies (1939), emerged first as a way of connecting Caribbean people, fighting for the ‘motherland’ during World War II, to each other and to home. It was rebranded as Caribbean Voices in 1943 with Jamaican Una Marson as the producer.

The programme spotlighted literary works by Caribbean writers.  Through this programme –  and through the contributions of regional literary presses like Barbados’ Bim, started in 1942, and Guyana’s Kyk-Over-Al, started in 1945 – a Caribbean literature was born. Whereas, pre-Caribbean Voices, people largely wrote in isolation from each other. Once the programme got going people got to hear the writing from other islands, moving us from a nation literature to a Caribbean literature and given that Caribbean Voices operated out of the BBC, Caribbean literature was becoming a part of world literature. Scripts were sent up to the UK to be edited and then broadcast back to the Caribbean. This programme also provided opportunity for literary development given the editing and critiquing of the stories. Marson was succeeded in 1946 as programme producer by Irishman Henry Swanzy. It must be noted, as well, that by 1948, the Windrush generation (mass migration of English-speaking Caribbean people i.e. British West Indians to the ‘motherland’ i.e. England) began establishing a formidable and transformative Caribbean presence in the UK. The programme blossomed and the emerging Caribbean voices blossomed through it. It provided a platform for writers and work for them as editors and reviewers etc.; it paid writers (!).

So, through all of this, Caribbean Voices helped lay the foundation for Caribbean literature. Given the reach of the medium of radio (and given that this programme was backed by the BBC), it was critical; one might even say, revolutionary. Jan Carew of Guyana, Andrew Salky of Jamaica, Sam Selvon of Trinidad, George Lamming of Barbados, Derek Walcott of St. Lucia are just some of the early writers – now known as the foundation (and legends) of the Caribbean literary canon – to have come through this programme. To quote the BBC retrospective that inspired this post, “They felt encouraged to keep on writing…they were writers of the Caribbean.” They are today considered to be the classics of Caribbean literature.

V. S. Naipaul was editor for a couple years after Swanzy – and the programme speaks to how his stint helped him to develop his craft to become the Caribbean literary legend that he is. The special explores how the programme, which ran up to 1958, shaped Caribbean literature; in positive ways and in ways that bears some re-examining as the programme touches on, particularly in its framing of the idea of what Caribbean literature ‘should be’.

It’s an interesting listen, if you have the time. This one sort of summarizes in roughly 30 minutes. There is a two parter as well, the first part covering much of the same ground as the previous link, the Caribbean Voices’ impact and the second part looking at what’s happened since up to the early 2000s. The retrospective was produced by Colin Grant and ran in 2009.

Through what platforms do we engage with Caribbean literature today?

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, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure). 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.

 

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Reading Room and Gallery XVl

This page is for sharing links to things of interest around the internet. It’ll be sporadically updated; so, come back from time to time. For the previous reading rooms (1, 11, 111, 1v, v, v1 , v11, v111, 1x, x, x1, x11, x111, x1v, xv), click the links or use the search feature to the right, to the right.

VISUALS

No this is not just an excuse to post the Formation video. This is, as all links in this section, a how they made it post. And this is the it that they made – so much to unpack with the visuals (video directed by Melinda Matsoukas with footage from 2014 documentary That B.E.A.T. directed by Abteen Bagheri) and as I said on my facebook, I’m kind of digging politicalBey.

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“What are you going to do with this kind of thing?” – initial response to Dorothea Lange’s street photography during America’s Great Depression (sidenote: for more art on the Great Depression you can’t go wrong with the film The Grapes of Wrath and the book it’s based on)

POETRY

“Poems for me often come in a flash—and then there is the intense crafting that begins in getting at the poem that is hidden within that first draft.” – Jacqueline Bishop

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‘To add to the insult, my father reminded me that “Tonto” means dumb-dumb in Spanish. Perhaps I became a writer the very night I became an Indian dressed as a fake Indian named Dumb-Dumb.’ – Natalie Diaz on Hand-me-down Halloween

BIOGRAPHIES

‘”He wrote back to me saying ‘Michael Anthony, promise me you will never write another poem. But the short story has promise,'” recalls Anthony in remarkably good humour.’ Read more on this Trinidadian author.

BLOGGED

“The ballet that inspired the maswork is about the inevitability of death (the title gives that away, right?). It’s a classic Minshall move to have taken this exemplary work of European ‘high’ culture and translated it via two traditional Carnival characters, the moko jumbie and the Dame Lorraine. And through a minimalist but rigorously considered form, a deceptively simple performance by the masquerader, a touch of self-awareness and self-parody (it’s a burly dude in drag, after all), to have made something that his audience can plainly delight in, while feeling the little emotional quiver of recognition that this is an artist’s elegy for his art.” – Nicholas Laughlin in a social media discussion quoted on Annie Paul’s blog re Peter Minshall’s controversial 2016 King costume The Dying Swan – Ras Najinski in Drag as Anna Pavlova in The Dying Swan

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“It really does take me back to childhood; hearing (but not listening to) the weather report at the end of the 7pm evening news, sitting at the dining table with my brother eating supper of bread and… (bread and peanut butter or sardines or potted meat or corned beef or fried bologna or cheese or guava jelly or maybe just butter.. but always bread) and drinking ovaltine from my Minnie Mouse mug. The bread would be wood-bread (forever the BEST bread ever to be made!) and the ovaltine would be hot, sweetened with sugar (or condensed milk if there wasn’t any sugar) and creamy with milk. The adults would usually be talking about any and everything – politics, the number of times the “current lock off” that day (power outages were very common then), the happenings at school or work; they never seemed much interested in the weather report except when a hurricane was about to hit, then they weren’t interested in anything but the weather report.” – reminiscences… at SimplyNatural blog.

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“It appears that the local writer needs to begin to consider publishing her work in regional and international presses. Such an endeavor, though daunting, will begin to establish the readership necessary to establish regional relevance as an author and then hopefully territorial significance in the landscape of our local literature. Poets need to start publishing their poetry in established online and print journals, novelists need to start publishing short stories, and so on. The obvious benefit to the individual is that arduous process of creation and revision sharpens her skills and hones her craft, meaning that when the next great Virgin Islands novel is published it can be a text that stands up to and against the contemporary novels of the region.” – Richard Georges, BVI

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“Everything you hear me saying on this record is at least the fourth or fifth draft. I would write a verse and then rewrite it and rewrite it. I don’t sit down and write a song, and then slam down the phone like, ‘We got another one!’ and pop some champagne. It’s like if someone’s writing a novel: You write a series of drafts.” – Black Thought of the Roots as quoted in this posting about the greatest hip hop band of all time.

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NON FICTION

‘“Naipaul instructed Theroux in writing. He rejected anything false or showy or mannered; he insisted on clarity and simplicity and hard work. “The truth is messy,” he told Theroux. “It is not pretty. Writing must reflect that. Art must tell the truth.” He decided that a writer’s duty is to be wholly honest to himself, without compromise, and to tell the truth as he sees it, never mind the consequences.’ – Jeremy Taylor writing on V. S. Naipaul

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“My face is a mama’s face to my daughter. She holds my face and says Mommy, you’re pretty. My husband has only known me with this face. My co-workers have only known me with this face. I have many friends who know me only with this face. It is a good face. Next year will be half a life with this particular face.” – Latoya Jordan

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“With this heightened sensitivity to the Caribbean space and spirit, the ethos of Plantation, Kamau exists as a kind of sage, but in a society that still has not been able to consistently decide what to do with him, he can be more accurately likened to a figure in Roman law and society, known as the homo sacer, a status that may fall upon oath breakers as well as persons who threatened the hegemony in that society.” – Vladimir Lucien writing on Kamau Braithwaite

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Okay, so this isn’t riveting prose; but it is riveting research into youth career selection among a select group of students in Antigua and Barbuda, and revealing in what it says about the disconnect between available subjects and career goals and national agenda. Give it a read.

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‘We run into an old lady.
“Children, tell me, can I drink milk from my cow?”
We look down at the ground, we have our orders—collect data, but don’t interact with the local population.
Finally the driver speaks up. “Grandma, how old are you?”
“Oh, more than eighty. Maybe more than that, my documents got burned during the war.”
“Then drink all you want.”
I understood, not right away, but after a few years, that we all took part in that crime, in that conspiracy.’ – Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich #riveting

WRITERS ON PUBLISHING

“Compelling reasons to carry your book include you (1) being a local author; (2) having strong publicity backing your book; or (3) proving that you will bring in the readers/buyers. If you don’t have any of these three things, you’re a tough sell.” Brooke Warner writing on why your book isn’t being carried in bookstores  

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“By industry standards, I suppose I am a failed author. Since I started writing for young readers in 2000, only three of my thirty stories have been published traditionally. I turned to self-publishing as my only recourse, and now face the contempt of those who see self-publishing as a mere exercise in vanity.” – Zetta Elliott on Black Authors and Self-Publishing

WRITERS ON WRITING CREATIVES ON CREATING

“My friend James Patterson is a big believer in the importance of a great outline. These days, in fact, the outline may be the main thing he actually writes, while he turns over the actual writing to his stable of co-authors. This is how he manages to turn out three or four novels a year, and still fit in a few holes of golf most days. Still, James Patterson believes in hard work. Seven days a week, in his case—though Mr. Patterson doesn’t call writing work, because he loves it so much. This is a man with an unmistakable passion for what he does.” – Joyce Maynard after taking James Patterson’s masterclass. Two comments: 1, I always wondered how people churned out three to four novels a year. Mystery solved. 2, I won’t sign off on drafting outlines and leaving the actual writing to co-authors but I do like the belief in “hard work” and the “unmistakable passion”.

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“Once I am done with a draft of a chapter, I am the only person who can read it. Pages are full of half sentences, doodles, arrows pointing here and there. Then, I complete sentences; I fix the grammar, and make the images understandable. Then that chapter is ready for an editor.” – How I Write My Graphic Novels: A Breakdown from Ozge Samanci

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“To be honest, when I started with the pthalo blue background, I intended to let the wispy bits of the feathers fade into the blue … but then I mixed up a nice buttery colour and I just got carried away cutting away the negative shapes around the wreath shape.
That left me with a blue wreath floating on a light background. So then I got the idea to add a pattern, to help integrate the different elements of the image  … and I started with circles. How about a wreath floating, on a stoney riverbed?” – Donna Grandin as she creates.

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“The other thing I would say is if you feel safe in the area that you’re working in you’re not working in the right area…go a little bit out of your depth…” – David Bowie

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“Then one day I realized something. I realized that in the midst of all of the colourful leaves, there was the occasional stem covered in tiny white flowers, like little starbursts. I had seen the stems with the buds before, but for some reason I never noticed the flowers.” – Donna Grandin

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“If your handsome, muscular, confident hero strides assertively and briskly into the dusty, spare, lamplit room, you’ve got a problem with excessive description—specifically, with the overuse of adjectives and adverbs.”  – Joseph Bates writing in Writer’s Digest the Five Cardinal Sins of Description

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“A concert pianist practices twenty or thirty hours for every hour she’s on stage. That’s after she’s completed years of lessons and practice to master her craft well enough to be on stage in the first place. A champion athlete trains long and hard to prepare herself for an event that may last seconds. Everyone expects this of them, the athlete and pianist expect it of themselves. No one expects to succeed – or get paid – for their first effort. Except writers. Writing is a craft and a skill that requires constant work, constant practice to maintain. I took the book back down off the shelf.” – KeVin K (Kevin Killiany) blogging at NovelSpaces

INTERVIEWS

“Being laid off, having to live off the bare essentials didn’t detour him, as a matter of fact he didn’t mind at all. It was almost as if he was liberated and being forced into his calling. Attending writing workshops, classes, using his experiences, he has built characters that are so much like him and his experiences and characters that are nothing like him at all. He’s taken his readers from small country towns to international locations that would be any traveler’s dream. Speaking not just as an author but also as a fan I have seen his books grow and evolve; novels that aren’t just about sex or drama but novels that are meant to tell stories. To this day he still goes to writing classes and gets excited about taking notes and learning new things.” – re fAntiguan Eric Jerome Dickey

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“Let’s take ‘Where Did Our Love Go’ by The Supremes. This is a hypothetical example, but, to me, the most important part of that song is the tenor sax part in the background. So while everyone will sing the lead — ‘Baby, baby where did our love go’ — I’ll start singing … the saxophone part that’s buried in the mix somewhere. I have no idea why [it is] that the small nuances of a song are more attractive to me than the actual song. [But] this definitely explains why I have zero pop sensibility.” – ?uestlove of The Roots on NPR. Listen to the full interview.

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“Soul II Soul was a collective and formerly a sound system. This is how we started. Making music together came about during our days as a sound system. Most traditional sound systems make their own music, which is what led to the genesis of the whole Soul II Soul forming. You can really relate back to songs like “Jazzie’s Groove” and “Fairplay” to get a full understanding of what we were trying to do musically. What I tried to do on the first album was to explain what Soul II Soul was all about. Technically, Soul II Soul is a sound system rather than a band per se, which is why we have a rotating lineup of different singers. This goes back to the origins of the old sound systems as well, because in a sound system, you would also have many different MCs or DJs. All of these things combined to form Soul II Soul.” – Jazzie B., British artiste with Antiguan roots reflects on Soul II Soul’s breakthrough album.

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“It starts while I’m in the final editing phases of a novel—that’s when I begin thinking about what I’d like to work on next. I consider what would be fun and what excites me. Once I have a clear sense of where I want to go, I write a quick first draft, kind of vomit-style. This doesn’t take more than a couple months, and it’s usually a short manuscript, not more than 60,000 words. I let that draft sit for a while, then go through and hack out bits I hate and fancy up the bits I like. Once I’ve done this a few times and feel I’ve hit a wall, I send the manuscript to a couple readers. I incorporate their feedback and make more revisions and then hire a freelance editor. Right now I am working with Diane Glazman for my next novel, Spore Girl. Then I begin shopping the manuscript around. I went with a small press for Destroying Angel, and I hope to sign with an agent and release Spore Girl with a larger publisher.” – Missy Wilkinson on doubt, writing, and which book she’d like to live in.

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“Talent is the tiniest part of a writer’s makeup. What counts is perseverance, good friends (writers and non-writers), a tough skin to ignore what others think about you–which is none of your business anyway–and a little bit of luck, which will help you on those days when you are down and thinking, ‘Why on earth am I doing this to myself?'” – JAmerican writer Geoffrey Philp on his writing journey and tools.

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“…there’s no money in it…” – Linisa George, Antiguan and Barbudan writer, arts and social activist, and former Wadadli Pen judge, on her various arts projects. Listen to the full interview.

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.

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