KYK 36 EDITED BY A. J. SEYMOUR AND AN McDONALD
KYK 36 EDITED BY A. J. SEYMOUR AND IAN McDONALD !
ACROSS THE EDITOR'S DESK
Along the Potomac; For Haiti
I want this day to finish quickly -
Invader; I walked the Garden
Far Journey to Parika
No Greener Grass
Evensong; Dog's Other Face
A Man in Love
My Mother was a Splendid Teacher -
Excerpt from '"he Beer Drinkers"
A. J. Seymour
Ras Michael Jeune
The Novels of O. R. Dathrone -
Letter from Anguilla -
The 1986 Caribbean Writers'
"Years of Fighting Exile" -
"Backdam People", Rooplall Monar
"Zinder", Stewart Brown
"Still waiting for the Future",
'Three Novels by Guyanese Women"-
"Summer Lightning", Olive Senior -
A. L. McLeod
A. J. Seymour
Di, Jeffrey Robinson
The Guyana Prize
- A. J. Seymour
ACROSS THE EDITORS' DESK'
RESPONSE TO THE "GOLDEN KYK"
Reactions to the "Golden Kyk", our anthology of poems, short stories, and
articles from the original series No. 1 (1945) to No. 28 (1961), published in April
1986, have warmed our hearts. More than ever it seems a task which it is valu-
able,.to have done. So many people have said that they enjoyed the collection.
Many others have said that it is a work that will find an honoured place in their
libraries of West Indian literature. Naturally there have been reservations. One
reviewer would have preferred the omission of already famous, much antho-
logised, poems by Martin Carter, Derek Walcott, A. J. Seymour, and Edward
Kamau Brathwaite in favour of less well known works. It is a view we respect
but consider that a "Golden Kyk" could not afford to. exclude some of its most
dazzling exhibits, however celebrated.
What has given great satisfaction is the number of young people, many
of them aspiring writers themselves, who have said they had no idea until they
read the "Golden Kyk" that so much that remains so interesting and so relevant
had been written and published in those early days. One of our ideas was to
introduce an important part of their cultural heritage to a new generation. And
yet perhaps the tributes that pleased us most came from old contributors to the
original Kyk series. Philip Sherlock was one who wrote a wonderful letter. And
we cannot resist quoting from Edna Manley's letter to us:
"You can't imagine what joy I felt with the arrival of Kyk-Overal -
The Golden Kyk-Overal ... I walk on air and to see all the names
from the past and the new names too carrying the torch along, and
seeing your two names most of all. I am so sad that Focus did not
survive you have to be tough to survive you have indeed survived
I have kept it and read it before writing to you. It is very fine, and I
get deep pleasure from it. What fascinated one is the tremendous
sense of the Caribbean that pours out of me. Oh! well done. Thank
you both again and again. God bless."
All in all, the response has been such that we feel even more justified in
repeating what was said at the end of the introduction to the "Golden Kyk"
"Some day, when Guyanese or regional institutions can afford it, the
whole series of early Kyks, 1945 to 1961, should be reissued for the
benefit of scholars, for the interest of those who love West Indian
literature, and for the pleasure and information of the ordinary reader."
FACING THE SEA
A New Caribbean Anthology for secondary schools compiled by Anne
Walmsley and Nick Caistor. (Heinemann, London 1986).
One hundred and fifty pages of poems and short stories from 22 countries
selected on a ratio two thirds English-speaking and one third translations from
the French, Spanish and Dutch countries, all "facing the sea", in the words of
Roberto Retamar of Cuba, "learning one from the other".
There are eight sections such as Young and Free, Them and Us, Out-
siders, Coming Through, Love, God and Gods and each corresponds with a
CXC Exam theme. There are short forceful bio notes on the sixty-seven men
and women authors, some alive, some dead.
CARIBBEAN POETRY NOW, edited by Stewart Brown, published by Hodder
and Stoughton, London, 1985.
This is an excellent Caribbean anthology. In his Foreward Mervyn Morris
gets it absolutely right when he speaks of liking its "range and freshness". There
is also a splendid bonus in the beautiful illustrations done by Jennifer Northway.
The book is designed to help candidates prepare for the CXC English B Ex-
amination. It is arranged in sections whose titles are well-chosen and evocative :
"Roots"; "Childhood and Adolescence"; "Folks"; "One Love"; "Home-City
Life"; "Home-Country Life"; "Old Folks, Death, and Grief"; "Gods, Ghosts,
and Spirits". There are useful Notes and Questions for students. The mixture of
poets in the literary tradition and the newer, rawer, oral poets is excellently
judged and the range of language styles striking. All the poems some of them
classics of Caribbean poetry like "The Dust"; "Ruins of a Great House"; "Univer-
sity of Hunger"; Roach's "To My Mother", many of them minted in the powerful
new forges of Caribbean poetry now bear "the taste of men's mouths", as
Ezra Pound insisted is necessary. If every Caribbean boy or girl could read this
book at an impressionable age the love of poetry in our region would be assured.
THE NEW ISLAND READERS FIRST BOOK: by Pamela Mordecai,
Collins Educational 1983.
Pamela Mordecai has produced a fine book of 126 pages for nine-year-
olds in the Caribbean. These are thirty-three poems and articles on very inter-
esting topics, of some of what each child should know in history and nature and
religion, like old-time Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, how computers work,
and how the Whale got his throat (from Kipling).
Then she tests how well the child has been reading and so she asks ques-
tions to test what has been understood and sets down projects on how to learn
Many grown ups would be interested also in the land and sea pirates,
Jamaican Jonkonnu, the fighting Maroons, Arawaks, Caribs, if you should meet
a crocodile, and the nine billion names of God.
CARIBBEAN JUNIOR ENGLISH 3 AND 4 : by Hayden Richards, Ginn and
In these two-hundred-page readers, Pamela Modrecai shares editorship
with Hayden Richards and Grace Walter Gordon in a special way; the two
women writers have carefully revised the original Hayden Richards books and
brought them up to date. The table of contents is arranged alphabetically. What
is fascinating is the range and command over words that the books teach the
child the use of twin words, the words that save work, idioms and homo-
phones, the value of alphabetical order in life, how punctuation is used, espe-
cially commas, and the selection of opposites. Well illustrated and good value.
THE CARIBBEAN JOURNAL OF EDUCATION: Volume 10: No. 1,
January 1983, and Volume 10 Nos. 2 & 3: April September 1983.
edited by Pamela Mordecai
How best does a child learn to read? Desmond Clarke in Volume 10 No.
1 points out in a carefully argued article that teachers should emphasise the
learning of reading and adopt the focus of a pupil since a pupil has to be
operative in eight different elements in reading.
In another article, Velma Pollard wrestles with the dilemma of the
creole speaking child in the standard classroom situation. She points out that
a thin line divides standard and non-standard forms of language and sometimes
even the teachers of different subject areas may be in doubt, so she claims all
class-room teachers, whatever the subject, should have their language skills
In Volume 10, Nos. 2 and 3, articles deal with the study habits of sixth
former in Jamaica preparing for A Level exams; a sample of 203 sixth
former from 8 high schools was investigated when they had eight weeks to go.
(1) Making a habit of studying in a quiet place.
(2) Spending some 15 hours per week on an average.
(3) The majority worked at a moderate level. The girls were better
organised than the boys; they had all been challenged to think
by the A-level course.
The article suggests there should be a programme in the first term in
sixth form on the whole range of skills, especially concentrating, for example,
on planning for study, developing habits, organising material to be learnt, the
importance of understanding, improving reading skills and improving thinking
and writing skills.
Obviously teachers will gain a great deal from these journals.
In this second issue is an excellent article by a Trinidadian High School
teacher, reviewing Louise Bennett's Selected Poems, edited by Mervyn Morris
and published by Sangster, 1986.
Mrs. Joy Moore captures in ten pages the essential vision of Louise
Bennett as a philosopher looking through human behaviour to underlying
motives, attacking snobbery and hypocrisy, commenting on morality and the
independence of the spirit. She praises the editor for his notes and scholarly
ADVANCES IN WORLD ARCHAEOLOGY, VOL: 4 1985 edited by
Fred Wendorf and Angela E. Close Academic Press Inc. Pub-
lishers, Harcourt Brace Javanovich.
In this important book there are six chapters dealing with
1) Neolithic Societies in the Near East;
2) Relations between Barbarian Europe and the Aegean civilisation;
3) Prehistory of Western Mediterranean Europe;
4) Iron Age communities in Southern Africa;
5) New Zealand Prehistory; and
6) Central Andes Cultivation and Peruvian Prehistory.
The seventh chapter deals with "Petroglyphs in the Prehistory of Northern
Amazonia and the Antilles" and is written by Denis Williams of Guyana.
This seventh chapter is a record of human adaptation in contrasting
types of environment. Williams explain how the diagrams on rocks vary from
semblances of deer, monkeys, snakes, caymans to those of turtles, birds and fish,
There are also geometric figures of rings of all types concentric rings, circles,
furrows, diamonds and crosses. There are also drawings which combine the
biomorphic with geometric designs.
The 45 pages of text deal with various designs of fish traps rectan-
gular, spring-basket type and others. Since Williams is an accomplished artist,
the text is illustrated with figures and features taken from the pictographs.
There is a timehri type, deriving its name from Timehri Rock on the Corentyne
River in Suriname and reported by Im Thurn in 1883. This is the most important
type of petroglyph in the Antilles, while another significant type is the Aishalton
In some instances, there are dance costumes that may be the prototype
of the Timehri type with rayed lunate headdress, and other costumes used in
fertility dances in Colombia with special bodice designs and skirts.
What were the functions of these petroglyphs? Fish trap elements cor-
relate with specialised fishing resources. The Timehri stereotype seems related
to masked dance rituals among horticulturalists. The Aishalton type is asso-
ciated only with enumeration. But Denis Williams points out that the ways in
which a given body of elements functioned within a particular adaptive system
remain to be examined.
150TH ANNIVERSARY OF INDIAN INDENTURE IN GUYANA
In May 1988, Guyana will mark the 150th Anniversary of the first arrival
of indentured Indians into the country. The 150th Anniversary programme will
include an important lecture series and a number of cultural activities. It is also
hoped to produce an anthology of Indian poetry and prose from Guyana to
mark the occasion. Should readers have any suggestions of poems or other
writing for possible inclusion in such an anthology the editors would warmly
THE NEW VOICES: Volume XIV No. 23 September, 1986
This 28th issue of The New Voices maintains a high standard. There are
poems by Andrew Salkey, Krishna Samaroo, Ken Parmasad, James Aboud,
Chezia Thompson, Jean Goulbourne, Devonson La Mothe, Glenda Frederick,
Steve Gonsalez, and Alex de Verteuil which fill the pages with achievement and
promise. There are short stories by Helen Prada, Althea Kaminjolo, and Sase-
narine Persaud. Jennifer Rahim has contributed three excellent reviews. There
is a fascinating interview with the playwright Mustapha Matura. The Editor's
own review of Olive Scnior's poems "Talking of Trees" and his editorial notes
are not the least stimulating part of the issue. A packed volume, well worth
The New Voices in 1987 will have published more issues than any other
literary journal in the history of Trinidad and Tobago. It is already the longest
lived literary journal in Trinidad and Tobago in terms of years. This is a tena-
cious, remarkable achievement. The impact, year by year, on the cultural life
of the country is incalculable. The preservation of respect and love of poetry
and good writing in the land is worth who knows how many cargoes of oil and
even a Carnival or two. Anson Gonsalez, the editor and publisher from the
beginning, deserves all the congratulations, good wishes, applause and praise
one can possibly muster. But most of all, as he himself would certainly agree,
he needs active support, not least in the form of donations and subscriptions.
Therefore, if any Kyk reader can possibly manage it, send subscriptions (TT$
15.00 annually) to The New Voices, P.O. Box 3254, Diego Martin, Trinidad
and Tobago. In 1987 there is to be a double issue of 150 pages so subscriptions
now will be especially worthwhile as well as welcome.
1987 COMMONWEALTH POETRY PRIZE A. J. Seymour Appointed
Chairman of Caribbean/Canada Regional Panel of Judges.
A. J. Seymour, joint editor of 'KYK-OVER-AL', has been appointed
Chairman of the panel of judges for the Caribbean/Canada Region of the 1987
Commonwealth Poetry Prize. The original Commonwealth Poetry Prize was
established in 1972. In 1985 substantial sponsorship by British Airways enabled
the PRIZE to grow enormously in scope and reputation. There are now five
regional prizes (Canada/Caribbean, Asia, Africa, Australasia and U.K./Europe)
as well as the prize for the overall winner and the prize for the best first book
of poems. Total prize money is 13,500. In 1986 nearly 500 entries were re-
ceived altogether which reflects the standing of the Prize as the world's most
comprehensive poetry award.
ALONG THE POTOMAC
Can't sleep, at night, for the flap-and-slap of flags in: rhetorical ;D.C.
No one's fooled; cloth and canvas can clack imperiously loudly: :-_ ::...:
Can't live, by day, for the high frizzle of the rice-paper policy of
weapons-to-come. Too true: so much more will leap out the groundOthan
In the afternoon, though, when there is a piston-break between the, two
glooms of national egoism, a smidgin of rest is possible.
But sleeper, sleep deeply, at your risk!. :'
In Memory of
JACQUES STEPHEN ALEXIS
We're either cut down, weighted and dumped into the sea
by the savagery of those licensed uncles of woven straw
or else we're driven into the ground by their lurking threats;
from both extremes, the headlamps of blue light terrorise us:
tontons-macoutes parading their acumen, proudly, at home,
autol-zobops cruising, cynically, in sprawls, whatever they fester.
Always being chased by the galloping dread of Bakalou Baka,
we respond, simply, by moving on, while still anchored
to the long-continuing, inviolable Oath of January
which even the subverting hurricanes of exile can't silence;
nor can their prolonged crescendo slacken the stretched skins
of our Dahomey drums, sworn to the earth like rocks.
We come from a harsh land of mountains, buckled by drought,
a black house of nostalgia for France, a cage of fierce elites,
but also from a hopeful land of mountains, prevailing cacos,
Peralte and Batravaille, Dessalines over their shoulders,
Toussaint waving goodbye, wishing us good luck;
we come from rivers of women, persistence, and Makandal.
We remember the long infamy of khaki, !a gifle yankee,
the corvee, the gouging of bayonet to bone, the alien salt,
the slaughter at Aux Cayes, the landslides of humiliation,
and the raking thorn-bush spiralling deep inside us;
but we understand the reassurance of assotor and acon,
along with the contradiction and thrust of the scientific climb.
In the mean time, at his desk, in his wedding-cake palace,
the shepherd of terror is busy devising agony and destitution
(he's not really worried about his steady bonanza of dollars;
that's usually mined, promptly, whether asked for or not);
what's bothering him are all those who got away:
the angry dispossessed, the dreaming maimed, and the dead.
Veve flour on his hands, self-promoting designs on his scratch-pad,
he straddles a ceremonial world of murder and endless delight
in notching the lives of the poor with more and more torment and neglect;
he rules by Papa-echo, midnight-decrees, slice, and bullet.
Yet. he's fretful of the open sea and the remembered dead.
The truth is, Jacques, the man's menaced by the logic of water and mountains,
Jacques Stephen Alexis
Oath of January
- Novelist, essayist and originator of the theory
of Marvellous Realism in Haitian history and
culture. Murdered by the Francois Duvalier
dictatorship in 1961.
- Poet, novelist, one of the founding editors of
La Revue Indigene, the magazine of the influ-
ential Indigenist Movement (of the late Twen-
ties and early Thirties), and founder of the
Communist Party of Haiti in 1934. Died in
- Francois Duvalier's dreaded political police
- Members of a secret society of sorcerers who
drive around in cars with headlamps that pro-
ject sinister blue beams of light.
A ferocious spirit in animal form who serves a
society of sorcerers.
Oath sworn by victorious army of slaves, on
January 1st 1804, in proclaiming the independ-
ence of the French colony of Saint-Domingue
(Haiti, Land of Mountains) : "Live free or die
... we swear never to yield before any power
Cacos Armed peasants who resisted the U.S. Occu-
pation of Haiti (1915-1934) and in particular.
the forced labour law.
Makandal Legendary 18th century maroon revolutionary
La gifle yankee -- Haitian expression for "the yankee slap in the
face" during the Occupation..
Corvee Forced peasant labour under the supervision
of U.S. marines.
Assotor and Acon Ritual drum and sacred rattle.
Veve Ritualistic symbols of astral forces drawn in
flour or corn meal.
I WANT THIS DAY TO FINISH QUICKLY
I want this day to finish quickly;
for tomorrow to seize me by the throat:
for if it does not, today will hang me
from the tree in the sunset behind the hill.
With this bitter root I have taken,
the sunset sinks in the morning,
: and the sun rises at midnight
when I am asleep. Winter seizes
me while the trees of summer
are abundantly green.
My eyes are autumnal. Yellowing
leaves drop to the ground even as
blazing Greek chariots bearing the sun,
with all his golden horsemen, ride across
the roof of the world.
I knock on your door at midnight,
and when you come, it is only air
which greets you. I constantly sing
my songs for you, but you cannot hear
them. I write on the page and the ink
I take my confessions to every temple
that I know, but the gods do not listen.
They watch my anxious face with stony eyes.
Not a gesture will they make.
I have walked up the aisle to every high altar,
knelt at the feet of every god carved in stone
or marble, hung a rosary in adoration, as is often
requested, poured libations upon their feet of clay,
turned incense round their fixed heads, touched holy
fires to my forehead as instructed; and still, either
I am dumb in spite of these words, or I do not under-
estimate them. Their lips can only be broken
with a hammer.
Were I to hang from the world upside down like a spider,
so that my eyes stood at my feet,
and my toes twiggled in moist clouds; and then,
were I to imagine that in the universal disorder
of things, only I was in position, I would still change
my order, or I would be changed, involuntarily.
So when you come to me from the roof,
climbing through my multiple windows,
parachuting into my bed at midnight
like a trained soldier or high adventurer;
when you leave me before you have come,
and you arrive after you have left,
I am unperturbed.
Instead, I marvel at your consistency,
and I wonder that the rest of the world
is easily deceived, or undeceiving.
The fall of snow we cannot hear
the flow of fear we cannot see
engulf and mystify the sere
marrow of ancient bones that creak.
And through the stretching flesh
the searching waves, uncertain, seek
the contours of a willing beach
to welcome and protect a mesh
of whisperings and rounding ways.
A warm blush lights the prow,
and tinted waves in shaded creeks
(the storms as yet unknown) caress
a brazen bare canoe, silent as snow
certain of what it seeks.
I WALKED THE GARDEN
I walked the garden vaguely
distracted by the wild outside
not seeing that roses sagely
sing of the present's pride.
I thought too much of olden times,
perhaps, but how could I not miss
the missing silent echoed chimes
bruising the bower from the far abyss?
FAR JOURNEY TO PARIKA
Engagement of gears, co-ordinating
accompanied by pale whiff, Estee Lauder's
concoction, arresting, yet caressing passion
Underway into the far voyage
Striking out like Odin, in a long ship
Passing through Saffon Street's Sunday-squalor
by market-goers with bargain-eyes (for squash?)
City recedes, highway beckons uneven, harassing
Marina's shocks, soon
The Bridge, umbilical, uneasy
Take it slow like aneophyte skater
boogieing on polythene wheels
until safety comes on the other side.
Into the sweet sugar lands, then
After Versailles, Vrced-en-hoop's turn
looks awake on this somnolent
Sabbath, translating through
Nouvelle Flanders sad French memory;
L'Union, Rotterdam, careless Harlem,
Waller's Delight, once Optimism's twin.
Passing graveyard of rotting metal
at Crane, trunking through greensleeves
of wide paddies; Windsor Forest, blank Blankenburg,
Come to huge gabled ruin at
Fellowship, sitting in octogenarian
crutched silence, waiting to be haunted
Coconut palms prevail, behind
ocean's wall and swell
Hustling through Den Amstel, Hague, dwelling
by Cornelia Ida, yellow rose empastured,
And another Anna Catherina: bustles, broad brocade.
Edinburgh reflections of the high road,
Dead slow over dying puntbridge
Leonora's oakbarrel images, skipping
through Stewartville, fleeting past
the undutchedness of Uitvlugt, dull, unbelching
over the canebrake
Old women-country feet in boutique-shoes
hurrying to genuflect, to be sermonised by
bearded young pastor-chaps in absurd
cassocky vestments under eaves; quaint
yester-century worship-places still affecting
Zeeburg, de Willem, Meten-mecr-Zorg dreaming dykes and
inundations; DeKinderen, village of children,
Tuschen de Vrienden's old railway siding!
Eradicated young gaffers squandering
recent memories. Vergenoegen, Philadelphia
now englishfying Bahwell? Grenitch Park -
Over Boerasirie's bound, seeing
children tottering on walkbridge (enough
for one and a half)
Over the milk-green trench, suggestions
of suffocation under weed, Victoria Regia
clotted in some impromptu formality
Jandhi pennons by unpainted dwelling,
gambolling calves, giant red combines relaxing,
indolent; Datsun taxis shuttling
Everpresent Essequibo showers, humidifying
Orangestein, peculiarly. For loads
of suckers, plantained,
Pass on by schoolhouse abandoned, name's
obliteration amateurish Bush ---- ---k----ol
(prepping for democratic regionalism?)
Ah, Hydroni ... waterthoughts undoubtedly
Unceremoniously into Parika, foetal, patient,
pulping, with urban blight
eighty-dollar Shirts, North Star track shoes,
baseball caps invested with insignia,
Slips, ungainly underclothing,
Haberdashery various, colourfully violent
Across the road tracking tractormud
The Atmosphere bibulous place,
watering hole, where rurals discuss
the hard stuff, from sophisticated flagons
Selling point away to distant
Leguan sitting hopeful with
bouncy rice-fed whores just an anchor's throw
But midst and twixt the
Three friendly sugar apples!
She had never ever experienced this succulence
How, how are they consumed (perhaps eaten)?
Return then traveller, to saner sanctuary!
Mints, eggs hardboiled, I-cee punches
chow-mein-under-glass, the whispered
price in fly-blown generosity .
The lady pendulous, unblinking,
unblackmarket eyes, a consideration sibilantly
The mints triumph before the far journey past
Kyrl's house opens
Parika, Parika... were you
the game's destiny .?
or was the
silent soporous companionship?
NO GREENER GRASS
Can I accustom my eyes
to this drought of trees and flowers?
to decrepit grey-haired woman
stained with scorpian stings?
toes eaten by maggots?
The redbrick road
its contours creased,
Jagged and potmark'd
like a woman's belly .
the thighs imaged a continuous scream?
And look the lone fisherman
his net charting
bulwarking rooted, festering growth
his visage enveloped a million stars
hope is smothered in the breast
as dawn becomes an apparition
emptiness reclaims his daylight monotony
carrions gathered, poised
strategically for the expanse
where humans and animals,
like vines and undergrowth
stifling the children's footsteps
the star elusive but shining
Can my eyes accustom
to this barrack of immobility
its crumbling, roach-infested walls
stained with my grandfathers
groping, tottering footsteps?
the throat scorched the eyes delirium?
This road is still horizonless
bees and ants swarmed its edges
populating its potholes
men and animals have lost the oasis
Can my eyes accustom
to this inter-action of events and situations
chains of faeces and morsels dotting
No greener grass to rekindle hope.
Can my eyes understand this discourse
the redbrick road
jagged and potmark'd
curving like a woman's belly?
the elusive star?
No greener grass to rekindle hope.
Black bodies punctuating
long chill dusks, their limp
heads strung, a cruel umbilical
to lordly trees.
And now this body
swinging on this tree
a fragile line
creasing the crimson air.
My Granny say
she going die in that swing;
my Granny say
she feel like birds and angels -
she say it tie her
to the evening.
DOG'S OTHER FACE
The morning is lying content
like a baby, its soporific eyes
wide at the sky, oblivious
of butterflies, light-footed nanas
tending to pollen, fixing up fruit
sexlessly building new worlds.
I suppose these green islands
have been idyllic from the start
Los Huevos delighting his Arawak eyes
the Venezuelan mountains
hulking in mists across the Boca
making his mouth run.
I have been reading C S Lewis
and Sylvia Plath: her lifescape
dry and clear and cold : his vision
imprecise and far away, extravagantly
seminally warm. To be unsexed
like Macbeth's chick, milk
pitchers empty, dead perfect
is not my thing. Reality
is percept too, and all perception dim.
Best to be wanton, then, unbound
by what supposes to be there;
when this land growls and runs at me
six point one on the Richter Scale
I know there's nothing firm see
the worm turns dog's other face
Thus now my seventy-third step to heaven..
For more than fifty years, imagination
Raiding the inarticulate to brood on word
At the edge of image, mood -and memory
From realms beyond Time, laid in Eternity
Bringing new concepts 'to the mind of man
For which the Lord be praised; -:
,. telling the children
Names of the giants of the l5ast who toiled,
Mightily wrought to make Guyana great.
Poems have married, with my name -
A dream of history
In the black moving waters of our rivers,
Name-fingers reaching in from far off lands
To teach new syllables upon the map,
A tribal prophet triumphs in his sacrifice,
Tomorrow's gold for children, women, men
To baffle speech these must the children
And for all this may the Great Lord be
A. J. SEYMOUR
No rain for months, sky hard blue,
The ground hardening like iron,
Earth hot to shod feet even,
Smoke-shawls from the bush-fires.
Sun glares red before night falls.
White is the worst colour : bright as bone.
Time soon' coming when the oxen starve:
Grass turns to ash in such weather,
The savarinahs send up clouds dof:.brning dust.
Green is a colour gentle and forgotten
Like blood gone forever from a dead face.
Mud cracks in pools once sweet with lilies.
Old men, who have measured life,
Known the hard seasons, say
Water would be the best gift
If it could be wrapped.
And so it comes, a fundamental beauty:
A simple thing not often counted.
Like love, when it's there life balances:
We do not feel the balancing.
Departure leaves us husked and dry,
It comes again and steadies us:
soothing, far away, a noise in the clouds,
A summoning freshness in everything.
An arid heartland springs alive.
Water is love : it clears and shines:
Clemency for a wracked land
A MAN IN LOVE
by TONY KELLMAN
The woman on the other end of the line said that Patricia was not at
home, that she no longer lived there, that in fact, she had got married. Vincent's
eargates slammed shut in a shock-response to this news item. Patricia, married!
How on earth could this be possible? When? To whom?
He wasn't even aware he hung up the phone. His mind had returned to
the weeks leading up to this moment. Now he realized why she had been avoid-
ing him and not returning his phone calls. He had thought her distance was the
result of her need to be alone. Every man and woman sometimes needed time
to themselves. After all, she was unemployed with two young children whose
father she said she couldn't get along with. She had needed time alone. Now it
seemed, too much time had elapsed, time he now knew had been spent in secur-
ing confetti, bells, priest, cake. Time from which his image was torn.
His love for her was as deep as the pain he now felt. It ran like blood
through every tunnelling ancestral vein, taking him back to its childhood origins;
to the time of running around their di-trict's four connecting roads aptly called
"The Square", to her slim body wrapped i, spotless carefully pressed white and
blue school uniform. Body gliding smooth as an angel's over the hill by Miss
At school that day her image would possess all his waking dreams and
he would be frantic for evening to come when he and his friends would assemble
under the streetlight to watch the girls play hop-scotch. Once, Vincent sum-
moned enough courage to approach her just as she was finishing her game.
"Close your eyes and I will tell you something," he said. He had nothing
to tell her really. He had wanted to kiss those maddening lips. But his courage
failed and he managed only to touch her cheek lightly with the tips of his fingers.
Velvet cheek. Face serene as an angel's. She opened her eyes slowly, smiling
bravely up at him. Then she was off dancing in the air towards her home leav-
ing his heart to race alone. Would she remember this incident now, that was to
make him dream of her each night until he was nearly twenty-one years?
He had written of her constantly in his school diaries. He called her
Valeria. His mother couldn't speak foreign languages and his father was too
busy to be interested in diaries. His brothers who knew foreign languages would
not know who Valeria was. Elle s'appelle Valeria. Mon amour. Je t'aime
Valeria. Yo amo Valeria. Everywhere in his diaries. Valeria. Valeria. Valeria.
No-one but him would know, no-one but him had access to this heaven.
When they met again many years later, Patricia was so sweet and as
beautiful as ever. Vincent thought it rather profound and significant that it was
only after they had met again as adults and started seeing each other that his
nocturnal dreams stopped. He felt that her actual physical presence had put
flesh on to those comforting dreams. And this made his joy complete.
Even though she told him she had two children now his feelings for
her did not change at all. He was waiting for the right moment to tell her how
much he admired and adored her. When the news of her marriage came Vincent
realized he had waited too long.
Utterly devastated, he struggled to extricate himself frop the bondage
of love, struggled to explain to himself the meaning of it all. It was not until:he
himself got married that his heart felt any relief, until the day he saw her coming.
from the beach and gave her a lift in his car.
All his latent love rose like incense in his soul, wing-thrilling.
"I'm single again," she said breaking his silence. "The marriage only
lasted a few months." Vincent had difficulty in responding, Then he said, "And
I'm married now." His voice was filled with joy and sadness. More sadness than.
joy. Why did life have to be like this, he thought? When I was free there she
was loving and hating her children's father. Enough to marry him. Perhaps she%
felt I wasn't ready or willing to commit myself to her and hence her children
as well. Maybe she simply didn't love me in the same way I loved ,her. She
would marry the children's father. He will have to support them then. It will
make life easier for her. Things would be easier.
Vincent pondered for minutes/centuries on the paradoxes and complexi-
ties of the human psyche, the unfathomable, unpredictable natiire of human.
emotion. When he dropped her off by the Road of Blackrocks he discovered that
he had hardly spoken. Was Sparrow correct when he sang "The one that you
love never marry to she/It' the one who love you, she will make you happy"?
Or was happiness the traditional sharing of equal quantities of love? What
really was love? Was it dreaming of someone from childhood to one's twenty.
first birthday? Was it a touch on a velvet cheek under a streetlight? And did it
receive its beginning and its end there? Was striving for completeness flesh
on dream/tangible dream/love-making unnecessary after all? Did. this Jll-
embracing aspiration change or rob the definition of love? Was fulfilment to.
be found in spirit woman, flesh woman, both, none at all?
"Damn!" Vincent shouted to himself in the car three months later. "Why
won't she call, Why won't she tell me how she really feels (if she feels anything
now at all) and so relieve me, relieve me from this undying love!"
All at once Vincent became the conscious measure of two selves wedded
in vastly different ways to wife-love and Valeria-love. This inner/outer division
as much as it was intensely illuminating, broke his concentration for a brief
moment, a moment in which he found himself floating through a sea of joy and
suffering. Wife-love was there and flourishing, but Valeria-love was a big
suffering. She, from fear of involvement, fear of hurt; he, from bubbling unsatis-
fied longing. The tides of torture kept pulling them apart though they tried in
vain to reach, to touch each other.
The last Vincent remembered was the blue face of a wave marked "To
Zion Hill" towering above him and the clanging of colliding metal.
:, "MORNING CHIEF'
by RAS MICHAEL JEUNE
Morning Chief. Yes Chief dis is my garden. You from where? The Mayor's
Office. No sorry chief but I don't even know the Mayor, I only hear he voice
pon the radio; he did say "keep on farming". Wha' is duh chief? My parapet
::garden den dat I does wuk so hard on. Dis garden the Mayor want fuh tek an'
mek a avenue? Well wid all respects to you chief an' to the Mayor chief, but
even if he was a stallion or dem wild cow dat does come from Kitty an' destroy
all meh bora an' calaloo plants, I won't stop farming hey Chief, avenue or no
a.venue. Permission? Yuh talking 'bout permission well leh a tell yuh chief. First
I get permission from the guard at the President gate to enter den I get per-
mission from the Secretary to see the President Public Relations Officer, den
I get permission from he to go to a Agriculture course at the Mon Repos School.
.After dat I get cutlass an' fork from the President chief. So yuh see wid all due
respects I done get permission: So what, Chief, the Mayor gon still build a
:avenue 'pon me farm? Oh I see it was a plan mek a long time ago. So why yuh
stop dem? Yuh give me advice? Well I don't really need dat. What I need is foh
you to help meh wid all dem wild cow wha' does come from Kitty an' destroy
dese crops. Pound dem! What you mean pound dem? You could imagine me
an' twenty cow! Wild cow from Kitty, Chief, not sey is Albouystown cow or
Campbelville cow but Kitty cow chief! Kitty cow dread chief! You could imagine
me an' twenty Kitty cow giving through Georgetown to the pound 'pon a bright
sunny day wid traffic all over the place. Not me chief. What was dat? Tie dem?
Ah don't have rope chief. Ah guess I will jus' have to keep on pelting dem wid
bricks. No, nothing wrong wid dat except last week ah nearly bus' a lil boy head
an' Monday gone a put a dent in dat van over dere. Is a good ting the owner
wasn't nearby to see. Anyhow maybe yuh could help me wid meh water prob-
lem chief. Yes I does got to fetch water from the yard till so. Yuh can't help me
wid dat? Why? Currency! I gone pay foh the pipe chief. Oh foreign currency!
Well in dat case I gon jus' humble an' wait pon the rain because the way
America behaving we more likely to become a foreign country dan get foreign
MY MOTHER WAS A SPLENDID TEACHER
by SASENARINE PERSAUD
I remember the nights when we would sit around the fireside waiting on
him. It was agonising for her and we boys always felt her hurting, her worrying
that something had happened to him. I used to be angry with her for hurting so
much for him, but when I looked at her my anger always evaporated. She was
so beautiful, so indescribably beautiful. Gradually all of us started to wait like
her and hurt like her. These were the nights when he would drink and came
home drunk. He knew it hurt her and he did it. I hated him for it. Sometimes
he hit her too in their room. We used to wait downstairs and I used to want
to kill him, for hitting her. I never knew for certain that he hit her but I felt
that he did. I had vowed that I would never hit my wife or take alcohol, or
But there were good times too the times he came home early and was
sober and was making something or helping her.. We, strangely enough, were
always with him. We helped him pass the saw, or nails, or hammer or chisel, or
heap the grass, or burn the grass or plant. When he read we were all over him
fighting for his attention and affection competing even with her. When he
helped her. cooking or decorating we were all over both of them and they
were happy, both of them. We felt it and we were happy too! Life was so beau-
tiful! Then we never knew how beautiful it was until he started drinking again.
At first he would drink about once every two weeks, then he started drink-
ing every week, every Saturday. Every Saturday night there were quarrels.
He slept late and did not join us Sunday mornings for puja and I felt
her hurting, crying inside but she prayed and sang so deeply, st.earnestly
that we were touched and like her felt that there would be some end to it all-
that all would be well. Then every morning he bullied us in to telling them
'Ram-Ram'. She always used to teach us to say 'Ram Ram' to both of them,
and to him first when we got up in the morning and would gently remind us if
we forgot. We liked it then, but when he started telling us to say it we hated it.
It seemed though he- was shoving her out, -pushing her out, encroaching on
her duties, on her life and we rebelled. One morning I refused to tell him 'Ram
Ram' and he beat me badly and I still did not tell him or her 'Ram Ram'.
She had tried to save me and he had pushed her away. He beat me and
beat me with his broad belt and I just stood there thinking 'One day when I get
big you'll pay for this'. He beat me until he was exhausted. He looked foolish
and frustrated when he was finished. All she said was, "Paul, you cannot force
him, if he or the other do it because we force them it makes no sense. Can't you
see they must do it with joy and sincerity ." her voice was so tender and
loving when she spoke to him that I felt angry with her. How could she be so
tender with him when he had chucked her.
On Sunday too when she fasted and abstained from meat he would in-
sist that she cooked beef; Beef which we Hindus abstained from he demanded.
And she cooked it silently, almost lovingly for him and he enjoyed it. I always
wanted her to rebel, to refuse to cook it. I always hoped that she would. I wanted
to support her, to tell her I would stand by her, small as I was, if she refused
to cook it. But she cooked it. I could not understand it and I got angry with her
and when he offered it to me, I ate it too. 1 knew I shouldn't. I knew that she
did not like us doing it, but she said nothing, she was not even angry. I always
wanted to cry in my frustration when this happened. I wanted her to say, "You
shouldn't" and I would have stopped but she said nothing. He enjoyed it and
I hated them both, he was enjoying it and she was not bothered, as though
nothing wrong had happened yet I felt he was wrong and that I was too, for
part-taking with him.
When they had died in an accident because he was drunk I hated him.
1 did not mind his death as much as hers. If he had died at another time I would
have been able to find sympathy for him.
For ten years I drifted without identity and then they came back. I had
forgotten that somewhere there was some all-pervading force controlling our
lives and which was more powerful than all of us. I dug up books on Hinduism,
on the Vedas, on the Upanishads, on the Puranas, on Indian mythology and
History. I learnt classical Indian music. I became involved in cultural work
among the westernised and semi-assimilated youths and I married. For years I
have lived without a childhood. I have grown accustomed to motherlessness and
One day perhaps I'll be my own father and my wife a mother. She's a
good wife and lover. She enjoys parties and social functions. It is difficult to get
her in the temple. She looks very very attractive when she dresses in her very
tight trousers and close fitting jerseys and low cut frocks. Her nails, her face
are so colourful, her life is so colourful.
Only this morning we quarrelled. She fried eggs for breakfast and cooked
minced beef for herself.
I remember my childhood and my mother. She was splendid.
Excerpt from "THE BEER DRINKERS"
A NOVEL by HAROLD A. BASCOM
Terrence August climbed out of his reconditioned Honda Accord and
sighed. (Saturday night in upper Durban Street bustled about him. A few metres
away a group of bread sellers, whom he judged sinister looking, murmured
under a lamp post). He had just dropped off the last of 'the boys', now he was
before his own 'gates' his own house that had ceased to be a home since
Pamela went away one week ago with the twins. She would come back in her
own time, he told himself as he released the chained lock and gently pushed the
gate open wide. A short clay brick driveway bordered by thriving ferns.led in
to a neat two-bedroomed house painted in light green. Its French window which
ushered one onto a little verandah with a portico, stood out. Many who were
drawn to look at the house that August built thought it was beautiful. Who
knew that for the man himself it had, for the last six days or so, become ai a
Terrence thought she had made a mess of what they had going for their
marriage. What was it that suddenly caused her to be so rebelliously pious?
(The Lord indeed moved in mysterious ways ...) Pamela had gone to a crusade
one Tuesday night and afterwards she had been apparently ensnared by the
power of the blood. Terrence had wondered if the evangelist having been a
Black American was the cause. He remembered Vincent telling him of the
Black American production manager who was at the State Printery for three
months and who, even before the short stint was over, could .have bragged that
he had run through the majority of the women unmarried and married il
the bindery. Vincent had ended acridly: "An accent is all a man needs to screw
a Guyanese woman!" Terrence had protested though he had been troubled
about shades of truth in Vincent's outburst. So the evangelical crusade had be-
gun and he had remembered it remembered the outburst the duration of
the crusade at which Pamela had been present every night; and while she had
prayed and sang under the magnificent tent, he prayed for the tent's folding and
the evangelist's departure for neighboring Suriname.
But when the tent folded and the Evangelist left, a part of Terrence's life
folded too. Pamela, singing 'The things I used to do I do them no more', ceased
to accompany her husband to the cinema to shows to boxing at the Sports
Hall which he had thought they both enjoyed. And when the Agency manager
got remarried Terrence had no choice but go to the reception ball without his
spouse whom, as social conventions went, had been expected. (He had pleaded
- begged promised that she would not have had to dance nor drink strong
drink and that even if they had to dance she wouldn't be expected to wind. No
persuasion moved her however). So he had gone alone and as if to hurt the all-
seeing heart of her Lord, imbibed heavily, got drunk, and carried on most wan-
tonly with willing Noelle the cashier.
Pam didn't talk to him that entire week until he had said that he was
sorry and went to church the following Sunday to be so bored, he felt drilled to
the core where a deeper and dark frustration ran. He had returned home that
day a very morose man and had sat before his four-speaker stereo. He selected
the most suggestive Sparrows in the rack and had spun them as if for life.
That night he went to bed to face Pamela's back and tantalising backside
and she resisted his every attempt to conjugate. It had been the beginning of a
pattern which he felt would do them no good as man and wife, and decided that
he would have a matured talk with her. He had been confident that he would
have brought her to her senses. Wasn't he a best selling underwriter in the
Agency? Photograph in the Newspapers as testimony and all that? He decided
that he was going to have a 'good book' talk with Pamela since he was, by no
means, a heathen. The next day, then, after breakfast, he told her that he
wished to speak to her. The rain was falling and their two girls, still in pyjamas,
were counting umbrellas out on Durban Street. "Man, Pam ." he began softly.
"If you keep up with this every-night church thing we could break up, you
She shrugged lightly. "Well, if the Lord wants it so --". She shrugged
again and dashed Terrence's cool to the floor. But it did not shatter only
cracked badly down the centre. He managed to hold it together. "You don't
know. about God, girl. ." he said suppressing an urge to shout. "But I know!"
Lips set meanly, eyes filled with anger. "I wasn't dragged up! I didn't discover
God only yesterday! MY SISTER WAS A PASTOR TWO CHURCHES!"
He.let go of his cool. It fell apart: "MY MOTHER WAS PIOUS! SANG
HYMNS MORNING NOON AND NIGHT But only those nights when my
father was in the gold bush When he was out my mother's nights were for my
father! She was a woman! My sister... she had a marriage bed too!" Then he
shook his head, lips twisted in scorn: "You think the women in my family were
Jenny asses? Suddenly you don't care to be a woman in my bed. I'M TIRED
OF SEEING YOUR BLOODY BACK! I'M TIRED OF YOUR UNRESPON-
SIVENESS! OH SHIT! SUDDENLY KISSING IS SLOPPY! YOU DON'T GO
ANYWHERE WITH ME ANYMORE!" Then his voice dropped: "It's not
what goeth in that corrupts, woman! It is what comes out!" He spun and
fixed the plaster plaque proclaiming Christ the head of the house and the rest
of it and demanded: "WHO'S THE HEAD OF THIS BLASTED HOUSE?"
"CHRIST!" Pamela August spat. Terrence was up. He snatched the
plaque from the wall, rushed out to the verandah, and hurled it away. It sailed
like a frisbee, struck a cable post with a bent bus stop sign, and fell to pieces
to the stagnant-watered trench that ran past the gate. "I AM THE HEAD OF
THIS BLOODY HOUSE I'S FEED AN' CLOTHE YOU AND THEM TWO
CHILDREN! FROM TODAY ALL THIS JESUS NONSENSE FINISH IN
HERE! IF YOU DON'T BLOODY KNOW THE BLOODY BIBLE I'LL
TEACH YOU : YOU GOTI'O CLING TO ME, AND I GOT TO CLING TO
"Man, Mr. August, it ent soundin' good !" (It was Mrs. Richmond-Sister
Richmond as he would respectfully call her). The woman turned to Pamela on
the brink of tears. "Pam ... Yo' husband' ent wrong Yo' cyant put church in
frontuh 'e ." Then to Terrence : "But she young, yo' know. Brother August
-What you should do is talk to she pastor !"
"Talking about that? I think I should really talk to that bitch !"
"Yes do dat, but he ent a bitch .."
Terrence began buttoning up his shirtjac and his hands trembled. "Hear.
Sister Richmond, ah sorry about calling you' all pastor a bitch But you don't
know how this whole thing got me worked up! I MARRY PAM IN A CHURCH
-THE CHURCH JOIN WE TOGETHER IN HOLY MATRIMONY AND
NOW IS LIKE A CHURCH GON TEAR WE ASUNDER !"
"Brother August talk to the Pastor ."
"But again why I should talk to he? IF HE KEEP SEEIN' MY
WIFE IN THE CHURCH EVERY BLOODY NIGHT WITHOUT ME, YOU
DON'T THINK HE SHOULD REALIZE THAT SOMETHING GOT TO
BE WRONG WITH ME AND MY WIFE?" Terrence nodded. "I ent got no
talk to talk with he BUT WAIT AH MINUTE .." He turned
and frowned at his sulking wife. ". .. Is not this afternoon he slinks in here to
pray with you?" Pamela sucked her teeth. "TO HELP ME GAWD!" exploded
Terrence, AH GON WRING HE BLASTED NECK JUS' HE PUSH IT
THROUGH THAT DOOR !"
"Mistah August what wrang with you? eh? WHAT REALLY WRANG
WITH YOU MISTAH AUGUST?"
Then Pamela began to cry. Then the twins began to cry. And that after-
noon when he came home bent on making peace, Pamela and the children were
Terrence drove into the yard. His headlamps lit up the old Morris 1300
by the cesspit tank at the back of the house. He parked, came out and pushed
in the gate. Lower down the street a dub station boomed roundly. He turned
away and was soon climbing his front stair. He opened the door and went in
without switching on the lights. He was hungry, so fished a half bag of tennis
rolls from a large refrigerator. He sat in a single-seater Morris chair, threw a
leg over one of its arms, and bit into a cold, dry roll in the gloom. He missed
his wife. But the thought of her expecting him to go and beg her to come back
riled him. He told himself that he was unlike other men that he was strong
enough not to be manipulated by a bloody woman! Over six days she was gone
... six days But suppose let us suppose, he thought, I go and bring
Pamela back would it mean she'd be a different wife? Maybe .
Pamela, naked, filled him. A monumental yearning stirred down to his
crotch. He caressed the rising there and thought of onanism.
"No!" he whispered harshly. He refused to masturbate. He was a
married man! Tomorrow, Sunday, he was going for his wife. Maybe then he'd
be able to pick up on his writing. Since Pamela left he had not written a line.
This was another thing which disturbed him. He sighed. Yes ... he was going
to bring his wife back home. A woman should not be away too long from her
husband ... And Terrence was thinking o. Mrs. Griffith. The story moved him.
Couldn't he write a poem on a story like that? He got up and switched on the
lights. The clock in the form of a ship's helm said it was approaching eight forty-
five. He walked over to the French window, slid it open, and stood on t' e veran-
dah. He was still hungry... wanted food in his stomach. Wanted fo d on top
of all that beer he had been consuming since ten that mor ing. He opened his
shirt and felt the coad city night upon his wiry frame. He wi hed focd could
appear on his table. He had to admit to hims If that he missed Pamela much
for her cooking, too. There was meat in t-e freezer. There was co ned beef too.
(Thanks to Milton who made sure that o-ce he was on ship clearing duties and
he got 'stuff', he never forgot his beer drinking friends). There were many things
to cook but no cook.
He was looking over the empty weed-fill-d lot to Sister Richmond's
house; but it was only when a hand waved from the kitchen window that he
became acutely conscious of it. It was Gwen:th's hand and Gweneth was Sister
Richmond's twenty-eight-year-old unmarried daughter whom the Ledge boys
said hoped to find a man in the church but didn't 'score' yet. She cam' out rn
the back verandah and hailed over to him: "GOOD NIGHT BROTHER
AUGUST! HOW'S EVERYTHING?" Terrence made a gesture of helplessness
and patted his tummy. The girl laughed (though he could not have heard
her) and went back inside. Terrence yawned and turned in too. He thought of
going to bed but vetoed it. He was not sleepy. He was hungry SHIT! He sat
and looked at his writing desk with attache case and portable typewriter. He
got up, went to the fridge, took out the tin of corned beef. He was goi"g to eat
it uncooked and cold then he would try to write. Just then he heard footsteps up
the front stairs followed by Gweneth's calling voice. Taken back, he wondered
what it was that she wanted?
He opened the door. She was smiling: spaced incisors. He looked upon
her, measuring her, weighing her allure. There was nothing wrong with Gweneth
other than gauntness of face, which, maybe, was due to her be-manless. Every
other part of her seemed right ample.
"Ah didn' understand' what you mean by this -" She repeated the ges-
tures he had made on the verandah. He laughed.
"What you thought I meant?"
"Dat you' hungry?"
"Cook for me?"
"Yo' foot short, Brother August .."
"No-no I have things to cook look .. corn beef. I was going to
open it and eat it just like this."
Gweneth crossed the threshold. "You wan me to cook something foh
"Why not once your mother don't mind .."
"She ent home. Is jus' me and Granpa an' he sleeping Mommy gone
to church outin'. She ent coming' back til around' eleven."
So while Gweneth cooked corned beef and rice, Terrence typed and
finally produced the first stanza of what he titled: SONG FOR MRS. GRIF-
Sing the blues
for wounded hearts
forever to be scarred
by a ghostly scythe
in the lonely sky
sing the blues .
And by the time the finished meal was announced he was re-reading the
poem's last stanza ...
Oh sing the blues
Sing the blues
Sing the blues
Sing the blues for wounded hearts
Forever to be scarred by a ghostly scythe
Oh sing the blues
Of a lonely wife
Sad in the wake
Of a husband long gone .
Sing the blues .
As he ate, praising Gweneth's cooking hand, she sat before the typewriter.
"I nevuh type before, yo' know ." He couldn't help noting the lift of her
Christian bust over the keyboard. She was reading what he had written. "Is a
sad poem," she said.
"It's how I feel about people going away and leaving people they love
behind But you wan to type?"
"I won' spoil you' machine?"
Terrence laughed and got up with his mouth filled. He pulled out his
poem and rolled a pair of new sheets into the machine. "Go on," he said, re-
treating to the table. "Type away." But when he sat once more before the spicy
meal his original hunger was being replaced by another. He got up he
thought he had to get up. He thought he should go to her, but he steered himself
to the lay to urinate. Her slow typing came in to him CHUCKA .
CHUCKA-CHUCKA ... CHUCKA... His penis, gripped tightly in both hands,
filled rapidly. GOD! the devil was on his back. He fought to control his breath-
ing, and won.
CHUCKA ... CHUCKA CHUCKA-CHUCKA .
Out of the lay, he approached Gweneth ...
CHUCKA... CHUCKA... CHUCK
Then he was behind her. "You're quite a typist," he complimented. She
laughed. She was typing her name.
"How you's get capital letters?"
His head was bent over her left shoulder and his heart was beating
terribly in his own ears.
He brought his arms around and showed her the shift keys on the left and
the right. And with his arms around her he quickly typed her name : Gweneth
Richmond and she laughed and he encased her in his arms and snuggled his face
against her neck. She trembled but did not protest. He brought his hands up
and she was bra-less. He squeezed gently and she moaned. "Gweneth ... Gwen-
eth ." he whispered. She moaned. "Stand up ... he whispered. She stood,
and he turned her and kissed her open mouth and she was unlearned and eager
in her kissing lapping at his open mouth. Wet buttery kisses.
THE NOVELS OF O. R. DATHORNE
by A. L. McLEOD
In 1963 the British publishing house of Cassell issued Dumplings in the
Soup, the first novel of 29-year-old 0. R. Dathorne, a Guyanese-born graduate
of the University of Sheffield; in the following year it published his The Scholar-
man. Clearly, Cassell must have felt confident that another Caribbean writer of
quality commercial (if not literary) fiction had been discovered: here was a
writer with the fluency of Edgar Mittelholzer, the comic deftness and penchant
for the poetic passage of Samuel Selvon, and unmistakable signs of the penetrat-
ing social criticism, droll humor, and facile narrative action (if not of the
magisterial tone and point-of-view) of V. S. Naipaul. Furthermore, the two
books covered essentially different but topical and important subjects: the first,
the difficulties of West Indian assimilation into British urban life; the second,
the search by a West Indian of African heritage for an understanding and appre-
ciation of contemporary African culture and attitudes that had eluded him
throughout his years of maturation in the West Indies and that had become in-
accessible to him through his education in the United Kingdom and his sub-
sequent adoption of British attitudes and sensibilities.
Dumplings in the Soup received very little critical attention; The Scholar-
man received more, including a positive, perceptive, and balanced review by
John Povey in Books Abroad. For whatever reason, thereafter Dathorne aban-
doned creative writing for critical and anthological work, editing Caribbean
Narrative in 1966 and Caribbean Verse in 1967. The first of these contains an
introductory es-ay of about 6000 words that is still one of the best general accounts
of modern Caribbean prose fiction: it identifies the principal problems facing
West Indian writers, isolates the achievements and shortcomings of the major
authors (such as Harris, Lamming, Naipaul, Hearne and Mais), and draws special
attention to the several contributions of others (such as Reid, Williams, Salkey
Dawes and de Lisser) who have seldom received adequate recognition. Caribbean
Verse likewise has a provocative, succinct introduction that discusses prevail-
ing critical positions on Caribbean writing (such as John Figueroa's view that
early West Indian poetry was debilitated by a loss of faith and a loss of love) and
provides the editor's own, often in epigrammatic form-as in his conclusion that
"West Indian poets were most successful when they managed to free themselves
from their incestuous relationship with the landscape" and that "our poets
have remained as attendants and surgeons of our word."
More recently, Dathorne has written Dark Ancestors: The Literature of
the Black Man in the Caribbean (1981), has delivered a number of academic
papers (increasingly concerned with the African elements in Caribbean culture),
and assumed the general editorship of The Journal of Caribbean Studies. But
just when one might have concluded that he had abandoned creative for critical
writing, excerpts from work in progress have appeared in Caribbean Quarterly,
Caliban, and The Journal of Caribbean Studies. In 1981 a short piece identified
as the Postscript "from the novel Celebration" was published; the others have
been excerpts from Dele's Child, and it seems that all are actually part of the
same work, to be published as Dele's Child. However, at the present Dathorne's
stature as a novelist depends upon just two works, both published over twenty
years ago; and it is not inappropriate that we should examine them to determine
his aspirations and achievement.
Dumplings in the Soup, like most first novels, is if not actually auto-
biographical heavily dependent upon personal experience for its story-line,
characters and locale. Because it deals with an immigrant student's life in a
British university town, it might seem to be both academic novel and Bildungs-
roman, but the lack of focus on the student himself removes it from both cate-
gories: instead of providing an account of academic politics and perfidies or
of self-discovery and maturation, the novel is essentially an episodic narrative
of the coexistence of a heterogenous group of boarders, with particular atten-
tion to the actions of Bofo, the least admirable of the characters although he
is described as "a man of fastidious tastes" and paradoxically as "a pitiful
model of sartorial untidiness." (One suspects that his name is a derivative of
the Italian buffo, for he is really a figure of fun, a stock presentation of the oppor-
tunistic wastrel who lives by his wits). Because Bofo is made the central individual
protagonist would hardly be an appropriate term it would seem that the
author intends to paint a cautionary canvas, to use him as a foil to the aspiring
student and show that his philosophy, his very manner of existence, is to be
deprecated. But this does not occur: Bofo is intractable; he manages to sponge
The other residents of No. 30 (which is described as "a rest-house, hotel,
hostel, and brothel, all rolled into one" and as an address "full of smells and
smoke") are a motley crew and perhaps not fundamentally different from
those to be found in any similar boarding-house. While they are representatives
of types, they are at the same time individualized by their particular eccentri-
cities or by their pseudonymous street-names. There is Bigphil with his generally
faithful mistress, Hazel; Pouncy, the bus conductress who is given to wearing
her uniform continuously; Jiffy Jacket, a Trinidadian architecture student; Lil-
phil, Pouncy's lover; Bill, the English working-class landlord who makes a com-
fortable living from overcharging for rented rooms in substandard housing; and
an anonymous Pole.
The doings of the group are hardly extraordinary and suggest little real
invention on the part of the novelist; in fact, both characters and action seem
dependent upon reportage and reminiscence the accumulation of antics,
anecdotes, misadventures and misunderstandings that are the stock-in-trade of
the reporter or raconteur. Apparently aware of this, the publisher advises readers
that "this quaint and colourful crew ... and the author's vibrant, bubbling sense
of humour ensure that Dumplings in the Soup is a happy diversion rather than
a social commentary." (This reminds us that Graham Greene described some of
his early works as "entertainments," and that Rex Warner's Escapade (1953)
carried a similar disclaimer by the publisher, who advised that the novel "has
been written especially for the enjoyment and entertainment of the reader -
and for no serious reason. No lesson is expected to be drawn from it.")
Notwithstanding the disclaimer, there is social commentary in Dump-
lings in the Soup, and most of it supports Eurocentric attitudes to the lifestyle
of West Indians. The residents of No. 30 seem content to depend upon the welfare
system for sustenance; they seldom retire before midnight, and "they had parties
in the middle of the week till three or four in the morning, parties which .
indeed went on well into the succeeding day" (111); glass in windows and doors
is repeatedly broken and long left unrepaired (or replaced by brown paper and
cardboard); rooms are cluttered and unclean; garbage is strewn at random;
phonographs are played with "voluminous disharmony."
The non-West Indian neighbours "saw that soon their little quiet street
would be taken over by hordes of semi-savages who, in their mind's eye, they
saw engaged in all sort of unbecoming practices." Not the least of these was
their disdain for the Work Ethic, for which they substituted what we might term
a Leisure Ethic:
The inhabitants of Number 30 were all deeply religious and expressed their
religious feelings most on Sundays. The weekdays may have been spent in any
number of evil pursuits, but Sunday was considered by one and all to be the
day of rest. This is not to imply that the inhabitants interpreted this to mean
that they could not enjoy their rest on Mondays or Tuesdays, or any other day
that seemed too cold to broach the thought of work as early as midday, but that
they considered Sunday as a day, so to speak, specially set aside by the All-
knowing One for them to completely disinterest themselves in anything
savouring of work. (138)
Yet more aggravating, surely, are the West Indians' behavioral patterns
that are mentioned in Chapter 22, "Fears, Please": drunkenness, uncleanliness,
wife-beating, infidelity, intra-household larceny, poverty, parasitism, prostitution,
and lechery. As Jiffy comments ruefully, "Marriage is white people concern"
(169) : it is a nicety that those in Number 30 find irrelevant in their circumstances,
which Jiffy identifies poignantly for Hazel: "Every black man in England
hustling for identity. Right? And no black man think he is any kind of represen-
tative o' anything. He just hustling hard like anything." (170).
Because of Dathorne's considerable skill at capturing dialect, in gaining
the reader's sympathy for the unfortunate residents of No. 30, and in presenting
their outlooks and activities in a dispassionate, reportorial mode. we are almost
never aware of his social commentary: whenever it starts to show, his ebullient
sense of humour surfaces, and we are absorbed in the entertaining rather than
the depressing aspects of the characters' existence. It is this constant victory of
levity over morality that differentiates Dumplings in the Soup from, say, Claude
McKay's Home to Harlem, which W. E. B. DuBois attacked for its social
realism, of all things for having been too candid in the depiction of life
among the black residents of Harlem in the 1920's. To have drawn a picture of
black life in Britain that was undifferentiated from the white would have been
indefensible; likewise, to have shown it without its lighter side would have been
unrealistic. But as Jiffy comments, "Coming here to England was an educa-
tion in itself. You really came to grips with naked reality. In the West Indies
everyone was play-acting at being real. Here the reality was so real that it
frightened you with the immensity of it." (30).
Dathrone's gift for dialect has been noted: whether English working-class,
Polish immigrant, or West Indian, it, has impressive verisimilitude. In addition,
he has a highly commendable gift for description both of person and atmos-
phere: no two black faces are indistinguishable after he has introduced them.
And whether the mood be one of sexual enticement or of physical confrontation,
we sense its precise definition in prose of a high order. A sense of proportion pre-
vails. What could be expanded gratuitously into a salacious passage is restrained,
so that it provides detail that is needed and intimates (often by circumlocution
or euphemism) what it is not necessary to depict. Here is an example: Jiffy is
making love to Hazel, Bigphil's mistress :
'Something is not right 'bout this Hazel, man,' Jiffy said. He spoke next to
her right breast. It pouted its nipple at him, filled the crevice of his lips with
its soft, round contour. And then, as his nose hung on her neck-line, her mouth
came out to touch him and her tongue tapped at the lower regions of his neck.
He fell across the bed, and Hazel clung on with her teeth. His whole body
sprang to life; the aching pain left his groin, and instead there was a stabbing
joy somewhere beneath his abdomen. He pushed at her hard, and she fell on
his mouth, crying with her eyes, but not with her body. His cheeks were full
of saliva and sweat, and when he kissed her he tasted the salt of her sweat
and tears before his tongue drew at hers. (58)
Yet in the several sexually-explicit passages of both Dumplings in the
Soup and The Scholar-man there is sexist language : no one seems to have an
erection per se (there is always a "pain in the groin" or "joy beneath the abdo-
men"), and although breasts range from "small, firm" to "pillow-sized," all the
women characters seem to have wet thighs. Is this the result of limited vocabu-
lary or limited experience? That it is not the result of language deficiency is sug-
gested by Dathorne's gift for metaphor especially for vivid and telling similes.
Here are a few : "This sounded like a Red Indian chess player's declaration
of love in code"; "his right leg clawed the floor like some giant shovel"; "Bofo
told him thirty pounds, rolling it off like a man with a life-sore on his tongue";
"the street noises sounded like thoughts"; a shape like an existentialist tea-
pot caught off guard"; and "virginity, like Omar Khayyam's finger, was beyond
recall." Others of similar orginality abound.
From the Introduction to Caribbean Narrative we can deduce Dathorne's
aspiration in writing Dumplings in the Soup, for there he writes with great con-
cern for the lack of comic writers in the West Indies, identifying just two of merit
(Naipaul and Selvon) and two of minor achievement (Edgar Mittelholzer and
Alvin Bennett). And he notes that:
West Indian comedy seems to lie mainly in character, language, and to a less
extent in incident. Personal names, drawn from the inanimate or the trivial,
provide a large element of the comic delineation where Naipaul and
Selvon succeed best is in creating a succession of bright eccentrics who do
little, but whose eccentricity, is in how they act and how they speak. (13)
This is clearly the formula that he was following in Dumplings in the
Soup, though the characters are neither bright nor truly eccentric. Even their
names (though the digression on Stan's name in The Scholar-man suggests an
interest in onomastics) are prosaic and humourless. The incidents, while amus-
ing, are seldom truly comic or original.
What then, accounts for the inadequacy of Dumplings in the Soup as a
true challenge to the comic novels of Naipaul, Selvon and Mittelholzer? Funda-
mentally, it is the absence of a plot that unifies the actions and interests of
either Jiffy or Bofo the main characters. As Thomas Hardy observed, "a
story must be worth the telling, and a good deal of life is not worth any such
thing." This is not a very startling observation on literary theory, but it has
substance. Reportage and vignettes are pale substitutes for plot and characterisa-
tion, without which no satisfactory novel yet seems possible.
The Scholar-man is a more ambitious and at the same time a more
satisfactory novel than Dumplings in the Soup. The explanation may rest in
the satiric rather than the comic mode that informs the entire work. After all, one
laughs at the little things that amuse, but one satirises the grand deficiencies of
government, church, and human relationships that threaten to defeat man's most
laudable goals for the amelioration of misery and the advancement of all.
In form, The Scholar-man is a continuation of Dumplings in the Soup,
for it chronicles the experiences of a Trinidadian graduate of a British univer-
sity who takes up an appointment as lecturer in English in the University of West
Africa. (Dathore's personal experience in such a role in Nigeria obviously pro-
vided the substance of the novel.) It includes many of the set-pieces of the aca-
demic novel. John Povey has observed similarities in the burned bed-sheets in-
cident to one in Lucky Jim and in the retelling of "schoolboy howlers" from ex-
amination papers to D. J. Enright's Academic Year, but these are almost
obligatory ingredients of the genre as are sexual encounters, social gaffes,
inter-departmental frictions, and disillusionment with both the academic life
and its social pretentions.
But The Scholar-man is something more: As Louis James notes in The
Islands in Between, "There is a difference between Africa in West Indian writing
and West Indians in Africa. In the first case, Africa is of the mind; in the other,
it is social reality whose struggle for emancipation parallels that of the Carib-
bean" (6-7). By placing his story in West Africa, the author can point out ana-
logues and satirise without causing offense at home.
The protagonist of the novel is Adam Questus, who Kenneth Ramchand
thinks a "mechanically named hero." Adam himself muses on his name: "Ques.
tus. It sounds so earnest, as if I was looking for something" (48). And, of course,
he is as are E. M. Forster's Miss Quested, Doris Lessing's Martha Quest, and
most other people (including the Questers, Questels, and Questins in phone
books). But Adam's search is for a rather special type of person for Mr. Egor,
a mulatto born in Britain who had befriended Adam to the point of establishing
a close homosexual link in his youth. This relationship is described in the Pro-
logue to the novel in prose of very special beauty and sensitivity:
The river hurried from the jungle and here on the coast the brown water dis-
solved into the sea. The river bank was purple and palms knelt close to the
edge of the water. Above were the high hills of Adventure, where houses sat
in irregular lines, and the air was heavy with lime scent and guava.
The boy used to come racing out of the house, and behind the huge
tree-stump he would wait naked. The man always came from behind the
courida trees. The man could not have been more than thirty at the time.
He was smooth and beautiful and the man swam near, scented of cool
water and spring-wet and foaming trees in the sun; sometimes he floated on
his back, spurting jets of warm dark spray skywards, and the boy swam near
him, holding hands, rocked on the mattress of wave-water. (1)
Elsewhere we learn that Egor is "not an African. He only thinks he's one
... he is young and full everything I wanted to be and more." He is, in fact,
a symbol of the amalgamation of the best and gentlest in European and African,
the ideal compromise, the middle way, Adam's goal. Egor the mulatto repre-
sents Whitmanesque bisexualism, Afro-European culture. Against him Adam
judges himself, always implying the question that Abioseh Nicol poses in his
poem "The Meaning of Africa" : "Is this all you are?" To the responsive and
responsible, it is a challenge to ever greater achievement; to others it is the ulti-
mate indictment for infidelity and indolence. Adam's response was that "he felt
very much alone."
This aloneness, this sense of alienation is the result of Adam's recognition
that blackness per se does not provide a West Indian with a sense of identifica-
tion with Africa any more than whiteness gives an Australian any sense of iden-
tification with Europe or North America : colour alone is irrelevant in the search
for personal and cultural identity, and even Adam's participation in a Comfa
dance, with its whipping and physical violence, brings him severe embarrass-
ment rather than satisfaction and elation. Eventually, embarrassment gives way
to shame, and shame to satire.
It is in his satiric thrusts that Dathorne manages the Horatian mode con-
sistently and elegantly, restricting his barbs for the mountebanks, the poseurs,
the cheats and opportunists, and never even inadvertently using irony in his
dealings with the masses, the common people, the sincere and dedicated. Both
Africans and Europeans are equally subjected to censure: Mrs. Farrar's "cre-
mated food," her "chips from a forgotten world and faded green peas killed
by their long sleep in tins, and flat frozen fish"-alien in an African environment
and the Polish lecturer Bielski's inordinate pride in his unmastered English
language are matched by the slop that African students are offered and the pride
of the student leaders in their snippets of English and of literary criticism. Again,
Farrar's puerile theories of teaching; his inordinate pride in his unpublished,
mimeographed "books"; his constant absence from station; and his subterfuge in
a B.Sc (Econ) degree while head of the English department have their parallels
in the African community. The vice-chancellor (whose main qualification is his
precious headmastership of a primary school) goes off to England when Inde-
pendence is being celebrated at home; the newly-independent West Africans
dress in evening suits and sing "God Save the Queen" in the absence of a
national anthem. They all soon discover that their independence means little
more than the perpetuation of standing orders and the proliferation of bureau-
cracy, so that "West Africanisation ... means a half-baked student turns up to-
morrow as professor" (150) and ultimately "Africa destroying itself." (177).
To demonstrate the absurdity of Africanisation, Dathorne introduces Mr.
Chatta Box, a member of parliament:
Mr. Chatta Box started off in the dialect. 'You no dey see that long green thing
park under that tree there, eh? Hah! I askin' you, you standing' up listening' to
me-you ever see such a nice green thing like that? Eh? Well is a brand new
American car park under that tree there. And you know who give me? ... You
and you and you.' He paused again and the crowd of students cheered Mr.
Chatta Box wildly...
'Your vice-chancellor had made new Standing Order say that you must
not stand to display cards. I say you can do it. I go make government order
and deport him.' Someone whispered something to him and he said, 'I under-
stand he is not an expatriate. We shall therefore send him back to bush. In con-
clusion, I say this college shall be razed to the ground and a new one will start.
It only cost two million to build, and we can build it again.'
Then the students went wild with jubilation and took photographs of
one another. Then Mr. Chatta Box bowed one or two times, spat, and drove
away to have lunch with the vice-chancellor. (158)
Subjected to censure and satire are politicians' promises, performances, exalted
living, self-interest, duplicity and bureaucratic bumbling.
Perhaps the most significant piece of dialogue in the novel occurs when
Questus is asked by his students. "Are you African?" To this he has no suitable
response: though he is Caribbean and black, he is officially described by the
Government as "expatriate" as are all the Europeans. So he replies, "Yes
and no. I come from the West Indies." But his colour merely permits a super-
ficial identification with Africa: at heart and in mind he does not belong there
- a recognition that he shares with Farrar's daughter, Helen:
'I first came to England just at the time when one starts to think too intensely
Do you know,' he said suddenly, 'everything I have ever dreamt I wanted
I could have found there. Isn't it strange England, the black man's home!'
He was no foreigner. England was home, and the dales of Derbyshire
was from where he got dreams, London's East End was where he had pawned
his soul, and he had advertised his baseness under the lights of Piccadilly. (92)
This is, in effect, the ultimate shock of recognition for Adam, and its full
profundity is emphasised when Helen Farrar comments a few lines later, with
reference to discovering where to collect mail, "You have to find out for yourself.
That's the tragedy." If we regard mail as communication with the rest of the
like all of us, has to discover who he is and what his meaningful relationships
are. Apparently neither Dathorne nor Questus could discover his true identifica-
tion with either the West Indies or Africa.
In the Epilogue to The Scholar-man, Questus returns to the country village
near Mile Seven on the highway, where he seeks out the mad woman that he met
when trying to learn the whereabouts of Egor:
She smelt of fresh wet sand, of green trees in silver rain and grey damp earth,
and she lay on her back she was smooth and living in the dark, Egor's
second bridge. She lay with the unconcern of a child, her legs wide open, her
head on the ground and her hands skyward. Something tightened in his trousers
and he felt himself drawn to her splendid visions and her music and her thick
thighs and her muscles, which were part of the earth out of which she drew
and suffered and ate ... The lightning spotlighted his coarse animal movements
over her ... Then the rain fell and he lay lost in this, his third baptism of
mud and water; and he lay flat clutching her, feeling the shape of her huge
breasts and the rain tickled his eyes and smoothed his eyes and the blessing
of water poured down .; and in the madness of that rainy moment, in the
slush and the lighted dark, the wet and the testimony of thunder, he knew.
This is, of course, rather effective prose, though Kenneth Ramchand finds
its somewhat over-written and marred by polysyndeton and the inclusion of
baptism, water, thunder, lightning, and such words all appropriate in the cir-
cumstances of an African thunderstorm which he somehow identifies as in-
cantatory. Ramchand, however, reserves his strongest criticism for the final two
words, "he knew," which he finds incomprehensible:
Dathorne wishes to suggest that his hero has returned to the rejected earth-
rhythms of the pre-expatriate Africa Since the symbolism of the woman
is never suggested elsewhere in the novel (she is realistically described on
page 140, where she provokes disgust), and since this incident seems to take
place gratuitously, the reader is left mystified. Questus 'knew', and so presum-
ably does Dathorne, but neither can tell, for this is the end of the novel. (160)
Now, if the author had been any more explicit, he would have violated
one of the principles of effective prose fiction; and by allowing the reader to pro-
vide the statement of exactly what Questus knew, he is observing an established
tradition. But the symbolism of the woman is far from inexplicable : on page 140
she is described as completely naked, dust-covered, vacant and terror-filled in
appearance, and with hair in disarray hardly the same person as the one with
"splendid visions and her thick thighs and her muscles" of the Epilogue. On first
seeing her, she is repulsive; on a return, she is seductive : she is Africa herself,
Earth-Mother and mistress.
Further, on Adam's initial visit to the village, he asks the whereabout of
Egor, and when told that he is dead, he can not accept this : "Perhaps it's better
for me to believe he is dead, as the old man said. But I can't. I must keep trying
to find him. If not here, then somewhere else." The concluding "he knew" re-
iterates the goal of his quest: Adam can never be satisfied with reality; he must
continue the search for the ideal. He knew that he must continue his endless
search and that Africa was not his source of succour or his cultural home.
"Africa is a world that means nothing," he says. "If, in a lifetime, a man born
here still knows nothing about his tribe, then that is knowledge. You can't even
know a little about Africa as such. The whole place is so damn complex."
As in Dumplings in the Soup, The Scholar-man contains numerous pass-
ages that demonstrate beyond doubt Dathorne's craftsmanship in language and
mastery of metaphorical statement. Some examples have already been provided,
but an additional one will illustrate this :
He did not know how long he lay there, but he realized that the night came
down sudden and swift like a whore in a hurry, like a greedy baby that sucked
up the cream of the mother day; and the darkness swooped and hung about,
threatening like the black vultures, and God or somebody sewed on the stars
like buttons. (95)
In a manner, Dathorne's two novels are segments of a single quest novel
or Bildungsroman that has missing parts. The initial volume, dealing with life
in Guyana and departure for England may have been passed up because it would
replicate much of Miguel Street, The Year in San Fernando, or Morning at the
Office (though this of itself should not be a sufficient reason); another volume
should have followed Questus (by whatever name) from Africa to the United
States; and a final one might well trace the quester from there to some Carib-
bean location and thus bring what is at present a single linear story to its logical
conclusion in a cyclic structure.
Whether Dele's Child will reveal growth and development in Dathorne as
a novelist remains uncertain: the excerpts that have appeared suggest that the
motivating impetus is again African and West Indian; that it entertains the
great issues of identity, goals, and culture; that it is less given to humour and
irony. That is, that it is a novel of a quite different type. The reasons for this
change are hard to determine, but they may be related to the critical failure of
Dumplings in the Soup and The Scholar-man. There is little doubt that Dathorne
saw the need for literary-quality fiction of true comedy and that he (like V. S.
Naipaul) has a satiric bent of uncommon degree; but in his first two novels the
magical mixture of comedy, satire, character, and incident eluded" him; con-
versely- his seriousness of substance was often lost in levity. Apparently he has
decided to change direction and purpose at an age when most fiction writers
have already produced their major works.
Whatever Dele's Child and any later novels may be like, Dathorne's first
two novels deserve greater recognition than they have so far received: in their
time they explored rather new territory; today they retain their intrinsic merits.
Dathorne, O. R. Caribbean Narrative: An Anthology of West Indian Writing. London :
- Dumplings in the Soup. London: Cassell, 1963.
-. The Scholar-man. London: Cassell, 1964.
James, Louis, ed. The Islands in Between. London: Oxford U.P., 1968.
Povey, John, Rev. of The Scholar-man. Books Abroad 39 (Autumn 1965) :483.
Ramchand, Kenneth. The West Indian Novel and Its Background. London : Faber, 1970.
LETTER FROM ANGUILLA
by JAN AUGUSTIN
Chubby-cheeked children playing in open yards; sea-grapes, pomegranetes
and dunks (called pomarettes) growing in profusion along narrow roads; an old
woman guiding her sheep up a hill, the last rays of the sun bathing them all in
pure gold. These are the pictures that flash across my mind at the name, 'An-
The most northern of the Leewards, Anguilla has 35 square miles and a popu-
lation of about seven thousand, the majority of whom are of African descent.
Other residents tend to be Europeans either living permanently or on business.
Tourist literature says there are more than thirty superb beaches, and indeed
this tiny island is beautiful. It attracts tourists almost all year round because of
its peace and quiet. With no local newspapers nor inquisitive photographers,
Anguilla is ideal for people who want to get away from it all! Housing is of a
high standard and there are absolutely no slums.
The main reference for Anguillan history is Annals of Anquilla, written
by Dr. S. B. Fines who was both medical officer and magistrate (strange com-
bination one must agree) from 1918 to 1923. He sets the year of discovery and
settlement by the English as 1600. He notes that the island was called Anguilla
because of its snake-like shape. It was reputed to be filled with alligators and
other animals. Fortunately, the long periods of drought on the island must have
dried up the swamps, so there are no longer any of these creatures. The only re-
minders of these reptiles are the rather large lizards that scuttle around every-
one's yard and along foot-paths and roads.
Drought was another kind of blessing in disguise for Anguilla. In the
1890's a terrible drought brought great hardship to the people, and was later re-
ferred to as 'the great famine'. During this period, Anguillans left their home-
land in large numbers for the sugar estates in Santo Domingo. This need for
travel created a demand for boats, and today Anguillans enjoy the reputation
of excellent builders of wooden sloops, schooners and fishing boats. Famous
boat-builders include names like Liam Richardson, Macduff Richardson and
Jefferson Gumbs. An old resident told me that\when drought and famine again
struck in the 1930's, there was a plan to evacuate all Anguillans to British Guiana
as Guyana was known in those days. However, relief came and the plan was
Today, Anguilla is a dry dusty island due to insufficient rainfall and a
rocky soil, none of the lush greens and the profusion of colours in trees and
plants as we know in Guyana. However, one can see small cottage gardens and
larger land-scaping at hotels and villas. The main crops are green peas, corn
and sweet potatoes. These are planted in bits of open land dotted around the
island. However, what Anguilla loses in agriculture, it gains in the wide variety
of fish and lobsters found in its waters. Lobsters from Anguilla have a good
market in nearby St. Maarten and other islands as they are considered a delicacy.
In addition to fishing and boat building, almost every Anguillan family
keeps a few sheep and goats commonly referred to as 'animals'. These can be
tethered in open pastures during the day, and then dutifully driven home in the
evening for water and shelter. Yet there is no wide-spread high consumption of
mutton and goat meat, as fish forms the staple protein for islanders. I once caught
a glimpse of a large pig tied to a dunk's tree in someone's backyard, and I have
seen some cows and a donkey.
As in all Caribbean islands, corn, tobacco, cotton and sugar were the main
crops in early colonial times. With sugar came slaves, mostly from the Gold
Coast. These crops were gradually abandoned and now there is scarcely any evi-
dence of plantation life. No Chateau Margot chimney cuts the skyline. The most
notable figure in Anguillan history, to my mind, is John Richardson, Governor
of the island in early nineteenth century. Some of his heirs held high administra-
tive positions on the island, and the name Richardson is still by far the most
common, accounting for 108 of the 1000 names listed in the telephone directory.
The closest rivals are Gumbs (58) and Hodge (56). From a Guyanese point of
view, an important name in Anguillan history is Carter Rey. I discovered that as
a young man he spent several years in British Guiana at the turn of the century,
looking for gold. He was the son of a rich and powerful family, and upon his
return to Anguilla filled the roles of island eccentric, country squire, benevolent
landlord and philanthropist until his death in 1943 at the age of 78. The house
in which he lived and died is now the presbytery for the only Catholic Church on
the island St. Gerard's. As I chatted with the resident priest in the large dining
room, it was strange to find small threads of history running between Guyana and
The future of Anguilla certainly rests on the shoulders of its young
people. There are six primary schools and one large secondary school, all pro-
viding adequate free education. According to the 1984 census, there is a high
literacy rate, and almost every child completed his primary school education
which goes to Standard 7. Future plans include the construction of a multilateral
type school which will cater for all children leaving Primary School. In addition to
Education expansion, a larger airport is planned to accommodate the growing
number of tourists. Tourism is the most important industry, as it provides the
most means of empl-yment, both directly and indirectly.
As a British island, Anguilla may seem to be quite different from most
of the islands with which we come into constant contact. But after one has read
its history and has talked with its people, it is easy to understand that we are all
of the sea and sun, one Caribbean people.
THE 1986 CARIBBEAN WRITERS' CONFERENCE IN
A Testimony by A. J. SEYMOUR
In 1986, as a representative of the magazine Kyk-over-Al, I attended the
three-day Conference on Caribbean Writing held in London over the period Octo-
ber 23-25, 1986. I was conscious of one of the main purposes of the Conference
that is, that it was to heighten the awareness in black communities in Britain
of the Caribbean heritage that had come to them and to help teachers in schools
confidently to convey this heritage to the black children in the classes under
their control. There were a series of other objectives linked with this main edu-
cational aim e.g. to change for the better the attitudes of the British public by
increasing their knowledge of the cultural and artistic achievements of the Carib-
bean. The Conference served as a link between the Commonwealth Institute, on
the one hand, and on the other, the Governments of the Commonwealth Carib-
bean and the people of Caribbean descent living in the United Kingdom, many
of whom had begun to migrate to the U.K. in the 1950's.
James Berry, a Jamaican poet, writing in The Voice of the week ending
October 25, 1986, from a position of authority and influence, said "The coming
Conference on Caribbean writing to be held at the Commonwealth Institute from
October 23-25 marks an important staging post in the history of Caribbean writ-
ing. First is the fact that the Caribbean is remarkable in the number of writers
it has produced, given its geography and population size. Second, the conference
is a kind of watershed between those writers of the older tradition and the new
writers who have also emerged from a direct English experience".
James Berry, referring to the Caribbean writers coming to London as
"The Arrivants", stated these would come to an assured audience. "Exchanges
of common interests with a general clock-in on personal developments will have
an open-minded audience from Britain and other white world countries. Drawn
largely from areas of education, general readers, individuals with a forward out-
look and those purely with a curiosity, the various audiences will listen to the
writers with open ears and eyes".
Maggie Butcher, Acting Head, Education Department of the Common-
wealth Institute, had her own way of describing the Conference in a letter to
AJS of June 3, 1985, "What we are at present discussing is a celebration of Carib-
bean literature with as many writers and critics as possible coming together to
discuss their work, with one of the practical outcomes being the preparation of
video pogrammes on writers and their background for the use in Britain and the
Caribbean schools, teachers, community groups and the like. There is much
concern in Britain following the publication of the Swann Report on the needs
of black children in our schools and this project will contribute to fulfilling those
needs as well as reaching a wider audience who may or may not be familiar with
In my letter to Maggie Butcher and sometimes in my editorials in Kyk-
over-Al I made suggestions to enlarge the objectives of the Conference. One was
tion in the region should be asked to look at the six seminal texts in the Anglo-
Caribbean which we had named as the Big Six House for Mr. Biswas, In the
Castle of My Skin, New Day, Kaywana Trilogy, Palace of the Peacock and The
Arrivants. Since that list was compiled, many years ago, several West Indian
novels and books have been published. Surely the Adult Education Associations
in the Anglo-Caribbean might wish to examine the six against new comers and
see if anyone should be replaced by a new book published more recently and
fast becoming a classic. For that matter, the new black British Caribbean writers
could also have a shot at voting for the Best Caribbean Books.
Then there was Alex Pascall, born in Grenada, who arrived in Britain
more than 26 years ago with two drums, one suitcase and the desire to become
a folklorist. He was appointed National U.K. Co-ordinator of Caribbean Focus
1986. He felt that Britain had been forced to take note of the growth of the West
Indian community in England, of the strong influence of Afro-Caribbean rhythms
on Western rock music, and the happenings in the Caribbean itself (volcanic
eruptions, floods and the Grenada affair). These had all combined to make Bri-
tain take note of the Caribbean and to try to understand it. It was now time for
Britain to acknowledge its debt to the Caribbean for the labour, raw materials
and art forms received from that source, and stop trying to fight against the in-
I would place my reactions to the Conference in three categories. First
of all, I greatly enjoyed the celebration aspect, meeting after so many years the
cream of the writers, some not seen for decades, some never seen before, and
some with whom I have been corresponding for years. Eddie Brathwaite and I
have been consulting one another's views for a long time, but Raymond Barrow
of Belize I have known only at the bottom of letters and I was happy to meet
him at last. Micky Hendricks was also new to me, but I had known and admired
his work for a long time. Wordsworth McAndrew I had lost touch of and was
glad to meet again. Claire Harris I had met in a group of writers in Calgary,
Alberta, some months before. And it was good to chat again with Austin Clarke
and Mervyn Morris and Olive Senior and Earl Lovelace as I was caught in a
For the Caribbean poets, we were also celebrating the publication of a
book which dominated the Conference Paula Burnett's Penguin Book of
Caribbean Verse in English. Although Paula was not of West Indian origin, nor
a poet, her selections have sewn together the scribal and oral traditions in a fine
historical presentation of the complexity and the totality of the Caribbean crea-
tive experience; and it is interesting to see the way the ancient root of music now
marries the literary and the vernacular as a vitalising element.
Mind you, I agree with Susheila Nastor in Artrage No. 12 that Paula
Burnett should and could have discussed the very important part played by
women poets in the region and with Ian McDonald in Kyk-over-Al No. 35 that
the East Indian strain in Caribbean poetry could have been strengthened in its
representation with Mahadai Das and Rooplall Monar especially.
But the Anthology is a witness that centuries of slavery and colonialism
have stimulated the human psyche to creative fruit that the world can admire.
Bravo the Caribbean.
Neither the Conference nor the Anthology did much to prophesy the way
ahead for Caribbean creativity in forms and direction. Literature and the other
arts have to depend upon political will and therefore money even when genius is
evident in the work. As we talked in a coterie of creative imaginations, we could
only hope and pray that the dialogue between the London outreach and the
Caribbean bases of culture will somehow benefit us all.
So I took pleasure in the celebration.
The second point that came home to me was my great pleasure that there
were three new Guyanese women novelists who had begun to publish books -
Beryl Gilroy, Grace Nichols and Janice Shinebourne. Women have a realistic
attitude to life and these three novels Frangipani House, The Whole of a
Morning Sky and Timepiece, all published in 1986, seek to record the difficult
crises through which women have to pass in their lifetime.
Nan Singh is writing a review of these novels to introduce them to tlhe
Guyanese and West Indian people, and all I need say here is that Beryl Gilroy,
who went in 1951 to Britain as a trained, experienced school teacher, eventually
became Headmistress of a North London School, and between 1970 and 1975,
wrote a series of children's books for Macmillan. Then in 1976 she published
Black Teacher, the chronicle of her experiences as the only Black headmistress
in her London Borough. In 1982 she won a prize for her book In for a Penny
and in 1985, Frangipani House won a prize in the GLC Black Literature Com-
There is one common feature of the other two novels, a treatment of the
race conflicts between Africans and Indians that took place in Guyana in the
early 1960's, and the narratives show how families on one or both sides were
affected. Incidentally the title of Grace Nichols' novel, "The Whole of a Morn-
ing Sky" is a quotation from one of Martin Carter's poems.
I took pleasure also in noting that in January 1987, Karnak House was
scheduled to publish a book of poetry Guyana My Altar by Marc Matthews.
This is his first collection of poems although Marc Matthews has been writing
for years in an audacious and highly inventive use of the nation-language, the
vernacular of his native land. The advertisement says that the poems delve
deeply into Guyanese mythologies going back to the Dutch and the Amerindian
heritages. Marc has acted in experimental plays and is regarded as an important
There is a third area of reaction from my presence at the October Con-
ference a personal reaction. As I entered into the agenda, I found that I had
been booked for being Chairman on the first afternoon to two lectures, one by
Professor John Figueroa on Caribbean Voices in Caribbean Literature and the
other by Dr. Rhonda Cobbam on New Developments in Caribbean Literature.
Immediately after that I was earmarked as Convenor of a workshop on Early
Days of Caribbean writing. I felt a little overworked, but as audience reaction
developed I began to realise that I was one of the senior personnel present and
that I was being treated as an historical monument in my own person. In other
words, I could possibly walk quietly into some museum, take a seat somewhere
and smile benignly as others crowded around and either touched my three-piece
suit or my bowtie, or addressed questions to me on the inner aspects of the West
Indian writers of the forties when many of us believed that we were creating the
inner spiritual dynamic of a West Indian Federation with the poems we were
This personal reaction was enhanced later in the Agenda when Professor
Eddie Brathwaite stressed the importance of what he called Father Figures in
West Indian Literature, and among others, my name was called and I was in-
vited to stand up and be seen by the participants present.
Then in the interval between items, I was conscious of the goodwill of
many others being expressed one way or another: of course I was conscious of
the fact that I had been writing poetry for more than fifty years and that my
fellow poets of younger years had had me as an example over decades and
that they were meeting me for the first time, almost incredibly, and I seemed
able to respond favourably to their comments and questions, all the more since
Guyana, my homeland, had fashioned a reputation of being a hard country in
many ways. So I was one of the several faces of Focus and happily still in focus.
It was on my return home to Guyana that I would be interviewed on
Night Ride and asked by the newspaper what my half century of poetry-writing
had meant to me, but the Conference in October 1986, was meaningful in bring-
ing home to me that I had played a part in laying the foundation and that through
Kyk-over-Al Ian McDonald and I were still affording young writers an oppor-
tunity to be read and appreciated.
Caribbean Focus had a slogan for the people of England "Widen your
vision, sharpen your focus". Focus had a nine-month programme from March
to November 1986 and bringing to London through the Commonwealth Institute
the richness, diversity, colour and splendour of life in the English-speaking
Looking at the programme, it is evident that Guyana made a special
Amerindian and a special East Indian input into Focus. For example, Denis
Williams organised a 24-panel exhibition on the Amerindian heritage. George
Simon accompanied the exhibition and answered questions. George Tancredo
of St. Ignatius made figures out of balata before the fascinated audiences.
fashioning trees, animals, birds and people while the visitors looked on. Sidney
Daniels of St. Cuthbert displayed the techniques of weaving baskets so that all
A special exhibition on Indian Immigration into Guyana over the years
was prepared and presented by Laxhmie Kallicharran and opened by Common-
wealth Secretary-General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, and like the Denis Williams
Exhibition this was on show for six weeks. A dancing group of fifteen members
from Kabakaburi, led by Sister Theresa La Rose, was present at Focus and per-
formed at concerts there.
One newspaper reported that Focus provided a brief insight into West
Indian life for tens of thousands of younger generation Black Englishmen of
West Indian parentage who have never visited the West Indies. The insight may
well serve as an impetus to many at least to visit the countries of the Caribbean
and to discover their roots. Maggie Butcher states that an English writer, Louis
James, has been commissioned to write a comprehensive account of Focus for
all to see. We all look forward to seeing what the nine-month emphasis on cul-
tural identity will produce.
YEARS OF FIGHTING EXILE: MILTON VISHNU
Peepal Tree Press
It seems likely that the order in which the poems in this collection are
published is more or less the order in which they were written. At any rate there
seems to be-a distinct increase in poetic power as one reads on. Several of the
"earlier" poems can be classified as "public" whereas the "later" poems are pre-
dominantly "private". The distinction between "public" and "private" poetry is
one that ought not to exist; every private self is a social construct just as one's
public self cannot but be a version of the private. However, the condition of exile
probably makes the distinction inevitable since it is precisely the disjunc-
tion between self and community, whether it be the community of past or pre-
sent, that constitutes the exiles ground of struggle. Now in such poems as "Some-
times a Man", "Well of Love" or "The Dancers", poems concerned, on the
most obvious level, with the experience of being a colonial in British Guiana,
one senses the presence of Martin Carter's influence (compare these poems with
"Do not Stare at Me", "I am no Soldier" and "University of Hunger" respec-
tively) to such an extent that the experience they convey seems second-hand. All
poems are derivative but not all derivativeness is poetry; sometimes it is only
By contrast, "To Alice" and "Ann Whittaker" deal with love, that most
ordinary of miracles, in a way that makes it seem magical. If the former poem
puts the reader in mind of Osip Mandelstam, this would be by way of attempt-
ing to define the mode of that literary experience rather than to suggest the
literary "influence" has taken the place of experience. However it is not simply
the case that the poet's gift is for the personal rather than the public theme.
"Naziban", which is printed near the beginning of the book, does not really
move beyond an anecdotal interest in a boy's discovery of sex. "Sent Away And
Asked To Keep Quiet", an "early" poem about the Enmore riots, is similarly
anecdotal. However, there is no poem about a public event in the second half of
the collection which equals "Ann Whittaker" or "Alter the Method of Your
Coming" for that sense of authenticity (by which I do not mean "sincerity") that
makes a poem. Perhaps after all, we must listen when the poet says in "Voices,
"I swear to struggle no longer to free certain
men of the world. My role is to know and express
loveliness. Praise the clean scythe of beauty that
These poems sometimes approach the familiar issue of historylessness
and deprivation through the personal situation of the poet as in "Sponge of My
Shame". They range from protest to bawdiness with room for celebration some-
where between. They are sometimes (very rarely) technically unsure as when an
odd phrase like "the monsoon of unafraid" interrupts a quite different linguistic
context for no reason apparent to this reviewer.
Jeremy Poynting's useful Introduction unfortunately over-simplifies the
role of Queen's College (mis-named Queen's Royal College) and of the colonial
education system in Guyana's history; To read that it might be good fortune that
kept Milton Williams out of Queen's College is odd; consider that that elitist
English institution produced the leaders of all of the important left-wing parties
but none of the leaders of right-wing ones. The point is worth making since the
bizarre necessity of acquiring someone else's language and culture in order to
fight them and the schizophrenia that this entails are not explicitly acknowledged
by Williams but seem to be at the heart of some of his love-poems nevertheless.
This pain is not to be assuaged by opposing the Public Library to Queen's
Rooplall Monar, BACKDAM PEOPLE, Peepal Tree Press,
Leeds, England, 1985
Backdam People is a collection of eleven stories which are unique in West
Indian literature because they are written entirely in Guyanese dialect. This is
not the dialect used in full-length narratives by authors such as Samuel Selvon
(Trinidad) and Vic Reid (Jamaica). Selvon and Reid write about more creolised
West Indians, whereas Monar's characters are unlettered, Indian, sugar estate
labourers whose speech reflects some influence from Indian languages. Monar
does not reproduce this speech with complete, literal exactness. Words such as
"morgue, expectation, rehearsing, spectacle" are unlikely to be used by Monar's
characters; but they don't alter the fact that the narrative of Backdam People
captures, with great accuracy, the ribald earthiness and frank outspokenness of
speech that flourished in rural Guyanese, during the first half of this century, and
still survives today. In a general sense, the vocabulary, phrasing, syntax, ima-
gery, and intonation of the narrative in Backdam People are all accurate. "Slip-
pery like ochro" (p. 73), "thick-thick like conky" (p. 31), and "rattling like cane-
punt chain" (p. 51) are images that have special resonance for the ears of Guy-
anese, and for rural rather than urban Guyanese.
Most of the stories in Brickdam People are set in the period around World
War Two. At this time most Indians lived on sugar estates with a feudalistic
structure bequeathed by the Caribbean plantation system of preceding centuries,
when white proprietors owned everything, including their (African) workers.
Although most of the overt brutality by which plantation owners enforced their
authority had gone by World War Two, an atmosphere of enforcement re-
mained. It is evident in the humiliating sycophancy, the debased grovelling, the
insidious influence-seeking and peddling, and the all-pervading violence and
brutality which affect most people in the stories in Backdam People. In these
stories, the estate manager is mentioned in tones of hallowed respect and awe,
as someone who could never be contacted directly by workers. If a worker had
a request, he would pass it through intermediate stages of the feudalistic hier-
archy until it reached the manager. Meanwhile, the worker waited in cowering
expectation. This system spawned widespread scheming and plotting, envy, fear,
suspicion, deceit, treachery and deviousness, all in the interest of survival.
We get a glimpse of the system from "Lakhan Chase Dispenser". It was
common for workers to feign illness or exaggerate the seriousness of genuine ill-
ness, in order to evade the more gruelling forms of labour. In "Lakhan Chase
Dispenser" the negro dispenser (chemist and druggist) who is extremely popular
with the labourers, is given instructions that they should be treated quickly for
minor illness, and made to resume work as soon as possible. Absenteeism was to
be curbed and productivity increased because of war conditions in Europe which
increased the European demand for sugar. In an effort to follow these instruc-
tions without damaging his good reputation with the labourers, Matthews hits
on a scheme of secretly administering laxatives to people who appear to be
feigning illness. In this way, the individual becomes truly indisposed for one day,
and can resume work the next day, feeling all the better for having had a purge.
The scheme backfires when Lakhan wants time off to attend a funeral. The laxa-
tive he is given produces so many bowel movements, and so weakens him, that
Lakhan is unable to attend the funeral. He angrily attacks Matthews with a
cutlass and forces him to reveal his scheme.
The story is typical in so far as it illustrates the secrecy, trickery, and
endless double-dealing and violence that pervade estate society. The workers'
effort in resisting oppression is seen through their deliberate absenteeism. In the
end, despite his murderous pursuit of Matthews, Lakhan and the dispenser are
both presented as victims of the "bacra" or white administration. Lakhan "smack
he tongue again as though he sorry for Matthews" (p.50). Lakhan's story is also
typical because of its comic technique. It is in his use of comedy to reveal oppres-
sion and injustice that the author achieves greatest success in Backdam People.
In most stories, the injustice is not explicitly mentioned: it is evident in the so-
cial structure and the relationships and situations of characters. Yet these re-
lationships and situations are largely comic, whether they involve school pranks,
superstition, domestic wrangles, cowardice, bullying or sexual infidelity. When
the schoolboy Dhookie is flogged for cheating, his retaliation by stoning the
teacher is so successful, that he eventually becomes the teacher's favourite. The
main interest in Bully Boy's story is that, despite his strong-armed tactics, he is
a coward at heart, and is afraid he may be found out. Sukul sneers at "jumbies"
or ghosts until he is scared by one, and thereafter cannot venture out without
being accompanied. Massala Maraj ingratiates himself to worm a favour out
of the estate manager. Through his greed he loses the favour, but regains it
through further ingratiation. "Bahadur" is another story about successful trick-
ery, and "Who is the real 01 Higue" about superstition and gullibility. These
brief descriptions suggest the essentially comic treatment of most relationships
and situations in Backdam People.
The success of Monar's comic treatment is that it enables him to present
scenes of gross violence and brutality without sentimentality. His stories win
sympathy for the victims of oppression without lamenting over the conditions of
oppression. Comedy highlights rather than conceals these conditions. The 01
Higue (witch) Sancharrie eventually commits suicide. Bully Boy is seriously in-
jured by a "strong man". There are numerous beatings and threats, the favoured
weapon being the cutlass which all labourers possess. Matthews has to jump
through his dispensary window, knocking over pills and medicine bottles. Hakim
and his paramour are caught "in flagrante delicto", by the paramour's cutlass-
wielding husband. We laugh at all these incidents, but do not ignore the cruelty,
pain and suffering involved. What we laugh at are the dramatic conflicts and
confrontations. At any rate, the harsh lot of Monar's characters is never lost sight
it dawn on me true-true that the estate mule and oxen receiving better treat-
ment and care and food than the sugar worker them, who punishing genera-
tion after generation, night and day, to make sugar profitable, and believe is
they duty as the pandit and immam does say. (p. 91)
Explicit comments of this sort are not common in Backdam People. The book
more effectively exposes injustice in those stories where the situations are re-
corded and their injustice implied. But the comments confirm the plight of
Monar's characters whose lives are circumscribed on all sides, by social, politi-
cal, economic and religious limitations. The world of these characters has much
in common with the world of Chekhov's muzhiks and Zola's peasants whose
raw, earthy, elemental concern for survival is all. But Monar's treatment has
more in common with Mark Twain's comic reproduction of an equally raw,
New World, frontier environment in Huckleberry Finn. His petty rivalries,
unsubtle jockeying for advancement, and prankish violence for the sake of
itself match the mindless feuding and vigorous, outdoor escapades in Twain.
Chekhov and Zola are Old World Europeans. Twain and Monar write of new
societies struggling to establish stable existence in a new environment.
In Backdam People the narrative technique matches this simple struggle
for survival. Characters border on caricature, and many events are touched by
exaggeration and stereotypical elements. Reactions can be automatic, and
schemes instantly successful. In several stories, the plot is identical: A physically
chastises B, and B seeks revenge through similar or worse physical chastisement.
In some stories, the revenge pattern is a little more subtle, but on the whole,
relationships are unsophisticated and events simplified.
The gesture of Jameela's father sharpening and testing the blade of his
blind anger. But these apparently simplified reactions and gestures are part of a
technique that is related to the conventions of fairy stories or the tall tale. Such
cutlass in anticipation of revenge seems transparently obvious. Swearing or
cursing is a standard reaction to express anything from enthusiastic approval to
conventions deliberately stimulate our sense of drama and wonder, and this
certainly occurs in Backdam People. Yet the drama and wonder emerge from
perfectly shaped plots which present conflicts and resolve them with almost
geometrical precision. When, for example, Hakim is injured by Jameela's father
at the end of "Hakim Driver", the sweetness of revenge is accompanied by the
vindication of justice, and the re-establishment of moral order. It is fitting that
Hakim should become a "majee" or Muslim priest, the vocation he should have
followed from the beginning.
The uniqueness of Backdam People lies in the combined treatment of its
subject as well as in its language. This combination makes the volume a pioneer-
ing work many features of which are discussed in a useful introduction by
Jeremy Poynting. Dr. Poynting's reference to "the neo-colonial business of
metropolitan publication" raises an important issue, so far as the intellectual
and imaginative resources of Third World people are concerned. It was one
thing for Western nations, to plunder the natural and economic resources of
Third World countries when formal colonial rule was the order of the day. It
adds reckless insult to grievous injury if metropolitan publishers are now to
exploit the imaginative efforts of Third World people for purely commercial
reasons. To be sure, this is not what Dr. Poynting has done. As he suggests, even
if paper were available in Guyana, there is no tradition of book publishing and
buying to support the successful production and marketing of a book like Back-
dam People. In these circumstances, Dr. Poynting has performed an invaluable
service. It is a service one should expect from Guyanese living abroad. If they
are unable or unwilling to do it, one should not blame Dr. Poynting for doing it.
49 FRANK BIRBALSINGH
"ZINDER", by STEWART BROWN, POETRY WALES
Steward Brown, editor of the fresh and imaginative anthology Caribbean
Poetry Now (a note on which appears in this issue in "Across the Editor's Desk")
is also an excellent poet with a growing number of beautiful poems to his name.
His collection Zinder draws his poems together for the first time from a
variety of booklets, anthologies and magazines. The settings range over England,
the Caribbean, and North Africa and, as the note on the book cover of this beau-
tifully printed and produced book says, "their forms expand likewise from the
lyric and personal poem to the long cultural exploration of the title poem".
The poems he writes are lucid and clear as a bright river. There is a sad-
ness and sense of beauty lost which come perhaps from his travelling to places
he grows to love and then must leave forever. His painterly eye (his own paint-
ings and prints have been exhibited internationally) catches the fleeting loveli-
ness and strangeness he finds everywhere he goes.
Stewart Brown lived and taught in Jamaica and has maintained a close
interest in and love of Caribbean literature. The Caribbean breaks into his poems.
Anansi into a Cornish garden. Hummingbirds in his beautiful poem "Flying
"Outside my kitchen window two Cornish sparrows -
tame and dowdy as the climate play at humming birds
hover laborious inches over the dawn,
their clipped stub wing designed for soaring more
then playing a tune on the wind, they flap, flap, flap
precariously perched between earth and sky like ancient
attempting to fly with balsa-wood, canvas and string.
My memory's window opens on a scene of real humming
hanging like bees in the cup of a croton,
banana yellow and Caribbean green, streamlined
flashing between Alamanda and Hibiscus,
tame as the climate; never playing sparrows."
His poem "Test Match Sabina Park" will find a place in any cricketing
anthology. England batting slowly in front of excited West Indian spectators is
"England sixty-eight for none at lunch.
'What sort of batting dat man?
dem kaan play cricket again,
praps dem should-a-borrow Lawrence Rowe!'
And on it goes, the wicket slow
as the batting and the crowd restless.
'Eh white bwoy, how you brudders dem
does sen we sleep so? Me a pay monies
fe watch dis foolishness? Cho!'
So I try to explain in my Hampshire drawl
about conditions in Kent,
about sticky wickets and muggy days
and the monsoon season in Manchester
but fail to convince even myself."
But the poems in this small yet splendid collection are universal. There
are many to select and savour and read to know almost by heart. 1 loved, for
instance, "Coherent Delirium" (one of Levi-Strauss's definitions of poetry) and
"Calabash Carver, Chaffe" and "Fulani Beds" and the title poem "Zinder" (with
its extraordinary lines describing leprous beggars "arranging their wounds as
others do fruit"). However, my favourite of all is "Glad Rags", with its eternal
theme of a son musing about his father:
"..................................... .. ... a life so blessed
in its bare lack of acquisitions -
no house, no car, and nothing owed.
A life of grime, of beating steel
Into a weekly envelope that could,
Just, keep his family fed and clothed."
His reputation will grow.
JEAN RHYS: STILL WAITING FOR THE FUTURE
"TALES OF THE WIDE CARIBBEAN"
The republication of some of Jean Rhys' short stories give them a second
airing in the eighties. The advantage of this is that they do not appear in the
shadow of her last novel Wide Sargasso Sea which brought her international
acclaim at the end of the sixties (she was to die at the age of 78 only a few years
later). Following this success her publisher rushed out the 3 novels and 3 collec-
tions of stories she had written mostly as a young woman in the twenties and
thirties. They unloaded on to the reading public what it had taken Jean Rhys a
lifetime to produce.
The dust has not settled on her reputation yet, a reputation that still
suffers from the peculiar colours of colonial exoticism which has fused Europe
and the Caribbean. Then too, when she was young and wanted desperately to
write and be a writer, she adopted the chic, introverted postures of Parisian ex-
patriate cafe society which the literary wolf, Ford Maddox Ford, taught her,
Literary chic and her ethnic exoticism as a white Caribbean creole blended two
exotic flowers bred in two different climates into an irresistible perfume. Critics
have fought over her. Two questions have divided them : Was she a European or
Caribbean writer? Was she a coward or courageous woman? Put simply, they
were all asking: Who is she? The claims and counterclaims raged not only in
the seventies but as soon as her work began to appear in the twenties.
The relationship between Europe and the Caribbean was a subject which
haunted her writing for half a century. Critics have claimed it is symbolic of the
conflicting values (of all kinds of specific sorts) represented by the two places.
They say much the same about her portrayal of the relationship between men
and women, and her portrayal of black and white people. As a result it has be-
come possible for anyone to assign whatever values they wish to this variety of
"differences" in her work. It all points to a single fact: that there are a multi-
tude of elements critics cannot picture as a familiar whole.
What do these stories tell us? There is either a concrete or fantastic but
always intense link which exists interchangeably in them between race, sex
and class. The links are so powerful and understated they blur, as in the
stories with a strong Caribbean setting: Pioneers Oh Pioneers, The Day They
Burned The Books, Fishy Waters, and Goodbye Marcus, Goodbye Rose. Their
qualities echo in stories with a strong European setting: Till September
Petronella, Mannequin, and La Grosse Fifi where European sex, race and class
conflicts replace Caribbean ones. Rhys' ability to penetrate deep into the
heartland of class conflicts in both Caribbean and European societies is not
possessed by any other writer. These conflicts comprise a cornerstone of
formative humanity: this dilemma is presented as a series of riddles for the
reader to solve in these stories. No answers are given, only the experiences are
presented with urgent commitment to recording them.
None of her stories can be read and wholly understood individually. You
have to make daring links between them. They challenge you to define and
distinguish between fact and fantasy, past and future, instinct and rationality.
They also ask you to explain the links between all those poles of being within
parameters of a kind of human experience they describe. That experience is
an intensely lived Caribbean childhood accompanied by an equally intensely
lived exile in Europe with risky forays into assimilation, and then the pursuit
of a particular sort of freedom which can both exorcise and sanctify the
sufferings and happinesses of those experiences. You need to enter wholly into
all those experiences because she writes characters not like a fiction writer but
like a playwright, for acting. To catch her meanings when she is not sketching
character you have to listen with ears tuned to poetry.
Jean Rhys was: in some important senses, one of the individual fore-
runners of the Caribbean people who were to come to Europe later in large
numbers. She made her experiences have an impact here through the devices
of writing and the literary establishment (but always as an outsider). The
generation who came en masse later are still making their impact in a greater
variety of ways than was possible in her time. She was only just beginning to enter
into a dialogue with them when she died. In her autobiography Smile Please
she was just beginning to talk to the future. It remains to be seen whether
the pitfalls of experience she mapped out here hold any lessons for the future,
whether the future will talk back.
REVIEW OF THREE NOVELS BY GUYANESE WOMEN
WRITING IN LONDON
'TIMEPIECE' Janice Shinebourne
'FRANGIPANI HOUSE' Beryl Gilroy
'WHOLE OF A MORNING SKY' Grace Nichols.
These three women who left Guyana between 1950 and 1980 have be-
gun to put their Guyanese experiences into perspective writing.
Grace Nichols, who left these shores less than a decade ago, is known for
her poems "I is a long memoried woman" and "The Fat Black Woman's
Poems". In this "her first adult novel" Grace Nichols describes the upheaval in
a family's life when they leave their serene, comfortable country home to make
a life in Georgetown amidst the social and political turmoil of the Pre-inde-
pendence days (1960-1964). Gem Walcott, who could have been a young Grace,
is a living timepiece, remembering and missing the culture of the Highdam
village and experiencing, at first hand, the magic of the city and the change in
mood and flavour of life during a time of racial conflict.
Janice Shinebourne's "Timepiece" her first novel, is placed in the same
historical time as Grace Nichol's. Her young heroine could have been the same
age as Dinah Walcott in the previous novel mentioned. She ambitiously sets out
from her estate home in Pheasant to work as a Daily Mail reporter and live with
her aunt in Regent Street. A sensitive, morally strong character, she analyses
her experiences with people she knew at home and those she met in her working
life. The dualism in other peoples' lives confuses but does not shake her: Sandra
Yansen survives the political upheaval of the office, the emigration of fellow
reporters, the death of her mother. She returns home after her study abroad to
find that Pheasant had changed during her absence and the matriarchs whose
values she had absorbed had died. Sandra becomes a stronger, more independ-
ent woman for her experiences.
While both these stories are slices of the same historical time, they also
reflect the authors' feelings that women were the main source of values in that
society. The Highdam women with their love for "women talk" and their herbal
cures are the counterparts of the Pheasant women who made their contribution
to their immediate society and established respect and camaraderie from the
In Grace Nichols' book, although Archie Walcott is the main character,
he is not portrayed as one to admire. From a childhood in Essequibo, he grows
up to marry a charming, lovable girl from Georgetown and ends up with a
teaching post in the village of Highdam. Comfortable in the country, he is re-
spected and feared as a headmaster, but does not seem to be able to make many
friends. His strict, disciplinarian demeanour causes him to appear a loner, and
he tries to force his value on his wife and children. He is slow at decision making,
has to be prodded by circumstances and is fixed and inflexible.
Basically, men are not shown in an attractive light in these women's
novels. They are too strict and a little unrational (as in Archie Walcott), too
gullible a business man (as in Sandra's father), too morally weak and confused
(as in the reporters of the Daily Mail) and shifting and unreliable as in Mama
King's husband in Frangipani House.
This latter novel by Beryl Gilroy, a Prize Winner in the GLC Black Litera-
ture Competition, seems to be influenced somewhat by the London experience.
An elderly writer with more than three decades in London, her work as a therap-
ist may have exposed her to the fate of people in Homes for the Aged. Her story
is of Mama King, an old, strong-willed, independent woman, being placed in a
home (against her wishes if she was physically strong to choose) where those
paid to care for her trample on her self-respect and dignity as a person. With her
indomitable will, Mama King escapes the institution to return to the fascinating
world of the poor.
With her use of flashbacks in soliloquy, Gilroy tells the story of Mama
King's life a life of work and toil to raise her children and grandchildren, the
desertion of her husband, the ingratitude of her daughters, the betrayal of friends.
Frangipani House is a moving tale which also raises questions of fami-
lial and social responsibilities. Should family members sacrifice their lives and
ambitions to repay the love and care of their elders? Should elderly people be
put in institutions that are run by tyrants and be denied the closeness and
friendship of other people? Surely one can live in a home yet have the pleasure
of walking on grass, living by no unreasonable rules, feeling a part of the world
and be given a chance to be responsible.
While Gilroy's story is placed in Guyana like the other two stories, it is
based on a combination of Guyanese and London experiences. With the emigra-
tion of young Guyanese still rising, the problem of what to do and how to care
for parents and grandparents is a real one. It is hoped. that there are more happy
endings in life as in this book, where Mama King is once again useful in the
rearing of her two great-grandchildren in North America.
Again the strength of will and character in women is made the centre of
a tale. It seems that the matriarchal society in which, it is supposed, these authors
grew up has positive values. These authors seem to be writing positively of
women in this Decade for Women, and they create some admirable lovable
characters. Their links to their Guyanese backgrounds are still strong as ima-
ginatively they evoke an authentic cultural life. Guyanese are sure to be thrilled
by the works of their counterparts and to have bits of history to pass down to
COUNTRY OF THE ONE-EYE GOD
a review of Olive Senior's Summer Lightning and Other Stories,
Longman Caribbean, 1986.
"Somewhere between the repetition of Sunday School lessons
and the broken doll which the lady sent me one Christmas I
lost what it was to be happy."
These opening lines from the story "Love Orange" seem to epitomise the
theme of disenchantment which runs through this compelling collection of ten
stories by Jamaican writer, Olive Senior. Summer Lightning and Other Stories,
her first published collection, presents the reader with perceptive yet disturbing
incursions into the "dark tunnel of childhood", a confusing and insecure milieu
all too vulnerable to the depredations of the hostile adult world. For the child,
that world is dominated by a vengeful god made manifest in the terror of sudden
summer storms and housed in bat-infested churches.
Set in rural Jamaica, the tone of her stories is anything but pastoral.
Senior transports us to a countryside where the speech patterns and the natural
landscape are distinctly insular. The psychological and emotional landscapes,
however, defy particularity. They are truly human and truly universal. Most of
them explore the poignant anxieties of sensitive children faced with crudity,
hypocrisy, greed. What characterises all of them is the mutual incomprehension
and/or the betrayal of trust between offspring and parent, grandparent or
parental substitute. They are left to act, as the epigraph to "Love Orange", en-
joins them "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" Phil-
In "Summer Lightning", the first story in the collection, Olive Senior in-
troduces the reader to a thoughtful young boy who finds emotional and spiritual
sanctuary in a room which houses objects fascinating to his childlike vision, and
which nourish his artistic sensibility.
"as long as he was alone in this room he was happy
because he knew instinctively that if in the world
he had nothing else he was still rich because he
had this space which allowed him to explore the
secret places inside him".
But this safe place is not inviolate. At the end of the story we are left to
wonder if he will become the victim of sexual abuse perpetrated by a seemingly
mild-mannered old man. One fervently hopes, with the boy, that Brother Justice,
the Rastafari man, will fulfil the promise which his name holds and stop the
outrage about to be committed on such a delicate sensibility.
The grand-child, in "Country of the One-Eye God," by contrast, is the
potential perpetrator of a violent assault on an aging grandmother who raised
him. At the age of nineteen, his cynicism diverges sharply from her simple faith
in God. He contends that for all her prayers and personal conversations with
her God, her God is a one-eyed God who is too remote and exalted to care about
"Him only open his good eye to people who have
everything already so him can pile up more thing
on top of that. Him no business with ragtag and
bob-tail like unno".
The chilling aspect of this story, and others, is that the reader is almost
persuaded of the accuracy of this judgement.
In the "Boy who loved Ice-Cream" there is a boy whose excited anticipa-
tion of his first-ever taste of ice-cream is expertly communicated to us through
Senior's. art. When his father's irrational suspicion of his mother's fidelity rob
the child of that ultimate pleasure, that art convinces us that the effect of such a
mundane event is nothing short of cosmic in its implications for the human race.
In "Bright Thursdays", the grand-child born outside of wedlock must
bear the indignity of being passed off as "the little adopted". When her longing
for recognition by her father receives a cruel jolt, the deracination of any possi-
bility of filial love is related to the fracture of faith in God.
Of the ten stories, three differ in theme from the majority. "Do Angels
Wear Brassieres?" is an irreverent and witty put-down of humourless religious
attitudes by a delightfully precocious young girl. "Real Old Time Ting" tells
in humourous style of the quiet triumph of an old man over his daughter's
machinations to alter his way of life. Ascot, in the story of that name, is the
eternal Anansi figure who continues his deceptions even in foregin lands. Yet
these last two amusing stories are tinged with the colours of betrayal of trust
between parent and child.
"Ballad" concludes this volume on a more optimistic note, for here the
innocence of the child heroine is complemented by the maturity of her com-
passion for the "scarlet woman" in the village. She recognizes in Miss Rilla a
woman with the joy of living in her soul. The adults see her as a daughter of
Jezebel. Her teacher tears up a composition on "The Most Unforgettable Char-
acter I have Met", because Miss Rilla is not a fit person for such a role. Her
mother MeMa asserts that Miss Rilla will burn in Hell Fire, but she believes
that, "Miss Rilla laughing so much that St. Peter take her in just to brighten up
Heaven", and that, "it better to laugh and make other people laugh and be
But at the end of story (and the book) there is a statement with a double-
edged effect in the innocent death-wish of the child narrator who is praying to
God to take her to join Miss Rilla wherever she may be.
Summer Lightning and Other Stories is a significant contribution to the
corpus of West Indian Literature. The theme of childhood is not new to the
fiction. It has been particularly dominant in the writer's quest for personal and
social explication. In this work, however, the explication is more spiritual and
psychological. Brother Justice in "Summer Lightning" explains that "Lightning
is Jah's triple vision. Is like X-ray". And Senior's artistic perception is that of
summer lightning a searing, uncompromising illumination of the inmost
recesses of human nature.
THE DEATH OF EDNA MANLEY MOURNED
As we were going to press the sad news of the death of Edna Manley,
great Jamaican and Caribbean artist, came to us. AJS comments as follows:
"The death of the Jamaican sculptress, Edna Manley, leaves a deep wound
on the Caribbean culturescope. Acclaimed in the Caribbean and in Europe, she
has been described as one of the heroic figures of Jamaica for her work as an
internationally famous sculptress in her own right, expressing a new ancestral
vision of womanhoood". She was the wife of one Jamaican Prime Minister,
Norman Manley, and the mother of another, Michael Manley.
Awarded the Silver Medal of the Institute of Jamaica in the thirties,
awarded the first Gold Medal of the Institute in 1942, awarded the Order of
Merit in Jamaica in 1980, deemed one of the six outstanding artists of the Carib-
bean by the Barbados Government at Carifesta in 1981, made an Honorary
Doctor of Letters by the University of the West Indies in the 1980's, she has
given the people of Jamaica a belief in excellence, and by her disciplined work
put psychic strength and power in the Jamaican and Caribbean peoples.
Edna: Manley was one of the editors of the outstanding Jamaican maga-
zine Focus and she was awarded an Hony. Doctorate of Letters by the Uni-
versity of the West Indies. On one of her visits to Guyana, Edna Manley was
a guest at the Seymour home. We sat on the open verandah facing north and as
she looked towards the Atlantic, just over a mile away, Edna was moved to
remark on what she called the "enormous skies of Guyana." I realized that
what she was referring to was the fact that in Kingston, always a mountain
somehow seems to be in sight, whereas in Georgetown this was not so.
Kyk-over-Al is happy to carry in this present issue, a comment from
Edna Manley remarking on the high quality of the Golden issue of this maga-
zine, which also presents one of her lectures.
Edna Manley was one of the great women and artists of the Caribbea'n
and has had a profound influence on us all."
THE GUYANA PRIZE
On a happier note, we are pleased to record the announcement of The
Guyana Prize by President Desmond Hoyte in his address to the nation on
Republic Day. President Hoyte announced the Prize in these terms:
"Generally, when I speak to you, I speak of ordinary matters which concern
us in our everyday life. I try to explain what the Government is doing to im-
prove our conditions of life how we feed ourselves and families, how we
educate our children. I talk about the problems of transport and water and
electricity supply and health and employment and take-home pay.
And this is as it should be. Most political and economic effort in any
society must be concentrated on satisfying the basic, everyday needs of ordinary
men and women and their families. A nation must as a fundamental priority
feed, clothe, house, educate and provide employment opportunities for its
However, man's needs do not end there. There are other needs that we
must not forget, however hard the times are. The flowering of intellect, the ap-
preciation of beauty in literature and music and art, the development of man's
creative imagination are important and must be seen to be important in
any society worth a name in the world. Such things may sometimes seem luxuries,
especially at a time when countries like Guyana are being buffeted by economic
problems of every sort. But they are not luxuries. In their own way they are as
essential to the development of the whole man and the whole citizen, as food
and physical health are at a more basic level. Material prosperity, even material
self-sufficiency, is not enough. Human beings cannot and should not be so
easily satisfied. Certainly, I would not wish that Guyanese should ever be
satisfied only with material progress.
I have felt for a long time that we should be doing more to encourage and
celebrate good writing in Guyana. There is a long tradition of outstanding writers
in Guyana's history. We should seek to nurture and extend that tradition. More
than that, however the encouragement of good writing has valuable spin-
offs in society. It encourages clear thinking and clear expression and ac-
knowledges their importance. And, may I say at once, there is no sphere
of activity or endeavour in our society in which clear thinking and clear expres-
sion is not vital if success in solving problems is to be achieved. So it is not only
good literature for its own sake that I feel we should celebrate though that
is important but also recognition of good literature as a spur to making
society as a whole aware of the importance of writing and the effective use of
language. We must give stature and status to our makers of words as we do to
our makers of things.
There are a number of ways in which we can do this. We should give
more emphasis to the teaching of good writing in our schools. Despite the foreign
exchange constraints we must bring in more books, especially books by Guyanese
and Caribbean writers, so that citizens can read more widely. We must give more
encouragement and more funds to the National Library. These and other things
I will be personally concerned to see achieved.
Today, however, I wish to announce a special celebration of good litera-
ture in Guyana. I have been persuaded and I have therefore decided that the
time is ripe to establish a Literary Prize which I hope will serve as a spur to our
best writers in the development of their creative talents. It is to be called The
Guyana Prize. There will be awards, in the first instance, for the best collection
of poems, the best fiction and the best first book of poems or fiction. The awards
will be open to all Guyanese, resident in Guyana or living abroad. The details
will be released later, but I can say now that the awards will be of substantial
Works will be judged by an independent panel of well-known Guyanese,
Caribbean and Commonwealth literary figures. The first awards will take place
in 1987 and at the Award Ceremony later in the year a distinguished literary
figure will be invited as a guest speaker to mark and honour the occasion.
In developing this idea, I have been greatly assisted by some persons
who are prominent in the field of literature and who, I believe, have shared my
vision. I would like to pay tribute to them and let them know how very highly
I appreciate the work they have done.
I have every hope that The Guyana Prize will over the years become
established as an important literary prize nationally, regionally, and interna-
tionally. I hope that as the years go by it will help to raise the prestige of good
literature in our national and regional life. I hope also that it will succeed in giving
due recognition to our writers who, in their own way, are, after all, as important
as our farmers, our industrialists, our teachers, our scientists and even our
The details of The Guyana Prize are set out below:
To establish a prize for outstanding work in literature by Guyanese in order to :
a) provide a focus for the recognition of the creative writing of Guyanese at
home and abroad.
b) stimulate interest in, and provide encouragement for, the development of
good creative writing among Guyanese in particular, and Caribbean writers
RULES AND CONDITIONS OF ENTRY
Published works of Guyanese nationals at home or resident overseas are
eligible for submission,
Works must fall in any of the three named categories, and must have been
published for the first time between 1st June, 1985 and 31st May, 1987.
The competition is for works in the following three categories:
a) Poetry a collection of poems or one long poem by a single author.
b) Fiction a novel or collection of short stories by a single author.
c) First book of creative writing:- Works as at (a) and (b) above.
Category (a) Poetry US$5,000.00
(b) Fiction US$5,000.00
(c) First Book US$3,000.00
There will be one prize awarded in each category.
a) Only works submitted by publishers will be accepted.
b) Publishers will submit works published between 1st June, 1985 and 31st
c) Manuscripts, typescripts, proofs ets. will not be accepted.
Publishers are requested to submit six (6) copies gratis of each title entered in
each category in the competition.
The deadline for the receipt of entries will be July 15, 1987.
Works received after this date will not be included in the judging.
Works shall be in English but widely interpreted to include varieties of English.
Winners will be selected by a panel of five (5) judges of whom one will be the
The five judges will comprise three resident Guyanese, well-known for their
work in this discipline and two persons of the same standing drawn from the
Caribbean and the wider Commonwealth, the latter being nominated by the
Each entry will be read by at least three judges.
Judges should be in receipt of works submitted by July 31, 1987.
The short list of finalists will be announced in October, 1987.
The final judging will be done in Guyana in the 1st week of November, 1987,
and the winners announced within three days of the Judges' meeting.
The decisions of the judges will be final and no correspondence on the results
will be entertained.
Winners will be notified at an appropriate time and will be expected, as a con-
dition of entry, to attend the Prize Award Ceremony in late November, 1987.
Return airfares and other expenses will be provided where necessary.
Publishers are required to submit on a separate typed sheet the following m-
formation for each competitor :
a) Entrant's full name, date and place of birth. Citizenship [by birth, marriage,
naturalization (delete where not applicable]
b) Current address;
c) Title of work submitted;
d) Date and place of publication;
e) Indication of whether or not the work is a first book;
f) A brief biographical sketch and career resume of the author, together with
a recent black and white photograph.
SUBMISSIONS AND ENQUIRIES
Entries for this competition, and all enquiries must be addressed to:
The Guyana Prize Management Committee
University of Guyana
P.O. Box 101110
1. A Guyanese is defined as a person who was born in Guyana, or who has
acquired Guyanese Citizenship.
2. A Publisher is defined as one who produces copies of books etc. and dis-
tributes them to book sellers or to the public. Private publishers are included
in this definition.
3. Awards will be paid in the currency of the country in which the prize winner
Ras Michael Jeune
- Guyanese novelist and short story writer; Heine-
mann published his first novel Apata in 1986;
lives in Guyana where he is also a well known
- Guyanese; senior lecturer in Caribbean Litera-
ture, York University, Canada; important pro-
moter of West Indian writers.
- Poet; painter and print maker; editor of an-
thology of West Indian poems Caribbean Poetry
Now; lives and teaches in Wales.
- One of the leading "new generation" of Guy,
anese poets; at present studying in the U.S.A.
Prominent Guyanese journalist; playwright and
producer; contributed to New Writing in the
- Jamaican poet, anthologist, short story writer
and educator; was Professor of Education,
U.W.I.; has taught in Nigeria and Puerto Rico
and now lives, lectures and broadcasts in Eng-
Guyanese performance poet; has published
small collections of his work including Black
Barbados poet and short story writer; has pub.
lished three collections privately; The Black
Madonna and other poems (1975); In Depths
of Burning Light (1982); The Broken Sun
- Jamican poet; radio and TV producer; editor
of Caribbean Journal of Education; has written
many books for children.
- Poet and short story writer; lives in Guyana;
Peepal Tree Press has published a collection of
short stories Backdam People and a volume of
A. L. McLeod
Dr. Jeffrey Robinson
University Professor of English Literature in
American Universities; has been in correspon-
dence with AJS for a decade; an authority on
O. R. Dathorne.
Guyanese author of short stories and poems;
work not yet collected.
- Senior lecturer in English at University of Guy-
ana; noted literary critic.
- Senior lecturer in Theatre Division of Creative
Arts, U.G.; Chairman of Theatre Guild; Direc-
tor of plays for Theatre Guild.
- Noted novelist and anthologist of Jamaican
descent; poet; prominent writer of children's
books and radio plays.
- Guyanese writer resident in the U.K.; her novel
Timepiece was published by the Peepal Tree
Press in 1986.
- Professional engineer who also writes short
stories and occasional journalism; lives and
works in Guyana.