Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

Reading Room and Gallery 21

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.

INTERVIEWS

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

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“I just looking to give back, I looking to show that you can be some body, especially in the arts.” – Sheena Rose

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“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

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“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

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“What I am coming to realize is that long before my preoccupations and obsessions become fully known to me, they are at play in my work.”  – Jacqueline Bishop in conversation with Loretta Collins Klobah

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“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

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“Lightfoot:  Chapter Five was difficult to write, but it was also incredibly revealing. It shows that even within such a homogeneous population of working peoples there was an added set of constraints on black women. Specifically, constraints around what women’s roles were supposed to be and the dangers of masculinized black women. And, of course, there was never the sense that black women in post-emancipation Antigua should have the right to stay home and be dainty ladies. Whatever stock ideas about femininity that might have been applied in the middle of the nineteenth century to white women certainly didn’t apply to black women, ever.” – Dr. Natasha Lightfoot, a historian of Antiguan and Barbudan descent, interviewed by the African American Intellectual History Society on her book Troubling Freedom: Antigua and the Aftermath of British Emancipation

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“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

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INTERVIEWER
Do you have a reader in your mind when you write?
BALDWIN
No, you can’t have that.
-from James Baldwin, the Art of Fiction No. 78 in the Paris Review

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“Writing a novel is like pulling a saw out of your vagina. Writing a memoir is like pulling a saw out of your vagina while others are looking on.” – 5 Questions for… Emily Raboteau

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“It is a myth of my own invention. I am taken with the idea of creating new myths that speak to our current world in the same way that old mythology spoke to the world in its creators’ time.” – Lesley Nneka Arimah on Imagining a Universe of Handcrafted Babies  in her story Who Will Greet You at Home published in the New Yorker

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“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

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“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

FICTION

‘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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“No, Pa, it really could happen that way!” – A Conversation with My Father by Grace Paley as read by Ali Smith

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“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

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“We were surprised to find ourselves thinking again, it had been so long.” – from We by Mary Grimm

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“Tantie Lucy had drunk from the cup of happy living and the shop was her world.” – Lance Dowrich’s In and Out the Dusty Window

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“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

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“Some days I am alone, and I wonder whether I exist.” – Circus by Anushka Jasraj

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“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

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“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

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“…it comes down to cause and effect, but and therefore.” – Janice Hardy on plotting

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‘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

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“Now this: mistakes are everything. Write, abandon, start again. But understand you will do this on your own, over and over.” –  Ellene Glenn Moore

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“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

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“3.Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” –Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing

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“different works have different ambitions and, therefore, require different approaches” – Zehra Nabi

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“I abandoned short stories and wrote a novel.  Maybe short stories weren’t my thing.  In a book, I had more elbow room.” – The Big Rush, or What I Learned from Sending a Story Out Too Soon by Julie Wu

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“You have to do the work; you have to do your research. There are no short cuts.” – Justina Ireland in discussion on Writing the Other

POETRY

“Here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make” (from La-La Land. Lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul)

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“That is how life is.

When you are placed in hot oil

be patient

keep going

you will be ready soon.” – Browning Meat by M. A. Brown in Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters

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“My father
would not have imagined

seeing me here,
hearing of me fleeing a war.” – Althea Romeo-Mark’s A Kind of Refugee

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“Maybe it is best
not to know.
Maybe it is
Inevitable.” – I am Unsure by Ashley Harris

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“That’s one thing nobody tells you. Sometimes it’s okay to give up.” – Boys Don’t Cry

“give yourself a chance Andre
be open
love someone
do not fret, fete” – A Prayer to Andre

“When the nurse takes
blood you won’t have to be afraid
of her knowing you are afraid.
And then maybe you could tackle your
your fear of white cars next.” – Incurable Fears
from Poems by Andre Bagoo in Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters

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“as I walk

people

stare and pass by

on the far side” – Madness Disguises Sanity by Opal Palmer Adisa

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“The mirrors of their eyes only blind me.” – from Ivy Alvarez’s What Ingrid Bergman Wanted

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“He is a writer a sensitive man
a thundering terrible intelligence” – from Pamela Mordecai’s Great Writers and Toads

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“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.

At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?” – Claudia Rankine reading excerpts from her book Citizen 

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“Another glittering day without you; take my hand
and bring me to wherever we were: the empty house
in Petit Valley or the city of Lapeyrouse
where headstones multiply like sails on a Sunday,
where a widower tacks under a pink parasol,
where people think that pain or pan is good for the soul.” – excerpt from Derek Walcott’s Lapeyrouse Umbrella published in Morning, Paramin

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“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

VISUAL ART

Cloudrise from Denver Jackson on Vimeo which I discovered through the Wardens Walk blog  which I discovered through the Pages Unbound blog

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team-painting-by-rachel-bento-commissioned-by-gov-gen

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.

MISC.

Speculative fans, I thought you might find this bibliography interesting. It’s a Bibliography of Caribbean Science Fiction and Fantasy.

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‘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

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READING ROOM VII

Like the title says, this is the seventh reading room. Use the search feature to your right and the term ‘reading room’ to find the others. Six came before, pack-full-0 good reading: poetry, fiction, non fiction, and some visuals too. Good reading makes for good writing. So use the reading rooms like your personal library and enjoy. And remember, keep coming back; they’re never finished. As I discover things, things get added. And don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts re not only what you read here but also possible additions to the reading room.

BLOG

Monique Roffey (Trinidad and Tobago), author of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle -a book I recommended in my Blogger on Books a while back – shares writing advice and recommended reads in this post. I also want to mention that another Roffey post sparked a most interesting discussion re Caribbean literature – check out this post (also this) and this one from Vladimir Lucien (St. Lucia) for more on that.

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Have you read any of these Caribbean women writers?

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Love everything about this post and Shakirah Bourne’s gushing nervousness and excitement over meeting her literary hero. READ MORE.

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“Make no apology for your language, and nobody will expect one.” Bajan Shakirah Bourne speaks about the write to use our natural, our mother, our heart language in life and on the page. Sidebar: that bit about Dickens struck me about him training his ear and his hand to write what people said, and how they said it; as a reporter, who writes what some people think is short hand but is actually Joanne-warp-speed-hand, I’m beginning to see how my life tracking down stories and interviewing people shaped and shapes the stories I tell and how I tell them. Still figuring it out, but yeah, that resonated with me. Plus I love Dickens. Sidebar over. Substantively, Bourne writes about Scottish author Irvine Welsh and what we can learn about how he uses dialect, unapologetically. Read the full here.

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I was tempted to put this art-heavy Althea Romeo Mark post in the visual category but it’s an art blog,  in which she reminds us that “art is part of our everyday life” and shows us too. Read and see here.

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Food for thought: 5 Reasons to Wait and Slow Down when it comes to Publishing your Book.

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In this post, Jamaican writer Diane Browne wonders, what is it about Calabash, the literary festival that leaves us all a little bit drunk on words. Dr. Carolyn Cooper also had some musings about the magical festival.

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What Makes a Writer ‘Caribbean’? asks Lisa Allen-Agostini

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Creative people can be oddities…but that’s a good thing…really…and daring to be a little odd can be good for anyone. Embarrass Yourself. It’s Good for the Heart by Elaine Orr.

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“I think you have to work hard, and you have to place yourself in the light somehow – whether it is at readings, by writing online, by submissions, by reaching out to people as you have just done – and if you stand there long enough and nicely enough (i.e. as part of a bigger picture, not as the star of your own show!), then good things do happen.” – RU FREEMAN RESPONDS TO A ASPIRING WRITER

FICTION

I’ll confess I haven’t fully read Gateway – a Caribbean Sampler in the Missing Slate as yet but somehow I have no qualms about recommending it. When you’re done, check out the first issue of Susumba’s Book Bag.

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“You wake to see the sunrise exactly once a year. The cock’s crow which normally signals the start of the day alerts you that you are late.

Kadooment Day is here.” READ MORE OF THIS BARBADOS FESTIVAL FROM THE UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE OF SHAKIRAH BOURNE’S PEN IN ‘THE FOOT IS MINE’

INTERVIEWS

Elizabeth Nunez being interviewed on NPR about my book Oh Gad!

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Kei Miller interview.

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John Robert Lee’s interview with the ARC has some interesting insights about the arts scene in St. Lucia which some may find also mirrors the scene in their territory. Read the full here.

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Audio interview – my girl, Belizean writer Ivory Kelly on the BBC.

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“The IDEA is key. Get your IDEA straight and you can execute it in a thousand ways. But the IDEA must always be singular and original.” – Read more of Jamaican Roland Watson-Grant’s interview with Annie Paul.

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“There’s been a kind of amnesia,” he says, “or not wanting to focus on this, because of it being so painful. It’s kind of crazy. We can deal with the second world war and the Holocaust and so forth and what not, but this side of history, maybe because it was so hideous, people just do not want to see. People do not want to engage.” More from the director of 12 Years a Slave here.

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“My father recited poetry all the time, spasmodically and loudly in the house. But there was a method to his madness. He read with a compelling rotundity: Neruda’s ‘United Fruit Company’, Wilfred Owen’s ‘Exposure’, Martin Carter’s ‘This is the Dark Time My Love’, Derek Walcott’s ‘As John to Patmos’, Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gently Into that Good Night’. He also wrote and was very modest about doing so.” – Read more of the Arc’s interview with St. Lucian poet Vladimir Lucien.

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“In a way Island Princess in Brooklyn celebrates my father’s family and their journey. Interestingly enough, Cordelia Finds Fame and Fortune celebrated the fact that fame and fortune can be found here at home (no need to migrate). However, Princess is forced to migrate and forced to make a new life or return home. Is this back story then part of the journey, a journey in which I am now able to look outwards from our island to our people overseas? This circle of family, of story, fills me with wonder.” – Diane Browne, Read the full interview at the Brown Bookshelf.

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“My greatest fortune has come from the people who believed in me who have allowed my writing to flourish, and from the many individuals who I’ve come into contact with during the creative process of writing. However I have yet to walk into a bookstore and see my books there, that remains a dream!  So – a mixed life, and at the age of 60 I know I have much to be thankful for and hope when and if my writing is read, that it will bring inspiration to others.” – Read more o Arc magazine’s interview with Commonwealth short story prize winner for the Caribbean region.

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Carib Lit interviews Ezekiel Alan, a self published Jamaican novelist who claimed the Commonwealth book prize. Now that’s inspiring. How’d he do it?

“Get honest feedback, from people not too close to you. Do as professional a job as possible — get your book properly edited and proofread.”  Alan also encourages writers to develop and stick with a writing routine and to think outside the box in selecting story ideas. “It is tougher to compete by producing what everyone else is producing.”

Read more.

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Writer-colleague and Burt Award Winner A-dZiko Gegele told me on facebook “Your ‘Island SisStar’, Jamaica Kincaid was at Calabash Jamaica this year – what a fabulous soul – she was witty, and full of humility and grace – highly rated by the audience.” Here’s Susumba’s coverage of that interview.

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So much inspiration to pull from in this interview, it was hard to excerpt just one but in the end I went this: “Whatever work we do, we must work from the heart.” Dena Simmons is an American educator and activist with Antiguan and Barbudan roots. I know because I was at a literary conference in the USA where among the very few black people there, there was one other Antiguan or so she introduced herself to me and I’m happy to have made the connection. Read up.

NON FICTION

Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing.

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“I write because the island I live in is small, and I feel a sting each time the people who ask where I am from, then cut short their attention when they realize just how small it is, cut short their attention because the island is not on the radar of much-of-the-world, unless one sharpens the gaze.” – Jonathan Bellot. Read more.

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I hardly know where to excerpt, there’s so much wisdom here but…how about this:

“If you like fantasy and you want to be the next Tolkien, don’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies — Tolkien didn’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies, he read books on Finnish philology. Go and read outside of your comfort zone, go and learn stuff.”

Incidentally, I remember a professor making a similar point about being a journalist, he suggested that we needed to spend less time in the bubble of learning about media and communications and more time just learning about…well, everything.

Read more from Neil Gaiman here.

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“As a child being educated in Guyana, English Literature was an invitation to other worlds, an invitation which has never lost its appeal…” read more of Maggie Harris reflecting on a literary journey which most recently spiked with her 2014 win of the Commonwealth Short Story prize for the Caribbean region.

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If you’re thinking of publishing especially in the children’s market and you live in the Caribbean, you should read this article by Kellie Magnus.

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“In the first draft I sometimes found my characters being mouthpieces for me and my good intentions, and that made the writing weak and bland. In the second draft, I shut up and let the characters do their own talking, and the story improved considerably. The struggle of the protagonist to come to an understanding of herself beyond victimhood was also much clearer when I didn’t try to impose a social justice agenda on her. She became not merely a representative of all children and adults who have survived child sexual abuse, but a real character, with hopes and fears and wants and needs she tries to meet in the way she knows how to, and I had to let her speak for herself in order to give her the agency her history had denied her.” – READ MORE OF LISA ALLEN-AGOSTINI’S ATTEMPTS  TO NAVIGATE THE TERRAIN BETWEEN NON FICTION HORROR AND FICTION WITH BOTH A SOCIAL CONSCIENCE AND A REAL HEART BEAT.

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“I want to write poetry that is alive, fresh, vibrant, contemporary in feeling, readable, thought-provoking, playfully subversive, powerful, and yet still tender. I want it to be full of the energy, culture, history, music, natural beauty, spirituality, and social struggles of Puerto Rico, and other islands of the Caribbean where I have visited or lived… I don’t write love poetry, and I don’t rhyme. I write because I want to communicate with readers in a way that matters, makes an impact, or makes some kind of beneficial difference in the reader’s thoughts and in the society. Can poetry do that? I still believe in the power of the word…If there is any “must” for a poet, from my perspective, it is to widely read other poets and thus develop the ability to sort out your own place as both an innovator and a member of an ongoing literary community and tradition that you will nourish and be nourished by.” READ MORE INSIGHTS FROM PUERTO RICAN POET LORETTA COLLINS KOBLAH

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Plagiarists, Muses and ‘Stalk-home’ Syndrome by Farzana Versey.

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Never give up…plus, yay, supernatural gifs: Jennifer L. Armentrout on Why I’m not the Person to ask about self-publishing.

POETRY

Antiguan and Barbudan Linisa George’s Poetry Postcard on the BBC, In the Closet.

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St. Lucian Vladimir Lucien’s Poetry Post Card on the BBC, Ebb 1.

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“In Carnival season, he is Lord and often Monarch, but at his day job, he is a squire at White Knight Laundry, where hotels and restaurants hire linens for special occasions, and employees wash, iron, mend, pick-up, and drop off.” This line captured for me that split between real life and the larger than life calypso persona of the Carnival season. Read the full poem – What He Brought For Me by Loretta Collins Koblah – in the July 2014 edition of Caribbean Beat.

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“Tonight I want to offer you
this moonlight cupped in a purple
flower …” sigh, right? Swoon to the rest of this Esther Phillips poem, And Yet Again, here.

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Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep by Elizabeth Frye

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Poetry Parnassus – “verse from each Olympic nation

VISUAL

Calypso is storytelling… check out this Sparrow classic for a brief lesson. Don’t forget to dance.

Other calypso video posts on this site include: the Latumba post, the King Obtinate post, and the Short Shirt post.

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Something I’ve long wanted to do with the Wadadli Pen stories.

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, 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 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.

 

 

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Reading Room lV

Yep, it’s a new Reading Room; lots of stuff to share so it was time to expand from Reading Room and Gallery, Reading Room and Gallery II,  and Reading Room and Gallery III. But I still hope you’ll check them out.

DISCLAIMER: By definition, you’ll be linking to third party sites from these Links-We-Love pages. Linked sites are not, however, reviewed or controlled by Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize nor coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse); and Wadadli Pen (the blog, the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize and coordinator/blogger Joanne C. Hillhouse) disclaims any responsibility or liability relating to any linked sites and does not assume any responsibility for their contents. In other words, enter at your own risk.

Here you’ll find stories, interviews, reviews, poems; you name it…a totally subjective showcase of (mostly) Caribbean written (sometimes visual and audio visual) pieces that I (Joanne) have either personally appreciated or which have been recommended (and approved) for posting/linking. If you’re looking for the winning Wadadli Pen stories (and I hope you are!), check Wadadli Pen through the years. You can also see the Best of Wadadli Pen special issue at Anansesemwhich has the added feature of audio dramatizations of some of the stories.

POEMS
This poet acknowledges that her English is broken an not by accident. The poem’s a quick read but it will stick with you.

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Tanya Shirley’s poetry is vivid and steeped in the rhythms of rural Jamaica and the tensions between the characters that inhabit it…if these three  (Matey*Shall not Conquer, Waiting for Rain (Again), and Every Hoe have him Stick a Bush) are any example.

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I had mixed feelings about the poems in Aloud Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café Nicole Breedlove’s An Open Letter to Myself was one I liked. Also her ‘Front Page or Bust’ but I can’t find a link to that one. Also on my must-read list
Diane Burns’ Sure You Can Ask me a Personal QuestionTough Language and American Sonnet by Wanda Coleman;
Martin Espada’s Two Mexicanos Lynched in Santa Cruz, California, May 3 1877  and Latin Night at the Pawn Shop ; Pedro Pietri’s Telephone Booth Number 905 ½ , La bodega sold dreams , the Book of Genesis according to St. Miguelito , and the Records of Time by Miguel Pinero; Born Anew at Each A.M. by Piri Thomas; Asha Bandele’s In Response to a Brother’s Question about what he should do when his Best Friend beats up his Woman; and For the Men who still don’t get it by Carol Diehl.

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When Antiguan and Barbudan folk history writer and poet Joy Lawrence said this is her favourite poem, I had to look it up. Like she said it has a force that impresses on all the senses.

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W. H. Auden’s Musee des Beaux Arts is one of my all time favourite poems. I also like Stop all the Clocks.

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“My beauty was never the common beauty of a pampered and petted whore
Whoever seeks such beauty deserves whatever uselessness he finds.
Tepid and tasteless like watered down coffee.
My beauty is so fierce,
so dark, so thick
so ancient, so strong,
you will have to grow new eyes to drink it in.” – love these lines from Donna Aza Weir’s Uncommon Beauty in the Afro Beat Journal… in fact I love the entire Haiti-themed poem.

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Opal Palmer Adisa writes of

“Obedient daughters.
Patient women.
Compliant wives.
Loving mothers.”

in Watching and Waiting.

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Poetry posting by Althea Romeo Mark – I especially liked ‘Whisperer’ and ‘Because I am Woman’.

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She by Eric Merton Roach – posted to the Caribbean Writers tumblr.

SHORT STORIES

NON FICTION

West Virginia native Natalie Sypolt writes of her struggle with writing what she knows in a way that resonates as both powerful and true: “My decision to move away from ‘what I knew’ to safer stories also had to do with the rejections I’d been receiving from literary journals, the models I’d been reading in class (which were nothing like my stories), and, ultimately, the old fear that who I am and where I’m from is seen by the rest of the world as a joke.” The last one is what really bites. Read the whole piece here.

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What to call this? A reverse rejection letter? Not throwing any shade but it’s fun when writers are able to get their own back now and again. Here’s the End of the World of Books from Letters of Note – a pretty cool site with letters of note like that. Such as the letter exchange re the evolution of the Outsiders, a movie I remember for its beautiful sunsets and poetry (nothing gold can stay…) and music (Stevie Wonder’s ribbon in the sky), the delightful teenage angst and suburban style class warfare, across the tracks romance, the epic rumble at the end and all the Rob Lowe-Matt Dillon-C. Thomas Howell-Ralph Macchio hotness; a movie both my sister and I loved back when we were tweens crushing on Pony Boy and Soda Pop.

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I found this to be an interesting read. It includes references to teaching Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy and other Caribbean books in college/university level courses in the US where the culture of the book is so different from the students’ lives; how do you access and understand the nuances of that culture without having a knee jerk sort of superior response. Here’s an example:

‘One of the things students often say when I teach a book like      this (Lionheart Gal) is “Oh, my gosh, their lives are so rough. They’re      so mistrustful of men. It’s supposed to be nicer than that.”      And “Why can’t they just get along?” I ask them to      answer the same questions that the women in Sistren were asked      to answer in order to create these stories. Questions like “When      did you first realize that you were oppressed as a woman?”      not just “What is your life like?” I ask my students,      “If you were to ask the same questions, what would your      story come out sounding like?” That is often a very good      way to make them understand the parallels between the issues      they are dealing with and the commonsense wisdom, the women’s      wisdom, articulated in these stories.’

Beyond the themes, it also talks about the challenges surrounding how students (including creole speaking students socialized to reject the creole in an academic space) engage with the language in these texts. For these and the other issues it explores, I found this article by Professor Rhonda Cobham-Sander to be share-worthy.

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So I’m intrigued by this Lorna Goodison interview for a few reasons. Because she’s a kick ass poet. Because of what she said about measuring (or not measuring) yourself against others. Because she always comes across like a cool down to earth Caribbean sister in spite of the lofty heights to which her talent has taken her. Because she loves Keats. And because of the question and answer re Antigua at the end.

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Beware self censorship…that’s the moral of this story.

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“These days, I have been learning to write with optimism. The kind of writing that enjoys life, whether it’s a talk on the phone, sunlight on a pier, or the wild joy of a rumba.” This is from Summer Edward’s article, On Writing for Adults. It’s a novel idea for too many of us writers who write from such dark spaces. I like this idea.

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Two things…what she said here… but also how our stray words can sometimes stifle an emerging creative light… one of the things Wadadli Pen urges is to write/draw/express your truth freely…if you can’t be free in the imagination, then where.

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“It isn’t personal. It feels personal, you’re sure it’s personal, how could be anything BUT personal…but it isn’t. The work is simply a widget, and this particular widget didn’t fit. So try again. If it comes back, re-examine your widget and edit as needed. Then try again.” Yeah, you guessed it, this is about processing and handling rejections (the bane of every writer’s existence).

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“Truth be told, some of my most rewarding research didn’t feel like research at the time I was experiencing it; it just felt like life.” Read more.

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Rex Nettleford wrote of dance:

“So, you know, the power of the body, it’s your instrument, it doesn’t  belong to anybody else, and you can use it to carve designs in space — by  which I mean create a vocabulary. I learned from early that just a turn of  the head, the drop of a shoulder, can say a thousand words.”

Read More.

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Words can be powerful deterrents; this blog post by Danielle Boodoo Fortune is a reminder that we should be about using our words to encourage our young people to express not repress.

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That fine line between when it’s still yours and when it isn’t anymore is not an easy one  to walk. But the writing is still… you just (just, ha!) have to learn how to switch gears.

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Publishing may be changing, and this article breaks down how, but it also says in simple terms that what we do remains the same – tell good stories.

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What I like about this article (Extended Family: When Fictional Characters show up in your Living Room by Nancy Kricorian) is how it illustrates what a slow, subtle, deliberate process writing often is. Ten years sounds like a lot especially compared to the “six months” or less spouted by other writers but this is a reminder that it’s not about time but about space, about worlds inhabiting each other. And that’s not to say that that can’t happen more quickly than 10 years; after all Zora Neale Hurston wrote one of the classic works of literature Their Eyes were watching God over seven weeks while on a trip to Haiti. But there’s no rush (publishing deadlines notwithstanding). I haven’t read Nancy’s book (All the Light There was) but the author’s attention to detail in building the world of her characters makes me want to. Plus I can relate to the need to steal time from the demands and expectations of your life, time to write.

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“That is how I feel sometimes with my art, that you have ideas but to some persons, it looks like nothing. But to me…nothing is something.” That’s a quote from Bajan artist Sheena Rose’s first performance piece (if you don’t count this intriguing Sweet Gossip project). I like this review because it gives enough of a play by play that you can kind of see it but it also provides an interpretation of the actions that it’s not simply a play by play. As a long distance fan of Rose’s, I’m liking the daring suggested by this brave new step. I had an online discussion with someone who wondered if the nudity was necessary to communicate all the piece hoped to. Necessary? Perhaps not…but gratuituous, I sense not…there is substance behind the artifice and figuring out what that is is the interesting bit.

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This is an interesting piece on publishing from the Caribbean Book Blog. It addresses what to do if your book goes out of print. This is something I’ve actually had to deal with with my first two books which were originally published with Macmillan and which despite positive response didn’t sell as well as the publisher anticipated and as such were allowed to go out of print. It was a low point for me, but I rebounded when after seeking the reversal of rights, I was able to get The Boy from Willow Bend so far back in print with Hansib. This article deals with one of those things writers need to consider about publishing contracts when it comes to rights. Now, it would be ironic if I posted this and found myself, despite my best efforts to be well researched and well advised each time before signing on the dotted line, ensnared in the very things it warns against down the road…but I won’t let that possibility stop me from sharing this because if you’re thinking of publishing, you need to be mindful of the pitfalls and the potholes. We all need to be.

INTERVIEWS

Emily Raboteau on memoir writing and her book Searching for Zion.

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Maya Angelou’s poetry and prose are legendary; so too the woman herself. Here’s a recent interview. In it she talks about her writing rhythms, heartwarming encounters, Martin Luther King, James Baldwin and much more. Part of what stood out for me was the challenges of the writing process itself because sometimes you imagine that it comes easy for the greats while you struggle to find the right word. She said: “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” and every writer, every writer struggling for the right word, feels the truth of that. I was struck by the condescension with which one writer spoke of her decision to write for Hallmark. To quote Rick Santorum (and I never thought I’d say that), what a snob. Glad to have Maya confirm that not only does a well worded greeting card have the power to affect people as surely as a work of great literature, it’s just as difficult to find the right word: “I would write down a paragraph that expressed what I wanted to say, and then try to reduce it to two sentences.”

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Recently someone who knows Edwidge Dandicat indicated that she’s just as warm and generous as she appears to be in her interviews. All that and talented too. She remains one of my literary inspirations. Check out her frank discussion on women writers, tokenism, and more hard truths from the world of publishing…don’t worry, while she doesn’t sugar coat, she still manages to inspire. Oh, and like her, I, too, think Alice Walker’s In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens should be required reading especially for black women writers. As for Dandicat’s books, for my money you can’t go wrong with the Farming of Bones and Create Dangerously.

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Junot Diaz interview at the Caribbean Literary Salon. If you haven’t read Diaz yet, you should; meanwhile, go read this interview.

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Zadie Smith on The Root, frank discussion on a lot of literary issues including reviews …my favourite line on the question of multiculturalism “We are people; we exist.”

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My interview at PhD in Creative Writing; a blog that asks writers in five not so easy questions, how’d you become a writer.

VISUAL ART

The relationship between sisters is so much a part of my writing, how could I not share Claudette Dean’s Sisters? One of the things I find beguiling about it is how at first glance you see the obvious similarities – notably the shape of the face and eyes but that the longer you look you see that each of those eyes tell a different story. I find myself wondering what those stories are. It’d make a great writing prompt.

Love this! (Requiem for Haiti by Chantal Bethel)

N.B. For some of my stuff, visit http://jhohadli.wordpress.com

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