FRIENDS OF KYK-OVER-AL
A great many individuals and organizations have contributed to the
success of Kyk-Over-Al since it was relaunched in December, 1984. We
owe a very special debt of appreciation to the following for their support
of this issue No. 38 and the forthcoming issue No. 39. Their vigorous
assistance so readily offered in strengthening an important part of
Guyana's cultural tradition deserves the thanks of the whole community.
Banks D.I. H.
Bauxite Industry Development Company
C. Czamikow Inc. (New York)
C.K. Newbridge (Guyana)
T. Geddes Grant
Guyana Liquor Corporation
Guyana National Cooperative Bank
Guyana National Trading Corporation
Guyana Pharmaceutical Corporation
Guyana Resource Corporation
Guyana Sugar Corporation
Guyana and Trinidad Mutual Insurance
Hand-in-Hand Mutual Fire Insurance
Laparkan (Agent for Canon Copiers and Fax Machines)
National Bank of Industry and Commerce
Sir Shridath Ramphal (Commonwealth Secretary General)
The cost of printing and distributing a literary magazine is very heavy.
Please help us to strengthen Kyk-Over-Al by sending your subscriptions
to either of the Joint Editors as follows:
A.J. SEYMOUR, 23 North Rd, Bourda, Georgetown, Guyana
IAN McDONALD, c/o GUYSUCO, 22 Church St, Georgetown, Guyana
In the U.K. please apply to:
F.H. THOMASSON, 9, Webster Close, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 4NJ
Subscriptions per issue (including postage):
G$40 EC$15 4 US$7
The Editors would welcome the submission of poems, 'short stories,
articles and reviews to consider for publication. Publication of course
cannot be guaranteed and because of expense it will not be possible to
return manuscripts. Submissions may be accompanied by illustrations
and photographs of authors, suitable for black-and- white reproduction.
Copyright 1988. No reproduction by any means, except for short
extracts for review purposes, without permission of the Editors.
KYK 38 Edited by A.J. Seymour and lan McDonald
TABLE OF CONTENTS
150 Anniversary of East Indians in Guy;
Across the Editors' Desk
Six Mythical Figures of Guyana
The Guyana Prize
Feature Address: "Trophy and
Comments Arising from the Prize
Hamlet Prince of Darkness
Intercity Dub for Jean
The Satin Princess
Carnival Flag Woman
For Maria de Borges
To the Family Home Awaiting Repair
Fiction and Articles
Street Loving, Loving Streets
Wiltshire Car Dead-
'The Infinite Rehearsal" by
"Caribbean Theatre" by Ken Corsbie
Jane King Hippolyte
150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARRIVAL OF EAST INDIANS
Celebration by the Guyana Commemoration Commission
Kyk-Over-Al is happy to join the Guyana Commemoration
Commission in observing the 150th Anniversary of the Arrival of East
Indians in Guyana. This magazine has played its part over the years in
publishing the work of Caribbean writers of East Indian origin and in
recording East Indian strands in the pattern of Guyanese and West
Indian cultural life.
A number of special events have been organised to mark this
significant anniversary in May. These include a 3-day conference at the
Pegasus Hotel; Book, Photographic, and other Exhibitions; and a variety
of cultural activities and displays. India will be sending a large party of
artistes, academics, and other representatives to participate in the
celebration. A number of publications to mark the 150th Anniversary are
being produced, including a reprint of Peter Ruhoman's "History of East
Indians in Guyana" and a new anthology of poetry and prose.
East Indians, surviving and rising above indenture, as Africans
survived and rose above slavery, have become an important part of our
social, economic and cultural mosaic. Of the nearly 5 million people of the
Commonwealth Caribbean East Indians comprise over 20 per cent of the
population. Their contribution to literature, scholarship, and art in
Guyana and the whole region is of great and growing importance. Their
presence in politics, trade unions, business, art, religion, architecture,
dress and customs has added immeasurably to the richness of Carib-
At the same time, the lives and attitudes of East Indians in their
new home-land have been significantly transformed. The occasion of the
150th Anniversary of their arrival will provide a valuable opportunity to
examine the rich contribution made by East Indians and assess their
transformed presence within the West Indian society and culture.
A literary highlight for the
whole region was the Guyana
Prize Awards ceremony which
took place at the National Cultural
Centre in Georgetown on Decem-
ber 8th 1987. In this issue of Kyk
we carry both Dr Gordon
Rohlehr's outstanding feature
address and Wilson Harris's
deeply considered thoughts on the
occasion. At the ceremony Presi-
dent Desmond Hoyte made the
awards to the prizewinners. It
was, the President said later, an
occasion "typically Guyanese,
dignified yet full of liveliness and
humour". He also saw it becoming
"an important landmark in our
national evolution". The editors of
Kyk agree with that. In a radio
programme aired on the day itself
this view was expressed:
'Tonight the winners of the
first-ever Guyana Prize will be an-
nounced and the awards will be
presented to the prizewinners. A
sense of history tells us that this is
a moment that will be treasured in
the future annals of Guyana and
the wider West Indies. Long after
anniversaries which now seem
important have been forgotten the
first awards of the Guyana Prize
will be remembered.
This is the first time in
Guyana and the English-speaking
West Indies that literature and
writers have been given such sub-
stantial recognition in their own
homeland. The awards them-
selves are of significant value but,
more than that, the Guyana Prize,
and the publicity and ceremonies
which surround it, proclaim the
vital role which writers have
played and should play in society.
Other countries have greatly
honoured our writers. Now we
begin to honour them ourselves.
President Hoyte, in announcing
the Prize in February, summed up
the intention simply but memora-
bly: "We must give stature and
status to our makers of words as
we do to our makers of things".
Material success is important
to a nation, just as money is im-
portant to a man. The saying is
not that man does not live by
bread, the saying is that man does
not live by bread alone. And St
Paul did not say that money is the
root of evil, he said love of money
is the root of evil. However, mate-
rial success and money cannot in
themselves be worthy ends.
Dante said it well in the ninth book
of "The Paradiso":
"You were not born to live the
lives of brutes
But beauty to pursue and
After all, what is material suc-
cess for? It cannot be for its own
sake because then a stuffed pig
would be the most realized crea-
ture on earth. Human beings
must always ask themselves
Tolstoy's question: "What do men
The achievement of Guyanese
and West Indian writers in the last
25 years Is remarkable by any
standard. The works of our liter-
ary people have risen above the
petty politics and the endemic
economic problems which have
plagued the region. Long after the
contradictions and difficulties of
ACROSS THE EDITORS' DESK
THE GUYANA PRIZE
our postcolonial societies have
been forgotten the books pro-
duced by our writers will have
found a permanent place among
the valuable, enduring works of
Countries in the region have
been amazingly indifferent to the
writers of universal significance
whom we have produced and in-
different also to the art of writing
itself. It is as if we continued to
produce our great cricketers and
yet despised and belittled the
game of cricket itself. If for no
other reason than a shrewd
awareness of the international
kudos that comes with outstand-
ing literary and intellectual
achievement one would have
thought that the authorities
would have fallen over themselves
to find and foster our writing tal-
ent. That has not been the case.
But now we have a start, per-
haps a symbol, of something dif-
ferent and better in the Guyana
Prize. It is absolutely vital that a
nation should foster and honour
its writers. The good writer de-
votes his energy to searching for
truth. And in the love of truth,
straight and unvarnished, lies not
only the hope but the safety of a
nation. "The people need poetry",
the great Russian poet. Osip
Mandelstam, wrote "to keep them
awake forever". The good writer,
the true writer, as Cyril Connolly
said in "Enemies of Promise",
"helps to unmask those pre-
tenders which accompany all hu-
man plans for improvement: the
love of power and money, the
short-sighted acquisitive pas-
sions, the legacies of injustice and
ignorance, the tiger instinct for
fighting, the ape-like desire to go
with the crowd. A writer must be
a lie-detector who exposes falla-
cies in words and ideals before
half the world is killed for them."
The great writer, the great
artist of any sort, as the French
novelist Andre Gide insisted,
must bear a wound -
"That wound which we must
never allow to heal but which al-
ways remains painful and bleed-
ing, the gash made by contact with
In a small but significant and
symbolic way, the Guyana Prize
begins to recognize the unsung,
deep-lying, passionate, life-giving
work that writers perform in a na-
tion. For that reason tonight's cer-
mony will indeed represent an au-
thentic, vital piece of this nation's
history in the making."
A FLOWERING OF WEST INDIAN JOURNALS?
The anguished cry has often been heard, at least in Guyana, that
there are only the most meagre outlets for West Indian writers, literary
critics and scholars to express themselves at home and abroad. The
claim is certainly true if the amount of raw talent and potential is
measure : against the available vehicles for expressing that talent and
potential. It is even more certainly true if one considers the matter in
terms of opportunities to publish book-length, beautifully produced,
widely distributed works locally and regionally. Gordon Rohlehr, in his
address at the Guyana Prize Awards ceremony, lamented the continuing,
inexcusable lack of a full-fledged CARICOM publishing house.
However, as one surveys the scene regionally, it begins to dawn
on one that the outlets for literary and cultural and academic expression
are growing in number, quality, and range all the time. How far is this
known by even writers, much less ordinary West Indian laymen? Let us
see. There are the old-established Bim in Barbados, Kyk-Over-Al in
Guyana (revived in December, 1984, after a long absence), and The New
Voices in Trinidad all of them obviously meeting a badly felt need for
literary expression, if the amount of material submitted to us in Kyk is
anything to go by. The Caribbean Quarterly continues to play its vital
part. But, apart from these, there are a number of other journals which
now grace the literary, cultural and academic scene, all but one of them
very new. These are noted below. Indeed, given the state of isolation from
each other in which Caricom countries customarily live, there may well
be other interesting publications we are not even aware exist.
This, of course, is not a new-
comer. It has been coming out for
20 years. It is now published
quarterly. Jamaica Journal is a
magnificent, beautifully illus-
trated magazine that deserves a
wide audience throughout the
West Indies and indeed further
afield. It is a marvellous example
of what a well-balanced, scholarly
yet very readable magazine of lit-
erature, the arts, historical re-
search. national history and soci-
ety in general should aim to be.
We remember reading in it once
an article on the life and art of
Banja is new. The first issue
came out in April, 1987. It is pub-
lished twice a year by the National
Cultural Foundation of Barbados
and is edited by John Gilmore.
The first issue (the second issue
has not yet reached us) contains
poems, short stories, reviews and
a number of splendid articles on
Barbadian history, art. "speech in
the 19th Century", and "rare and
Journal of West Indian Literature
JWIL is a new academic
magazine which began publica-
tion in October, 1986. It is a twice-
yearly publication of the Depart-
Louise Bennett which alone was
worth five years' subscription.
Jamaica Journal is edited by
Olive Senior (distinguished win-
ner of the 1987 Commonwealth
Prize for Fiction) and is published
on behalf of the Institute of Ja-
maica. Correspondence should
be addressed to: IOJ Publications
Limited, 2A Suthermere Road,
Kingston 10, Jamaica. You
should order it immediately. The
subscription, if you can arrange
the foreign currency, is J$ 50 or
US $15 annually (4 issues).
endangered species" in that is-
land. This "magazine of Bar-
badian life and culture" is beauti-
fully produced and printed. It car-
ries a full quota of excellent photo-
graphs and illustrations. The an-
nual subscription (2 issues) is
Barbados $18.00. You should
write to : The Editor, Banja, Na-
tional Cultural Foundation, West
Terrace, St. James, Barbados.
ments of English of the University
of the West Indies. It is edited by
Mark McWatt. The two issues we
have seen are of outstanding,
scholarly quality not perhaps
suitable for the ordinary layman,
but certainly for the benefit of any-
one at all interested in West Indian
literature past, present, and fu-
ture. Its aim is expressed in the
"The editors invite the sub-
mission of articles that are the re-
sult of scholarly research in the
literature of the English-speaking
Caribbean. The editors will also
consider for publication articles
on the literature of the non-Eng-
lish-speaking Caribbean, pro-
vided such articles are written in
The Caribbean Writer
Volume 1, Number 1 of The
Caribbean Writer, published in
St. Croix, came out in spring,
1987. It is a magnificently, expen-
sively produced magazine of 100
pages devoted entirely to poetry,
short stories and reviews. The art-
work and printing are superb. If
this continues it will clearly be an
extremely important outlet for
West Indian poets and writers of
fiction. The Introduction to the
first issue, by the President of the
University of the Virgin Islands,
reads as follows:
"Recognising the widespread
interest in creative writing and the
paucity of local outlets for such
writing, the Caribbean Research
Institute has expanded its focus in
order to meet this community
need. The University of the Virgin
Islands, thus, proudly presents
the premiere issue of The Carib-
Literary magazines have tra-
ditionally played a vital role in fos-
tering writing talent, and that is
certainly one of our goals in spon-
soring this newventure. Our hope
English and have a clear relevance
to the themes and concerns of
Caribbean literature in English or
are of a comparative nature, com-
paring Caribbean literature in an-
other language with that in Eng-
lish. JWIL will also publish book
The annual subscription (two
issues) is US$15.00. You should
write to: The Editor, Journal of
West Indian Literature, Depart-
ment of English, University of the
West Indies, P.O.Box 64, Bridg-
is also that the existence of a high
quality literary magazine based
close to home will inspire new
writers toward literary endeavour
and that ultimately the audience
for good literature will grow and
I look forward to ten or twenty
years hence when we will point
with pride to established writers
who were first published In these
pages. The University is indeed
pleased to make such a valuable
contribution to the Caribbean
community through this land-
The Editor is Erika J Smilow-
itz and the Advisory Board in-
cludes well-known West Indian
literary figures such as Derek
Walcott, Mervyn Morris, Olive
Senior, Alwyn Bully, and John
Figueroa. Editorial and subscrip-
tion correspondence should be
sent to: Caribbean Research In-
stitute, University of the Virgin
Islands, RRO2, Box 10,000, King-
shill Post Office. St. Croix, V1
The introductory issue of this
magazine was published for the
first quarter of 1988. It is to come
out four times a year. published
by the Trinidad Express Newspa-
pers. The magazine concentrates
on politics and economics. The
standard is very high. In the first
issue, among other pieces, all of
great interest, there are excellent
articles by Michael Manley on
"The Integration Movement", An-
thony Maingot on "U.S. Strategy
in Nicaragua", Raoul Pantin on
A.N.R. Robinson, Alister McIntyre
on "Developing Tourism", David
de Caires on "Guyana After
Burnham", Lloyd Searwar on "De-
cision-Making in Foreign Affairs",
and Gordon Lewis on "The Imperi-
alist Ideology and Mentality".
There is also a thought-provoking
article, "Caribbean BooKtalk", by
Wayne Brown, that should be the
subject of much discussion in the
Faculties of English at all Univer-
sities in the region.
Keith Smith, in his thoughtful
introductory article, "Birth of the
Journal", sets out what we can
look forward to in the magazine in
the following terms:
"In Caribbean Affairs, read-
ers will find some of Keynes' "eco-
nomic and political thinkers", but
the difference is that their ideas
come from their own laboratory
and are rooted in the Caribbean
experience from Brazil, Suri-
name and the Guianas in the
South to Mexico, the Bahamas
and Cuba in the North. This is not
to say, however, that their think-
ing has not been informed by the
Euro-American intellectual tradi-
tion. When we consider the whole
history of the Caribbean to in-
sinuate anything of the kind
would be naive, blind and lacking
in good manners. But what we are
presenting here for the first time in
a single journal are examples of
that new Caribbean intellectual
tradition placed in the service of
all Caribbean peoples English,
French, Spanish, Dutch and Poor-
tuguese-speaking who have long
struggled for a place of dignity in
their own countries, for self-deter-
mination and self-respect and for
the honour and enrichment of
their brothers and sisters."
Caribbean Affairs is edited by
Owen Baptiste. The subscription
is TT$80 or US$20 annually (four
issues). You should write to: Car-
ibbean Affairs, P.O. Box 1252,
Port of Spain, Trinidad.
There are certainly other publications of great interest. There is
Antilia in Trinidad, the journal of the Faculty of Arts at U.W.I., St Au-
gustine. It seems to come out irregularly but the three issues we have
seen contain excellent literary investigation, scholarly articles, stimulat-
ing reviews and penetrating historical research. Ken Ramchand heads
the Editorial Committee. Then in Guyana there is Kaie (the National
History and Arts Council journal),which comes out irregularly but
contains a good variety of academic and literary work of interest in
Guyana and the wider region. And we have seen one copy of a magazine
called Prince published in Antigua whose editors have brought out five
issues up to June, 1987, and which contains some very interesting
writing from that island. There must be others.
If just the publications we have noticed here were regularly and
widely available in the region surely no one could complain of lack of
home-grown literary and intellectual fare. The problem, however, may
be two-fold. First, there is the "endurance" problem. Will many of these
publications last any length of time? A glossy, good-looking, well-
produced and interesting first few issues only whets the appetite. If the
magazine fizzles out after a couple ofyears, or less, that induces cynicism
and reinforces the sort of self-doubt which is already too prevalent in the
Secondly, and even more importantly, how wide is the regional
readership of these magazines? How many subscriptions to Jamaica
Journal are there in Guyana? In at least some of the territories access
to such publications isjust about non-existent. The huge bureaucratic
difficulties involved in remitting subscriptions and in some cases the
absolute lack of foreign exchange, the deplorable state ofintra-CARICOM
mail services, the almost complete absence of properly organised means
of distributing and selling books and magazines on anything but a tiny
scale these are reasons why the circulation of magazines like those
mentioned here probably number in the tens rather than the hundreds
in most territories in CARICOM other than the one in which each is
published. And, of course, the consequent lack of a growing circulation
all too easily leads to disillusion and a short life-span for the brave new
Until a way can be found to establish a smoother, quicker, and
wider spread of cultural exchange and distribution throughout the
region, the odds are that the magazines we so enthusiastically launch will
continue to make infinitely less impact on West Indians than the quality
and range of their contents deserve. The even greater odds then are that
such ventures will sooner rather than later fade away for want of a more
universal audience. It baffles one completely why the CARICOM Secre-
tariat, so often frustrated at the political, economic, and commercial
level, does not turn more of its attention to a field so ripe for reform and
so conducive to furthering at the deepest level the ideal of West Indian
DR A J SEYMOUR, CCH
Jan McDonald writes:
Kyk-Over-Al, as well as its only begetter, is honoured by the
award to AJS of the Cacique Crown of Honour in the 1988 Guyana Re-
public Day Honours list. It is an honour most richly deserved by this out-
standingly dedicated and creative Guyanese and West Indian man of
letters and learning. AJS founded Kyk in 1945 and edited it single-
handedly during its palmiest and most influential period until 1961.
Since the magazine was revived in December 1984, he has continued
indefatigably as joint editor. It is an amazing, probably unique, contri-
bution simply as editor.
For more than 50 years AJS has contributed to the cultural scene
in a myriad of ways. In my Introduction toAJS at 70, published to mark
his 70th birthday four years ago [and still available from Kyk-G$50 by
mail], I tried to catch something of his incalculable pioneering effort:
"His life at one very important level is a record of 50 years of dedi-
cated work in literature. He began in an era when everything was still to
be done. Indeed, it may be that pioneers have to attempt too much. When
young Seymour in the early 1930s seriously began to think what
contribution he might make to life and letters in his homeland, consider
how much needed to be done, how many moulds required breaking, how
many initiatives needed to be taken. The Empire had not yet begun to
fade. The status of his country was colonial, the mentality dependent, the
heritage imperial, the culture derivative. Think of the varied challenges
that must have faced young man of sense and sensibility in those times.
It must have almost seemed too mLch. There were poems to write whose
themes were Guyanese and Caribbean and whose imagery was tropical
and experienced, not temperate, and second-hand. There was a whole
new world of deeply felt historical experience to open up. There was new
thinking to be done in half a dozen fields. Critical work had to be informed
by different themes and original perspectives. So many fresh starts had
to be made. A whole new context had to be prepared for the coming gen-
erations. The work that is done at the beginning of anything, like the
foundations of a great building sunk beneath the earth, is least seen but
is the most important part. Seymour as designer and architect of post-
colonial structures of thought and art and writing in Guyana and the
Caribbean is still to be fully assessed and properly acclaimed."
THE PRODUCTION OF KYK NO. 38
This is the second issue of Kyk to be printed by offset, from laser-
printed camera-ready copy prepared by electronic "desktop publishing"
methods. We are learning this powerful new technology somewhat by
trial and error, as readers of No. 37 will have noticed from its too-small
type. We apologise to those who found it hard to read, and to contributors
whose work was done less than justice. Each succeeding issue should
show improvement as we become more familiar with electronic page
layout and laser printing. We have already gained in the speed of pro-
duction, and are particularly delighted that the offset process allows us
to feature visual art such as the striking work of Harold Bascom in this
issue. Potential contributors of art pieces will, we hope, take note.
NOTES ON SIX MYTHICAL FIGURES OF GUYANA
by Harold A. Bascom
MOONGAZER (page 12 and cover)
The Moongazer is a giant spindly-legged white phantom that
stands with legs astride trenches, roads, or even houses. Its main
preoccupation is said to be just gazing in a fixed pose at the full moon in
the middle of the night sky. Seeing the apparition in its majestics is the
sole reason for its popularized horror.
BACOO (page 23)
The Bacoo is a midget demon having power to shower its owner
with riches untold, that is, providing the owner grants the demon the
things it demands in return for its services. The Bacoo is said to be
satisfied with an endless supply of bananas and milk.
The Bacoo enraged is rumoured to be very vindictive. It is said
that the demon will shower houses with pelted bricks. No one ever sees
where the bricks come from in such incidents. The Bacoo is known to
bring the owner poverty and misfortune.
The Bacoo on the rampage can only be caught and imprisoned in
a bottle by an able spiritist. Once the bottle is corked and thrown away
(best in rivers), the reign of the demon-tormentor is over, until someone
unsuspectingly finds that bottle and uncorks it.
The Bacoo also manifests itself in the form of snakes.
OL'HIGUE (page 35)
Ol'Higue is a skinless vampire. It is said to be a woman who has
the ability to shed her outer skin, change her form into a flying ball of fire
that can dwindle to a speck of light that can enter a house by way of even
a key-hole. Once inside the house, the Ol'Higue will proceed once
undisturbed to suck the blood of a victim. Awareness of Ol'Higue visits
is said to begin by observing that a once chubby healthy child or adult
is growing thinner and thinner paler and paler by the day. The most
extreme form of affliction for the victim ends in death.
The Ol'Higue is most times an old woman, hence the name. But
it is now said that this form of local vampire can be (in seeming road-
walking innocence) a middle aged woman ofbeauty, or a pretty teen-aged
JOMBIE (page 57)
Jombie (Jombee) is the name given to the ghost of a Guyanese
deceased. The Jombie, though, is not likened to the ghost of popular
fiction. It is not a whispy thing. In Guyanese ghost stories, the Jombie
is most times only realized to be a ghost when the Jombie itself declares
itself one. Until the declaration, the unsuspecting living-person thinks
the Jombie is a flesh and blood human being.
The popular story is told of the late-walking guitarist who meets
a man on the public road. The man tells the guitarist that he can play
the guitar also. And, borrowing the instrument, the man begins to strum
and pick beautiful melodies.
Says the owner of the instrument: "Man...you can masterly play
Says the player in reply: "Ah man...you ent hear nothing yet...You
see when I was alive I used to play sweeter than this!"
Jombies are also nasal speakers. They also are known to laugh
through their nostrils hence someone speaking in nasal tones ought to
be watched closely, then sprinkled with holy water to remove doubts.
BUSH DIE-DIE (page 76)
Bush Die-Die is a bush spirit. Some people say that Bush Die-
Die is the end result of an Amerindian wizard's transformation from his
purely human form. In Guyana, Bush Die-Die is popularized as a horrid
freaky thing that is found in the hinterland forests.
MASACOURAMAN (page 87)
Masacouraman is a man-like water monster, popularized by
pork-knockers of Guyana. This thing is very dangerous to man, since it
makes humans part of its diet. Masacouraman is said to be very hairy
and much larger than a man. It lives below the waters of hinterland
rivers, lakes, and creeks. It is the Guyanese Loch Ness monster but much
The original drawings, which measure 16in by 21in were executed by
Harold Bascom in pen and ink in 1979, and are now held in the collection
ofMichael Cox, a Director ofArts Guyana Ltd. They are reproduced by kind
permission of Michael Cox and the artist.
GUYANA PRIZE FEATURE ADDRESS
'TROPHY AND CATASTROPHE'
by GORDON ROHLEHR
Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency the President. Ministers of Gov-
ernment, members of the Diplomatic Corps, friends and fellow-travellers
in this vale of tears and laughter:
I would like first of all to say my sincere thanks for the honour
which you have conferred on me by inviting me to address such a
gathering on such an occasion. The establishment of the Guyana Prize
for Literature in such hard times as these is an act of peculiar grace,
equalled only by that first memorable Carifesta of 1972, which was also
a Guyanese initiative. It isn't often with all due respects to the
Commonwealth Prize, the Booker Award or the W.H.Smith Award that
the Caribbean writer finds a serious sponsor.
Even in the area of research, it is generally easier to find a sponsor
for research into our chaotic politics or our foundering economies, than
into our remarkably vibrant literature. Thus, both creative writer and
academic suffer in a situation where it is not unusual for publication to
lag behind creation for ten years or more.
During the 1950s and 1960s Caribbean writing attracted the
British publishing houses. It was new and passionate and signalled the
eruption into visibility of the colonial person who, if he had never quite
accepted his servitude, had at the same time never quite articulated his
deepest and most burning necessity in a fiction and language that was
unmistakably his own. Part of the interest of the British publisher no
doubt lay in the fact that a relatively easy market existed for writing that
was new and strange. There was, also, a curious pride and proprietor-
ship; for this new writing was seen as demonstrating the flexibility of the
English language. Despite the astringent satire which it directed at
colonial education, the new literature was taken as proof of the virtues
of that education which, against all odds, had taught inarticulate Call-
ban to speak.
One has only to read those inane reviews that used to appear in
the West India Committee Circular, the journal of the old Sugar
Interest, to realise that our literature was being promoted as a quaint
curiosity, or as a marketable commodity whose meaning did not, and
could not possibly, matter. At a 1971 conference, I heard more than one
of our writers remark that it was only with the advent of West Indian
critics and reviewers such as Edward Kamau Brathwaite who wrote long
essays in Bim since 1957, that they gained a sense of what their work
meant to the community for whom it was intended.
After the novelty of the 1950 to 1965 period had worn off and Reid,
Mittelholzer, Lamming, Selvon, Naipaul, Salkey, Hearne, Harris and
Walcott had been established as our most important voices, the willing
sponsorship of British publishing houses was, it seems to me, tacitly
reduced. One waited for a second wave of writers to follow in the wake
of the first. But this did not happen for several reasons. First of all, the
writers of the fifties had said most of what it was possible to say about
the folk life, politics and landscape of small impoverished societies.
Secondly, the early elation had begun to encounter the hard realities of
self-government and independence, and an already serious vision had
darkened considerably by the mid-sixties. Thirdly, and most important:
new writers were finding it increasingly more difficult to get published,
the publishers being more concerned with the easier task of promoting
already established voices, than with risking money and energy on the
encouragement of fresh talent.
If we think of the writers who emerged between 1965 and 1970,
we'd find that Jean Rhys was a survivor from nearly four decades earlier;
Edward Kamau Brathwaite had been publishing poems in Bim since
1948 and was, like Walcott, only three years younger than Lamming;
Michael Anthony and Earl Lovelace were among the few to be given
exposure and encouragement in the immediate post-Independence
period; while poets such as Denis Scott and Mervyn Morris, who had
developed their own styles, would have to await the emergence of those
brave little West Indian publishing houses, New Beacon and Bogle-
L'Ouverture, who in the post-1970 period have borne the brunt of the new
publishing. I must have at least one hundred poets in slim collections,
which have been either self-published or are the results of the efforts of
Savacou, Bim, Karia Press or the Extra-Mural Department of UWI.
While the presence of local and foreign-based Caribbean publish-
ers is a sign of independence, there is a limit to the exposure which the
small publisher can give to a writer. Sometimes an entire genre suffered
from an inadequacy of promotion, as was the case with drama, which
after the series of one-act plays published by the UWI Extra-Mural
Department from the late fifties to the mid-sixties, went into a slump until
the seventies, when the Walcott plays began to appear. Walcott's main
publisher now is not British, but American.
Relief of a sort came with the short-lived Allison and Busby, who
republished Lamming and C.L.R.James, and promoted the novels of Roy
Heath. Relief of a sort has also come from Casa de las Americas, the
Cuban publishing house, which in 1976 extended their annual literary
competition to include writers from the Anglophone Caribbean. Guya-
nese writers such as Noel Williams, Angus Richmond, Harry Narain and
John Agard have won the Casa prize. Edward Kamau Brathwaite has
won it twice, once for Black & Blues, a collection of poems, and in 1986
for Roots, a collection of essays.
Very recently, through the agency mainly of West Indian publish-
ers, we've seen the healthy and exciting emergence of several women
writers such as Merle Collins, Grace Nichols, Ema Brodber, Velma
Pollard, Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, Christine Craig, Pamela Morde-
cai, Jean Goulbourne, Jean Binta Breeze and Opal Palmer. I think,
indeed, that it is safe to predict that our most significant voices for the
next two decades will be female. There are several reasons for this. First:
the time demands it. All over the world women have been coming into
visibility, and redefining in ways as significant as their male counter-
parts, the fundamental reality of human existence. Caribbean women
are part of this universal redefinition, this transformation of reality.
Second: the emergence of women writers in the Caribbean indicates that
the other half of Caribbean sensibility is seeking fulfilment through self-
expression. If the male writers sought their liberation of spirit in the face
of rigid colonial structures, the female writers seek theirs in the face of
equally rigid patriarchal ones.
The third reason why our next wave of writers may well be women,
lies in the contempt for things of the sensibility which our societies have
unconsciously bred in the minds of young men. Young men have
absorbed a notion of development based on the idea of science and
technology, to the exclusion of the Arts. It is quite normal in a class of,
say, sixty literature students at UWI, to find only three males. While there
is no necessary or inevitable correspondence between studying literature
as an academic discipline and becoming a creative writer, it is still true
to conclude that over the -last fifteen years far more women have been
exposed to a wider range of literature than their male counterparts.
Given this exposure and the already described need for self-definition,
the women will be carrying the major burden of our writing in the near
Popular artistic forms such as the Calypso, Reggae and the
emerging "Dub" poetry, are still largely dominated by young men. The
Calypso, contrary to some opinions, is neither dying nor deteriorating. If
there are fewer narrative calypsoes, there are more celebratory ones. The
Calypso today also contains a range of political recall as well as an
analytic grasp of the political moment that is equal to, if not greater than,
what obtained in the age of Atilla. It provides us with an index of popular
attitudes to an increasingly bewildering social experience, and has had
to wrestle with growing problems of madness (Terror's "Madness", 1974),
drug addiction (Duke, Sparrow, Explainer, Singing Francine among
others have all sung on this theme), unemployment, corruption and
The darkening social experience since Independence has
changed the nature of calypso laughter which, in the process of adjusting
to bewildering paradox, has become a very complex thing. Chalkdust's
"Learn to Laugh" advocates bitter mirth. It disturbs precisely because it
unmasks the source of laughter, revealing it as chaos, bitterness and
helplessness: as well as its function: masking, evasion and dereliction
of the intolerable responsibility for setting the situation right. The
language of some calypsoes has returned to the singalong simplicity of
the old-time kalinda chants, while that of those singers who have
accepted a burden of self-definition, has become more metaphorical,
more dense, and more capable of expressing a wider range of feeling.
But calypsonians, like most other creative artists, face extreme
problems when it comes to having their records produced. The young
singer, like the young writer, may find that there is no one who is
prepared to invest in an unknown voice. Or an investor may not offer fair
terms. Tales of the exploitation of singers can fill a book. Plagiarism for
commercial gain has been a major concern. Subtle or overt political
censorship has existed in some Caribbean territories. Such censorship
places an additional pressure on the singer, whose revenues are inevita-
bly affected when his songs aren't played on the radio. A paradoxical
situation is often created, where one sector of the community blames
singers for composing trivial party songs, while another sector damns
them for telling too much depressing political truth.
It should be clear, then, that all categories of artists need help of
some sort. There is pressing need not only for awards such as the
Guyana Prize for Literature, but also for a CARICOM Publishing House,
which should belong equally to the public and private sectors in the
Caribbean, and which, utilising the infrastructure that already exists in
abundance throughout these territories, should publish school books,
literary, academic and historical texts, as well as the burgeoning music
of the region. There is no reason why, equipped with skilled panels of
editorial advisers in each discipline, panels drawn, as CXC panels are,
from all over the region, such a CARICOM Publishing House should not
be able to select work that has merit and quality; work that is vital to our
perception of self and possibility; work, too, that is informed by that
critical intelligence which will be necessary for our self-knowledge and
our location of the Caribbean self in the world and in the cosmos.
Such a CARICOM Publishing House can become a means
whereby we may ingather our wandering wits, or, to use Martin Carter's
arresting image: collect our scattered skeleton. No regional cultural
policy will emerge without something like it. We need institutions that
are more permanent than Carifesta, which, indeed, will give us some-
thing to celebrate whenever Carifesta comes around. A CARICOM Pub-
lishing House should also serve to stem the annual outflow from the
region of millions of dollars, which is what we as a region pay foreign
publishing houses, by presenting them with our captive primary and
high school markets.
The act of writing poetry, prose or drama is, now that we know the
extent to which science and technology are controlled by the metropole,
one of the most crucial necessities and possible frontiers for development
in the Caribbean. We cannot control the price of oil; we cannot control,
try as we may, the price of bauxite; nor can we control the American quota
for sugar. But we can control our exploration and presentation of
ourselves. The Arts are probably the only area in which sovereignty is
possible; though even here the burden of autonomous statement is
exacting as frightening a toll as the region-wide collapse of our econo-
mies. This is so not only because of the difficulties artists experience in
getting their work published, but also because of the difficult conditions
in which the average citizens of these territories have been existing for
At times these conditions objectify themselves, crystallize them-
selves, as it were, into moments of terrible atrocity, that have wrung from
the poet and novelist and playwright outcry after outcry. Since Inde-
pendence, we've had in the Caribbean guerillas and gundowns, the Malik
affair in Trinidad with its gruesome lettuce-patch murders of the
Trinidadian Skerritt and the Englishwoman, Gail Ann Benson. Guyana
became unwittingly involved in that drama when Malik, who was
married to a Guyanese, chose this landscape as the stage for his final act
of folly: an attempt to walk from Berbice to Brazil. We all know the
literature that grew out of that catastrophe: Vidia Naipaul's lucid essay,
"The Killings in Trinidad", and his stark best-selling novel, Guerillas,
which became very popular in North America, a country so much
engaged in the conversion of fact into fiction, that many people there can
no longer distinguish between the two. Trinidad, which is very similar to
America in this respect, converted the Malik affair into the Carnival Ole
Mas Band, BENSON UNDER HEDGES.
Jamaica has since Independence been conducting its fixed
dialectic of gunmen; its unending, fratricidal conflict has concretised
itself in acts such as that of gunmen feeding children and mothers to the
flames in Orange Lane; old ladies burned to death in Eventide; and, worst
of all, the sacrificial waste of the 1980 elections when well over five
hundred people were killed. This scenario is being re-enacted in far more
gruesome terms in Haiti, to whose assistance Jamaica, pre-schooled in
similar atrocity, has self-righteously rushed.
The Jamaican tragedy has given rise to several poems. One has
only to read Brathwaite's Kingston poems such as "Spring-blade",
"Starvation", "Dread", "Wings ofa Dove", "Sun Song" and "Kingston in the
Kingdom of this World" to see how this tragedy has affected the
expression of one of the region's leading writers. The Orange Lane fire is
directly alluded to in his "Poem for Walter Rodney" where he makes the
connection between two atrocities, twinning the cities of Kingston and
Georgetown. Recognizing in contemporary Jamaica patterns and struc-
tures of mind as old as the slave plantation, Brathwaite has shown in
some detail how what he calls "the return of the status crow" has
produced "the resurrection of the dread". The poems of Denis Scott,
Brian Meeks or Kendel Hippolyte, Scott's play Dog, the reggae songs of
Marley and the recently murdered Peter Tosh, the Dub poetry of Linton
Kwesi Johnson, Mutabaruka, Jean Binta Breeze and Mikey Smith, who
couldn't believe that children were being deliberately thrown into the
Orange Lane fire, but was himself soon to be stoned to death by people
who disagreed with his political views:- all provide us with a range of
artistic responses to Jamaican atrocity, and define the bleak spiritual
landscape out of which many Caribbean writers operate.
One of the duties of the Caribbean State should be to provide the
citizen and artist with the necessary space within which he can operate,
even when the citizen and artist see through and beyond the structures
and devices of the State. Where such space does not exist, literature
creates it through protest, or through the imaginative territory which it
liberates in quest of living-room for the spirit. The creative voice in the
Caribbean has always challenged the political reality or unreality,
fostered by ideologues for or against the prevailing political order. When
this happens, the creative voice may find itself confronted by the ignorant
machinery of an oppression which, when it is not fostered directly by the
State, may be tacitly permitted to happen because of the indifference or
neglect of the State. The word may then find itself in chains.
Edward Kamau Brathwaite's "Kingston in the Kingdom of this
World" dramatises the outcry of the voice against such imprisonment.
The poem's voice is simultaneously that of a Christ figure awaiting trial
and crucifixion; that of the artist, whose authority of sunlight, vision,
music, dance and the illuminating power of the imagination is pitted
against the incarceration of the State; and that of the Dogon Nummo, the
primal creative word and voice and spirit ofAfrica, rotting in a Jamaican
jail. I'll read this poem now for Mikey Smith, for Walter Rodney, for Martin
Carter and for George Lamming, allowing, as you may have noticed, the
living and the dead proportional representation.
Kingston in the Kingdom of this World
The wind blows on the hillside
and i suffer the little children
I remember the lilies of the field
and fish swim in their shoals of silence
our flung nets are high wet clouds, drifting
with this reed i make music
with this pen i remember the word
with these lips i can remember the beginning of the
between these bars is this sudden lock-up
where there is only the darkness of dog-bark
where 1 cannot make windmills of my hands
where 1 cannot run down the hill-path of faith
where i cannot suffer the little children
a man may have marched with armies
he may have crossed the Jordan and the red sea
he may have stoned down the walls of Jericho
here where the frogs creak where there is only the
croak of starlight
he is reduced
he is reduced
he is reduced
to a bundle of rags
a broken stick
that will never whistle through
fingerstops into the music of flutes
that will never fling nets white sails
gospel was a great wind freedom of savannas
gospel was a great mouth telling thunder of heroes
gospel was a cool touch warm with the sunlight like
water in claypots, healing
this reduction wilts the flower
weakens the water
coarsens the lips
fists at the bars, shake rattle and hammers at the
suffer the little children
suffer the rose gardens
suffer the dark clouds howling for bread
suffer the dead fish poisoned in the lake
my authority was sunlight: the man who arose from
the dead called me saviour
his eyes had known moons older than jupiters
my authority was windmills: choirs singing of the
flowers of rivers
your authority is these chains that strangle my wrists
your authority is the red whip that circles my head
your authority is the white eye of interrogator's terror.
siren price fix the law of undarkness
the dreadness of the avalanches of unjudgement
it is you who roll down boulders when i say word
it is you who cry wolf when i offer the peace of wood-
it is you who offer up the silence of dead leaves
i would call out but the guards do not listen
I would call out but the dew out there on the grass
i would call out but my lost children cannot unshackle
their shadows of silver
here i am reduced to this hole of my head
where i cannot cut wood where i cannot eat
where 1 cannot break fish with the multitudes
my authority was foot stamp upon the ground
the curves the palms the dancers
my authority was nyambura: inching closer
embroideries of fingers silver earrings:
i am reduced
i am reduced
i am reduced
to these black eyes
this beaten face
these bleaching lips blearing obscenitities
i am reduced
i am reduced
I am reduced
to this damp
to this dark
to this driven rag
awaiting the water of sunlight
awaiting the lilies to spring up out of the iron
awaiting your eyes o my little children
Guyana has matched the rest of the Caribbean in atrocity. We
had the mind-blowing Jim Jones Affair being enacted in the Guyana
forest of the night, involving a handful of white masters of the religious
word and nine hundred black slaves to it. This atrocity has produced
about a dozen prose accounts, including one from Shiva Naipaul who,
imitating his elder brother as he usually did, also squeezed a novel out
of the catastrophe. There were also two or three American movies, one
of which was significantly entitled not an American, but The Guyana
Tragedy. Popular response in Guyana was provided by two songs, one
by Nicky Porter and the other by the Trade Winds, who summarized the
Jim Jones catastrophe with the couplet:
He tell them to think and they thinking
So he tell them to drink and they drinking
What the Caribbean mind can't comprehend, it converts into a
macabre carnival of humour, behind which still lurks the cadaver of
evaded catastrophe. Here the Trade Winds are, perhaps unconsciously,
establishing the link between centralised propaganda, mind-control and
self-destruction, and suggesting a lesson pertinent not only to the Jim
Jones commune, who were in any case no longer capable of learning it,
but to the Guyanese nation as a whole.
Guyana can also boast the death of Walter Rodney which, like the
Grenada fiasco three years later (Grenada is already an American
movie) was a devastating body blow to an entire generation; the literal
reduction to ashes of passion, energy, commitment, courage, laughter
and intelligence. That death has evoked an entire anthology of poems,
as well as collections of papers from conferences and seminars on the
meaning of the life's work of an outstanding historian, Caribbean and
international personality, who could not find a job at the University of
Guyana, even when the History Department there was being headed by
an American alcoholic, of whom the kindest thing that one can say is that
he was colourless and nondescript. That this could happen under a
regime which four years earlier had had the generosity, scope and vision
to inaugurate Carifesta, is perhaps the most astounding paradox to have
been produced in a country of astounding paradoxes.
Moving as all these elegies to Rodney undoubtedly are, I'd have
preferred other poems and Rodney alive. I'd even have preferred him to
have rejected what Linton Kwesi Johnson termed "History's weight", and
obeyed the advice which Wordsworth McAndrew offered him in a 1976
poem, written in reaction to his being denied the job at U.G. Mc Andrew
at that time had already intuited a sort of doom, and advised Rodney to
leave a country which could or would not find use for either his academic
excellence or political commitment.
Mc Andrew himself, by far Guyana's best and most active folklor-
ist, who almost single-handedly provided a forum for scores of new
Guyanese short stories, unearthed the customs, sayings and practices
of Guyanese from all corners of the land, took his own advice and left
Guyana. The warehouse manager where he first sought work in New
Jersey gave him a simple arithmetic test which he clearly expected him
to fail. When Mac returned after a few minutes, the manager exclaimed
in the mixture of amazement and contempt with which Prospero is
sometimes grudgingly forced to acknowledge Caliban as a being capable
of intelligence: "Geel He got them all right!" Our national talent has been
to make the real man into a small man. As the voice in "Kingston in the
Kingdom of this World" laments: he is reduced. He is reduced.
Tonight, we are celebrating the sponsoring of Literature by State
and School. It is worth reminding both State and School of the strain
under which writers exist, particularly when they are politically critical
of the State. In Trinidad five poets were among the 1970 detainees, and
Jack Kelshall, whom Guyanese of the early sixties might well remember,
became a poet after he was wrongfully imprisoned in the 1970s. Martin
Carter had, of course, experienced this under the British nearly two
Under such stasis, such unchange, some writers have chosen the
amnesia of alcohol. Others, like Mittelholzer, Leroy Calliste, Eric Roach,
the painter and folklorist Harold Simmons, and the poet and teacher
Neville Robinson committed suicide by rope, poison, the knife or fire. It
is a dangerous thing, often a fatal thing, to even possess sensibility in
such an age, where there are so many ways that a person can be
destroyed. We live in societies in the Caribbean where the price of a
certain type of clarity is sudden death; where the price of a certain type
of commitment is certain arrest? of a certain quality of feeling is possible
The grimness of the age has affected the styles and modes of
functioning of both the State and the individual. If many individual
sensibilities have succumbed to despair or become fixed in automatic
attitudes of protest and resistance, the State has tended to ossify into
rigid authoritarian attitudes, which are really the mask of a fundamental
Surveying West Indian societies since Independence, one is
forced to conclude that we remain colonial in how authority reacts to
critical challenge; that certain aspects of our consciousness have become
paralysed in ancient attitudes of crippledom; that, sadly, it has proven
easier to mummify entire nations than the individual corpse.
Our neo-colonial situation of simultaneous freedom and mental
enchainment is one of deep and perplexing paradox. In Trinidad last year
it was possible for black policemen to unleash an unprovoked attack on
black people demonstrating against the anti-black racism of South
Africa's apartheid State. The same Trinidad moved a vote in the United
Nations to enforce sanctions against South Africa. Faced with such
inconsistency, deeply rooted in our colonial past and blossoming daily in
our neo-colonial present, the mind of artist and critic alike seeks
naturally to express and explore paradox.
I have, consequently, named this address "Trophy and Catastro-
phe". If the catastrophe refers to these societies in which we now live and
breathe and have what remains of our being, the trophy refers to the
Guyana Prize for Literature which, Your Excellency, you have with such
imagination and generosity inaugurated. I am proud to be identified with
this effort and this occasion, and to congratulate the winners in each
category. I hope the prize is only the beginning of a new dispensation for
writers, and that the graciousness which inspired its inauguration will
also inform the political future of the Guyanese people.
GUYANA PRIZE ADDRESS
by WILSON HARRIS
In responding to the award of the 1987 Guyana Prize for Best Book of
Fiction for his "Carnival"' Wilson Harris gave an address at the ceremony
held at the National Cultural Centre on December 8th, 1987. Subsequently
he expanded on this address in the form of further comments contributed
Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen, before I move into my
address may I be permitted to coin a phrase from the unpalatable wisdom
of the Gods "Imaginative writers bite the hand that feeds them". This
ancient legend possesses obscure roots but one tends to think it relates
to an age when men and women stood in awe of the furies. Art is rooted
in creative conscience and the bite of the furies that the mythmaking
writer himself endures brings a cutting edge into every serious address
he or she makes in the name of imaginative truth.
May I now thank the judges of the prize committee who have, I am
sure, worked conscientiously and thoughtfully in the matter of these
awards which are, I believe, the first of their kind in the Caribbean as a
whole. This occasion signals and confirms the.necessity for a serious
examination of issues of creativity and cross-cultural innovation. Ed-
ward Kamau Brathwaite has stated in his new book X/SELF that
"Caribbean culture has been cruelly neglected both by the Car-
ibbean itself and by the rest of the world".
In such a context of "cruel neglect" these prizes may have a
remedial edge and they transcend the honour conferred on individuals.
Imaginative writers may take some comfort from the proceedings. They
are members now of a profession of the arts it seems though let them
never forget such status has been long and painfully achieved within an
indifferent if not philistine mental climate.
My gifted colleagues Fred D'Aguiar, Janice Shinebourne and
Marc Matthews belong to a later generation, but we share across the
generations one prime feature. That feature is an adventure into arts of
memory. Apart from the obvious application of the theme of remembered
places, persons, etc., there is a tremendous momentum and value in arts
of memory seen from another standpoint. Such arts are closely linked to
a force of tradition that has been virtually eclipsed for centuries in
Guyana and the Americas. And the paradox is that communities such as
Guyana and the Caribbean may, if they understand themselves pro-
foundly, play a significant part in the revival of such lost traditions.
A brief word about this. Arts of memory are peculiarly associated
with grotesque imageries. The grotesque in this context signifies a
bizarre, even unpreposssessing, constellation that nature sometimes
wears through which however a door opens, so to speak, into concen-
trated processes of creativity and beauty and ecstasy at the heart of
Take the anancy/spider grotesquerie. I do not need to dwell on
its bearing nor the nature of the trickster, on the one hand, the saviour
on the other. Then there is Quetzalcoatl of ancient Mexico whose
Guyanese cousin is the eternal child of the bone-flute, Yurokon.
Quetzalcoati signifies an evolutionary metaphysic in the marriage
of the fabulous bird (quetzal) and the legendary snake (Coatl).
Quetzalcoatl assists us now in modern times from the shadowy
workshop of the Gods that he still inhabits to penetrate one of the most
formidable of European myths that of FAUST and to re-interpret it,
bring a new density into it, from an original and partly non-European
It is only recently that European scholars began to revive the
bearing that the grotesque image possesses in arts of memory upon the
greatest of European writers Dante and Shakespeare.
The enigma of such tradition is its deepseated application to a
universal humanity in all extremity, all disabilities of nature through
which the spirit of creative moment still triumphs. The emphasis in such
tradition upon the grotesque that we find in medieval books was not a
cult of despair (as was once thought to be the case) but a classical memory
procedure through which a reader was energised to identify with layers
of meaning beyond a particular boundary of sensation.
All this bears on the Third World, on its potential for awakening
into a new literacy of the imagination.
The great predicament, the economic sorrows, the destitution of
the Third World, obsesses the mass-media press today in Europe and the
United States. That press makes no bones about the grotesqueries of fate
in many societies.
Should not all this energise us to place renewed emphasis on
cultural, philosophic, environmental thresholds into arts of memory?
Guyana sometimes appears as a marginal society to the Carib-
bean and in South America. But it is here in such apparently marginal
societies around the globe that supreme importance attaches to creative
conscience, to the freedom of the person, to the conduct of politics, the
conduct of democracy, to innovation, to arts of the imagination.
For all these bear on the value of survival, and on the most
important and troubling questions that plague our divided and ghetto-
fixed civilisation. What has marginal being to offer the world at the heart
of extremity, not heart of darkness, but heart of extremity?
What is true value? What is true spirit?
Such questions are of intense and burning moment. Because they
arise most tellingly within apparently marginal communities they raise
a momentous paradox. T.S. Eliot has implicitly expressed a hope for the
revival of allegory. I think he had European writers in mind.
But such revival as an art of memory may be more relevant to
societies living on edge, so to speak, and which need to plumb resources
of inner confidence in addressing the difficult problems they face. Modern
allegory revives in new ways the inner guide; it stresses how real are our
intuitive powers to interrogate the building blocks of a civilisation and
to breach or cleave a perverse addiction to authoritarianism in Third
World regimes or to authoritarian realism in narrative fiction.
Men have walked on the moon. The extraordinary swaddling
clothes they wore like clowns bouncing in a circus have become little
more than hollow puppetry to the computerised and insensible body of
an age. And yet seen with another eye by suffering Mankind they bring
home the marginality of a stellar universe by which we are all fascinated.
In such marginality we dream of new centres of selfknowledge rooted in
the densities of space and time. A rich parable for men and women who
have long been subject to the traumas of the conditioned mind, the
colonised mind, the obsessive colonising mind. How to transform such
traumas into cross-cultural innovation is an issue that must loom, I feel,
with greater and greater pertinence and urgency as we move towards the
The difficulties that encompass this country are many and
serious but the fabric of these difficulties possesses varying and troub-
ling dimensions throughout the modem world. These difficulties may be
disguised or hidden from view in prosperous societies. In essence they
are difficulties to do with an age in profoundest transition.
Guyana has deep roots in many cultures. This could be its
greatest memory resource, strength and hope.
GROTESQUE IMAGERIES AND INTUITIVE POWERS
I feel I may best expand on issues I raised in myacceptance speech
at the National Cultural Centre on December 8. 1987, by commenting on
two elements in the address.
The first relates to "grotesque imageries" and their bearing on the
recovery of apparently lost traditions and arts of memory.
Frances Yates, an outstanding English scholar, has written with
illumination in this area though confessing to the major difficulties
involved in salvaging an art of memory so long in eclipse.
In brief the grotesque image is a kind of short-hand that energises
a society to recall and act upon a corridor of associations in a body of
imaginative work. Thus in Shakespearean theatre in the sixteenth
century memory images of a very peculiar nature were part and parcel
of the equipment of poet, playwright, actor and audience. Through such
impetus and momentum there came into play a diversity of connection
with the distant past even as that diversity came peculiarly and paradoxi-
cally alive in the original mind of the present.
All this enriches I believe the authenticity of the collective uncon-
scious of which C.G. Jung wrote.
The contours of imagination one may trace in what I have Just
been saying are native I feel to the Caribbean and to Central and South
America. I referred toAnancy and to Quetzalcoatl in my address. Anancy
is a spider-grotesque that energises the imagination to map hidden or
frail interrelationships in nature even as it points through the Middle
Passage into Africa. It embraces newAmerican content in explicating the
body of the trickster, on one hand, the subtleties and trials of the saviour
on the other.
Quetzalcoatl assists us to break a narrow confine or boundary
situation. It is a metaphysic of evolution with roots that lie deep in buried
cultures. Walter Roth has pointed to a bridge of associations (which I
sought to explore imaginatively in my critical book The Womb of Space
published by Greenwood Press. USA) linking Quetzalcoatl, Kukulcan,
Huracan (hurricane) and Yurokon (the Guyanese child of the bone-flute).
Yurokon therefore belongs to the family of Quetzalcoatl and may
even, who knows, be antecedent to Quetzalcoatl in the workshop of the
gods and the obscurity of Carib blood. One sees in all these connections
- as one turns them into multi-faceted approaches to the mystery of
psyche complex and subtle links between music and theatre, art and
language, nature and culture.
In the same way one may explore the Indian goddess Kali. Kall
you may remember is a goddess from whom many arms and hands
sprout in a most disconcerting manner.
There are notable uses of the Anancy theme in Caribbean writers
such as Salkey, Mais, Selvon, Jean Rhys, Brathwalte, Carew. Major ex-
amples in North American literature are Melville's The Confidence Man
and Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man in which Rhinehart is a sinister
equivalent of Anancy.
The grotesque image therefore is a paradoxical formation that
unlocks the strangest capacity for ecstasy and beauty born of evolutions
of the unconscious into a new consciousness even as it unfolds caveats
or warnings of the manipulated personality who alas may become the
manipulator of others.
May I now turn to the other element of which I spoke in my
address, namely, intuitive powers. This is a far-reaching issue that I may
best illumine through a talk given at the Commonwealth Institute,
London, in the autumn of 1986.
Validation of Fiction: a Personal View of Imaginative Truth
The world in which we live sometimes appears to border upon a
theatre of demonic comedy, and to reveal a tissue of absurdities, not to
speak of disinformation, if I may quote the current jargon. But when one
looks deep into the fabric of creation one may discern there, I think, the
outlines of genuine hope, however apparently frail. Deeply nourished
one may be by a vision of consciousness, a vision of hope, but it is clear
that complacency would be gross folly. There is no short cut to solutions
of famine, to the pollution of the globe, to authoritarianism and rigged
elections in the so-called third world, to nuclear peril, to violence, to drug
addiction, etc. Yet creative solutions do exist, and such solutions hinge,
I believe, in significant part on a profound literacy of the imagination. I
shall define, as this address proceeds, what I mean by literacy of the
Imagination. First, however, before touching on such a complex concep-
tion we need to take account of standard or common-or-garden literacy
and illiteracy. Surely the disturbing scenario of illiteracy in many
societies around the globe must engage the conscience of writers
everywhere. No conference devoted to literature can ignore this. In the
Times Higher Educational Supplement I came across a brief summary
of a report published in the United States recently:
Virtually every young American adult can sign his or her name
and nearly 95% can read at a level normally expected of 8-year-
That is the good news. This places America at the head of the
world's literacy league table, the report says. But there is also bad news.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress which produced the
report after testing 3,600 adults between the ages of 21 and 25 found
that, although about 95% could read a simple newspaper article, fewer
than 40% understood it. Just 20% could use a bus timetable to get from
one place to another. Only 38% could work out the cost of a meal by
reading the menu and 43% had trouble following directions on a map.
When asked to interpret a 4-line poem by Emily Dickinson fewer the 10%
could do so.
Now as you know, poets such as Derek Walcott and the Negritude
poet Cesaire are far more difficult than Emily Dickinson! The report,
which cost $2 million, predicts that the illiteracy rate will rise during the
next decade unless action is taken to help the growing minority popula-
tions. Among Blacks who took part in the survey just 10% could
understand a newspaper article, 2% could interpret a bus schedule and
even fewer were able to utilize unit pricing in a supermarket. Hispanics
did a little better but still scored lower than whites. So, that is the
situation that affects our society and it would seem to me to be bad news
Now, in my judgment illiteracy and semi-literacy possess para-
doxes we need to explore. We need to approach the matter from many
angles to stimulate a breakthrough from habit or function that may chain
an individual into passive acceptance of his role or function. This is a
matter which addressed me intimately in the Guyanas when I used to
travel along the coastlands and when I.led engineering and surveying
expeditions into the interior. There were occasions when one would have
a crew of about 25 or 30 and many of those could just manage to write
their names on the pay sheet. Some could read an article in a newspaper.
Now I knew those men extremely well and we had a good relationship. I
grew over the years to understand their problems and their potentialities.
They performed admirably and intelligently within their specific function
but appeared lacking in curiosity about the cosmos (if I may so put it) in
which they dwelt, the complex rainforest, the river, the night sky that
seemed intimate and close in the black dark of a landscape unlit by
electricity. It wasn't that they didn't respond to all this but I felt such
response had they confessed to it would have been a measure of
weakness. I was reminded of people who fear their dreams and therefore
say they never dream.
They were defined on my paysheet as chainmen, staffmen, bush-
men, boatmen, woodmen, axemen, etc. (and that in a way was an
eloquent testimony to the ways in which they were psychologically bound
It happened that one of the crew came into my camp and saw an
anthology of English and American poetry. He opened it and read, by
chance, it seemed:
Tyger tyger burning bright
In the forests of the night
He found this Incomprehensible and commented 'tigers do not
burn.' We had seen leopards and tigers in the forest. Furthermore he did
not understand what forests of the night' could mean. My first impulse
was to tell him that it was a difficult poem and perhaps he should leave
it alone. And then I was struck by an illustration that I felt might help him
to relate to Blake's imagery. I had with me a book on pre-columbian art
and I turned to the ancient calendar which as you know was completed
just before the conquest of ancient Mexico. I explained to him that it was
a calendar that should be read in conjunction with certain codices or
signals that bear on astronomy, legend, astrology, etc. And then I said
to him suddenly 'those lines could have been written by a Mexican poet.
He replied 'how could that be? Did you not say that Blake was an English
poet? I explained that the codices to which I had referred place unusual
emphasis on the tiger-imagery and that such imagery was a major
element in the calendar. I explained that the Aztecs believed that the
cosmos was governed by certain leaping tigers or jaguars these were
suns, curious suns and that vast aeons of time would move or give way
to new dimensions with the appearance of a new sun or tiger. This was
a rough, perhaps crude way of explaining a remarkable myth but it
helped to throw a new light, as it were, into Blake's lines. I went on to
suggest that if he looked around into the sky and the river and the
rainforest and the interwoven tapestry of the landscape he would gain a
threshold into the meaning of 'forests of the night.' For that tapestry
enhanced the constellations, the stars which came so close to the tops of
the trees at night above the clearing we had cut in the forest.
We were camped not far above a waterfall. Take a stroll and look
into the waterfall. You will see the lights streaking through, striped
reflections like a tiger leaping through. And remember that the tiger is
one of the most ancient myths and symbols of the South Americas. The
tiger is also a kind of drum I would say. The stripes upon it can be related
to the drum of genesis from which a certain music erupts. All this bears
upon a cross-cultural dialogue in Blake's lines with ancient Mexico and
South America. Blake would have been unconscious of this but here one
perceives the mystery of the universal imagination as it discloses itself in
all sorts of cross-cultural connections and tapestries.'
I had no idea what bearing this would have on his perception of
things but in subsequent conversations it became clear to me that he had
begun to look at the world around him in a re-visionary way and that the
concept about which I had spoken had done much to loosen the frame
in which he was confined as though that frame were ordained by fate or
So it was that I came to perceive the matter of illiteracy and semi-
literacy in a new and startling light that was to address me years later in
re-visionary strategies I employed in writing fiction.
Obviously there were ways to deal with illiteracy that invest in the
mechanics of the alphabet. But one wonders do such teaching mechan-
ics genuinely breach the psychology of illiteracy that has its roots in the
hierarchy of functions and a subconscious alliance with that hierarchy
through frames or roles determined by the rigidity of cultures?
The universal imagination if it has any value or meaning has
its roots in subconscious and unconscious strata that disclose them-
selves profoundly within re-visionary strategies through intuitive clues
that appear in a text one creates. That text moves or works in concert
with other texts to create a multi-textual dialogue. Let me seek to
illustrate what I mean through Carnival, one of my recent fictions. There
were two epigraphs to Carnival. One is from Dante, The Divine Comedy
- the translation is by Laurence Binyon. I'll read that epigraph:
Here all misgivings must thy mind reject,
Here cowardice must die and be no more.
We are come to the place I told thee to expect
His hand on mine, to uphold my falterings,
He led me on into the secret things.
Now that epigraph was deliberately chosen. On the other hand
there's an epigraph from Norman O. Brown's book Love's Body. I had
completed Carnival when I started reading this book, sort of glancing
through it, and came upon a passage which startled me because it
appeared to validate the imagination-strategy I pursued in Carnival. I
use the word 'validate' to imply proof as well. I am suggesting that
imaginative fiction may be proven or validated. This is not a dogmatic
assertion. It is a personal view, it is something I discovered. It seems to
me that the imaginative writer especially when he diverges from
conventional realism may find his or her strategy validated by live
fossils in the soil of tradition of which he may know nothing at all. Such
live fossils or archetypal myth break into the narrative on which he is
working, take on a different form as if a subtle evolution is occurring in
unconscious strata of memory that erupt into the conscious mind. One
can see the outline of the ancient, live fossil-myth but it is charged with
different edges, different implications, different complications. One
revises one's drafts by scanning these closely. One comes upon what I
tend to call 'intuitive clues' which appear to have been planted by another
hand. It is as If a daemon navigates within the Imageries in the text. And
that navigation assumes startling force. You look at these intuitive clues
and then you revise through them you concentrate with all the energy
at your command on the draft as if it is alive, a living text. I would imagine
this strategy was known to the ancient Greeks and indeed to the ancient
Arawaks of South America. The ancient Greeks believed that their sculp-
tures would come alive as they sculpted. As they broke Into marble or
stone or whatever materials with which they worked they saw outlines
and features planted, it would seem, by another hand a hand that arose
from unconscious or subconscious selves or self. In that way the
sculpture spoke to them. And they revised, changed, altered, drew
different complications into the work as it came alive. The ancient
Arawaks likewise sculpted the cherry tree and it came alive. The same
principle I would imagine operated. Thus cultures far removed in time
and space were involved in a cross-cultural loom or medium of creativity.
May I return to the very first line of the epigraph drawn from
The wanderings of the soul after death are pre-natal ad-
ventures, a journey by water in a ship which is itself a
goddess, to the gates of rebirth.
I was instantly struck because I recognized an important strand
in the strategy here which had been running through the novel, but
which one needed to read as one consulted all the images in the canvas
of the novel, to see how one image played back on another so that you
began to see the strategy appearing as if it is a subtle complex evolution
of the validating myth. It is not a static design, it is a constantly moving
shifting design, the outlines are there, changing. One can recognize, as
it were, one's dialogue with an ancient world of which one knew nothing
but which lay buried in the unconscious. Let us remember that
Caribbean literature (which is a new literature but which has its
paradoxical roots in ancient legacies, in ancient Europe, in ancient
Africa, ancient India, and above all in the ancient world of the Americas,
the pre-Columbian world) possesses strata in a universal unconscious.
Anyway, let us look at that line again:
The wanderings of the soul after death are pre-natal ad-
ventures, a journey by water in a ship which is itself a
goddess, to the gates of rebirth.
Let us take one of the first indications of that strategy. It appears
in Carnival when Masters runs into his house. Masters is the Dantesque
guide. He has died but returns to guide Jonathan Weyl, the major
character. Masters comes from the grave to unveil his childhood to
Jonathan Weyl. He tells Jonathan something about his adventures on
the sea shore and how he ran.into the house, ran away from a sinister
figure. He arrives in the house he is in the house now:
His trapped sobbing breath had ceased and he moved
gingerly (as he had crawled gingerly like a king crab on the
foreshore) toward his parents' room. The door was very
slightly ajar. He was about to rap or push when he
glimpsed something through the slit of space. It was his
mother's tears that he saw, tears that masked her and
suddenly made her into the mother of a god in the play of
Carnival. She was sitting at a mirror and her tears were
reflected in the glass. (Carnival, Faber and Faber, Lon-
don, 1985 p.26)
So there you get your first clue to do with the mother of a god. The
passage I have read speaks of a goddess. So you have your first
intimations of a mother of a god. The passage goes on:
She did not turn. He did not disclose he was there. He felt
nevertheless that she knew; he felt as she touched her
glass breasts in the mirror that she knew he was inside
her, halfway between a wall of glass and a cavity of flesh,
that she knew he was looking through her into a kind of
fire that mingled with her tears. (p.27)
Now there you have this strange encounter or implicit dialogue
between Masters and the foetus in the womb. He sees himself as a foetus
in a womb. You get your pre-natal adventure, your pre-natal text of
which the epigraph speaks. May I remind you "The wanderings of the soul
after death are pre-natal adventures...
You have your pre-natal text, you have the wanderings of the soul,
the dead Masters who comes back. One is now immersed in the intuitive
imagination at a certain depth. In a way you can see that Dante, when
he chose his guides, did not do so arbitrarily. We are aware now that we
know very little about the traditions which informed Dante and
Shakespeare. Frances Yates has made an effort to salvage those
traditions. But what I seem to learn is that Dante's guides are intuitive,
real, guides who came up out of his unconscious, subconscious; spoke
to him and therefore linked him to the past. What I am saying here is that
one is now involved in a situation in which the guide, who is substantial
to the fiction and appears to help in the revision as one concentrates very
deeply on what one is doing, begins to unveil a series of adventures, so
to speak, such as I have been describing within a re-visionary strategy.
That re-visionary strategy breaks the uniform mould of realism. No
realist document would speak of conversing with the foetus in the womb.
Thus the realist text is broken and it is as if you have entered a realm of
There is another text secreted elsewhere which addresses one, a
text one tends to eclipse. Now, one must remember that many of those
men I spoke of, the men with whom I travelled in the interior, lived in a
world where so many things had been eclipsed, so many things lost. Even
though they worked in the forest they know very little about the people
who had passed this way. Now let us resume our analysis of the passage
I read. We have the flesh and the glass. The passage speaks of glass
breasts in the mirror, of a wall of glass and cavity of flesh. That is an
important clue which will assist us in the next quotation from Carnival:
Queen Jennifer stepped out of a shower, out of a waterfall,
out of the ocean, into the bedroom. I was lying half-asleep,
half awake on her bed. She handcuffed me to her body as
to the mast of a ship. (p.95)
Now, look back at the epigraph a journey by water in a ship
which is itself a goddess. So 'she handcuffs me to her body as to the mast
of a ship.' So we have another element coming in, in which you can see
the design of the ancient myth though with different edges and compli-
The third quotation that I would like to glance at is the following:
The storm hit the vessel at last. The glass sides of the ship
Now note that 'glass' comes in here. We have seen the glass
earlier, the glass breasts in the mirror, the cavity of flesh and the glass:
The glass sides of the ship darkened and it was as if I saw
it now, I saw the sea, in Masters' eyes. [Masters is the
guide, the dead guide] The sea was black and white fire ran
along the ridges and valleys of space. I held to my dream-
support for bleak life and yet this was my leap into
Purgatory all over again, purgation through the terror of
So there we have our ship. What is astonishing is that in revising
the work with complex concentration, in sensing the force of the intuitive
guide, one begins to elaborate a strategy, which, if you read the novel
carefully, one would see, in the very first line of the epigraph fromLove's
Body. But it appears, as I said, in a subtle evolved form. It has different
edges, different complications, different values. Nevertheless you can
see the outlines there. So that the force of the thing makes it seem that
one is in dialogue with the past and yet one has an original voice. One is
sustained by the past and yet one _ias an original voice. One is in dialogue
with something very ancient, and yet one has an original voice.
Now the last part of the epigraph from Love's Body 'the gates of
rebirth'. That comes at the very end of the novel in which I actually quote
a line from The Divine Comedy, but I'll just read the last part:
"Whether she is Masters' child or not", said Amaryllis,
taking my hand with one of hers and holding the child to
her breast with the other, "she runs in parallel with all
wasted lives to be redeemed in time. And in that spirit she
is his child. She is our child. We killed our parents,
remember, in Carnival logic even as they, besieged by fear,
fear of a blasted future, were tempted to destroy us. And
now in mutual heart, mutual uncertainty across genera-
tions, across seas and spaces, as to who is divine parent,
who human child, who will parent the future, who inherit
the future, we surrender ourselves to each other. The love
that moves the sun and the other stars[This is the Dante
line, so there is another text inserted there deliberately,
but yet coming in as part of the multiple texts, the multi-
textual fiction] The love that moves the sun and the other
stars moves us now, my dearest husband, my dearest
Jonathan, to respond with originality to each other's
Carnival seas of innocence and guilt, each other's Carni-
val skies of blindness and vision". (pp. 171-172)
And there you have the implicit gateway into rebirth. This is not
the first time I have discovered I discovered it in The Guyana Quartet
but long after the novels were published a validating or proving premise.
In Da Silva da Silva's Cultivated Wilderness I discovered it there too but
after this novel had been submitted and virtually published. Carnival
was the closest I came to arriving almost immediately upon a validating
myth and I was able to use that epigraph from Love's Body. The point
I am making is that revision is a much more complex matter than people
think. Revision is not Just correcting the grammar or the syntax. It's a
matter of coming into attunement with a profound concept of creativity
rooted in live fossil and archetypal myth. It has to do with the way one
scans the draft, picks up elements in the draft, of which one is uncon-
scious, unconscious of planting them there. I have discussed this with
students in the United States in my creative writing classes. That is how
I drew them into revising their work. And students are sometimes
dumbfounded when I say "But look, you've put that there. There it is .
Now what can you make of it? Look at it, and let's see if you can revise
through it." And as the student revises, as the writer revises, an
unpredictable strategy begins to appear. It calls for immense concentra-
tions because one is running against the grain of one's time, which is
authoritarian realism. Or if not that, some kind of nihilism, or if not that,
carefully calculated things to do with sex and violence, etc. One is really
immersed in a strategy in which one pays the closest attention to the
language of the buried imagination erupting into consciousness. You
listen to the radio or the newspapers and there are people all the time
saying: "Oh we're looking for a form of words which will allow x and y to
come together" and the form of words is always dismissed as some kind
of irrelevance But language is world. It may be that one may never
discover how a strategy one pursues can be proven or validated because
one may never come upon the validating premise. And critics rarely
approach imaginative work in this way. Yet my hopes remain profound
and rich because I believe when fiction can be proven or validated by live
myth, living fossil-strata, the confidence of the humanities must rest on
something other than fashion or some other complacent ideology.
Unless a society is prepared to revise complexly the various
levels on which it exists, to move with depth and to see that the creative
arts are a profound phenomenon and as important as science and that
we need very careful concentration on the issues of the imagination -
(we don't want pundits on the television who discuss a novel as if it is junk
food) then illiteracies of the imagination will become endemic, virtu-
ally incurable. But I cannot believe that a best-seller age, a mass-media
age, is destined to eclipse creativity as a meaningful paradox born of age-
old truths and the spirit of innovation and originality.
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DARKNESS
('What, hath this thing appeared again?')
in this enchanted wood
a jewelled toad comes down to drink
its own reflection
in the stream.
Bubbled eyes, tender as love, reflect
the curvature of earth,
the moon's bright beam.
Its squat, humped body settles on a rock
the wattled toad becomes
a thing of dread:
its slimy back and mottled head
are odious, obscene.
The princess hurries from her bed
to wake the sleeping queen.
"Alas! To know what I know!
To see what I have seen!"
In those slow burning days
quietude held passion.
Flambouyantes, brooding in heat
hung out red parasols, dropping cool shadows
on back and head. Sunlight splin-
tered East Street canal. Noiseless
we lay, bent pin-hooks baited with bread,
angling for sun-fish.
A lizard, noosed in grass, threshing itself to death,
was common play.
Boys will be boys.
But there was that insistent thing
in our flesh that tore
when we ran in the night
dizzy with freedom; that made us gorge
green mangoes, starapples, sweet bursting sapodillas,
taught us to store pleasure
without thought of price.
At Mrs Cash-
tinheiro's we mixed mauby and compress
dark syrup marbling the ice.
Remember Mary-bruk-iron, legendary whore,
empress of vice?
Where now is Lengery, that towering skeleton
whom we would jeer?
And there was plump and married Oona who
gave our Big John his first sweet taste, I think,
of sin, to our vicarious delight
Innocence, always precarious in those days,
vanished that night.
Children at play,
We pulled life by the root
every new day.
Old Baije, mute, vengeful woodsman
could scare us away
from the great Tamarind tree,
but not from knowledge of its sweet
JANE KING HIPPOLYTE
INTERCITY DUB FOR JEAN
Brixton groans -
From the horror of the hard weight
Where the whites flagellate
in their ancestry
And the blacks hold the stone
And they press it to their hearts
And London is a hell
in many many parts.
But your voice rings true
From the edge of hell
Cause the music is the love
And you sing it so well.
And I travel through the country
On the inter-city train
And the weather may be bad
But the sperm of the rain
Wriggles hope, scribbles hope
Cross the windows of the train
And the autumn countryside
Has a green life still
And the rain-sperm says
It will come again, it will
It will come, it will come
It will come again
New rich life from the bitter
And dark and driving rain -
And you run like water
Over Brixton soil
Writing hope on the windows
Bringing light through the walls
Like the water you connect
With the light above
Like the water writing making
The green life swell
Cause the music is the love
And you sing it so well.
Now I cannot give to you
What you gave to me
But one small part
Of your bravery
Makes me stand up to say
That I want to make them see
That you showed me the way
That the way is me
Like the way is you
And the way is we.
And the love is in the water
In the wells pooled below
And the love is in the light
And the cold cold snow
And the rain lances down
From the light to the well
And it points to heaven
And it points to hell
And the love is real
Make the music swell
Cause the music is the love
And you sing it so well.
There's a factory blowing smoke-rings
Cross the railway line
You know it took me time to learn
That this country wasn't mine
And I want to go back home
To swim in the sunset bay
Feel the water and the light
Soft-linking night and day
Like the music makes a bridge -
But there's Joy here too
And I might not have seen it
If I hadn't heard you.
And I hope now I'll be writing
This poem all my life
For the black city world
Where the word is a knife
That cuts through the love
And divides up the life.
For you saved me from a trap
Just before I fell
Cause the music is the love
And you sing it so well.
The Brixton-battered sisters
Hissed their bitterness and hate
With their black man the oppressor
And death the white race fate
And they don't want to build
No bridge no gate -
And I nearly turned away
In pain and rage and fear
Till I heard your voice
And you burst like a flower
From the sad sad soil
And you blew like a breeze
Round the shut-tight hall
And you danced like a leaf
And you sang like a bell -
You said Music reaches heaven
And music changes hell
Cause the music is the love
And you sing it so well.
STREET LOVING, LOVING STREETS
by HEMRAJ MUNIRAM
I was about to retire for the night at my dwelling place at the South
Street side of the Supreme Court building when Bullet started barking
madly at something moving in the rain towards us. It turned out to be
Naomi and her shivering puppy.
They were soaked to the skin, and while Naomi wasn't shivering,
she was visibly uncomfortable. I hushed Bullet, then rummaged up from
my plastic onion bag an old shirt which I handed to Naomi. She relieved
herself of the bundle she had slung on her shoulder and accepted the
shirt. In a while she was dry, but for the dress she wore.
"T ankyuh fo' leh me change, mistuh," she said. I straightened
up the box-boards that constituted a make-shift room for me on that cold
pavement and discreetly turned away for her to change into dry clothing.
Bullet was compassionately licking Naomi's puppy's mangy skin,
apparently to provide warmth from his tongue.
I did not object. Bullet had also suffered from mange when I
discovered him by the Stabroek Market wharf a year ago.
Naomi finished dressing and wrung the rain-water from her
dress. I advised her to spread it out on one of my box-board walls.
Naomi spent the night with me, during which she rested her head
.n a tattered Bible wrapped in cellophane.
She awoke next morning as I was feeding our two pets some pieces
of tennis-rolls I had managed to gather from the waste drums in Stabroek
Market the previous day.
"Yuh is de bes' gentleman of dese streets, mistuh. Yuh offer me
lodging pon yuh small bedding while you yuhself sit an' brace pon cold
walls content as ever. Yuh ent even try fo' intafere wid me, like some hoo-
ligans does do. Yuh is really a Good Samaritan. God bless yuh, mistuh."
When we had finished packing our belongings in our respective
bundles, we trudged to the old wharf at the head of Robb Street to cook
our breakfast, as I do every morning and evening.
We were early, for none of my companions who also lived on the
streets elsewhere was there, as is customary. I put the two claybricks in
place, so that they sandwiched the firewood I had saved up nearby.
Having lit the fire, I then proceeded to place my butter can of water on the
claybricks when I spotted Roland approaching us with fish in his hands.
Roland is a strange person. Long before the advent of our local
Rastas, Roland has been sporting heavy dread-locks on his head. And
Roland gads about Georgetown all day long with his pants front open so
that his private parts are always exposed to the public view. Sometimes
you would see Roland's face painted with coats of chalk-dust as he moves
But Roland is helpful and generous, and wears a permanent
smile; his face never expresses any negative emotions.
So we fried Roland's fish, using some lard Naomi offered us from
a Nescafe bottle. That, coupled with boiled plantains and bush tea, com-
prised our breakfast.
"Mistuh, ah goin' by Bourda Mall fo' pass me time today aftah ah
beg me day's living. Leh we meet dere dis mid-day, nuh? I does need some
sensible company fo gafwid."
I felt honoured on hearing this from Naomi, and promised to meet
her again. Roland, Naomi and myself then went our separate ways to
earn our day's keep.
That day at Bourda Mall turned out to be one of the best days of
my life. Sitting in the shade on a concrete bench and mercifully fanned
by a cool breeze, Naomi again called me a gentleman. After learning that
my full name was Benjamin Horatio Nelson, she asked me where I learned
to speak "proper English".
Tears dripped down my face when I told her how I was once a
Language Master at one of Georgetown's top high schools in the days of
my youth; how I was jilted by a beautiful switch-board operator at the
Telephone Exchange, then situated adjacent Donkey City; how I gravely
suffered a nervous breakdown as a result and lost my job; how I never
got another job and was neglected by my parents; and how I was
introduced to street life by Matthews.
Naomi knew Matthews. After all, who would fail to notice the
short, bearded character in his ever-present suit and pants with pockets
bulging with papers of all sorts? Matthews is still going strong. I am
indebted to him for many things. He is well-educated also, and spends
almost all day reading newspapers at the National Library.
Whenever we meet, he starts recounting all the events he thinks
I should know about, having read not only our local newspapers, but also
such foreign ones as the Trinidad Guardian and Barbados Advocate. Now
and then he would pull out from his pocket a dog-eared copy of TIME
or NEWSWEEK, donated to him by a lawyer whose office he frequents in
Croal Street. He attributes his gratitude to the same lawyer for the suits,
ties, trousers and shoes he usually wears.
Matthews literally lives on reading; food is his least concern, and
this explains why he is seldom seen begging as we do. "Dat man really
gat stamina," Naomi remarked. "He not only a book worm, but a book
Naomi was right. Matthews would explain to you world affairs
with such ease that even a seasoned politician would be amazed. Besides,
there isn't a subject under the sun that Matthews doesn't know some-
thing about. You feel very enlightened when he talks to you, and it would
be uncultured not to invite him for a morsel at meal time. Matthews is
my best friend, and as I recalled my past life for Naomi's benefit that day,
she started crying.
"Yuh lucky God send yuh a bes' frien'. For donkey years is me an
God alone bin treading dese sinful streets. Not a soul to comfort me with
sweet words but dis Bible in me bundle. Jonathan only come in me life
de other day," she lamented as she tenderly caressed her mangy puppy.
I immediately proposed to Naomi that we live together, since
contrary to her thinking, I was very lonely also. I told her how much I
admired a religious woman like herself, and that our lives might be happy
once we shed our loneliness and shared our responsibility for soliciting
our daily bread.
I wiped Naomi's tears away with my shirt tail, and she looked
squarely into my eyes and said, "De Lord don't come, but he does send."
Naomi and I decided that it would not be convenient to sleep
beside the Supreme Court building anymore, for reasons of privacy, and
she suggested the G.P.O. building pavement instead. I objected, on the
grounds that Sajiwan resided there, and he would be a nuisance to us.
Sajiwan is addicted to methylated spirit, and everytime he drinks he
picks a quarrel with anyone nearby.
She agreed, and we settled tentatively for a bushy vacant lot at
the corner of Regent and Alexander Streets.
With indescribable enthusiasm we related our good fortune to
Roland, Matthews, Senseh and Saywack that evening when we as-
sembled at the wharf for our dinner of metagee, prepared by Naomi.
Everyone applauded, and agreed to the proposition that Naomi
continue to cook every day. "She gat a nice han'. Ah bite me tongue eatin'
dis metagee, man." Senseh remarked. Roland gave an approving smile.
Matthews shoved his hands into his bulky pockets and shook his head
professorially. Saywack pointed out that the occasion called for celebra-
tion. Again, everyone agreed, and promised to buy the best with his day's
The next morning, Naomi and I woke up very early, and, after
bathing at the stand-pipe near the Fire Station, proceeded to the wharf,
where she made me read no less than five psalms. I hadn't prayed since
Noah was a boy. Now, Naomi cajoled me to practise praying.
Evening came, and when Naomi and I arrived at the wharf,
Senseh and Saywack greeted us and motioned us to a bench which they
had 'borrowed' from Vendors Arcade and then decorated. A massive slice
of beef, wrapped in eddoe leaves, lay on the ground nearby.
Matthews and Roland arrived shortly, flaunting a sizeable piece
of cardboard, and brimming with smiles. Then Matthews, Santa Claus-
like, pulled out a brand-new silver ring from his pocket.
"Wheh alyuh t'ief dat?" Senseh demanded.
"It's like this," explained Matthews, "we demonstrated all over this
city today, and with the funds we collected, we bought this humble
"Demonstrate wid what?" shouted Saywack.
Roland confidently turned around the cardboard, on which was
MAKE US RICH!
Here away from the city
I see no houses.
For miles man and
Nature fuse irrevocably.
Freckles bleat on rice-fields
Dots moo and nibble grass
Service cows and glean
Plowed fields for specks
Of food, or wisdom or love...
Down, around, searching I see no time -
Nothing except endless webs
Of love whistling through ages gone/Ungone.
Nothing and everything
Rises from Dharti Mata.
Riding this tractor through trails
Bordered by black-sage, a combine
Gathers golden rice and is lost in motion.
Hardee plumed birds dive through limbs
Of splashed green, (Glad for rare human presence)
Flirting melodies louder than this tractor's throb.
A flock of gaulings silently wheel
Into the air ahead a magic arc -
Lead the path and swerve smoothly Eastward.
Everywhere Krishn's Flute sings in my ear but it is
Radha who chases this tractor, swallows it
From everyside and allows its passage on your hair.
Dusk, my love, gathers your skirt
Around my eyes
And what a blessed vision
Assails my sight.
Dark clouds flaying the westward sky
Are dotted red -
The Sindhoor in your head.
Drakes come home to roost
Dipping from the sky,
Gliding unto the soft surface
Of the pond -
Mating with moisture.
Gentle ripples tug my crying toes
O come. O come, my love!
They stand in clustered solitude
Coffee creamed, smooth.
A flicker of tail at irritant flies.
A stamp of feet
A chew of cud
Above all a motionlessness;
Meditation on the sky and beyond -
The mysteries of loving.
I feel them look down, deep into themselves.
I see no beef nor mutton or meat.
I see us, our soul, our love holding fast to
The settling dusk on this delicious land.
VISIT V (SURUJ PURAN)
You slippered on the morning air,
And there was a flicker of sunbeams.
I searched and could not see
I felt and could not feel
Your eyes on mine and you in me.
The Pandit expounded -
The lady lost her pin
In lightless house
Went outside in brilliant
Moonlight to find it
Brought me down
Into my dark self
And found the wisp of your smile EVERYWHERE
The plus eludes you: synchronic
thread from thing to thing, as grains
associate in sand as waters
run to rivers, seas, as man is
bound in love to man so am I
bondaged; it is time you learned these
chains: and diachronic exigence
invoicing actions for account,
withdrawal or receipt; you can-
not, dear, pile debt on debt against
the sweet collateral of un-
diminished wifely love. All charges
get called in: the best investments
badly husbanded fall into
bankruptcy. And so I beg you
not to spend your substance -
a life waits for your tendering.
the moon hung there
bald as your head
you said: its bed
my sweet, or else
goodbye. It seemed
a pity, but that
was no choice
I tucked my tail
under, as dogs repulsed
and dancers do
and turned and went.
Exeunt, you and I.
by ROOPLALL MONAR
Ask any local cricketer from Leonora Estate to Blairmont Estate
in Guyana who is this chap call Pandit. The cricketer would watch you
straight in you face as if you stupid, click he tongue like turkey, inhale
one draught fresh air, and sigh as if he miss something precious.
"Ha boy! Pandit! Eh-eh, he is a specialist in cooking mutton
curry," the cricketer would say, smacking he tongue as if the mutton
curry in front he eye... "Anytime ahwe cricket team going to play against
Lusignan cricket team, by hooks or crooks, I bound to get in that team.
Know why? Is Pandit self cooking the mutton curry and dalpurri for the
two cricket team. He is Lusignan cricket team master cookman, you
hear? Boy is a love to eat Pandit mutton curry while them two team retire
fo lunch. Eh-eh, is like you get new life in you body. You could bowl more
longer than Wesley Hall in the hot hot sun."
Pandit rep gone so far that even them sport-loving whiteman and
white women from Georgetown city who does attend presentation in
Lusignan Community does be carried-away like a child seeing Father
Christmas the moment Pandit succulent mutton curry drop in they
mouth. If they ain't careful they could bite off they tongue. Them
whiteman does sigh yeh yeh, the mutton curry gravee running down they
lip, eye red and watery, the taste biting they tongue.
Eh-eh, some eating mutton curry voraciously as if is the last time
they seeing mutton curry. Some filling they stomach until they can't
move, lost to know how mutton curry could be prepared in such a mouth-
watering manner. The garlic and geerah still on you tongue. Is like
reading good poetry one whiteman say.
"That Indian hand set to prepare mutton curry," Mr. Douglas'd
tell them chaps one Sunday afternoon in Lusignan Centre. This time Mr.
Douglas come pissing drunk after he stuff down bowl after bowl of
mutton curry, using he finger like fork. Then he lick them fingers as if
them fingers is mutton self, sucking it chu chu... .
With all due respect them chaps had to lift-off Mr. Douglas from
the chair that afternoon. Mr. Douglas is a big thing in Bookers. Was in
the 1960s time. Bookers been own most of the sugar plantations in
Guyana. All the while Mr. Douglas belching, belching then he let-go a
fart. It sound like thunder. Mr. Douglas feel a great ease. Was ready to
attack more mutton curry.
This time Mr. Douglas fart smell pure mutton curry. And you dare
not laugh when Mr. Douglas fart. Mr. Douglas is a big thing. One bad
word from he mouth and Lusignan cricket team come in shambles. A
good word from he, and any member in the cricket team could get an
office job. You only have to know to spellyou name and add two and two...
In truth is Pandit mutton curry does take Mr. Douglas to
Lusignan Community Centre whenever the cricket team invite another
team to play cricket. Them chaps say Mr. Douglas navel string left in the
Centre, in the kitchen, where Pandit does cook the mutton.
"Never know a whiteman who like mutton curry like Mr. Douglas,"
them chaps does say. "If all whiteman been stay like Mr. Douglas ahwe
Indian people could be far in dis country."
One Sunday evening Lusignan cricket team was celebrating
victory. They'd wash Enmore cricket team for a song. Two to one. Them
chaps say Enmore cricketers stuff so much mutton curry during the
luncheon interval that they couldn't able to bowl when they land-in the
ground. Then Lusignan star batsmen Hakim and Solo hitting the ball
blam, bladam. Is sheer four and six. Them chaps say if B.L. Crombie was
present he would turn commentator.
And if you'd see sluggish fielding! Eh-eh, them Enmore players
claim the ball was too quick for they grasp. They been moving in the
ground as if egg stick between they leg. They say the mutton curry get
them drunk. They only belching and farting in the field, and they could
empty-down mugs of ice-water. And the joke is, Enmore is a strong team.
Them Lusignan spectators really taunt them bitch. "Stuff more
mutton curry. Stuff more..."
While celebrating this victory the same evening Mr. Douglas
shout, the mutton curry gravee dripping down he lip blop blop... "Where
is the cookman?" Mr. Douglas ask, commandinglyjust like how Estate
manager barking at you.
The Centre caretaker been believe he would fall down. You see
Mr. Douglas voice'd roar like cannon. This time the Lusignan cricketers
serenading in the Centre hall, drinking and smoking, laughing he he he.
And cricket history flying out they head. Eh-eh, is Hall and Griffith,
Sobers and Kanhai, Godfrey Evans and Walley Grout! Kensington Oval,
Lords, Bourda Green... Is like the whole Wisden in them cricketers head.
Meanwhile the caretaker task was to get Pandit for Mr. Douglas.
The caretaker heart in he hand. Can't afford to vex Mr. Douglas. And
where is this blasted man Pandit? the caretaker say, checking the Centre
kitchen, the library, the film room and the store-room. Can't vex Mr.
"Is where de hell you been"? the caretaker ask soon as he spot
Pandit, standing in the outside hall smoking, and watching the empty
"Is what you mean"? Pandit ask in anticipation. "Mean to tell me
the mutton curry done?".
"The big man self, Mr. Douglas want see you," the caretaker talk.
"And is important."
Sametime Pandit feel a chillyness run thru he spine. He heart
beating bap bap... Mr. Douglas! That big man! But is an order. Pandit
had to go. Mr. Douglas is a big thing in Bookers. He out the cigarette
quick time and follow the caretaker, thinking how to answer the big man
soon as the big man start talk to him in backra man English. Them words
so crisp and cutting, you would believe is Dutch. And the big man self
want see me.
Soon as Pandit glimpse the big man in the Centre bar corridor he
"This is de cookman bass," the caretaker point at Pandit and say.
Then he hurry to refill Mr. Douglas glass.
Mr. Douglas eye'd red as if it turn bloodshot, and the words
gurgling in he mouth, mix with spittle. You would believe he is in a
"Take a seat man," Mr. Douglas order Pandit.
Quick time Pandit find a chair, still trembling. This time the
cricketers and a handful of fans, still drinking and gaffing, guffawing like
pigs. Some seated in chairs. Others with full glass in they hand saunter
about. The atmosphere lively. The scent of brown rum and mutton curry
rolling about like rainclouds. The caretaker and assistant busy.
"Tell me the secret of your cooking. Why your mutton curry is so
tasty?" Mr. Douglas ask persuasively, smacking he tongue, eyes flitting
drunkenly. Mutton curry still settle on he lip.
"Me me na know bass," Pandit say uneasily, the words choke in
he throat. He could never make head-an-tail of this backra man language
never mind he working in Lusignan Estate for donkey years now...
"But how you don't know man?" Mr. Douglas question impa-
tiently, eyeing at Pandit in friendliness.
Pandit feel Mr. Douglas eye want bore he inside. O God! this is a
big man and me can't displease he. But is what me going tell he? Is how
me does do the mutton piece by piece til it done cook, eh? But me have
to tell Mr. Douglas something. Then in a flash Pandit recall he baap...
"Never fraid white people na matter you can't spell you name.
Always get commonsense in you head. They would respect you fo that..."
he baap, a darkskin Madrasi man from South India always drum them
words in Pandit ears.
After pandit mumma'd drop dead with bronchitis he baap self
bring he up, teaching he how to cook all them Indian dishes which he
baap know. Pandit was about eight years old, attending the Estate
school, not too far from the Sugar Factory.
He baap'd never believe in much eddication. "Once you get com-
monsense people going to respect you," he baap use to say in the dark
logie near the fig tree. Them words stick in Pandit head like glue.
Attending school make no sense to Pandit. Wasjusta formality as though
he marking time. He feel more at home sling-shotting at birds, thieflng
jamoon in cow pasture, playing marble, bathing in the canal where fine
shrimp prickingyou like needle,Jumping like flying fish in the blackwater
And was a blessing in disguise that morning when teacher Jodhan
flog Pandit. A girl student complaint teacher Jodhan that Pandit curse
she. Teacher Jodhan let-go bakers' dozen at Pandit behind. Pandit bawl
for murder. The class watching at teacher Jodhan with wide-eye. If a pin
been drop you could hear.
Pandit march out school with hurt in he eye, he behind biting as
if ants crawling on it. When he show he baap he behind, he baap want
overturn the logie. Passion turn into froth on he chillam-stain lip, he
brown teeth grinding yap yap. "Teacha beat am me betta," he baap talk
and fly out the logie, Pandit following.
Teacher Jodhan want fly out the school window soon as he see
Pandit baap and Pandit walking straight at he class, the hackla stick in
Pandit baap hand. Pandit baap still grinding he teeth, froth leaking down
he mouth now. But is the hackia stick which cause teacher Jodhan to
shake like cane-arrow.
Teacher Jodhan know them sugar workers don't mince matters
too much. And they na get head to reason. The fastest thing they could
resort to is the hackia soon asyou eye-pass them, or want push you finger
in they eye.
Is quite a few bombastic teachers nearly get they head split-open
like coconut. They'd pass P.T. and believe they know the world of
teaching. That whipping a child could discipline he head to take
education... pounds shilling and pence... Baba black sheep have you any
But was the other way around with sugar workers. The hacKia
stick does talk for them. If them bombastic teachers didn't request a
quick transfer they skull would be fractured with hackia stick lash. And
teacher Jodhan know all the incidents that centred around the infamous
hackia. Sugar workers love to use it.
Teacher Jodhan eye been spell terror. The chalk slip thru he
finger flups, and rebound on the floor blops. Then he watch at the
window on the eastern school wall. If Pandit baap only attempt to fire the
hackia at he, he would make a quick dash like monkey, flying thru the
windowjust like a cat with a stolen-fish in he mouth. Meanwhile the class
come quiet like mice.
"Teacha teacha," Pandit baap advance in front the class and
Teacher Jodhan back-back, watching the hackia in Pandit baap
hand. He eye wide-open, averaging the spring he going to make to the
"Teacha teacha," Pandit baap say, pointing he left finger at
Jodhan, inching-inching at he. "Scratch am me betta name out school
book. Scratch am." Then Pandit baap suck he teeth schuuu, tap he
hackia on the floor, eye teacher Jodhan like one hungry lion, and walk
out. "Scratch am"... Pandit following.
Teacher Jodhan sigh, then he wipe he face with he handkerchief
and whisper: "Praise God. Never trust them coolie with hackia stick."
This is the way how Pandit quit school. He start haunt the cow
pasture, Cabbage Dam, Mule-stable, doing all the mischievious things
which fly in he mind. While he baap in the caneflelds working, Pandit and
one-two boys killing the whole day.
But as the weeks turn into months, months turn into years,
Pandit baap diligent like a school master does show Pandit piece by piece
how to prepare potato curry, chicken curry, mutton curry. "If me drop
am dead, you going know to feed you own belly," Pandit baap does advise
Pandit in the logie kitchen, the spice, garlic, and massala want stifle you
When Pandit put-on long pants and believe herself a big man, and
start work in Estate Mule-gang, he'd know the art of preparing a tasty
curry, and was wanted by wedding-houses in the Estate as the chief
And due to he cooking he start mix herself among drivers, book-
keeper, dispenser, and overseer, specially at wedding-houses. But the
moment them overseer and the book-keeper and dispenser start talk in
backra man English, Pandit slipping out the company. Them words too
big for he. And if the overseer should turn and ask Pandit for his
comment, is like asking a door post. Is how he could answer when he na
understand A to Z? Talk in Pandit own mix madrasi and creolese tongue,
and Pandit with you eye to eye.
The only Airtue Pandit possess is he commonsense. He always
keep he head cool like cucumber. But when Mr. Douglas question he, he
make sure he watch Mr. Douglas lip before he answer. "Once you put
correct geera and garlic and salt in curry, then you stir, then you taste,
you bound to get correct taste," Pandit clear he throat and say. He want
O, Mr. Douglas shake he head, drain the glass of rum in he mouth,
and declare: "I will get you a job as chef in a hotel. Think about it and
let me know."
"Yes baas," Pandit reply and vanish out of the Centre.
Hotel chefl Ever see such eye-pass? Me going make meself one
jackass when them big tourist and big shot clap they hand and order in
backra man English to bring this dish and that dish. Eh-eh! Thinking
about it the next evening Pandit feel confused. He was in his front
verandah, regaling. He just bathe he skin after arriving from the
Me damn happy, EHI Pandit remind herself. As a bull-boy in the
backdam, the job paying well. Is a lot of overtime specially when loaded
canepunt stuck in the canals and them bull and mule had to take rest
three-four time before they pull in them punts at the Sugar Factory. And
by then is midnight. Overtime payment. But not every night it
Beside, Pandit get he own house, built with a loan from the Estate.
He wife still working as a weeder. He four children look healthy. Is what
the ass me want with hotel job? He tell herself the third time. Me getting
all the satisfaction cooking mutton curry for them cricketer. That is me
And is true! Cooking in he blood. You know how much people
does request Pandit presence the cook night at wedding-houses? The
whole Scheme. Pandit does feel nice when he get the invitation. "Never
mind me can't read an write. People respect me", he does tell he wife
sometime. Commonsense beat eddication, he baap words does echo in he
ears. And if me didn't know to cook good mutton curry people would spit
at me. True, is every kiss-me-ass bady want make you a damn fool when
you can't read an write in this place. Good thing me apply me
But though cooking mutton curry giving Pandit maximum satis-
faction he still feel a bit empty. Unwanted. Feel left-out in certain
conversation held by the street-corers. In order to arrest this feeling
Pandit start see American cowboy films, picking up the language easy-
easy. But when them hard back, sunburnt cowboy like Gary Cooper,
Allan Rocky Lane, Broderick Crawford, talk in tough-guy, drawling voice,
cigar stuck between they lip, Pandit does still believe them cowboy
But he does pick up the cowboy conversation step by step
although he jawbone does crack whenever he utter them slangs. And if
you say: "hey man come here," in heavy cowboy slang, Pandit quick to
respond. True. Sometime Pandit would say: "hey man draw your gun..."
action and slang in typical cowboy style. But later he jaw does pain he
as if he get tooth-ache... But Pandit does feel nice. Is like climbing Mount
Roraima. But he could never confront the Manager or the Overseer face
to face, and talk to him in backra man English. Like something does hold
back he tongue. He courage gone.
Pandit love to see American cowboy films. "Cooking and seeing
picture is me only satisfaction in life." he does tell them chaps at
wedding-houses. "Is God make it so. Every man gat to find he own
satisfaction in life. If you use commonsense properly you going to feel
nice in what you doing. If you don't use commonsense you explode.
Think life is only work, eat and sleep? Ha boy! You have to know to make
you self happy in this Scheme..."
Watching cowboy films does elevate Pandit. He does feel like
being in a different world. Hard and rugged. Is man against he fellow
man, the terrain mountainous, gunshots exploding all in you ears. Them
with commonsense does survive. Is not strength. Is commonsense!
Pandit does tell herself. Is just like the canefields. Hard. But common-
sense beat all. Not the pundit and majee advice. Eh-eh! Them does tell
people sheer piss one-two time. But he respect the pundit and majee.
They know to read the books. But they na live properly. Pandit does feel
like spit. Is only money, money they want. That is not religion?
"Eh-eh, think pundit and majee could put food in you mouth",
Pandit'd tell he wife one morning. "Learn fo think fo youselfand use you
commonsense. Life not easy..."
Come a time in the country now when local politics was swinging
people head left to right like soldier marching. Some people could give
up they life for the P.P.P. the P.N.C. or the U.F. party. Who couldn't read
and write get sense overnight. They would argue politics more than me
and you who went far in school. Eh-eh, is Colonialism, Capitalism,
Communism... words rolling out they mouth like poetry. How England
is a bitch. Take out all the country wealth. How it doesn't want to grant
the country independence....
"Them English people think we still ah slave?" them people does
talk in the streets, sucking they teeth schuu schuu ... "And Duncan
Sandys taking all order from America. See kiss-me-ass eye-pass?"
"Know how much C.I.A. in this country? Why the hell they na left
ahwe in peace?" them young boys does talk. They could kill theyself for
Meanwhile them black people does say this is not Africa. This is
Guyana. Like England want bleed Guyana just how it bleed Africa?
Cause big-big war among them black people over there. Whiteman and
blackman at war. Like they want a next Kenya or South Africa.
True to God, politics make people come wise overnight. The
atmosphere always tense and expectant. It does want to explode like a
cannon whenever them politicians done address people in the country
areas and in Bourda Green.
"Independence. Independence. Why the hell the Queen don't give
the country independence?"
Then bladam like bullet one proclamation come from the Queen
that the country, Guyana, on the mainland of South America, would be
granted its independence soon after the general election in 1964. And
which political party commands a majority of the voters, the leader of the
same party would be Prime Minister, and usher the country in independ-
Eh-eh, you would believe is Carnival break out in the streets.
Jubilation in the air. And everybody calling each other Comrade. Was
1962 before the big race riots.
"When you too hasty to get something which you don't know
about, you does land-in hot-water," Pandit tell them boys one mid-
morning by the street-corer. Them sugar workers had a go-slow
exercise. One driver been curse one canecutter. Soon as the canecutter
talk for he right, the driver tell the overseer to suspend he from work. The
go-slow exercise was in support of the canecutter.
"This independence thing na look too nice." Pandit add. "Jagan
and Burnham should use more commonsense. Boy! When you playing
with fire you bound to get burn. Is that what really going to happen with
Jagan and Burnham. They swell-headed. To run country is not
But it had a set of young people, among them is the local
cricketers, who like the British rule. Who want to keep they British
passport. But soon as the country come independent you come
Guyanese overnight. You getting Guyanese passport. When the set of
young people hear that, them fart sometime. Think is joke! Who want
Then the big emigration thing start. Them young people, sports-
man and teachers, forsaking the country for England. Who want Guya-
nese passport? Even them who can't read and write like Baij, Soony and
Speedy, hustling to get British Passport to exit the bloody country. Was
like a fever gripping the country. Is pure England, England in they
This time them politicians want cut each other throat. Say how
Jagan going to sell the country to the Russians. How Burnham taking
ahwe back to Africa. D'Aguiar to America. You would believe is a war
break out between them politicians.
Meanwhile was confusion and commotion among the country
people. Worse yet when them men drink bush rum. Is only Burnham
and Jagan in they mouth, and the coolie people and black people should
"People getting damn stoopid nowadays," Pandit does talk, sad to
see that them good cricketers too going away to England. "England
running this country so nice. Independence going make it worse. Mark
Truel He would miss cooking mutton curry and dalpurri for them
cricketers. Schuu schuu schuu ... and is how nice he does feel while
them cricketers stuffing the mutton, calling fo Pandit, Pandit, smacking
they tongue. Is like he fulfilling a calling, cooking mutton for them
cricketers. And he love to watch the game.
Suddenly one evening during the same period the Lusignan
Cricket team Captain and vice-captain arrive at pandit house. "We
taking yoU to England Pandit." the captain say. "You would do a hefty
business with mutton curry and dalpurri among the West Indians in
London! England! Pandit eye want pop out. Then he mind flash
at the language. God! is there the backra man English born. Chu chu
chu! Me just going to make meself a damn fool. Is everybody talking the
backra man language in London.
A chillyness invade pandit inside. He watch the Captain straight
in he face and say: "All yuh go first, me going come later."
The Captain believe.
With the departure of the Captain and vice-captain to London the
Lusignan cricket team come in shambles. All the best players gone to
England. Panditjob as cookman end. Pandit feel empty like one barrel.
He couldn't catch he bearings.
Eh-eh, three months later Pandit start play the tassa-drum at
wedding-houses. Watching Pandit playing you believe he merge he entire
soul in the drum as if he whole body inside the goatskin, eye closed as
though in trance.
When them chaps ask he why he playing the tassa-drum now,
Pandit clear he throat and say: "When one door close, another door open.
This country like that. Always have to find something to pass you spare
time. Life is not work, eat, and sleep. Is something else. Use you
commonsense and living get a purpose."
THE SATIN PRINCESS
In the drear mist of Long Island Sound
I think of the Satin Princess.
Hearing the cold clang of the fog-bells
I see again her moon-walk on the river:
All around her from the forest
The warm breath of flowers.
This clammy morning
Pale as ice seem the ladies'
Wrapped, colourless faces:
Their breath puffs white
And bitter are their eyes.
I recall the warm breathing
Of the far Princess.
She dresses with jewels:
The river fills with night,
Immense Van Gogh stars
Shine on her black bosom.
This pallid, shining world
Is bracing, bright, I know
But ah God! I shrivel in this land
Where life's laced tight
And unburnished air congeals.
The cold throws a spear
Through hearts here
Across half the earth
The Satin Princess moves and loves.
When the launch sank off Fort Island
People were drowning in the black mud
Bawling out "Oh God! Oh God!"
God did not come. It was like any day,
Sun shining on wind-rippled river,
Except men were struggling and dying.
Women and children choking in the mangrove roots.
People were running on the shore and calling
"Oh God! Oh God!" How God could come?
God can't mind everyone.
But look at this now! Look at story
"Hangman" Cory arrive like God.
Let me tell you "Hangman's" story.
Nathaniel Cory once loved a lady
She was a wanton lady, she used him badly.
His mind stop work when he see her beauty:
He was a puppy-dog in her company,
People laugh at "kiss-she-foot-bottom" Cory.
This wanton lady take another man one day,
Open, brazen, she parade before Nathaniel Cory
Laugh and say for all to hear clearly
How this man was the sweetest man for she,
How Cory never, never could satisfy she.
Nathaniel Cory stay quiet all the long day
Night came and when the man lay with the lady
Cory walked in open so, easily, terribly,
Lash both two with his sharp timber-axe fiercely
Cut them in pieces like red melons on a tray.
When judge-man say she provoke the jealousy
And Cory get only five years off his liberty
"No! Nol Nol No!" shouted Nathaniel Cory,
"She be life, my love, my beauty,
I have to go to hell with she, my life, my beauty.
She only gone in front of me.
Hang me by the neck to die gladly,
Hang me high, high and quickly!"
The people whispering make it legendary:
It so he get the name of "Hangman" Cory.
Off Fort Island that bright morning
Was he who God send to save the people.
People bawling on the black selling for a saviour,
They never expect to see "Hangman" Cory come.
He live so quiet among them all the years,
Minding a pumpkin patch behind the white Chapel,
He smoke his thorn pipe, never say one word.
There he stood on the black selling like a God.
Bibi La Fontaine, ice-pick thin and hard,
Fifty years trading plantain along the river coast,
Recount what happen that bright morning in her life.
Launch just left the Fort to go Parika side,
Deep inside boat-belly a thunder-sound was heard:
Time flicker, in a second, in a cat-wink
Boat gone bottom. How quick it was:
She belched a warm beer she was drinking,
Before the belch belch good the boat capsize and gone.
"Under I go the whole boat on top of me:
Mud yellow dim my eyes, cold log brace my heart.
I see my little Fancy who die fifty years gone by,
And then I see for sure is the monster death that come.
And my mind saying why an old woman should struggle so,
Let me go, and still I fighting not to go
And there is Fancy, the little one, crying in my arms.
A rough hand come and choke me round the neck
And pull me where I done pin good in mud
This man had come for me in the dark water,
He find me like a miracle and take me safe ashore:
Sun so bright, earth hard, I hear a singing bird.
Never morning wind feel so sweet, you hear I give my word."
"Hangman" dive and dive in the dark water.
Everyone like they turn to stone but he:
Women bawling and running and pointing trembly
Big men shouting and doing nothing foolishly.
Only "Hangman" Cory doing the work of God.
And everytime he come up with another one
As if God guide him in the mangrove mud.
A score he save and still he went for more
Coming up with weed-tendrils round his head
And wound around his throat like gallow's rope
He delivering up children from the river-womb,
His eyes staring red and cold and terrible,
Not one word he said in all his glory.
These are the plain facts about "Hangman" Cory,
His day of evil, his day of glory:
He cut his beauty up like a red melon in the market;
God send him one day to save the drowning people.
Time will sort the meaning of all this out:
The hunting moon will rise one last, appalling, time
And he will come to rest like all men come to rest.
Though years pass, men should know his story:
"Oh God! Oh God!" the people call and God send
The room is darkened, as befits the time;
the dancers jerk like junkies up and down
as passion disregards its thin disguise.
The singers' voices pump with coarsened cries
a carnal message of the carnival.
But there is one who prances sick of heart;
whose whoops are rites of burial in the dark.
The balloons of her days that rose so high
are curled up scraps of cringeing rubber now
trampled by those who revelled in her thighs.
Fresh from her loins the murals that they painted
portrayed her on her knees, where, like a child,
she did not understand that men will talk
of those they count as prey, nor thought of how
they'll dance away with all her future tainted.
The sticks of pleasure she at random tasted
were paid for in a market where love dies;
now fingers poke her name into the slime
and whispers dress her as the revels' clown.
Around her feet streamers of faith lie wasted.
She moves her body now in Joyful style,
wears merriment as costume for the night,
as if her cloud of shame had taken flight.
It is their smiling glances she defies
and from her leaping sorrow turns her eyes.
A pepper tree poxed with blight.
A black cat curled like a vowel
at your carpeted feet. Your new watercolours bright
like pendants on the wall. Eight o'clock and all ain't well.
We talk, we talk...
and always the same conclusion.
This island is a bad Joke.
Art, a social insignia, is a sunken boat,
The greater part of culture, farce and mimicry.
Only the scansion of the word keeps me from drowning,
Only my lover's caress calms my tumult...
Omnipresent gluttons bloated with greed
assault your morality with their thirst for possessions.
They swagger like untrained models
lumbering down a cat-walk. The background,
a resplendent logo of sea and sun:
the cruellest bitterest irony.
Your return is an aquarium snapper
excited by the thought of salt-water,
Unaware that lurking there
is a barbaric barracuda.
In a society where without reasons
originality is flushed into the sea,
one must choose one's weapons carefully!
That inner watercourse must be found
as a lance to wield on this chaotic mound.
The sunrise, cupola of silence,
be your glaring shield!
Claustrophobia, that inveterate terror,
makes you wonder if exile's not a better niche,
To survive here, idealism must be firmly leashed.
It took Walcott fifty years to realize his error.
The metropolis has its own brand of horror,
there is the weather, the bullet, the dagger
lurking in the underground (Did you say the palms
are glistening spears? the khus-khus, knife-blades
fanning round and round?)...
This land, as unchanging as a mirror,
is still, after all, my home;
If I can live with foreign terror,
I can live with my own.
A pepper tree fleshed with lamp-light.
A cat yawning like a vowel
uncurling. Newly-hung oils bright
like pendants on the wall. Mid-night, and all ain't well.
WILTSHIRE CAR DEAD
by RAS MICHAEL
Wiltshire car died. Wiltshire carjust sputtered and died. The day
that Wiltshire car died, Wiltshire just stand up there and let out one big
sigh. Look is better to tell the truth, Wiltshire hang he head down and
Wiltshire car broke its heart out and died and old Wiltshire stood
there and cried that Saturday afternoon outside Lucius Rum Shop.
The car give two gasps and shudder and belch a black soot on a
little girl dress up in ribbon bow and a new stockings.
"Wiltshire I ain't able with you an this old thing," Miss Margery
said as she squeezed out breast after breast, then hold she breath and
bruise she belly through the rear door. The other two passengers done
gone through the other door and reach up the road hustling for Russell
Street and reliable transportation. They ain't even bother tell Wiltshire
nothing. The two old women in the front seat start to complain through
the open door that they tell Wiltshire to make sure he car was fit cause
where they going find transport home?
Wiltshire stand up and cried and the passersby and people
drinking over at Lucius Rum Shop and the little girl that the car belch the
black soot on, stood up and watched a white steam rise out from under
Wiltshire car bonnet. Then the car suddenly get tall as though it tip-toe
on its chasis. Then it shuddered again. The little girl, people drinking
over at Lucius Rum Shop and passersby stood up and watched Wiltshire
car die. It shuddered and danced, a dance to its own solemn rattle, its
lifeless wheels splayed outwards as it sank, its body mere inches from the
Is all well and good to curse old Wiltshire about he car. True is a
old time Vauxhall Velox and when the brakes taking too long to make the
car stop, old Wiltshire does whistle a whistle and grip the wheel like to
hold it back, all that is true, but what about Wiltshire part of it?
The people say that the couple of springs left in the seats uses to
tear they clothes. Teacher Morris say at top speed of fifteen miles per hour
Wiltshire car make he go to school late three days straight. Wiltshire say
he lucky, some people ain't reach to workyet, they still waiting 'pon trans-
portation. And when you lookat it, maybe is not Wiltshire fault. Car parts
were hard to get. As a matter of fact, foreign currency was hard to get to
buy spare-parts. Foreign currency was the problem. And Wiltshire had
currency problems. He barely eked out a existence collecting a dollar for
his run from East and West Rulmveldt to Bourda Market. Foreign
currency! Local currency was Wiltshire problem. That and the daily
break-down and the road-side impromtu repair work-shops he estab-
lished as the necessity arose. But really and truly things get much worse
when everybody god-mother, grand-mother, sister and brother start to
send and bring mini-bus in the country.
You see what happen was that getting most essential things was
difficult and the Government say that it got what they call foreign
currency problems. Since then a whole portion of hustlers turn out to
work on America Street and begin buying money up blackmarket and sell
it all out blackmarket.
They say the Government didn't like this since this same black-
market money use to find it way into foreign country to buy needed
essentials which traders sell at real high prices. A lot of these essentials
was car-parts and Guyana didn't have enough car. It didn't have enough
taxi. That is why so many people was always standing up on the road
waving like if they going away tomorrow when the cars drive pass. Which
is why Wiltshire feel shame.
Wiltshire feel shame for all them people out there on Sheriff Street
who was punishing for transportation whole day, every day while he was
living quite well without burdensome responsibility. Wiltshire had
retired and had a little money. He could live cool at his grand-son and
'I have a little money,' Wiltshire say to himself.
'I could set up a transportation and help out the situation.'
Truth was that Wiltshire was a truck driver with the Government
before he had retired and he was used to making friends quickly,
especially women, through his job.
Driving motor-car was the correct runnings, Wiltshire felt. There
were dozens of women on Sheriff Street, nice young women. It wasn't that
Wiltshire was a fresh old man. It was that he had this talent for making
friends quickly, especially women. So Wiltshire seize the oppo-tunity.
For example when Campbellville traffic slow down after lunch Wiltshire
use to make a last trip up West and East Ruimveldt. Was a last trip for
truth because whenever he hit East back road, anything could happen.
Sometimes you use to see two/three passengers walking coming up and
somebody would look out they window and say 'Wiltshire bruk-down.'
But next day he gone again. He was a determined man. Was because he
was a determined man that he set up the Vauxhall Velox that he did buy
a couple years ago and repair it. He decide to use some of the little money
he did put one side for old age and invest it in second hand tyre and so.
That is why Wiltshire did stand up there and cry, that car did represent
Wiltshire whole life savings.
Nobody didn't know or care where Wiltshire get he car parts or
how he get them but one or two people did say they hear Wiltshire used
to stop little children when they playing and examine they playthings.
One thing I know for sure I never see Wiltshire in no mechanic shop yet,
even though Wiltshire car always used to park up on some parapet with
Wiltshire under it. Wiltshire say is rest it resting.
Wiltshire did prefer the Housing Scheme run to the Campbellville
one. Housing Scheme girls was different to the Campbellville passen-
gers. The Campbellville ones was mostly teacher or office girls or young
bodies seeking other young bodies. But all of these was in the Housing
Scheme run and more. More women. The kind that Wiltshire was
comfortable with, big, broad and wuthless in conversation. Wiltshire did
develop such a reputation that at one time they had people who did rather
stand up by Wiltshire car 'pon the roadside and wait till he either walk
to the Esso for more gasolene, roll one of he smooth tyred wheels to a
vulcanizing shop or squirm out from under the engine, than to travelwith
any other car. And sameway, Wiltshire had he special passengers.
People used to stand up 'pon the road and tell them Tapir drivers
whenever they pull and shout "Georgetown/Housing Scheme", "We
waiting for Wiltshire." Wiltshire car itself was prejudiced, it didn't mind
who it pick up as long as the passenger had money and did like a good
gaff and a laugh. Of course it did prefer women more since was women
who did really know 'bout everybody story. Wiltshire car used to well and
enjoy the gossip and laughter and when it tired, it just used to break
Wiltshire car use to get plenty competition at first from them
Tapirs. Was Tapirs all about, picking up East Coast passengers, running
up South, Sussex Street, Housing Scheme, and then slowly, slowly they
bow out one by one, which is why Wiltshire old car wasn't worried even
when the first mini-buses start run Campbellville route.
The Tapirs them did start to stop run. Wiltshire car was as un-
concerned as when they did first join the business. Wiltshire old car
proper use to enjoy heselfwhenever he was out on the road, running and
picking up all them girls, even pulling up he brakes right in front of them
big Tata Buses and taking away they passengers once is a woman.
Nobody couldn't say Wiltshire car wasn't a good hustler. However,
Wiltshire car, though it was looking for a dollarjust as much as Wiltshire,
use to pride itself that it was more sweet-man than Wiltshire, with the
girls. It use to laugh at them modern motor-car cause theywasn't as hard
'Look at them how they soft' Wiltshire old car say. 'Is years since
I come here on the road and look how me body still black and hard and
shine.' Wiltshire old car was vain. But then suddenly so things change
up and get different again.
At first was second hand clothes, still looking new but was second
hand clothes that people in America did already wear. After that people
start get in on the latest fashion and even the old girls them start wearing
stone-wash jeans and bobby-socks with sneakers. After-a-while one set
of motor-scooter come in the country and poor people start ride them. By
the time the mini-bus them land everybody was looking nice.
Plenty people stop travel with Wiltshire car. I mean afterall. f you
got on a new stone-wash and you going to market with attache case, well
then you can't look to travel in no old Vauxhall Velox. It got to be
something more new, like a Hiace mini-bus with tape deck and passen-
gers so that you could look out the window and play important by
pretending you ain't see nobody. A lot of people in Campbellville start to
do just that and soon time come that Wiltshire nor Wiltshire old car
wasn't getting they usual kind of customer.
Wiltshire change he route to the Housing Scheme.
Every morning that the car wasn't sick, Wiltshire and the car
down at Regent and Bourda Street hustling passengers for East and
West. They use to cut through Charlotte catch Camp street, bounce over
Sussex and take Russell through to West backroad with stiff tantalize
and laugh echoing all through the city. As a matter of fact they use to
blow two horn whenever they drive pass Lucius Rum Shop 'pon Camp
Street to let the people in there know that they happy too. Wiltshire car
was so happy that it use to roll up it light bulb and rev up it engine when-
ever it passing a woman with a chassis it admire.
When more mini-bus come they start to run South. Lazzo did
send down plenty. Then more mini-bus come and they even start to run
East and West.
Wiltshire old car take in with bad feelings that same Friday
morning when a mini-bus pull up right in they car park and the
conductor shout out "East and West Ruimveldt".
Old Wiltshire take on. Whole day Wiltshire use to be smiling and
laughing, now Wiltshire grumbling and fretting and forgetting people
change. One by one the passengers get less. Wiltshire old car ain't say
nothing. It start to work more hard. No softy, softy' now come' mini-
bus from America ain't gon make it look small, gon take it eyes and pass
it. 'Is only because Burnham dead,' it grumble to itself. 'or they won't
of be here.'
For two months straight Wiltshire car ain't breakdown. It Jostle
with all the new mini-buses for the passengers. It didn't even checking
for young girls no more and one exceptionally busy Saturday morning,
Wiltshire car even touch a top speed of twenty miles per hour, but things
couldn't go on so forever.
Well Wiltshire hear like if a big choir singing 'What A Friend We
Have In Jesus' and like if the whole sound big up in the skies and the
whole outside world. He get a sudden feeling like if God upstairs
watching down at he and the car and he raise he hand up and look over
he shoulder, right up in the sky just over the incinerator 'pon Princess
Street where the Government use to throw way old car and old truck,
Wiltshire imagine he see a big cloud like a face watching down at them.
Every body, the passersby, the little girl with the ribbon bow and even
the people at Lucius come out and watch up in the sky like Wiltshire but
they ain't see nothing. Only Wiltshire did see.
'Is because Burnham dead,' Wiltshire say.
Nobody never see Wiltshire again. We hear that he was living at
the Dharam Sala poor house opposite the burial ground where the City
Council did throw away the chassis of the old car. And everytime I hear
that hymn What A Friend We Have In Jesus' I does remember how
Wiltshire .ar dead.
by JOHN GILMORE
Stanley Maycock was fascinated by dinosaurs. He was sitting on
the carpet looking at a big illustrated book all about them, which he had
got out of the Children's Department at the Public Library in Coleridge
"Mummy?" His mother was sprawled all over the sofa, in the
middle of piles of sixth-form essays which she was marking. Some of
them seemed very long, and Stanley hoped he never had to do so much
homework when he got older.
She grunted at him, without looking up from her work.
"Do you think it would be nice to have a brontosaurus as a pet?"
"Don't be silly darling. We wouldn't have any place to put it."
Stanley continued to pore over the book. Suddenly he picked it
up and took it over to his mother.
"Look, it says here 'dinosaur' mean 'thunder-lizard'...
"Means," she corrected, interrupting him.
"... so is a lizard a sorta dinosaur?"
"I suppose you could say they were distant relatives."
"You mean like how my Auntie Ethel who isn't really my auntie
is a relative?"
"So you mean the lizard that lives behind the picture is like a baby
"No, it isn't. Now go away and let me get on with my work."
At this point Melanie came in. "Hi,mummy! Can me an' Glyne
borrow the car?"
"Lord have mercy I spend half my life teaching English and I can't
even get my own children to talk properly. No, you cannot borrow the
"But, mummy, you know Glyne's a careful drive-!"
"No teenager is a careful driver. Heaven knows what you'd be
getting up to."
"We only want to go to the East Coast Road," said Melanie, getting
"No, I tellyou. Wait- I need some peace and quiet. You can have
the car if you take Stanley with you."
"Mummy, do we have to!"
"Yes," she said, the red-ink pen poised once more above essays
scrawled in blue and black, ready to strike.
Stanley sat in the back of the car as they headed out of Rock
Dundo Park and up Lodge Hill, through Warrens, Jackson, Bridgefleld
and on in the direction of St.Andrew. His sister and her boyfriend talked
the whole way. Stanley was not included in the conversation, but 'ie was
quite happy staring out of the window. He could not rememb,'r seeing
this part of the island before. It was very different from the bustle of town
and school, or the concrete boxes surrounded by neat lawns and well-
trimmed hedges where he lived. There was field after field of sugar-cane,
the first arrows of next year's crop waving in the breeze. And after
Welchman Hall, as they began to drive downhill again, the cane-fields
began to give way to vast open hillsides, covered in rough pasture, with
here and there the line of a gully marked by a thick growth of trees.
They came on to the flat towards Belleplaine and drove round to
the East Coast Road. Glyne soon pulled the car off the road and parked
it under some casuarina trees. They got out and walked along a path.
Glyne and Melanie walked ahead, carrying the cooler between them.
Stanley lagged behind, with the bundled up beach-towels.
And suddenly he ran after them, waving a long leafy stalk he had
pulled up, a five-petalled white flower at the end of it.
"Melanie! Melanie! What this is?"
"Stanley, I don't know An' you shouldn't go grabbin' up every
plant you see this one over here is a manchineel."
"But, wait," said Glyne, pointing at a nearby bush, "sea-grapel An'
it got ripe ones 'pon it tool" They put down the cooler and started picking
"Here, you can eat this." Melanie handed her brother a small,
rather wrinkled, purplish fruit. Stanley looked at it questioningly, and
then bit into it. It was sweet, but with a faint hint of salt.
"Crunch up the seed an' see what it taste like," Glyne told him.
He did so, and spat it out almost at once. "Man, it too bitter!"
They walked on, and the path came out into an open space. A rich
green plant, with bright yellow flowers close to the ground, covered much
of the soil around them. Stanley's curiosity got the better of him and he
asked what it was.
"Carpet weed," said Glyne.
About a hundred yards ahead, some cows were grazing. Stanley
counted them. There were three black and white cows, and seven brown
and white cows. Beyond them was visible the edge of a flat body of water.
"Is that the sea?" Stanley asked.
"Boy, you really ask too much questions," Glyne said. "That ain'
the sea, that is Long Pond." He and Melanie turned and walked towards
a low hill and then up its slope. Stanley followed them. The hill was all
made of sand, with strange plants growing on it. At the top he realized
that the noise he had heard earlier was the sea roaring. There it was in
front of them, crashing on to the beach below in torrents of white foam,
in a way he had never seen when his mother took them swimming at
"Look, Glyne," said Melanie, "fat porks!" Part of the slope of the
sand-dune was covered by a dense growth about twelve or fourteen
inches high, stalks with large, almost oval leaves slanted up towards the
cloudless sky. Glyne and Melanie gathered a couple of handfuls of the
red blobs which appeared among the leaves.
"Here." She offered one to her brother. "Just suck it off the stone.
The fruit was the size of a large marble, but dimpled and mottled
in different shades of red, with bits of green in it as well. Only when
Stanley saw his sister was eating one herself did he try it. The flesh inside
was white like cotton-wool. It felt funny in his mouth, but it was quite
"You like it?"
She gave him some more. "Don't eat too many, or they going tie
up your tongue."
They walked down again and skirted the pond. Coconut husks
and old bottles littered the margin of sand and mud. Here there was a
gap in the build-up of sand, and incoming waves, their force spent by the
ten or fifteen feet from the edge of the surf, contributed a clear trickle to
the murky water on the land side.
"Move fast," Glyne said. "Nowl"
They got across with dry feet, between one wave and the next,
their rubber flip-flops slapping the damp sand. Now they were on the
other side of the pond, and Stanley could see it was only about twenty feet
wide. Little brown-speckled birds with long beaks, long legs protruding
from white bellies, scuttled about on the mud. A plop caught his
"Lookl" He caught Melanie's arm and she and Glyne turned
round. Once again, three of four small fish leapt into the air and made
a silvery curve back into the pond water.
"Hush your mouth an' come 'long!" was Melanie's comment.
They walked along the beach, which stretched on and on in front
of them, and was almost a hundred feet wide from the dunes to the sea.
Here and there an empty plastic container, or an old aerosol can, or even
a light bulb, showed the proximity of civilization, but there was no one
else in sight.
They spread out the towels and sat down. There was a big purple
towel, and a green and white striped towel, and Stanley's towel had
pictures on it of cats trying to catch fish. Melanie pulled off the over-sized
white T-shirt she wore as a dress, revealing a long, leggy, golden-brown
body in a black bikini. Glyne had on a pair of baggy beach-shorts and
a shirt like the ones Magnum wore on the TV, except that the letters
curling around the palm-trees and the surfer-topped waves spelt out
"BARBADOS" instead of "HAWAII." He unbuttoned the shirt. Glyne was
supposed to be white, but a tan made him almost as brown as Melanie.
Stanley wore navy shorts and a T-shirt with a picture of a pelican sitting
on an old cannon. It said "MARGARITA I LA ISLA MAS BELLA DEL
CARIBEI" His mother had bought it for him when the three of them had
gone there for a holiday and shopping trip just before last Christmas.
Melanie opened the cooler, which had in ice and bottled soft
drinks. The openerwas inside as well, but attached to one of the handles
by a long piece of string so that it couldn't escape. She opened one of the
bottles and gave it to Stanley, and then took for herself and Glyne.
Stanley had finished the fat porks and was glad of the drink. He drank
it all and stuck the bottle upright in the sand. He moved off the towels
and began to build a sandcastle. Nobody told him not to get sand on his
clothes, and he had already finished the outline of the castle a square
with a turret at each corner when he turned round, his ear caught
by something Glyne and Melanie were whispering.
They looked at him, and then, "We're going for a walk," said
Melanie. "So you stop here till we get back. You can have another drink
if you want one. Don't move too far from these towels, and don't go near
the sea. It too rough. You hear me?"
"Yeah," said Stanley.
Glyne and Melanie stood up. Melanie put back on the big T- shirt
and then they walked off, taking the purple towel with them.
Stanley added another tower in the middle of the castle to serve
as a keep. Then he carefully put extra sand all round the outside of the
top of the castle walls and round the top of the towers to make
battlements. He stood up, walking round the castle to look at it from all
angles. He sucked his teeth and gave the castle a kick, demolishing one
of the corner turrets. Then he set off down the beach towards the sea.
Crabs ran away from him as he approached. Little crabs and
bigger crabs, all with grey bodies supported on dirty white legs with a
yellow tinge to them. Some dipped into their holes. One of the big ones
headed purposefully into the surf. The sea looked very rough and Stanley
retraced his steps. Just below the high-water mark he spotted one of the
small crabs. Its colouring was the same, but it was so small as to be
almost transparent. He dived at it with both hands and caught it.
"Shitel It bite me!" He dropped it at once, and sought to crush it
with a safely ensandalled foot, but it moved too fast for him.
He continued back inland, past the towels and on to the line of
dunes. There were more fat porks growing here. Most of the fruit were
green, but he found a few ripe ones and picked them. He explored further,
eating as he went up the dune. He saw a long trailing green vine with
mauve flowers. There was what looked like a path, and he followed it now
moving down and sideways, away from the beach, but almost parallel to
it. There were more dunes, and casuarinas grew here, deformed, rising
as high as the top of the dunes and then bent inland by the wind. There
were sea-grapes too, but bigger than the ones he had seen earlier, much
taller than himself,with woody trunks grey like the crabs on the beach,
the veins crimson in their broad green leaves. Another kind of vine, its
flowers a different kind of purple, and with broad, flat green pods, wound
itself up into the casuarinas.
Stanley stopped, thinking he heard something. There was a
rustling sound, like somebody moving through the bush.
"Melanie? Glyne?" The rustling continued, very close.
"Melanie!" There was still no answer, though the sound seemed
to be right next to him. He was about to call out again when he saw them.
The rustling sound was right next to him. It was made by the
crabs, hundreds of them. They were all bigger than the beach crabs, and
these ones had blue-black bodies with legs and claws of an angry red.
They moved about under the sea-grapes, and around the vines, and
among the fat porks and over the carpet of brown needles cast by the
casuarinas. They rotated their stalked eyes to stare at him in defiant
challenge, and waved their claws at him like banners.
Stanley ran. Stumbling in the loose sand, tripping over vines, he
ran. He lost a sandal, and stopped for it, but the rustling sound was all
around him, and he kept on running. He ran up dunes and down dunes
and along dunes. And he crashed into a space under some casuarina
trees where Glyne and Melanie sat up on the purple towel.
"Christ! How you did get here?" said Glyne.
Stanley paid him no attention, but rushed, sobbing, into his
sister's arms. As she pressed him to her, trying to comfort him, he
realized, puzzled, uncomprehending, that her breasts were quite naked.
FOR MARIA de BORGES
Death, black moon, high mark
on night's blue canvas.
Stumped shadow beneath the lynching-tree.
A star hangs over me.
Is it death?
Like a phantom
honed into walls,
I inhabit a city of steel.
Between its iron teeth, mechanical, regular;
in escalators, prisonlike elevators,
I am lifted indifferently, dropped
like a stone,
borne, like a Jumbie
beneath stony earth.
Shadowless, I descend deeply
into nightmares of childhood;
down to steel-lined metros,
to summerheat that beats, insistent,
at my temples. Down, down to carriages,
grimy steel-boxes caging men like packhorses
being driven to a mill.
Down to obsessions caged underground -
down down down.
I move in long narrow streets.
A single head of cattle exiled
from gentle grazings of our pasture.
From whence has this traveller come
with his long hair, his lost eyes?
I am a pair of hands.
A pair of feet.
Eyes without candle.
Shrunken globe, my joys,
My token is the same
Little copper sliver moving me around.
Little city token. Little metal ring.
Expensive little sliver.
Dear metal moon. Small perimeter of dreams.
Small perimeter of dreams.
A death-broker awaits me.
He counts his cash.
Slight and weary,
I stand. Tears
trail in the dust.
He takes all my jewels.
He takes all my rings.
He steals my rubies,
my rope of pearls.
He grabs my tiara, my bangles
of silver. He gives me tokens
to send me to his factory,
send me to his store,
cage me in his offices,
keep me in his kitchens.
At gunpoint, he steals rubies in my cheeks,
my full curve of hip.
He bestows me coppers -
so I may buy
a jacket for my shoulders
from his huge garment-store,
hose from his hosiery, wine from his cellars.
so I may purchase a space for my bed,
a closet for my clothing, a space
for my child
and a space for my spouse.
He takes moons from my eyes,
my fingers' nimble gifts -
he hands me rose colored glasses,
hard rimmed, rectangular.
I look through his spectacles.
I see him better.
Moons in my eyes are lost but to me
They have moved to another orbit
larger than me. In private
constellations, I only could see them.
Wheeling in wide orbit now,
all may espie them.
They are wheeling round and round
in a luminous light.
Dreamlight ignites them.
An inner lights.
Music, cosmos, world:
we are in harmony.
I surrender my tiara of stars.
He greedily grabs them.
cheap sparkle from his factories
cheap glitter from his streets.
I go there to buy
things that appear like the real,
spending my life in imitation,
never knowing what's real.
What is real is what I've given,
What's real is a city token.
What's real is the theft.
I am a pair of hands.
A pair of feet.
high black moon over all my dreams.
Secret rider across sky's low fields.
Sacred shadow beneath the lynching-tree.
Like blue aether, I move
through streets of dreams.
I go to the river's edge
where the moon is real.
To sea's edge where moon's
dressed in silver.
I stare at the stony stars.
Waves of eternity wash over me.
I have come to the river.
I have come to the forest.
Forest of Jade.
Forest of emerald.
Forest of clear streams in my head.
I an flesh and blood.
I eat like a lion when hungry.
I touch. I caress. I sigh upon another's neck.
I am man, love.
I am woman, love.
Tomorrow, I rise
between dead thighs of another day.
To be bridled, like a horse between the hours,
a bit between my teeth, a bruising saddle
on my back.
Like a packcamel in desert terrain,
I will ride, the load of existence
upon my camel's hump, the print
of my hoof in the sand.
...but a wind
can erase my mark, a gale blowing
inland,or a storm.
No hoofs ink may be written
on the sandy dust of this world, no hoof,
cloven or human,
to declare I was here:
that I walked
with another's pack upon my back,
without water for days,
my face bridled with leather.
My shadow is here in the midday sun,
my bridled shadow in the desert sand.
The black sun of death
sinks into sky's atavistic dome, where
I stand, invisible to all
but that black judge, mocked
by my nothingness.
This phantom and I,
packcamel by day, creature
of moon by night.
between these hours' iron bars,
sunlight is divested from me.
I, who dream
of being a riderless unicorn,
at sea's edge where the moon is high.
I, who should wear
stars on my wrist, flowers
on my forehead. I,
who should sing like birds,
and like them, fly.
I. who believe in emerald forests,
sapphire skies, ruby rocks, silver seas;
in opal skies, jade stems, "oral sea-roses,
rockplants of ivory
within her seabreasts, her hairy forests.
Jadegreen seaweeds making mermaids' hair
I who believe in the magical moonrock.
In faeries in dresses of aether.
In the noble prince on a fine horse.
In flowers which converse.
In plants that whisper.
I who believe in the jewelled existence:
sunlight's gold upon each finger,
diamond-spray waterfalls on rock.
The mink coat upon the mink.
The jewelled emeralds of the tiger's eyes.
Rainbows after rain.
I sailed upon a Persian rug of dreams,
in the marketplace,
without my song.
Ah poems of invisible authors!
How many years in the weaving,
this pattern of dreams?
Where, the tightwoven self
buried beneath the counter?
You spend ten thousand on my design.
You spend five.
You admire my motifs.
Can you explain their weft, their warps?
Death is a lonely shadow flickering
through the night. A lonely passage
between birth and beyond.
0 song of my voicelessness.
Song in the sand
Landscape of nightmares
city of skyscrapers,
treeless and flowerless city -
city without children.
What has become of persian dreams,
their neat emblemmatic borders,
their central motifs?
Bloody splatters stare at me,
the steely knife twisted in the stomach,
the bloodied machete wielded in hate.
and their hates
await knife or bullet, or both.
Victim reproduces victim by default.
into the real world I come
with my muscles pumped
so you may drain me
with my hands polished, shining,
my feet ready.
into the real world I come
with the hurt in the bone
the agony in the flesh
the vacuous eyes of hours
the feral teeth of the air.
with my coffee and my coffeebreaks.
with my madness at nine, my dash at five.
into the heat of subways, that fester
in my brain.
into mugging at gunpoint
on a night I am most high.
into the rape of the defenceless
into the lies and into the theft.
by GILLIAN HOWIE
Annie Benjamin n6e Annie Sterling:
Born May 1901 in English Harbour. Antigua,
Died 12th December 1986 in Cedar Grove. Antigua.
Annie came today calling 'Maaa'. My whole family have a special
place in their hearts for Annie 82 years old and still trundling her little
cart from Cedar Grove to Hodges Bay. Her cart is full of a variety of vege-
tables, most of them rotten. I'm sure Annie must get the cast offs that
other vendors cannot sell as she is too old now to go down to the wharf
to make her selection. Annie has been selling local fruit and vegetables
in our area for well over twentyyears. For years she came with her donkey
'Harris' (Horace) and at one stage it was Annie,'Harris' and 'Harris's' foal.
But eventually Harris became too much for Annie to manage and she was
given or sold to family and Annie got her little cart.
Annie lives on a pension of EC$35.00 a month paid to her as a
war widow; her husband fought in the World War. She has no children
of her own and all her brothers and sisters are dead. She had a piece of
land in St. John's which she sold and bought a piece of land in Cedar
Grove where she built a one room wooden house. Although she had no
children she looked after many of her nieces and nephews. Her favourite
niece, Mary, married young and had three children. Then Mary's
husband decided to go to Aruba where he'd been offered a good job on an
oil rig. Within a few days of his arrival in Aruba he was killed in an
explosion on the rig. Mary was notified but by the time she got a pass-
port and got to Aruba her husband was already buried. While still in
Aruba Mary's mother (Annie's sister) died in Antigua of a heart attack.
She came back to bury her mother. Some time later Mary re-married and
had three children by her second husband. Tragedy struck again when
her husband was killed in a car crash at Friars Hill leaving her penniless
with six children. It was then Annie gave Mary piece of her land at Cedar
Grove and a two room wooden house was built on it for Mary and her six
Annie also looked after Mary's brother (her nephew) who had
become mentally ill after his mother died. However he became worse and
worse and was put into the mental home.
Mary is now dead and her brother is out of the mental home and
is claiming Annie's house and land as his own and is trying to get Annie
put into Fiennes Institute (the Old People's Home).
In the last few years the Government built a two room concrete
house for Annie to replace her one room wooden house which was on the
verge of collapse and she is proud of her new house. There is no running
water or electricity but Annie does not seem to miss these things as she
has never had either and I doubt she would be able to pay water and
electricity rates. Her water is stored In a rain barrel at the side of the
house and cooking is done on her coal pot.
June 18th. 1984
Annie came today. She no longer pushes the cart as it is a long way
for her to walk and some months ago we told her not to bring vegetables
but please to visit regularly and we give her a monthly allowance. On the
way here she picks different kinds of bush for her tea and always gets
some limes from our lime tree when it's bearing. She was using an old
piece of wood as a walking stick and I replaced it with a nice smooth piece
Skene had in his room. She told us that she has left her house to a
nephew who lives in St. Maarten and who has promised to return and give
her a good funeral when she dies. Annie often gives news of people in our
area. While she was sitting having her drink of juice she told me that
when she was walking past St. Hilaire's house she saw someone clearing
the bush in front of the gate (the house has been overgrown and deserted
for years) and wanted to ask him if he was St. Hilaire's son "but
mistress I too embarrass to ask the gentleman after what I did. You know
one thing I fraid too bad is cattle and the way I walk bend over now I
suddenly see two cattle hoof in front my eye so I hit out with my stick ...
and shout "MOVE OFF! GETAWAY FROM ME1" When I look up I see a
gentleman looking down at me. Like he wearing those shoes with a white
piece of rubber across the front..." by this time I was laughing and Annie
was laughing too.
We found out later that the St. Hilaire's had just returned with
their son and his wife and are busy putting the house back in shape.
June 27th, 1984
Annie came today. She still has the good stick of Skene's I gave
her. She told me she had seen the same gentleman by St. Hilaire's house
and had apologised to him for the episode last week "mistress I tell him
I too sorry for the way I treated him but he must excuse me because I
thought he was cattle."
Sometime in late 1985 I started visiting Annie once a month
bringing her the family allowance as the walk to our house had got too
much for her. I would sit on her sofa (an old car seat) and we always had
a chat. Annie loves to tell stories of her childhood.
June, 28th 1986
Today I went to see Annie bringing some Ovaltine and her monthly
allowance. She told me this story from her childhood in Falmouth,
"My mother die when I very young and my stepmother she don't
treat us good at all so all the children leave home, but I too young to leave
so I stay right there and my father don't pay no attention.
One day my brother pay us a visit and when he go back to where
he staying he tell my older brother You better go and take Annie away or
she go die right where she is.' My brother came down to English Harbour
and he take me back with him to my aunty who live by where the old
cemetery used to be. A few of my brothers and sisters already were
staying with she. (The old cemetery was by the entrance to Deep Water
Every morning before coalpot light Aunty get we down on we knee
on the floor and she open the Bible and read to us. She tell we 'All of you
who understand what am reading remember and if you don't
understand yet listen because this is the word of God I am reading.'
And every night before we lay down we head we get down on knee again
and listen as Aunty read God's word and try to remember. Also we say
Our Father together.
One day my father came to take me back with him to English
Habour, but I do not want to go back and Aunty would not let him take
me. She say I am not going from her house and my father tell she he going
to bring Police for she.
Well some time after that my father came back with two police to
take me back with him. I hang onto Aunty dress while Police ask she
question after question and then bring out a big book with lines and give
Aunty a pen and she have to write in plenty different parts of this book.
Then the Police tell my father that he cannot take me 'Because the child
want to stay with she aunty and my aunty has signed on to take care
Well, time pass and one day when I reach about twelve years old,
a man came up from English Harbour to tell us that my father is dying
and he wish to see his children to ask forgiveness before he dies. My aunt
sit in front of me and she tell me that all this time she would not let my
father have me because he treat me too bad, but now the time has come
when I must go and see my father.
She help me to dress in my church clothes and tell me the way to
English Harbour is not difficult that once I get to the gates of St. John's
the road goes in a straight line from there. I leave home about twelve
o'clock. Sometimes I running, sometimes I walking, and I reach English
Harbour about five o'clock.
My father was lying there in his house. His woman was not with
him she was in the village talking with friends. He hold my hand and
start to cry and ask if I was really Annie his daughter. I tell him yes. He
say he want to ask my forgiveness and the forgiveness of all his children
for the way he treat us when we were very young 'Annie, do you forgive
me?' he ask. Yes father I forgive you,' I say to him.
Then he sigh and roll over on his side and he say'Annie, get a cloth
and clean your father.' Poor man, I lift his shirt and I see his body covered
in poops. I get a bowl, fill it with water from the barrel out-side and with
a piece of cloth I find in the house I wash down his body and take away
his shirt to wash.
I stay with him until he die which was the next week."
August 31st, 1986
Today I went to see Annie with her allowance and a few things -
ovaltine, sardines, condensed milk, corn beef, biscuits, limes and some
dog food for her dog. Annie has not been feeling well these past few weeks
the cloudy weather affects her arthritis. She says the Doctor gave her
a prescription but the Dispensary has no medicine at this time. Her
great nephew came in to see her while I was there. His name is Gavin. I
stayed with Annie for a while and Annie talked to me about her husband.
Harry Benjamin was born in Sea View Farm. His mother and
father were married but his father did not spend much time at home.
When he was in his teens he got into trouble with his Church Minister,
a Moravian, who was very strict with the young people and if he did not
approve of the way they were behaving during the week he would
admonish them in his Sunday sermon and sometimes they would have
to stay in after service for a caning with 'the big stick'. The Church
Minister was an Antiguan, born in New Winthropes and sent to Sea View
Farm after he was ordained.
Mrs Benjamin was very upset when her son was given a caning
one Sunday and said "No one ever going to beat my picknee again," and
packed a bag for him and sent him to work on the boats so that he could
see the world.
Harry went to sea and was in Panama when the 1st World War
started. He was asked to Join the British Army and his mother received
papers from the War Office asking permission for her son to sign on. She
signed the papers and sent them back, feeling very proud of Harry. By
then she was high up in the Moravian Church and everyone knew her as
'Ma Pinch'. So Harry Benjamin joined the British Army and fought for
them in the 1st World War.
Annie had not yet met him. She was only seventeen in 1918 when
Victory was declared and says she will never forget the day.
They woke up to church bells ringing everywhere clang a lang,
clang a lang, and when they went outside they saw a car driving by with
its horn blowing and a little while later another car with its horn blowing.
"In those days there was only a very few cars in Antigua and no planes
at all and yet on this day I think all the cars inAntigua drive into St. John's
with horn blowing and all the while church bells ringing clang a lang,
clang a lang. Everybody gather in the streets to find out what is
happening and then someone came running up the road shouting to all
of us "WE DONE WIN THE WAR," and we all felt very excited and
The celebrations continued throughout the day and that night
there was a b/g fireworks display on Otto's Hill (now Michael's Mount).
Everyone had gathered to see the fireworks and the display started well
with all eyes looking into the sky at the showers of stars when suddenly
a rocket misfired into the huge box containing all the fireworks and there
was a loud explosion with all the rockets taking off in different directions.
Many people were badly burnt, among them Annie. She spent a
month in hospital and then went home, but it took her over a year to
recover completely and the scars were with her for the rest of her life.
It was a couple ofyears later thatAnnie met Harry Benjamin when
he came back to Antigua and joined the Police Force. They fell in love and
got married but she says Harry was not a good husband to her. A real
roamer who 'lived out' with other women and did not support her in any
Eventually she left him and went back to her aunt where she
made a living by making coalpots and selling them.
One day she got a message telling her to come to the hospital
because her husband was ill. He'd had a stroke while riding on his
donkey. Annie went to see him but says, "He was already travelling to
death and could not recognize me." He died a few days later.
Although he had a house and land it was taken over by his parents
and Annie got nothing. His parents told Annie that he had 'drunk out'
his house and land.
November 21st, 1986
Annie is now bedridden and she is dying. I feel depressed and sad
over the poverty she has lived in all her life and the hardships she's
endured. For someone like me who is accustomed to all the basic
comforts of life, living in the poverty of Annie would be worse than death.
I doubt I would survive very long. To Annie who has known nothing better
since birth that way of life was normal and as she got older and bought
her own piece of land and had her concrete house built for her by
Government life did get better and Annie was proud of it. Annie is not a
morose person and must have experienced many happy times but now
when I visit her with some basic things to make life easier I still feel very
helpless in this little house with no furniture except a bed, two small
tables heaped up with odd bottles, pieces of cloth and this, that and the
other, and the old car seat with broken springs. The walls are blackened
from months of cooking inside the house on the coalpot there are no
curtains; an old, torn dress covers part of the window. I knowAnnie does
not want to move from the house she loves so much but she is now
helpless and there is never anyone here when I visit and everything is
soiled. I do not know where to start. I have given her neighbour Ruby
some gifts for herself and asked her at the same time if she could visit
Annie three times a day for me, just to give her a drink and light the
kerosene lamp at night and we have sent a message to her family
(nephews and nieces) to ask if we can bring in some members of the
St.Vincent de Paul Society to help us clean the house and bathe Annie.
I see a lot of soiled clothes piled up in different bundles on the floor but
do not want to remove them in case among the different bundles may be
some treasured possessions of Annie.
November 24th, 1986
I visited Annie today to find there had been a complete transfor-
mation in her house. I could hardly believe my eyes. The house had been
swept and scrubbed, all the soiled bundles of clothes had disappeared
and now there was a lovely old hat/coat stand in the corer and hanging
on it was an umbrella and a ladies coat. The old car seat was still against
the wall but now it was covered with a clean bedspread and even had a
cushion placed on it; against the other wall was one of Annie's small
carved wooden tables with a tin of Ovaltine and an enamel cup on it.
I went into Annie's room. Annie was lying on the bed on her side
and did not seem to recongnise me. She was murmuring to herself. The
bed (an old four-poster) had been made up with clean linen and a clean
cotton blanket (one that Mum gave Annie years ago) was tucked in over
her feet. There was a clean pillow-case on the pillow. Annie herself looked
washed and clean. For the first time there were curtains over the
bedroom windows. The curtains were blowing in the breeze and sunlight
came through the window and across the edge of the bed. Beside the bed
was the other wooden table and on it was a thermos of hot ovaltine and
a covered water container with a clean enamel cup beside it.
I sat on the bed beside Annie and said a prayer of thanks while I
held her hand and looked at our old friend. She seemed thirsty so I
opened a packet of apple juice, put a straw in it and Annie drank almost
all of it. She can no longer eat anything solid. I talked to Annie for a while
and although Annie did not talk her eyes seemed to understand. I told
her how much all her friends in Hodges Bay loved her and missed her and
how we all remembered her coming to us with 'Harris' and how each week
we'd looked forward to her arrival and Annie smiled the first smile I'd
seen in a long time. I'd brought some limes with me as I remembered how
Annie loved limes and always asked for them. When she saw the limes
she pointed to them and then to her head, so I rubbed her head gently
with one half of a lime. While I was still there Annie's great niece came
in to check on her and her neighbour told me that Annie's parish priest
was coming to give her communion the next day. Annie is Church of
I never saw Annie again, but early in the morning of December
12th I dreamt that Mum had come with me to visit Annie and with us had
come a man who was a stranger to me. I tried to see him clearly because
in my dream I was puzzled as to why he was with us but his face always
seemed turned away from me. Mum and I and this stranger went into the
house and there, standing in front of us was Annie, dressed in a bright,
flowered dress and looking very well. Her face had filled out and she was
smiling. Mum held my arm and said, 'Gillie. Annie is getting better'. Then
Annie walked past us, through the front door, down the steps and started
walking down the road without looking back.
I half woke up, turned over and said to myself, What a relief-
Annie is getting better'.
On the day of the funeral I was ill with a very bad stomach pain
and could not attend but heard that it was very well attended and the
nephew to whom she'd left the house had arrived from St. Maarten with
two lovely wreaths and had made all the funeral arrangements and all her
nieces and nephews were there.
Supenaam water sweet, son
But Supenaam water deep, son
And you got to paddle more
Or else you got to sleep, son
The deep long sleep and sure.
Itanime water strange, son
And Itanime waters change, son
Watch for the river roar.
Itanime took a score, son
And hungers still for more, son
Itanime water danger, son
Some people go ashore.
Itanime rocks are sharp, son
And Itanime waters dark, son
Dark like a danger door.
Let the Captain drop a trick, son
The Belly-Boat rips so quick, son
You drown in it for sure.
Supenaam water sweet, son
Itanime water sharp, son
So once and never more.
TO THE FAMILY HOME AWAITING REPAIR
Oh, long narrow home heavy with living
An age of memories people the walls
Around your naked frame,
Warm shell of love & crowding children
Where the young girls in uniform
Hats worn like horseguards
Speech full of the school diction
Cycle up to ask for who's at home.
And the cool Trade Winds carry echoes
Pavan for A Dead Princess
Played on the Thorens
Until it wore the grooves.
The scent of roses in the slim garden
Growing in the four-hour overhead sun
Smell of bread from the oven
Everything mingling in the wind.
The tales we told around the dining table
Linking the luncheons with their spell
(Sometimes the battlefield for table tennis).
The statue of JT at the desk
Image of the dedicated student.
The stairs are torn away that quivered to the steps
Impatient for games & parties but slow for school.
So many came here tea-visiting professors,
Exam students, poets, novelists, sculptors,
A Chief Justice a future Prime Mininster
Once talked halfway through the night.
Through a hole in the hooded verandah
The bats spelt six o'clock evening patrol.
And little children to the Kindergarden
Wrestling their way into the hall of learning
Chattering, tormenting the wild cherry-tree
That always yields its fruit.
Oh, crowd your long years of memory
Into a prayer for their future
For all who lived & Loved & studied here.
I sat in my Calvin Kleins
adjusted my Benetton sweater
and contemplated Fifth Avenue
Like a trapped tourist
on a bench in Central Park S.
Takes a hell of a lot
to live in New York
Manhattan My island
in the sun
Up from the "E" train
in Reeboks stepping sturdily
at 53rd and Lex
Pushing inward through the
fabric of the Big City.
Heading to Midtown and late
for work past Charlie's Corer
Hard by Florsheims and
Moving aside to let
with autographed varicoses
half pound of David's
cookies in Gucci handbags
The big city pauses in the
Prince skirts swish by
Standing by newstand perusing
People Hustler Business Week
Plunking dime and a
quarter for a USA Today.
The Big City throbs as
Matrons waddle into
Petrossian's for turtle-loaves
at olympian prices
Tell their story to their
friends in the Hamptons
Manhattan my island
Dense jungle of concrete
looking at Mr Trump's tower
Up to the blue sky.
Gazing across at
is a presumption
A 14th Street refrain
Where is Herman's Sporting Goods?
Oh! Down Third by FDR'S
postal facility (how I
love these New York words)
gorging out of Cinema II
After a spider woman kissed me
in the noonday
Cross over to West side
in the M-28
Alight at the Henry Hudson
To look in on old Mrs Nissenbaum
large lady in small apt.
And nasturtiums stand in the
Manhattan survivor's song
My island in the Big City
Puts on its Ferraris
in the Noonday.
"THE INFINITE REHEARSAL" by WILSON HARRIS
A REVIEW by MICHAEL GILKES
Wilson Harris's The Infinite Rehearsal is the most recent work
in what is already a remarkable bildungsroman. It begins with a 'rene-
gade' note from the protagonist, 'Robin Redbreast Glass,' complaining
W.H. has stolen a march on me and put his name to my
fictional autobiography. So be it. I do not intend to sue him
for my drowned rights. Call it character licence on his part.
He and I are adversaries, as my book will show, but we
share one thing in common, namely, an approach to the
ruling concepts of civilization from the other side...(p.vii)
The note is a reminder that Harris, as author, refuses to be au-
thoritarian in his approach to character or text, abandoning conventions
of realism, authorial omniscience or artistic detachment. The author
enters into the narrative, becoming a 'character' in his own fiction,
admitting to his own biases. Later on in the book, Glass, who serves as
the reflection (rather than simply a transparent device) of his author,
challenges him on the accuracy of his facts:
'May I give you the facts?' said W.H. 'I may be a character
in your book but still...
'Facts?' said I.
You Robin Glass your mother Alice, your aunt Miriam,
and three children were drowned in June 1961, the
afternoon of the earthquake. The boat Tiger over-turned
'It's not true', 'I shouted. You know damn well I was in bed
with flu at aunt Miriam's.'
'It was I,' said W.H. gently.
You?' (pp. 47/48)
The 'autobiography' touches intimately both author and charac-
ter. Aunt Miriam, who runs a children's school of drama in her home, is
drowned along with several children, when their boat capsizes in a storm
during an outing. Alice, Robin's mother (the father has long deserted),
a literate, intelligent and brave woman, is herself drowned attempting
rescue. Robin, ill in bed at his aunt's home, hears the news from his
childhood friends, the orphans Peter and Emma, whom Alice had
managed to save. From these slight ingredients, a visionary 'rehearsal'
of events takes place in the child's fevered brain, deeply affecting his view
of the real world. Catastrophe is converted into creative insight. Not only
has the child been exposed (at aunt Miriam's) to a world of 'magical
theatre' where 'the histories of the world' are re-enacted through 'the
shoestring budget of childhood theatre' (p. 65); but he has also been
influenced by stories of his eccentric, bookish grandfather who has 're-
written' Goethe's Faust while 'pork-knocking' (prospecting for gold and
diamonds ) in the rainforests of his own 'Sacred Wood' where he dies of
beri-beri on the day Robin is born, the same day the nuclear bomb is
dropped on Hiroshima '... and history changed, revised itself backwards,
never to be the same again.' (p,12)
The awareness of childhood deprivation and global turbulence
(conveyed with great power and economy as the simultaneous trauma
of childbirth and nuclear devastation) imbues Glass with the conviction
that he has been charged by the Creative Spirit (a 'revision' of the ghost's
charge to Hamlet, 'the glass of fashion', to seek revenge) to embark upon
'the ceaseless rehearsal, ceaseless performance of the play of truth,' in
which the Self is 'fictionalised' as a means of locating the creative
imagination within 'ageless author, ageless character.' (p.82)
Like his grandfather, he becomes 'gravedigger/pork-knocker' in
the 'Sacred Wood' (a rather more humble role than Eliot/Frazer's priest/
The graves I dug were libraries of myths of gold,silver, bone
... texts that broke a uniform narrative domination by the
conquistadores of history in inserting themselves into my
book despite the apparent eclipse they endured, despite
voicelessness or oblivion. (p.2)
Classical and modern texts of European civilization are
subjected to a 'panning' by the author as 'pork-knocker' in 'a library
of dreams', and made to yield up their correspondences with other,
'lost' or unregarded cultures. The result is a novel-amalgam in which
bits of the 'revised' texts are embedded within a rich magma of cross-
cultural, universal significance. Tiresias, the seer, for example, now
observes things from within a third world perspective, 'like a tourist
under a black sky'. The other side of the Great Tradition appears.
I saw the negative film of Thebes ... I saw Napoleon's
negative crown and Alexander's sceptre and Captain Cat's
tombstone floating with Alice's ring and with the stone
from a Jamaican hillside ... It was an uncanny vortex. The
flotsam and jetsam of empires (p.72/73)
The idea of flcton as a continual rehearsal or 're-vision' of accepted
traditions (including the art of fiction itself), was already present in
Harris's early work. In a 1967 lecture he described it like this:
It is as if within his work [the writer] sets out again and
again across a certain territory... of broken recollection in
search of a community or species of fiction whose exis-
tence he begins to discern. (The Writer and Society', in
Tradition, The Writer and Society New Beacon 1967)
That technique of'rehearsal' is at the root of all his work from The
Palace of the Peacock (1960) onward, and the overwhelming concern
is with avoiding the 'sovereign', absolute nature of Tradition, or the
tyranny of'hard fact'. His use of Classical myth and allegory, or of the
European literary tradition, is part of a process of re-interpreting or
'retrieving' values that have become ossified, their links with other, so-
called 'primitive' cultures, lost. In the unlocking of those 'sovereign'
traditions, there is a release of potential energy for creative change.
...my grandfather's Faust (which he wrote or brought to
completion in the year I was born) possesses roots as
much in the modern age as in the Columbian workshop of
the gods and therefore addresses a European myth from
a multi-faceted and partly non-European standpoint.
Robin Redbreast Glass, in writing his 'autobiography', is aware of
this 'pre-natal text' which, like Goethe's lifelong work, mirrors its
author's own sense of involvement in a drama of consciousness in which
final vision is never acheived. Faust appears as a central text in the
novel, but the figure of Faust, brought alongside the modern age, revises
'You know, Robin, ... I like to think of my surgery as a
window upon heaven. Except that heaven's changing. ...
technology's changing. And quite frankly I'm not sure
what investitures the devil now wears.' (p.64)
In fact, Faust now sees with 'Quetzalcoatl eyes in which were
entwined the marriage of heaven and earth' (p.64) The reference to the
Aztec 'plumed serpent', the god unitng aetherial and earthly life, also
conjures up Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, with its plea for
a wedding of physical and spiritual 'contraries'.
For Harris, as for William Blake (whose prophetic books with their
airborne, energetic figures Harris' s work often calls to mind), without
contraries is no progression; and the novel, both 'autobiography' and
'fiction,' is also organised on this principle. Glass, both fictional character
and author, is in dialogue with the 'Erdgelst' of a 'Faustian' world:
Thus it was that I welcomed Ghost, conquistadorial and
victimised Ghost (was
he male/female? I could not tell)
when IT appeared on a beach in Old New Forest ... (p.1)
The Faust/Mephisto dialogue is expanded, however, to include
political tyranny, ballot-rigging in the 'third world', the refugee problem,
the commercialization of Space, the Challenger disaster, Chernobyl:
Don't exaggerate. Chernobyl is a disaster complex in the
Soviet Union. What has it got to do with the free West and
the choices that lie before the electorates of the free West?
'Hush-hush disaster, dateless day bearing' said Ghost.
'When Communist Rome burns an empire of souls inhales
its ash. But no one sees the fire or the brute faery at our
fingertips.......Cheap energy is the opium of the masses,
the new lotus.' (p.54)
In his previous novel, Carnival (1985), Harris had used the alle-
gorical densities of Dante's Divina Commedia as a 'text' through which
his imaginative, cross-cultural vision ranges, picking up Mediaeval
threads of meaning and connecting them to contemporary, but broken,
lines of communication, rather like a lone linesman in a disaster area
where most of the power lines are down. In this 'repair work,' post-
colonial cultural fragmentation and the resultant masks of carnival are
linked with the social and political corruption and consequent need for
spiritural'guidance in Dante's 14th century Europe. The 'guides' in
Harris's novels are culturally heterogeneous, modern figures, but their
roles are the same: to re-establish the inner authority of unconditional
love in genuine revolutionary change. The last sentence of Carnival
begins with the last line of the Paradiso:
The love that moves the sun and the other stars.'
('...l'amor che move il sole e I'altre stelle.')
The Infinite Rehearsal, like Carnival, like much of Harris's
fiction, is not so much a 're-reading' as a're-visioning' of European Myth
(itself concerned with the retrieval of Value), in order to discover the
deeper springs of the enabling Universal Truth that all myth contains. It
was, Harris argues, the enshrining of the great myths as 'Sovereign
Tradition' which, in a sense, created the 'third world' and broke the lines
of communication between peoples and their cultures; a disruption that
now appears on a global scale. Goethe's Faust serves as another Great
Myth which, since its origins lie even deeper, within an 'Ur-text' or myth
of the divorce between Reason and Emotion, may have resonances that
suggest and reveal:
... a play that is infinite rehearsal... that approaches again
and again a sensation of ultimate meaning residing within
a deposit of ghosts relating to the conquistadorial body -
as well as the victimised body of new and old worlds, new
forests old forests, new stars and old constellations within
the work-shop of the gods. (p.1)
This is, in fact, a description of Harris's own fictional practice,
where the writer 'sets out again and again across a certain territory ...',
but without any preconceived destination, open to revisionaryy strate-
gies' available to the creative imagination. This is what Goethe's Faust
means when he tells the Erdgeist that he needs help in order to leave
'dabbling in words' and seek to discover 'what holds the world together.'
In Harris's novel. Ghost acts as Geist to Glass/Harris's quest:
I say revisonary strategies to imply that as you write... of
the dead or the unborn, bits of the world's turbulent
universal consciousness embed themselves in your book.
Do you see? (p.46)
'And I revise around these and through these. I see', W.H.'/Glass
replies. It is a method of 'validation of fiction', going against the grain of
conventional form and practice, the author becoming involved in the
fiction, following where the work (Geist) leads while also engaged in the
Above all, this is a novel about the prophetic nature of fiction as
a means of apprehending the dilemmas of our post-colonial civilization
involving traumatised Third Worlds' as well as bewildered 'First Worlds'.
The 'spectre of wholeness' that underlies the strange, rambling narrative
lies in the hidden densities of the texts themselves, where there is a
visionary thread of meaning running through them into a seamless,
cross-cultural garment. Extracts from T.S. Eliot, Walter De la Mare,
Dylan Thomas, W.H.Auden, Wilfred Owen, R.L.Stevenson, Robert
Bums, Karl Marx and Shakespeare appear at odd moments within the
narrative, ofter altered slightly, the result of cultural frisson. The texts
Jostle each other, share in each other's meanings:
'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller,
Knocking at the moonlit door.
Belly to belly
Back to back
Ah don't give a damn
Ah done dead already.
And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
I who sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the lowest of the dead.
At first sight, De La Mare's simple ballad, a relic of school days,
and Eliot's classical allusions from The Waste Land seem to be joined
by an unlikely bedfellow: the bawdy Caribbean folksong. 'Jumble Jam-
boree'. But the folksong with its despairing echo of the cramped hold of
the slave-ship, becomes a mediating comment on both De La Mare's
Traveller, unaware of a 'host of phantom listeners', and the Waste Land
with its expiatory message for a historical and cultural Tradition in crisis.
The Great Tradition was always (as Conrad saw) deeply implicated in the
Imperial Adventure which served to support that Tradition. The texts
gain a new 'immediacy of utterance' from their juxtaposition.
Harris is making a plea for world sanity; for the compassionate
understanding denied by crude polarisations of language and thought.
The novel is part of a profoundly moral undertaking; an attempt to
understand the apparent paradoxes of remarkable human achievement
in science and art alongside the equally remarkable record of human
misery and deprivation. Instead of merely investing in the 'human
interest' of these paradoxes, Harris looks within, at our own biases, our
own failure to 'connect' because of an 'illiteracy of the imagination' which
obscures the link between material progress and increasing violence in
a world dominated by the stock-market mentality of 'Billioraire Death'
(one of the allegorical figures which rise out of Aunt Miriam's children's
theatre). The hope for the future is Emma, who, in becoming the first
female Archbishop, witnesses to a new Divina Commedia: a 'Divine
Communism,' a reversal of the bankruptcy of the human imagination
which has led to the collective death-wish inherent in global violence,
drug-trafficking, environmental rape and the spectre of nuclear destruc-
tion. It is to her that Glass/Harris sets out on his final journey.
(This article first appeared in Artrage, No. 18, Autumn, 1987. This
magazine is published by the Minorities Arts Advisory Service, 23-31
Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SF, U.K.)
"THEATRE IN THE CARIBBEAN" BY KEN CORSBIE
A REVIEW by AL CREIGHTON
The importance of a major publication on Caribbean Theatre at
any time is considerable since the field is markedly underdeveloped in
the area of published literature. The total collective of documentation,
critical works, analyses and even published plays is much too slim for a
region that has produced so much theatre. Critical attention in this area,
as well as publications generally, has certainly lagged well behind that
given to poetry and fiction and, partly for this reason, any work of some
merit is welcome as a necessary advancement upon an unsatisfactory
Arough survey of the literature reveals books byJohnston (1972),
Omotoso (1980), Hill (1972, 1982, ed.), while Wright (1938) remains a
major source. Baugh and Morris, eds., (1986 Carib No. 4) contains
further valuable material and other works include Hill (1972, b; 1985),
Gray (1968), Morris (1983), Creighton (1984), Anderson (1984), Walcott
(1971) and Noel, ed., (1985).
The list is quite nearly exhausted by the above and so, an account
of Caribbean theatre, such as Ken Corsbie's Theatre in the Caribbean
(Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1984; 58; vi pp.) written by one whose
familiarity with his subject has spanned several years as actor and
director, may be looked upon as being extremely valuable. But Corsbie's
work disappoints, falling short of expectations and turning out to be
limited in achievement for many reasons; not because it confines its aim,
at best, to the middle forms in secondary school, but because its content
is too often cursory treatments of very important issues, conversational
rather than analytical, wants thoroughness in a number of areas of
research, and is often erroneous.
The book is meritorious and useful for its recognition of many
areas in which theatre is alive in the Caribbean, and is particularly
progressive in its acknowledgement of the oral arts in which Corsbie
appears to be particularly interested. He very necessarily draws atten-
tion to the importance oforality and of its traditions to the region's drama,
but his definitions/concepts of drama and theatre are rather too promis-
cuously all-embracing and his tendency is to describe phenomena that
are merely marginally theatrical as drama without the often needed
Starting probably frpm a broad notion of all the world's a stage"
and all action of man as theatre/theatrical/dramatic, he proceeds with
an all-embracing readiness to admit varied forms of spontaneity, proba-
bly reflecting a belief in the misconceived cliche that "Caribbean people
are natural actors/(singers/dancers)". He asserts:
The historical backgrounds of the
islands with their mixtures of
strong folk cultures and traditions,
have blessed us with very expressive
dialects and body languages.
An assumption there is that something makes Caribbean dialects
more effective and "expressive" than other languages, but any native
speaker anywhere can claim equal efficiency in his language. What is
true in the remark is that the backgrounds have indeed created rich
material for theatrical forms, sources and inspiration, not that they have
given rise to superior languages or gesture.
Such stereotyped notions might also have led Corsbie into some
of the errors in the work. He is careful enough to add that:
natural talents and exciting roots
are not enough to make excellent
actors. It takes a good deal of
hard work, intelligence and discipline
.... many Caribbean actors ....
have mastered the necessary skills
But he never gets around to telling readers what the skills are or
how they may be acquired/sharpened. Both are important since the
book's aim is instruction at a fundamental level. He lists qualities
possessed by some of the region's leading performers, perhaps in an
attempt to fulfil that role, but all the attributes listed often remain
physical/personal qualities; at best the raw material or what one sees
in the finished product. "A powerfulvoice", "physical and personal power
and vitality", "a natural warmth", "tall handsome athletic physique" and
"a spontaneous sense of humour" seem to suggest natural physical gifts
rather than skills that one can work at to acquire. This neither supports
Corsbie's own earlier argument nor leads us in the right direction.
One still needs to know what makes Joy Ryan "Just beautiful to
watch in any role" or what gives Louise Bennett "attention-getting stage
presence". The student is not told how to achieve any of these. The belief
in 'natural talent' also affects the kinds of questions he poses at the ends
of chapters, such as:
Is there a student in your class
who can always tell a good story?
Are you a good actor yourself?
which is of limited usefulness in skills acquisition/development and
keeps the emphasis on possession of natural ability.
Corsbie misunderstands the art of dub poetry and is thus
misleading as he asserts:
Dub poetry could be easy. With a
background of reggae rhythm from
your class mates, just tell of some-
thing in your own life.
That is hardly likely to produce poetry. Far from being spontane-
ous/ex-tempo composition, dub poetry is a more complex craft involving
techniques of scribal structure and oral performance. Neither was
American soul/funk "rap" a pioneering influence for dub poetry as he
suggests. This form, which developed in the 1970's, pre-dates rap which
reached its height at the beginning of the 1980's. Dub poetry is also
vaguely related to DJ Dub performances with which Corsbie seems to
confuse it but even DJ virtuosity dates back to the 1960's.
Further, when Corsbie shows his consciousness of skills for
which actors have to be trained he is, again, less than instructive, as in
What techniques do you think are
needed to be a good actor? Do you
know any of your friends who have
some of those skills? Perhaps they,
too, will make top-class Caribbean
actors some day.
The answer to the first question is not quite that subjective. One
cannot assume that a student without the necessary technical knowl-
edge can think out these answers, but rather, he has to be taught them.
For most of the book, one gets brief, introductory references to
sources, dramatists and productions which rarely get beyond generali-
zation and superficial description. A wide range of subjects are ap-
proached without being addressed and, indeed, these are so varied that
they could hardly have been properly covered in one book of this length
and range. It is likely, though, that the book aims only to sensitize and
to stimulate debate and further research through the questions it poses
but does not answer.
Corsbie is consistent in his very progressive approach to theatre
and is fully aware of the vitality of oral traditions. But one is left with the
impression of an insufficiency and thinness in the research and inatten-
tion to detail which led to many mis-quotes of lyrics and incorrect
information about performers (for example, "The Rivers of Babylon"
which is really a Melodians creation), as well as unscientific conclusions.
A major strength of Theatre in the Caribbean is that it does not
treat drama as a purely literary discipline but more progressively
recognizes it as "action", paying due attention to its technical/practical
aspects. Such an approach is superior to what usually happens in
school/exam situations where drama is treated no differently to litera-
ture. Corsbie's design of activities and exercises at the end of each
chapter forces the introduction of those aspects of theatre into the school
It is understandable that stimuli are being provided for the
students to think more about theatre and relate various relevant issues
to it. Though sometimes a little short on real information, the style used
is more beneficial than any attempt to provide information through
straight expository prose.
Anderson, Paula Grace, "Two Can Play", West Indian Literature
and its Social Context, Mark McWatt (ed.), U.W.I., Cave Hill, 1985.
Baugh, Eddie and Morris, Mervyn (eds.), Carib No. 4, WIACLALS,
Corsbie, Ken, Theatre in the Caribbean, Hodder and Stoughton,
Creighton, Al, "Commoner and King: contrasting linguistic perform-
ances in the dialogue of the dispossessed", West Indian Literature and
its Social Context, M. McWatt (ed.) U.W.I., Cave Hill, 1985.
Gray, Cecil, "Folk Themes in West Indian Drama", Caribbean
Quarterly, Sept. 1968.
Hill, Errol, The Trinidad Carnival, University of Texas, Austin,
Hill, Errol, "The Emergence of a National Drama in the Caribbean",
Caribbean Quarterly, Dec. 1972.
Hill, Errol (ed.), Introduction to Plays for Today, Longman, King-
ston, P.O.S. 1985.
Johnston, Robert, The Theatre of Belize.
Morris, Mervyn, Introduction to Trevor Rhone, Old Story Time and
Noel, Keith, (ed.), Introduction to Plays for Playing, Heinemann,
Omotoso, Kole, The Theatrical Into Theatre, New Beacon, London,
Walcott, Derek, "What The Twilight Says", Dream on Monkey
Mountain and Other Plays.
Wright, Richardson, Revels in Jamaica, 1682-1838.
HAROLD BASCOM- Guyanese artist/illustrator, writer, and play-wright; his first
novel Apata was published by Heinemann in 1986; his plays The Barrel and T.V.
Alley have been produced in Guyana with great success.
AL CREIGHTON Jamaican by birth; writer on the theatre, producer and director;
lectures on drama at the University of Guyana; edits the arts page of Stabroek
News in Georgetown.
MAHADAI DAS Young Guyanese poet of great promise; M.A. (Philosophy),
University of Chicago; lives in the U.S.A.
MCDONALD DASH Prominent Guyanese journalist; play-wright and producer;
MICHAEL GILKES Guyanese poet, critic, and play-wright; author of the play
Couvade; lecturer in the English Faculty, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill;
at present attached to the Centre for Caribbean Studies, Warwick University.
JOHN GILMORE Barbadian historian and writer; editor of Banja, a magazine of
Barbadian life and culture, first published in April, 1987.
CECIL GRAY Noted Trinidadian writer and editor; senior lecturer in the Depart-
ment of Education, University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
WILSON HARRIS Guyanese by birth; among the most original thinkers and nov-
elists in modern literature; his numerous novels Include The Guyana Quartet
and The Eye of the Scarecrow; his novel Carnival won the 1987 Guyana Prize
for Fiction; his latest novel is The Infinite Rehearsal.
JANE KING HIPPOLYTE St Lucian writer; she and her husband, Kendel
Hippolyte, run "The Lighthouse" theatre in St Lucia.
GILLIANHOWIE Trinidadian by birth; now a housewife and teacher in Antigua;
"Annie" is her first published work.
TONYKELLMAN Barbados poet and short story writer; his collection of poems
includes: The Black Madonna and Other Poems (1975), In Depths of Burning
Light (1982), The Broken Sun (1984).
RAS MICHAEL Guyanese performance poet and story teller; has published
collections of his work including'Black Chant and Church and State.
ROOPLAL MONAR Guyanese poet and short story writer, Peepal Tree Press has
published a collection of short stories, Backdam People, and a volume of poems,
Koker; a further collection of stories, High House and Radio, and a novel,
Jhanjhat, are due to be published in 1988.
PAM MORDECAI Jamaican poet; radio and television producer; editor ofCarib-
bean Journal of Education; author of books for children.
HEMRAJ MUNIRAM Guyanese journalist and short story writer.
SASENARINE PERSAUD Guyanese author of short stories and poems; work not
yet collected; two novels recently accepted for publication by Peepal Tree Press.
CORDONROHLEHR Guyanese by birth; lecturer and literary critic; noted for his
encyclopaedic knowledge of the calypso and his writings on the subject; Reader
in English Literature, University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
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