• TABLE OF CONTENTS
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 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 Introduction
 Essays
 The Richardson seminar room poetry...
 Other poets
 Book reviews
 Poetry notes
 A tribute to Gerald Guinness
 Notes on contributors
 Back Cover






Group Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Title: Sargasso
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00096005/00008
 Material Information
Title: Sargasso
Uniform Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras, San Juan, P.R.)
Alternate Title: Sargazo
Sargasse
Abbreviated Title: Sargasso (Río Piedras San Juan P. R.)
Physical Description: v. : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: University of Puerto Rico (Ri´o Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras Campus) -- Dept. of English
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Ri´o Piedras P.R
Río Piedras P.R
Publication Date: 1984-
Copyright Date: 1986
Frequency: twice a year[2002-]
two no. a year[ former 1984]
irregular[ former <1987>-2001]
semiannual
regular
 Subjects
Subject: Caribbean literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Puerto Rican literature -- History and criticism -- Periodicals   ( lcsh )
Genre: review   ( marcgt )
periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Puerto Rico
 Notes
Additional Physical Form: Also issued online.
Language: Chiefly English, with some French and Spanish.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, no. 1-no. 10 (2000) ; 2001-
Numbering Peculiarities: Volume designation dropped with no. 3; issue for 2001 lacks numbering; issues for 2002- called 2002, 1-
Issuing Body: Edited by the faculty and graduate students of the English Dept., University of Puerto Rico.
General Note: Title from cover.
General Note: Some issues have also distinctive titles.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: 2004-05,2.
General Note: Has occasional special issues.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00096005
Volume ID: VID00008
Source Institution: University of Puerto Rico
Holding Location: University of Puerto Rico
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 12797847
lccn - 85643628
issn - 1060-5533
alephbibnum - 002422411

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Table of Contents
        Page i
    Introduction
        Page 1
        Page 2
    Essays
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
    The Richardson seminar room poetry series
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
    Other poets
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
    Book reviews
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
    Poetry notes
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
    A tribute to Gerald Guinness
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
    Notes on contributors
        Page 98
    Back Cover
        Page 99
        Page 100
Full Text



sargazo








sargasse


Cultural Studies













Essays
Silvio Torres-Saillant, Dominican Migration
John Beverley, Crisis del marxismo U
Nalini Natarajan, Jamaica Kincaid
Mary L. Alexander, Lorna Goodison
Luis Pomales, West Indian Verse Traditions
Consuelo L6pez-Springfield, Edna Manley
Derrilyn Morrison, Mervyn Morris
Elena L. de Torruella, Derek Walcott
Poets
Adriana Garriga-L6pez
Mary Rudbeck Stanko
Richard Weinraub
Peter Wood
Michael Sharp
Anthony Hunt
James Skaggs
Marfa Arrillaga
Daisy Mo-a de Le6n
Luis Pomales
Linda Greenberg
Edwin Felidi
Marta Cruz
Reviews of
Mayra Montero and Rosario Ferr6
Motherlands ,
Judith Hamilton's Rain Carvers
Elaine Savory's flame tree time
Jane King's Fellow Traveller
Elidio La Torre Lagares' Embukdo
Gerald Guinness' Here and Elsewhere

SA R G A S S 0 9 (1997) Ermesto Requets Bueno
Poetry and Cultural Issues 49.199









Sargasso, an independent arts and literature magazine edited at the University of
Puerto Rico, publishes critical essays, interviews, book reviews, and some
poems and short stories. Sargasso particularly welcomes material written by the
people of the Caribbean and/or about the Caribbean. Future issues will
increasingly reflect the editors' interests in Caribbean theater, film, performance,
poetry, and cultural analysis.

Sargasso strives to make current studies in art, literature, and culture accessible
to non-specialists. The prose should be clear, lively, and understandable to those
not among the initiate. Essays and critical studies should conform to the style of
the MLA Handbook. Short stories should be no more than 2,500 words in
length, and poems should be kept to no more than twenty to thirty lines. All
correspondence must include S.A.S.E.

Mailing Address:

Sargasso
P.O. Box 22831
University of Puerto Rico Station
San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-2831

email: lfiet@upracd.upr.clu.edu or lowell@coqui.net


Editorial Committee

Lowell Fiet, Editor
Maria Cristina Rodriguez, Co-Editor
Maria Soledad Rodriguez, Co-Editor
Sheila Bermddez, Editorial Assistant
Salinda Lewis, Editorial Assistant and Proofreader


Special thanks to Ms. Olga Rivera Toledo, Supervisor, Ms. Olga Fernmndez
Lebr6n, and Ms. Lydia E. Maisonet of the UPR Copy Center in the Office of the
Dean of Administration and to Dr. C6sar Cordero and the office the Dean of
Academic Affairs at the University of Puerto Rico, for assistance in facilitating the
publication of this issue of Sargasso.

Sargasso is published by Tdlmag, t-t-p, Inc., a nonprofit arts and
performance collective, with assistance from the offices of the Dean of Academic
Affairs and the Dean of Administration of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio
Piedras, Puerto Rico.

Opinions and views expressed in Sargasso are those of the individual authors
and are not necessarily shared by Sargasso's Editorial Committee. Copies of
Sargasso 9 (1997), as well as previous issues, are on deposit in the Library of
Congress.

Filed December 1997
The photo on the cover of Sargasso 9 (1997) originally appeared in Claridad, 28 April 4 May 1995.










SARGASSO


9


(1997):


Poetry


and Cultural


Issues











Sargasso 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues
Contents

Introduction. Dedication.

\dnana Ga(mna-L6pez, the last of the days
\Mar% kudbcck M:anko. Sargasso.

Essays
Silviou lorres -Sdilant. The Construction of the Other in Studies of
Dominican Mligration.. .... 3
John Beverley, "By Lacan": Crisis del marxismo y political cultural
en las A m ricas.. ... .... . .. ..... .. . .. .. . . 13
Ndlahn Natardjan. Gossip and the National Imaginary in Jamaica Kincaid's
A S m a ll .lat .. .. .. ... ... ............ ..... .. .. ... 19
Mary L. \Iexander, Woman as Creator/Destroyer in Three Poems of
Lorna Goodison .. .............. ...... ......... ... 24
Luis Pomales. Beginnings of West Indian Verse Traditions........................... 30
Consuclo L6pez-Spr ngficld. Edna Manley's The Dar Cultural Politics
and the Discourse of the Self........................... 39
Dernlyn Morrison, The Art of Mervyn Morris: An Examination of
T wo Poem s................................................. ....... ...... ....... 46
Elena L. de Torruella. Waleott and Elements of the Caribbean Volest
Comments and a Creative Response..................... 51

The Richardson Seminar Poetry Series
Richard Wcinraub. The Red Virgin, Duck Soup Two Wings of the Seme Bird_.. 57
Chinese to Jews
Peter Wood. A Short Way Down the Long Road to Princeton........................... 59
Looking Me Up in the Lexicon. Swallow................................. 60
Michael Sharp. Countertone. At the Mae. Massacre, Particular Webs,.............. 62
Veld's End
Anthony Hunt. Amtrak. Keeping Women Happy ......................... ............... 64

James Skaggs, Remnants. Janus rising. saturday night nla the heartland.......... 67

Maria Arnilaga. Dream. Friends. Hung Up on the Morning .............................. 70

DaisyMorade Li. Reverte. Bold Reality, Song. Palettea................................. 73
Journey to the Self
Luis Pomales. images from a distant pnat. Those were difficult times............. 75
Grandma's notions about life. On a 99 train going to the NYPL

Other Poets
Linda Greenberg. Sweet Earth that Bears Fruit............................... ................ 78
Edwin Feliu. Lost. Confusion. I Wondered........................................ ........ 79
lartaCruz, I Know of Your Dream Eros.......................................... ....... 82

Book Reviews
Maria Crisuna Rodrfluo. Cotinalty sad Raptures The Recent Fiction of
Mayra Monter and Rosario FerrL..................... 84
Robett Buckeye, On ar and Elsewhere by Gerald Guinness................................ 86
Nalini Natamaja. lntharland. Black Woman's Writtna from the
ar d A s ................................................ 87
Poetry Notes
Luis Pomaies. Judith Hamilton's aIl.-arverua Elaine Savory's
fame tree ime. and Jane King's Fellow Traveller............. 88
Elidlo La Torres Lagan 's aE buda ........................................ 93
A Tribute to Gerald Guinness Here and Elsewhere................................... 94
Lowell Fiet

Notes on Contributors ..................................... .......................................... 98









Sargasso 9 (1997)

Introduction

Sargasso 9 is the first issue of the journal to appear in over four years, and we
have been holding many of the poems and essays included below for as many as five
years. I apologize to both contributors and readers for the long delay. It seems
unnecessary --and it would certainly be boring-- to recount the many factors responsible
for the prolonged silence. In the interim, however, many of the problems of publishing
Sargasso as an independent journal have been addressed, and we hope that publication
will now be continuous at a rate of at least one new issue per year. The current backlog
of materials will be cleared when we publish Sargasso 10 in 1998.

Sargasso 9 is dedicated to Ernesto Requets Bueno (1949-1995), a close friend and
associate of the editors and a tireless activist for human, political, and economic rights in
the Caribbean. He was Dominican by birth, Puerto Rican by adoption, and Caribbean by
commitment. He gained the nickname "Nicaragua" for the work brigades from Puerto
Rico that he led there, but he could have as easily been tagged "Cuba" or "Santo
Domingo" or "Haiti." At the time of his death, in April 1995, he was the director of the
San Juan-based Caribbean Project for Justice and Peace. Only in the last months of his
life did most of his friends learn how long and valiantly he fought against the virus that
was consuming him. He is/was the indispensable individual without whom no progress
in human understanding is possible.

Lowell Fiet


Dedication
the last of the days
Adriana Garriga-L6pez
for Ernesto Requets Bueno 1949-1995
last ray of sun creeps its way into your window
and scurries to find its place in the crowded room

I in my shell cannot see you
you are beyond the last of the days

your face becomes a pldtano leaf
your hands search the earth for roots or some water to quench your
dry throat

but the photograph arrives too late
for most of us to know or understand

the goodbyes have all been printed and allowed to wander
the red ribbons pulled from coat lapels and shirts

this image of you engraves itself on the papers, on the walls, on the tables
your face inundates the sheets on the beds, and surrounds the books on their shelves...






S A R GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

the last of the days is for us an invention
an idea, an abstraction

an exhaustion that covers a body in a lonely hospital room

But your face is now etched into the sunlight
into every new day that escapes.
I remember the briefness of our encounters
and run out of fingers and toes on which to count
the smiles that covered your words,
and the days that belonged to themselves.

26 April 1995




Sargasso
Mary Rudbeck Stanko

The sand grows weeds from its moist monotony
while out of the waves
come a billion souls chanting hymns
which tell us where limbo is,
in a deep, wet place where the tried
and convicted
wait for the sun to sear
a trail through the sea's grave greenery.
This basin of speech is a lullaby prison,
a reservoir for saints and urchins
who sometimes swim to the shore to be born,
haunting the desert emptiness
while asking incessantly for a second chance.






S A R GAS SO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


The Construction of the Other
in Studies of Dominican Migration
Silvio Torres-Saillant
City University of New York
Though in this paper I seek to converse with bona fide social scientists who have
studied Dominican Migration, I cannot claim expertise in any of the social science
disciplines. I cannot honestly boast of having a command of the tools and methods
employed by researchers in the study of social structures and social beings. My expertise
lies somewhere in the field of literature, and, as a result, my discipline would have to be
described vaguely as the study of verbal structures. My justification for pronouncing
myself on Dominican migration derives not from my discipline but from a different kind
of legitimation. The subject is Dominican migration, and I am both a Dominican and an
immigrant. To establish my credentials, therefore, I need only recall the words of
Montaigne who at the beginning of his EaaaiS (1580) in 16th century France says "I am
myself the subject of my book," thus making the validity of his chronicle somewhat
indisputable. (1) In other words, I do not presume to speak from a standpoint of scientific
authority. Rather. I speak from the position of one who has seen and lived the experience
under perusal here, an experience which the scholars have mostly learned from the
distance of censuses, surveys, and interviews.
Scholars on Dominican migration have for the most part been Americans with
their base in the receiving society. I feel that, as a student of verbal structures, I may
have a say regarding some of the notions found in the existing discourse on Dominicans.
A good deal of the bibliography on Dominican migration to the United States exhibits a
clear consensus as to a given image of Dominicans. Since that image has been
constructed in discourse by non-Dominicans, it might be useful to examine some of its
presuppositions and its implications. Edward Said, in his analysis of the Western
construction of the Orient in discourse, has alerted us to the possible implications,
cultural and political, of using language to build an image of the other. (2)
When one constructs the other in discourse one normally does so from a position
of power. One actually wields the power to name things and shape their destiny. We
may remember that in Genesis this was the ultimate power with which the almighty
creator endowed Adam, after which, the Scriptures say, "whatever the man called every
living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of
the air, and to every beast of the field." (3) Social scientists in American society
appropriate Adam's power to name especially when dealing with a community of
immigrants from a Third World country which, like the Dominican Republic, has had a
long history of dependency upon the United States. The very fact that an American may
set out to explain Dominicans illustrates the power of the former over the latter. At the
same time that power can be used to the benefit as well as to the detriment of the
community in question. What social scientists say about Dominicans will influence the
decisions of policy makers at the various levels of the American government in relation
to the life of this community in this country. Also, once an image has been established in
social scientific discourse regarding this group it may be virtually impossible to undo its
construction or to contain its effects. As a Dominican, I am seriously concerned with the
accuracy of the image of Dominicans discernible in the bibliography on Dominican
migration. For, we know from Margaret Mead's miscontruing of Samoan culture and
society in her Coming of Age in Samoa (1949) how possible it is for social scientists to
have their findings about a particular human group determined more by their own
theoretical assumptions and ideological biases than by the community's actual
characteristics. (4) What follows, then, is a preliminary attempt to examine the language,
the cultural myths, and the ideological assumptions evident in the discourse of the first
American social scientists who have studied the Dominican migration phenomenon.





S A R GA S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Work on Dominican migration in the United States begins, we can say, with a
study published in 1970 by Nancie L. Gonzalez. Gonzalez' study focuses primarily on
the complex process involved in the experience of migrating to the United States from the
Dominican Republic. The author considers the logistics of the transaction, the dynamics
of the pre-migration period. the attitudes of prospective migrants towards the North
American consular authorities, and the benefits of the process both to the individual
migrants and to the sending country as a whole. Her main thesis is that peasants tend to
adjust to a changing world more easily "in an urban than in a rural environment"
essentially because the space available to them in the metropolis does not necessitate
involvement with technology. (5) Her theoretical concern, then, is the fortune of peasants
in the context of technological modernization.
Since modernization entails to a considerable extent the adaptation of peasants to
urban life, and since the Dominican Republic has ostensibly shown massive movements
of peasants to the cities, the passage of Dominicans to the United States provides for
Gonzalez an ideal ground for investigation. (6) Her study is informative and convincing,
providing a potential groundwork for subsequent studies. One should take exception only
to her exclusive concentration on what she perceives as the "advantages" of migration to
the individual peasants and to the country as a whole. (7) We believe this presentation
simply overlooks many of the problems one often associates with the immigrant
experience, which include not only the alienation of the migrants and the family
disruption, but also the overt hostility encountered by the arrivant in the receiving society.
In her second publication on Dominican migrants, however, Gonzalez seems to
amend her earlier omission of the less rosy aspects of the immigrant experience. There
she views migration, in fact, as counterproductive to the people's liberation in the sending
country. "Energies put into obtaining a visa do not go into fomenting the revolution," she
concedes. (8) Likewise, she highlights the condition of exploitation endured by
Dominicans in the immigrant soil and points to their function as helpless peons serving
the interests of capital both in the United States and in the Dominican Republic. (9)
Gonzalez does not dwell substantially on the immigrant experience of Dominicans once
on the North American soil either in this or in the earlier study. But her earlier research
did allow her to observe that, in general, Dominicans do not seek to "achieve middle-
class status within the United States society" but remain concerned with their "Status in
the Dominican Republic." (10) She recognized, though, that her observations would have
to be corroborated by a "description of the Dominican community in New York" which,
at the time of her first writing, had not yet been done. (11) A statement at the end of her
first text seems written as a recommendation to those who, coming after her, would
undertake the description of the Dominican community. She advises thus: "obviously,
not all cultures, cities, or individuals are alike, but it is the task of social science to
explain variations in behavior in terms of something more than idiosyncrasy (whether in
reference to the character of people or cities)." (12)
Gonzalez proposes, in effect, a description of the Dominican community that is
informed by macrosocial concerns. Her recommendation becomes particularly
significant when we realize that it comes from an anthropologist, and anthropologists
have been known to show a great passion for the rare, the peculiar, the idiosyncratic. At
any rate, the next major contribution to the study of Dominican migration, a book-length
work by Glenn Hendricks, complies with Gonzalez' recommendation only in a very
partial way. Based on interviews and observations of villagers from the Cibao town of
Sabana Iglesias, Hendricks' Dominican Diaspora narrates the author's observations of his
Ddiinican subjects "as they interacted with others under a wide variety of
cirtiitistances." (13) At the outset, Hendricks describes his approach in terms that would
satisfy the macrosocial recommendation of Gonzalez. He says, "The theoretical
perspective of this study was of networks of social relations that operate in a social field,"
and he claims to have avoided, he says, "material which in my judgment-is atypical... is
but a single example." (14) As we read into Hendricks' book, however, we come upon






S A R GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


many instances in which Dominicans are portrayed as a very peculiar human group with
very discrete behavioral characteristics. It really becomes difficult to determine whether
the subject of his study is indeed the "networks of social relations" declared by the author
or rather the socio-cultural peculiarity of Dominicans. For it seems to be the latter that
gets highlighted in the treatment of his samples.
I would like to draw attention to some of Hendricks' remarks and observations in
his overall recreation of the cultural background guiding the behavior of his subjects. In
his first chapter he reports having covered "aspects of Dominican history and culture of
which most villagers in Aldea are only dimly aware despite the importance of these
events and societal forms to their lives." (15) He finds the attitudes concerning
education of his subjects --whom he, in accordance with the anthropological convention,
calls by the pseudonym of Aldeans-- appear divided "between those who consider formal
education instrumental to economic and social mobility and those who hope to achieve
fulfillment through other means for themselves and their children." (16) In his
explanation of those marital unions among his samples in which two people agree to
marry legally for the purpose of securing a visa, he states that such an arrangement
actually corresponds to "the norm of both serial and polygamous unions commonly
practiced in the Dominican Republic." Dominicans, he says, rationalize "polygamous
unions" and practice "free union," which Hendricks defines as "socially recognized
arrangements that allow living with a woman in New York, yet maintaining the legal
spouse and nuclear family unit back in the village."(17) Hendricks further affirms that
"social approval of concubinage and polygamy cuts across all levels of Dominican
society rather than being limited to the lower classes."(18)
Among his observations of the community under study, Hendricks notes,
regarding the Dominican attitude towards having offspring, that: "The desirability of
procreating many children is a culture norm." (19) In addition, he devotes one whole
page to explaining the Dominican reticence to being drafted into the army, a reticence
which he perceived among those he observed. For him, this has to do with what he
characterizes as an evasive attitude of Dominicans towards secular authorities. (20)
The significance I perceive in these observations is that they tend to construe the
Dominican community as a very peculiar group. We are presented with what the author
seems to view as Dominican attributes. Yet, on closer inspection, those characteristics
appear to be attributable to everyone else. For instance, the ignorance to the historical
and cultural factors which have shaped their existence is not exclusive of the lower class
Dominicans interviewed by Hendricks. Those of us who teach in the North American
mainland can easily ascertain that such ignorance pervades advanced technological
societies as well. The recognition of such an ignorance by educators is what has given
rise to such desperate attempts at remediation as are proposed by EFD. Hirsch in his best
selling book Cultural Literacy (1967). Similarly, the dichotomy perceived by Hendricks
between those who see their future prosperity in terms of educational goals and those who
opt for other alternatives seems by no means a particularly Dominican phenomenon.
Everywhere in the world, education is but one of the possible means to achieve social or
economic success. Nor is it particularly strange that Dominicans should want to have
many children. If we remember that it is only recently that technologically advanced
Western societies have advocated the desirability of small family units, the adoption of
which by large segments of the population has required a great deal of social training, we
would see that there is nothing "cultural" about having many children.
Regarding what Hendricks characterizes as the Dominican acceptance of
polygamy as a social norm, I would just like to say here that I have never met, nor seen,
nor heard of a Dominican woman or man who would publicly admit to copulating
concurrently with two or more partners without encountering social disapproval. It is
true that many women due to their social subjection and particularly their economic
dependence upon men have traditionally had to cope with the extramarital affairs of their
spouses. But the same has been true of all male dominated societies. As a matter of fact,






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


the cases of such famous figures as Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy and
such infamous ones as Gary Hart and Jimmy Bakker, who are known to have kept a
sexual liaison on the side. would indicate that pursuing the pleasures of the flesh outside
of the matrimonial bed is not a specifically Dominican weakness. Besides, to speak of
polygamy as a practice which enjoys social sanction among Dominicans is to attribute to
these people too casual a view of promiscuity. Dominicans have their share of
promiscuity, no doubt. But Hendricks would have to adduce a great deal more research
data to prove that their share is greater than that of people in the United States, the Soviet
Union, Sri Lanka, or anywhere else where people possess the privilege of sexual organs.
One wonders also why Hendricks finds it necessary to articulate the reticence of
Dominicans to be drafted in terms of cultural traits. If we keep in mind that he conducted
his research precisely at a time when the United States was at war in Vietnam, the
explanation may be given in more "universal" terms. Dominicans simply did not want to
die then. and they still do not want to die now. In this they resemble the greater bulk of
the human species. The kamikaze squads, who took pride in meeting their deaths,
became known world-wide precisely because of their uniqueness. But even they had to
come from a country with an old Samurai tradition which fostered in its warriors the
belief that: "He that can face death with grace is truly a great man." (21) Dominicans
have no such tradition. Nor do Greeks, nor do Americans. In times of war Americans
have gone as far as to marry and have children only to evade the draft. When the draft
regulations were revised to include married citizens, many actually moved to Canada and
changed their citizenship. The maneuvers of Dan Quayle, who managed to serve in the
military without endangering his skin, were often beyond the reach of less wealthy
citizens. The fact is that, due to fear of death, people do not normally want to go to war,
which becomes a very likely possibility when one serves in the army. For Dominicans in
the United States this is even more so, since, away from their fatherland, they are free
from the inebriating spell of patriotism.
Clearly, the attributes noted here by Hendricks occur also among Americans, and
among these one accepts them generally as normal human characteristics. When found
among Dominicans, though, this researcher perceives them as cultural traits which are,
therefore, worthy of explanation. Interestingly, the effect of the explanation is the
estrangement of Dominicans from the rest of the species. By undertaking to explain
culturally those attributes that among Americans would be accepted as human values,
Hendricks denormalizes the community under study. He turns them into something else.
Once they are perceived as something else, everything they do merits scrutiny.
A final example should help us illustrate this dynamic beyond reasonable doubt.
To describe sex role differentiation among Dominicans, Hendricks offers the following
observation: "A typical mode of behavior on the part of the father to the child is one of
teasing. This may include actions such as holding a wanted bottle just out of the infant's
reach or holding a small child high overhead until he screams in fright. The cycle
terminates with the child receiving what he wants, sometimes accompanied by a kiss or
affectionate fondling." (22) He then follows his observation with a specific example of a
family interaction he, as a participant observer, had occasion to witness. He says:
"While swimming with a father and his eight-year-old son, I noted the father insisted that
his son should accompany him into deeper water in spite of pleas of 'no, popi.' Once out
into deep water the father refused to support his son, in order 'to teach him to swim.' He
finally grabbed and held his son up after the boy had gone under and come up screaming,
but made no attempt to comfort him. He laughingly took him to the bank where the son
ran to be comforted by his mother. She hushed him but made no negative remarks about
her husband's behavior." (23)
Hendricks extracts from the above example a religious symbolism which
apparently has meaningful implications for Dominican culture. I will not go into that
now. I am more interested in the process whereby Hendricks denormalizes the
interaction between a Dominican father and his son. To give an idea of its significance I






S A R G A S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


would just like to draw a parallel between Hendricks' description of interaction in a
Dominican family and that of an ethnologist describing an animal at play. In his book
Man Meets Dog (1954) the late Konrad Lorenz recorded the following account of the
movements of a cat engaged in frivolous activity with a ball of wool: "Jumping high, it
grabs the prey with both paws at once, bringing them together in a wide, sweeping
movement from the sides. During this movement, the paws appear abnormally large, for
all the digits with their extended claws are widely spread, and the dew claws are bent at
right angles to the paw. This grasping movement, which many kittens delightedly
perform at play. is identical to the last detail with the movement used by cats to grab a
bird just leaving the ground." (24)
The tone is identical in both descriptions. In both instances we have a scientist
describing the behavior of his subjects, from which he is distanced by the latter's inherent
difference. I would be tempted to say that in Lorenz the mood of the description is a bit
more cordial. But, at any rate, there is in Hendricks' description a discernible
ethnological texture. The account of Dominicans at play may actually create in the reader
the expectation that the author will thereafter proceed to demonstrate, on the basis of
empirical evidence, that Dominicans also walk upright, breath, and cook their meats
before eating them.
I believe that Dominicans, as a legitimate component of humanity, should not be
subjected to the ethnological scrutiny evident in Hendricks' study. They are entitled to
the benefit of at least certain basic presuppositions regarding their human essence, such
presuppositions, for instance, as are pleaded by Shakespeare's Shylock when he asks: "If
you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we
not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" (25) Hendricks' discourse does not
grant Dominicans that much. In his study he enwraps Dominicans in a thick veil of
difference. He renders them different by estranging himself from them. The fact that he
is the American and they are mere Third World arrivants on the American shore and his
position of authority as a social scientist vis-a-vis their condition of defenseless subject
matter certainly suffice to endow him with the power to assign to Dominicans a separate
ontology.
Perhaps the process whereby Hendricks denormalizes Dominicans is inherent to
most ethnographic discourse. For it is a lot easier to study another human group if you
start from the conviction that the group differs fundamentally from yours. Otherwise you
may have to explain why you are studying someone else and not yourself. Ethnographic
discourse tends to construct the other as ontologically different in order to justify itself.
For it would not be too pleasant for a social scientist to have to admit that what lies
behind the choice of ethnographic subject matter is really a relation of power. Most
ethnographic discourse is also ethnocentric, assuming the scholar's superiority over the
members of the community studied. The distance that is established between the scholars
and their subjects normally results in serious distortions. The image that is painted of the
other tends to reflect the racism, cultural imperialism, paternalism, or even primitivism of
the wielders of the discourse.
A different variation of the distortion to which Dominican immigrants have been
subjected is offered by sociologist Philip Kayal, author of a long, two-part article on
Dominican immigrants which he wrote upon request by the center for Migration Studies
of New York. He begins with an examination of Dominican history to identify the causes
that lead so many Dominicans to emigrate from their country. He traces the reasons for
the diaspora to the dire economic conditions of the lower classes in the Dominican
Republic. His approach becomes evident when, while adducing concrete socio-historical
conjunctures to account for the condition of the lower classes, he assigns paramount
importance to the cultural traditions the country inherited from Spain. Kayal explains
that "there is a little or no sense of personal responsibility and individualism in the
Spanish culture, as it is known and stressed in the North American culture." (26) Kayal
admits the presence of United States interests and multicultural corporations that thrive






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


on the conditions of poverty and social inequality of the Dominican masses, but he does
not ascribe to them a determinative role in the affair. In fact, he credits the Gulf &
Western Dominican Foundation with considerably improving the living conditions of
people in the Cibao region. (27) For him the realm of culture matters a great deal more.
Thus, he complains: "There is also an entrenched cultural tradition which fosters
hierarchy, paternalism, sexism, passivity, and fearfulness of change."(28)
Before examining Kayal's discourse, it might be useful to sketch a contrasting
rendition of the socio-historical dynamics operating behind the massive Dominican
diaspora. The Dominican Chiqui Vicioso, in her account of the flight of Dominicans
from their native land, believes that contemporary Dominican history "typifies the plight
of many Third World nations as it has been forced to maintain a 'very close relationship'
to the United States." (29) While Vicioso emphasizes culture in her text, she clearly
prefers to recreate a "broad historical, economic and political context" within which to
view Dominican migration to the United States. (30) For her, the United States benefits
considerably from the conditions of poverty and inequality which it has helped to foster
during its almost one century of domination over the Dominican Republic. She also finds
it very ironic that when Dominicans felt the need to flee their country, as they did en
masse following the American occupation of the country in 1965, they came precisely to
North America. "In a way it was very ironic that people sought refuge in the source of
their troubles, but for the United States this setting was perfect," she says. (31)
Whether or not one agrees with every point put forward by Vicioso, it would not
be too difficult to accept that a broad socio-historical framework would take us farther
than a consideration of culture in the understanding of social inequality and poverty not
only in the Dominican Republic but also throughout the Third World where the
opprobious legacy of colonial or neocolonial subjection has so oppressed the minds and
bodies of the masses. Kayal's appeal to the effects of the Spanish culture to explain the
plight of the disinherited in the Dominican Republic seems hardly convincing. Besides,
history does not corroborate the presumed passivity of the Spanish. The Spanish have
historically been as ruthless initiators of action as the other peoples of the Western world.
Though the enterprise was later perfected by the Dutch, the English, and the French, it
was the Spaniards who initiated the colonization of the Americas and the butchery of the
native populations there. In the Middle Ages, the Spaniards were at the forefront in the
confrontation between Christendom and the Eastern peoples then referred to as "the
Infidel." Also, the Spanish-American War in 1898 should be sufficient indication that the
Spanish have been as active and insistent as the Americans in seeking to secure their
domination of overseas territories.
But even if Kayal could actually produce historical evidence to substantiate the
passivity and aversion to change he attributes to Spanish culture, he would have to do a
good job at demonstrating that it is the Hispanic background that defines Dominican
culture. He must grant, at least, that the presence of an African heritage among these
people is not negligible and that the aboriginal inhabitants of the island must have
bequeathed something to the natural psyche. Moreover, Kayal needs to explain why he
thinks Dominicans inherit the passivity of the Spanish to a greater degree than the
Cubans, who actively undertook to overturn the capitalist system. Are Dominicans more
Hispanic than Nicaraguans who through thick and thin have, in their obstinate desire for
change, challenged the political and military might of the United States? What makes
Dominicans more Spanish than those who are giving and taking lives in the mountains of
El Salvador in order to transform their society?
If one explained the problem of social inequality and poverty in the United States,
focusing, let's say, on the homeless of such large urban centers as New York, in terms of
cultural phenomena, one would risk seeming retrograde in the eyes of one's colleagues in
the social sciences. The practice, however, remains permissible when applied to Third
World communities. Therefore, Kayal is so serious about the effect of culture in the
Dominican Republic that he goes as far as to recommend a drastic transformation in






SARGASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


culture and society," including "basic Dominican institutions such as religion and the
family." Pertaining to the former, he advocates a more socially conscious role for
religion, whose "ethical message," he says. ought to "be directed to the ich and powerful
and not just their victims." (32)
The passivity Kayal observes in the outlook of Dominicans is reflected for him in
their lack of political awareness. The Dominican use of "they" to refer to the Dominican
government, as contrasted with the "we" employed by Americans when citing their
government, evinces their "existence as non-politicized people." says Kayal. (33)
Curiously, though. Malcolm X had also noted among the disenfranchised Afro-American
masses a reticence to say "we" when speaking of the American government. For
Malcolm. however, this reticence served as an indication of these people's subversive
attitude and their opposition to the power structure that oppressed them. The use of "we"
or "they" served to distinguish precisely between those who internalized their subjection,
whom he calls "house Negroes," and those who actively resisted it, whom he calls "field
Negroes."
The following passage from "Message to the Grass Roots," one of his best known
speeches. succinctly articulates Malcolm's view in this respect: "The masses are the field
Negroes. When they see this man's house on fire, you don't hear the little Negroes
talking about 'QU government is in trouble.' Imagine a Negro: 'Q government'! I even
heard one say 'Our astronauts'! 'Our navy' -That's a Negro that's out of his mind, that's a
Negro that's out of his mind." (34) If one gives credence to Malcolm's interpretation of
the "we" vs. "they" usage by the oppressed masses, which I find very reasonable, it could
very well be that, contrary to Kayal's suggestion, the tendency of the Dominican lower
classes to disassociate themselves from the government constitutes a recognition of their
oppression, an act of resistance, and, consequently, a sign of their political awareness.
In fairness to Kayal, one should stress that he does not intend to defend United
States interests in the Dominican Republic. He simply does not believe that reducing
U.S. influence, changing the government, or even permitting a "traditional Marxist
takeover" would bring significant change because the problem is too deeply rooted in the
people's world view. He concedes, though, that "A socialist orientation or humanistic
communism, under the direction of a benevolent leader could, perhaps, better distribute
wealth and power during this intermediate period of development." (35) It is towards this
end that U.S. aid to the Dominican Republic should be directed so that, out of this
arrangement, "a democracy could spring." (36)
Kayal proposes a rather odd solution to the problem of dependency, poverty, and
social injustice in the Dominican Republic. His reference to "a benevolent leader" makes
it clear that he believes in the notion of "Great Men" as prime movers of history,
responsible for "all things that we see standing accomplished in the world," as proposed
by Thomas Carlyle in the nineteenth century. (37) It also seems clear that he does not
assign to the Dominican Republic the status of a real country, a nation which like any
other serves as the arena for class struggle, economic and political battles, as well as
clashes between that which would profit the disinherited masses and that which would
satisfy the demands of capital nationally and internationally. In this, Kayal exhibits a
typical way for American commentators to assess Dominican life as is illustrated by a
recent New York Times Magazine feature article in which the author reduces practically
six decades of contemporary Dominican political history to the confrontation of two
willful individuals, "the two old enemies, Bosch and Balaguer," against the backdrop of
the legacy of another individual: Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. (38) Seldom will an
American commentator view the Dominican Republic as a nation where, because of the
dynamics inherent to the capitalist model, the needs of the poor are irreconcilable with
the needs of the power structure. Worsened by the country's dire economic dependence
and lack of political sovereignty, poverty and social inequality in this country are
consistent with the nature of capitalism. The Dominican problem, occurring as it does in
a historical conjuncture, will not yield to the magic touch of an almighty and kind hearted






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


hearted "leader." Nor is it very likely that the United States will invest resources in
supporting a communist system, no matter how "humanistic" the State Department deems
it to be.
When Kayal gets to Dominicans in New York in the second part of his article his
assessment predictably springs from the sociologist's appraisal of Dominican life back in
the island. Largely on Hendrick's work. this part of the study stresses the status of
"illegality" as a major impediment to the growth of this community in New York since it
must avoid visibility and, therefore, refrain from fully participating in the society. (39)
This view, however, fails to account for the fact that, according to the available figures on
Dominican migrants to New York, the majority of these immigrants are not
undocumented. Nor should it be insinuated that participating fully in the society depends
solely on the will of the immigrant. One should not ignore the existence of certain
structural factors in the receiving society in the face of which Dominican immigrants
have no say.
Among the recommendations Kayal has for enabling Dominican immigrants to
become a more integral part of the American society is a reform in the family structure.
Convinced, like Hendricks, that "Dominican family practices" enter into serious conflict
with the "broader society" of the United States, which favors "legally married" and
"monogamous nuclear family," Kayal affirms that "Dominicans will have to structure
their relationship to fit the established norm." (40) Towards the end of the text, our
sociologist seems to celebrate the fact that among those he observed a good number had
come to terms with the permanence of their settlement in their North American abode.
Here, as well as at various other points throughout the two parts of his article, one may
gather that this social scientist has really no ill wish towards Dominicans.
Yet one would have to agree on the basis of the foregoing commentary that his
presentation does serious harm to the image of Dominicans. His discourse constructs the
members of this community as people who exist outside the confines of history. His
portrayal of the group under study would suggest that their problems are not economic or
socio-political. Only historical peoples have such problems. Dominican problems
belong instead to the realm of world view and cultural tradition. Kayal banishes
Dominicans from the realm of history with the same effectiveness that Hendricks
separates them from the human species. The political implications of this transaction are
very clear regardless of how apolitical these two social scientists might think they are. It
is a lot easier for a world power to invade a country and seek to determine its destiny if it
is agreed that there is a fundamental defect in the way they are. And both of these
scholars assume their superiority over the people they study and create an image of their
subjects which corroborates their superiority.
I do not think I am exceeding the limits of propriety if I ask that students of
Dominican migration start from the notion, granted a ri. that these people are both
human and historical beings. This may be difficult for American researchers, coming as
they do from a nation that has practically shaped the lives of Dominicans in the present
century. Chances are that Americans, due to these historical circumstances, do feel
superior to Dominicans. The fact that it is the latter that have to migrate to the shores of
the former could understandably encourage such a feeling. But social scientists ought to
know that to apprehend reality one often must transcend the immediately empirical. The
most astute, careful, and socially concerned scholars can, I'm sure, circumvent the
ethnographic falsification of Dominicans that we see in Hendricks and Kayal. One
should study the work of Eugenia George. David Bray, Antonio Ugalde, Patricia Pessar,
and the other scholars who have studied the Dominican migration phenomenon in the last
10 years to see whether they have complied with the recommendation made by Gonzalez
years ago and have opted to focus their attention on macrosocial phenomena rather than
on the dissection of idiosyncrasies and peculiar ways among Dominicans. But, whatever
they do, researchers of Dominican migration should be aware of the contingency of their
disciplines. They ought to realize that when one constructs the other in discourse one






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


essentially determines a meaningful part of their destiny. The construction comes out of
a relation of power, and the discourse functions as a weapon. Weapons, we all know. are
used offensively or defensively. Weapons by their very nature cannot be neutral.

End Notes

1. Michel de Montaigne, Essais, I (Paris: Garnier-Flammarion, 1969) 35.
2. Edward Said. Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978).
3. Genesis, 2:19-20. The Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Edition, ed. by
Herbert G. May and Bruce M. Metzer (New York: Oxford University Press,
1962)4.
4. Derek Freeman. Margaret Mead and Samoa: The Making and Unmaking of an
Anthropological Myth (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983) 289-
290.
5. Nancie L Gonzalez, "Peasants' Progress: Dominicans in New York." Caribbean
Studies (Vol. 10, No. 3, October 1970) 155.
6. Ibid, 154.
7. Ibid. 168.
8. Nancie L Gonzalez, "Multiple Migration Experience of Dominican Women,"
Anthropological Quarterly. (Vol. 49, No. 1. January 1976) 42.
9. Ibid, 43.
10. Gonzalez, "Peasants' Progress: Dominicans in New York." op. cit., 167.
11. Ibid, 166.
12. Ibid, 170.
13. Glenn Hendricks, Dominican Diasoora: From the Dominican Republic to New York
City-Villagers in Transition (New York: Teachers College Press, 1974) 8.
14. Ibid, 7-8.
15. Ibid, 21.
16. Ibid, 38.
17. Ibid, 95.
18. Ibid, 96.
19. Ibid, 97.
20. Ibid, 122.
21. Yamamoto-Tsunetomo, Hagakure Bushido or The Book of the Warrior. tr. Z.
Tamotsu luado, in Cultural Nippon (Vol. VII, No. 3, November 1939) 39.
22. Hendricks, 101.
23. Ibid, 101.
24. Konrad Lorenz, Man Meets Dog, tr. Msaujories Kerr Wilson (London: Methuen &
Co. Ltd. 1955) 156.
25. William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice. Act III, Scene i, lines 64-67.
26. Philip Kayal, "The Dominicans in New York." Part I, Migration Today (20, 1976)
61.
27. Ibid. 20.
28. Ibid. 22.
29. Chiqui Vicioso, "Dominican Migration to the United States," Migration Today (20,
1976)61.
30. Ibid, 64.
3 1. Ibid, 67.
32. Kayal, 23.
33. Ibid. 23.
34. Malcolm X, Malcolm X Speaks, ed. George Breitman (New York: Grove Press,
1966) 11-12.
35. Kayal, 22.
36. Ibid, 22.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


37. Thomas Carlyle. Heroes. Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1897) in Works of
Thomas Carlyle, Second AMS Edition, Vol. 5 (New York: AMS Press, 1980), 1.
38. Mark Kurlansky, "The Dominican Republic: The Land of the Blind Caudillo," The
New York Times Magazine (Section 6, August 6, 1989) 26.
39.Philip Kayal. "Dominicans in New York," Part 11. Migration Today (Vol. VI, No. 4,
October 1978) 14.
40. Ibid. 14.






S A R G A S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


"By Lacan":
Crisis del marxismo y political cultural en las Americas

John Beverley
Universidad de Pittsburgh
Ponencia presentada en el Simposio sobre Roberto Ferndnde: Retamar v "Calibdn" en la
Universidad de Sassari (Sardinia), en noviembre de 1990; apareci6 originalmente en la
revista Nuevo Texto Critico 8 (1991).


Supongo que el dilema para todos nosotros aqui, y la raz6n de ser de esta
conferencia, es que estamos en medio de una crisis profunda del proyecto socialist, pero
a la vez entendemos, o creemos, que el socialismo es todavia el horizonte de nuestro
compromise y trabajo. "Estamos en los albores de una era nueva e impredicible
destinada a la liberaci6n del pensamiento," dice nuestro compafero Garcia MArquez con
su usual optimism; pero tambidn como su general en una situaci6n de confusion y
desconcierto ante la caida de algunas do nuestras esperanzas y creencias mis profundas,
con la tentaci6n inevitable de retirarnos a cultivar nuestros jardines respectivos.
Hablamos desde la derrota. Las nuevas formas de transnacionalizaci6n del capital, junto
con el desmoronamiento del "socialismo actualmente existente", nos ponen en una
situaci6n parecida a la de Lenin en los albores de la primera guerra mundial, es decir, ante
la necesidad de reinventar (o de abandonar) el proyecto socialist. Es evidence que esta
crisis es en parte una crisis de cultural e ideologia socialist. LC6mo renovar entonces el
imaginario cultural gastado o desprestigiado de la izquierda?

CAnibal-Calibn-B Lacan: los nombres configuran las etapas y los sujetos,
respectivamente, de la colonizaci6n. descolonizaci6n y postmodermidad de America
Latina. Es sintomitico, sin embargo, que el anagrama solamente funciona en ingles
ahora. Nos hace pensar en la visi6n apocaliptica de Darfo de esos millionss de hombres"
que acabaran hablando inglds, y, en A Roosevelt, del futureo invasor / de la America
ingenua que tiene sangre indigena, / que aun reza a Jesucristo y aun habla en espafol."
La imposici6n del ingids equivaldrfa para Darfo la consecuencia de una
modernidad fracasada propiamente hispanica-quizA la modernidad representada por el
regimen liberal de Zelaya, que Darfo apoy6 y que fue derrotado por la primer
intervenci6n nortemamericana en Nicaragua. El ingl6s en este context serfa entonces el
lenguaje de una vertiente possible de una postmodernidad latinoamericana, cuyos primeros
pensadores serfan el propio Darfo, Marti, o Maridtegui. "Sangre indfgena" y "Aun reza a
Jesucristo", por contrast, nos remiten a las civilizaciones pre-colombinas y a la
Reconquista y la colonizaci6a espalfolas: es decir, a la persistencia dentro de las
formaciones sociales latinoamericanas de una premodernidad anti-capitalista, con la cual,
sin embargo, como ha sefialado Frangoise Penis, Darfo se sentfa anacr6nicamente
identificado. (Pero la profecfa tambidn funciona a la inversa: los Estados Unidos es boy
el quinto pals de habla hispana en el mundo, y la pregunta podrfa ser mas bien si tantos
millions de gringos acabarin hablando espalol.)
La revisi6n de la figure de Calibdn que hizo Roberto en su famoso ensayo
significa la originalidad tanto de la culture latinoamericana como de su sujeto human,
representado en los process de lucha de liberaci6n national por figures masculinas
heroicas como Martf, Vallejo, el Che, Fanon, o Fonseca Amador-hombres formados de
una manera decisive por la literature y el humanismo. "By Lacan" sugiere por contrast
el "sujeto deseante" revelado por la teorfa y prActica psicoanalitica, cuyo sentido do
carencia interior jams podre ser suplido; el consumidor en vez del productor de cultural y
bienes materials; la sensibilidad femenina; Molina en lugar de Valentin; el judlo






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


pequeio burguis Walter Benjamin con su hashish y su amor a las galerfas comerciales en
lugar del arist6crata puritano Adorno; los 80 en lugar de los 60: Manuel Puig o Rigoberta
Menchu en lugar de Mario Vargas Llosa o Carlos Fuentes: la telenovela en lugar del cine.
Pero como Caliban surge necesariamente de cannibal, tambiin "By Lacan" surge de
Caliban. represent su continuaci6n y quizA su consumaci6n por otros medios. Ariel,
como sefial6 Roberto, es criatura del aire: el intellectual, el poeta. Caliban, si design a un
sujeto latinoamericano popular en contrast a su 61ite letrada, estA interpelado
culturalmente hoy sobre todo por los medios masivos de comunicaci6n. Trabaja quizA
como tdcnico de television. como el marido en la pelicula Retrato de Teresa. No es que
sea indiferente a la literature (al marido le gustaban las novelas de contraespionaje), pero
a diferencia del intellectual, la literature no es su forma central de regocijo o formaci6n
cultural.
El problema-evidente en el caricter de nuestras preocupaciones en esta
conferencia--es que aun en nuestros afanes calibanescos seguimos mirando a la literature
como si fuera el discurso crucialmente formador de la identidad y posibilidad
latinoamericanas. En esto hay algo de lo que el pensamiento neoconservador, por
ejemplo Carlos Rangel en su libro Del buen salvaie al buen revolucionario., ha atacado
como un arielismo anti-yanqui, en donde se identifica a la literature en si o los valores
que encarna como significant ideol6gico de lo "nuestro" latinoamericano. Tambi6n esto
estA en A Roosevelt, como sabemos: "mas la America nuestra, que tenia poetas / desde
los viejos tiempos de Netzahualcoyotyl, / que ha guardado las huellas de los pies de
Baco" etc.
LQu6 pasa si ponemos en lugar de este nacionalismo literario latinoamericano
precisamente la cultural de masas norteamericana como model de la praxis cultural de la
izquierda latinoamericana? Quiero estar claro aqui: no estoy proponiendo como model
la cultural de masas norteamericana en sf, mis bien las posibilidades de producci6n,
divulgaci6n, consumo y disfrute cultural que represent. Tomemos el caso de la cantriz
norteamericana Madonna. (Serfa mis just en esta ocasi6n quizA Sting, que de hecho ha
jugado un papel en la cultural progresista latinoamericana, pero harfa demasiado facil
nuestra tarea.) He sugerido en varias ocasiones la siguiente situaci6n imaginaria pero
claramente imaginable: un combatiente joven del FMLN salvadoredo llevando una
camiseta con la imagen de Madonna. Una critical cultural vinculada con la teorfa de
dependencia (a la manera de Para leer al pato Donald) que todos conocemos y quiza
hemos practicado hablarfa de c6mo esta persona se habia hecho revolucionario anti-
imperialista a psardel imperialism cultural norteamericano representado por la
camiseta y la cultural del rock en general. Volvere al problema de imperialismo cultural
en seguida. Pero por el moment pregunto si de alguna manera la identificaci6n de el o la
joven con Madonna, lejos de dificultar el desarrollo de una conciencia y militancia
revolucionaria, pudiera contribuir de alguna manera a esta. Pienso en particular en una
declaraci6n hecha por el comandante Villalobos, uno de los jefes del Frente, en que decia
que el rock habfa sido precisamente la mdsica de su juventud, que compartfa esa
experiencia con la generaci6n paralela norteamericana. (En un sentido parecido, un
poema de la guerrilla guatemalteca de Marco Antonio Flores terminal con la evocaci6n:
"Esta noche los Beatles cantan Hola.)
Podrfamos complicar la cosa aun mis. Un video de Madonna eon TV Marti es
evidentemente un acto do agresi6o imperialist que tiene que ser rechazada, tanto por el
gobierno cubano bloqueando electr6nicamente la seal, como por ciudadanos
norteamericanos protestando el uso de sus impuestos para subvencionar la transmisi6n.
Sin embargo, el mismo video transmitido por la television cubana como part de su
programaci6n normal es otra cosa. No es la programaci6n de la television
norteamericana en si lo que es problemdtico-Cuba compra material television y filmico
de otros passes, incluyendo los Estados Unidos-, sino su context de transmisi6n.
Parafraseando algo dicho por Ernesto Laclau en otro-no totalmente desconectado-






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


context: la connotaci6n ideol6gica del video de Madonna viene no tanto de su contenido
sino de su forma de articulaci6n como un significant cultural.
La respuesta mis comin ante este tipo de argumentaci6n es rechazar el
conduccionismo implicito tanto en la critical cultural de la escuela de Francfort como en la
teoria de la dependencia. y sugerir la posibilidad de una recepci6n diferencial
latinoamericana de una cultural norteamericana importada o impuesta. Esto seria una
variante de la manera de pensar sobre c6mo el barroco fue refuncionalizado en la colonia
para convertirse en instrument de una voz criolla. Nelson Osorio-respondiendo en una
conferencia en Dartmouth hace unos afios precisamente al asunto de la recepci6n del rock
en America Latina--sefiala por ejemplo:

Se les cambian los sells, se les cambian las places de sus carros y se les convierte
en otra cosa. Yo creo que este es el process, en este moment, mis interesante de
America Latina. No la inevitable--hasta ahora--importaci6n de elements de
consume ideol6gico, sino c6mo se les retoma y convierte en otra cosa. [Revista de
critical literaria latinoamericana 29 (1989): 2151

Si, pero no, por dos razones. Ya es "otra cosa", sin necesidad de ser retomada y
convertida, esta cultural importada, porque la cultural popular norteamericana representada
por el rock es ideol6gicamente muy heterogenea. Como se sabe, precede en gran parte de
grupos subalternos y/o proletarios, de campesinos blancos pobres, de negros, judfos,
italianos, etc. Aunque es una cultural capitalist, no es creada ni por ni para la clase
dominant, como Bush WASP en su mayoria. Siempre tiene, aun en sus formas mis
comerciales, una raiz popular, etnica, distinta de la cultural official del imperialismo
(aunque puede ser y ha sido articulada como significant ideol6gico del imperialismo-
como en el caso del uso del jazz por el Departamento de Estado norteamericano como
part de su campaila de propaganda anticomunista en los 50).
Segundo, on la recepci6n de la cultural de masas no es tanto la posibilidad de
diferenciaci6n lo que importa por bien o por mal ideol6gicamente; esta es una idea que
implica una recepci6n ir6nica, distanciada, transculturadora: es decir, una recepci6n por
intelectuales. Como Baudrillard ha sefialado:

... en el caso de los medios masivos de comunicaci6a, la resistencia en el sentido
traditional consist en reinterpretar los mensajes do acuerdo con el c6digo propio
del grupo y para sus fines. Las masas, por el contrario, aceptan todo y to redirigen
en bloque on lo spectacular, sin la necesidad do ningun otro c6digo, sin la
necesidad de un significado, sin resistencia iltimamente, pero haciendo que todo
se deslize hacia una esfera indeterminada que ni es una esfera de non-sease falta
de sentido, sino de un process global de manipulaci6n / fascinaci6n. [traducci6n
mia de la version inglesa on Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent
Majorities (New York, 1983): 43-44)
&,Hay alo positive on esto o estamos simplemente en la presencia de un nuevo
sistema de domunaci6n cultural que ha sabido colonizar hasta los mis intimos espacios de
la psique humana? LSi mantanemos que el terreno decisive de la lucha ideol6gica en el
mundo actual esta constituido por los medios masivos de comunicaci6n, no hemos cedido
en cierto sentido la victoria al onemigo desde el principio? Pensamos por un moment en
to que parece-subrayo parece-ser el contrario de ese sistema cultural de
manipulaci6n/fascinaci6n altamente mercantilizada que represent la cultural de masas
norteamericana: es decir, on la political cultural del "socialismo actualmente existence".
Podemos decir que los problems culturales del socialismo no estAn al nivel de huh
culture. A pesar de todos los problems conocidos existed un high culture socialist mis o
menos adecuado (pensamos on Brecht, Eisler o Christa Wolf on el caso de la Alemania
Democritica, para dar s6lo un ejemplo). El problema estA mis bien en la creaci6n de una






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


cultural de masas socialist. El socialismo no ha podido competir efectivamente con el
capitalism en la producci6n de una cultural de masas. En relaci6n a este problema, y
para nuestros prop6sitos aqui, los grandes debates entire vanguardismo y realismo
socialist. narrar o describir, Brecht o LukAcs, Cortazar o Collazos, Ernesto Cardenal o
Rosario Murillo, no tienen much importancia. Tanto el realismo socialist como el
vanguardismo de izquierda, el proyecto de poesia de taller en Nicaragua como el modelo
literario mAs cosmopolita defendido por la revista Ventana, representan models rectores.
normativos, pedag6gicos de actuaci6n cultural, basados en una prolongaci6n de to que
Angel Rama design "la ciudad letrada": es decir, el concept de la centralidad de la
literature como forma cultural y su institucionalizaci6n social. Proponen corregir de una
forma u otra--efectos de demonstraci6n e identificaci6n en el caso del realismo socialist,
efectos de desfamiliarizaci6n en el caso del vanguardismo-lo que so ve como una
conciencia falsa. deformada en sus lectores o espectadores populares. En ese sentido, las
political culturales que acompanan estos debates literarios, como las campaias de
alfabetizaci6n, cambian la naturaleza de la relaci6n entire Ariel y Calibin, pero tambidn la
reinscriben.
En su nuevo libro Desencuentros de la modemidad en Amdrica Latina. Literature
v political en el siglo XIX (Mexico, 1989), el investigator puertorriquefio Julio Ramos
propone, contra la idea de Octavio Paz de la literature como una "modernidad
compensatoria" para el desarrollo desigual o fracasado de las sociedadas
latinoamericanas, una lectura de lo que 61 llama la "modernizaci6n desigual" de esta
literature. Para Ramos el modemismo implica la disintegraci6n finesecular de la
"repdblica de letras" y de la unidad de saber y poder, letrado y Estado representado por
figures como Bello o Sarmiento. Pero si en los modernistas la literature ya no es
directamente el language del Estado, si de hecho se configura y se nutre de su oposici6n a
los process de racionalizaci6n representados por ese Estado y la vida pdblica, tambien
reclama la funci6n de ser un discurso integrador, totalizante en una Epoca marcada por
esa disassociation of sensibilit-segin la famosa frase de T.S. Eliot-impuesta por la
experiencia repentina y ca6tica de la modernidad.
En tErminos generals, la nueva toma de posici6n del escritor involucra la
oposici6n de lo estEtico en sf--vista como matriz de la definici6n misma del "ser"
latinoamericano-a las actividades concretas y a los discursos positivistas (cientificos,
econ6micos, pedag6gicos, etc.) de esa modemidad. Martf, senala Ramos, "es un 'hEroe'
modemo precisamente porque su intent de sintetizar roles y funciones discursivas
presupone las antitesis generadas por la division del trabajo y la fragmentaci6n de la
esfera vital relativamente integrada en quo habia operado la escritura de los letrados".
(14)
Pero la experiencia de la modernidad finesecular no s61o tenfa qua ver con las
enajenaciones de la tecnologia y el business norteamericanos. Implicaba tambien, como
en la puesta en escena de Arig, el problema de la representaci6n literaria del nuevo
proletariado y las capas populares urbanas. Ramos descubre en relaci6n a este problema,
y a la vez como compensaci6n por el peligro de que la autonomizaci6n literaria propuesta
por el modernismo implicara su "inefectividad publica", una articulaci6n nueva de las
humanidades y de la universidad por ensayistas (y precismamente Mn el ensayo como
forma literaria) como Alfonso Reyes, Ricardo Rojas, Pedro Henrfquez Urefa, o
Vasconcelos. Mediante su institucionalizaci6n pedag6gica, estos escritores
"refuncionalizan las ret6ricas literarias, normativas contra el 'caos' social y la
masificaci6n, reclamando para la discipline de las humanidades un lugar rector en la
administraci6n y control de un mundo donde proliferaba una nueva forma de la barbarice':
la 'masa' obrera." (216) El mismo cuestionamiento de la modernizaci6n hace que la
literature como campo "nutre a (y so nutre del) emergente nacionalismo y
latinoamericanismo de la epoca, basados on el discurso de la cultural quo el campo
literario generaba". (221)






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"Nuestra America" es para Ramos una concretizaci6n de esta nueva ideologia
americanista de la literature y las humanidades. Invierte la relaci6n subordinada entire
intellectual y pueblo, escritura y oralidad en Sarmiento o Bello. haciendo del "hombre
natural"--es decir, de las cultures subalternas--el fundamento del ser latinoamericano.
Pero al mismo tiempo su propia voluntad de estilo como ensayo denuncia un sentido de
lo literario como expresi6n adecuada y necesaria de lo americano (de, en palabra de
Marti, "masas mudas de indios"). El sentido en Marti de un heroismo civil propiamente
literario institute una nueva relaci6n de literature y poder. Se trata, concluye Ramos, "de
una estetizaci6n de la poiftica que postula el lugar indispensable del saber literario en la
administraci6n del buen gobierno". (243)
Lo que desconstruye la repdblica de letras y el rol traditional del escritor para
Marti es precisamente su experiencia de Nueva York y las posibilidades de consumo y
diversion de masas que ofrece. No es casual que el articulo clave de Marti para Ramos
sea precisamente "Coney Island" de las Escenas norteamericanas. En una situaci6n de
desarrollo capitalist desigual en que ha prevalecido una u otra forma de elitismo cultural
definida por una separaci6n marcada entire intelectualidad y pueblo entiree las cuales se
puede incluir la posici6n y funci6n de los intelectuales en los paises socialistss, la
mercantilizaci6n de la cultural a traves de la operaci6n del mercado y las nuevas formas y
tecnologias de cultural de masas pueden ser--particularmente si se combinan con una
expansion del sistema de educaci6n pdblica y un aumento del nivel econ6mico de las
classes populares--un factor decisive de democratizaci6n cultural y de redistribuci6n de
bienes culturales, permitiendo no s61o nuevas modalidades de consumo cultural a trav6s
de una redistribuci6n de bienes culturales, sino tambien un aceso mis amplio a los
medios de producci6n cultural por estos sectors. Por contrast, podemos observer en la
political cultural leninista impulsada por el modelo sovietico del socialismo la persistencia
de una ideologia de to literario, que, apart de sus diferentes manifestaciones
coyunturales. guard una relaci6n cercana con el humanismo burgues y en el caso de
Amdrica Latina con estamentos culturales coloniales y neocoloniales. Como Althusser
sefial6, esta ideologia a su vez se involucra en el estalinismo con la idea mecanicista del
desarrollo de la fuerzas productivas y la consecuente political econ6mica de acumulaci6n
forzada, que implica una acci6n coercitiva del estado y del partido sobre las masas
populares.
6,Se trata entonces de una alternative del postmodernismo, ya que Neil Larsen ha
nombrado a Caliban como texto formativo de un postmodernismo de izquierda en
America Latina [en su ensayo "Postmodernismo e Imperialismo", Nuevo Texto Crftico 6
(1990): 77-941? Creo que si; tomo el lado pro-postmodernista en el famoso debate. Las
critical, lhicidas o viscerales, del postmodernismo desde la izquierda (incluida la del
propio Larsen) revelan a mi ver sobre todo la angustia de to que Gramsci nombr6 el
intellectuall traditional" ante la transformaci6n de la cultural en mercancfa y el colapso de
la distinci6n entire alta y baja cultura-colapso que define, precisamente, a lo postmodern
y que la ideologia postmodernist celebra-, y a la vez una correspondiente nostalgia por
una political do izquierda basada on una relaci6n transparent y racional entire posici6n de
clase y conciencia y actuaci6n political: Habermas es sintomntico en ambos sentidos. Sin
embargo, a pesar de su afin de desconstruir la division entire culture popular y cultural
alta, el postmodernismo como moda est6tica parece nada mAs quo una renovaci6n parcial
de esta iltima, coincidence con un populismo de derecha que busca reestablecer las bases
del poder de un capitalism tardfo pero todavia hegem6nico. Tambi6n es alarmante el
hecho de que la producci6n de los medios masivos de comunicaci6n, ya excesivamente
monopolizada, est6 mis y mis controlada por un pufado de corporaciones
transnacionales, como MCAAUniversal, ella misma recidn comprada por Matsushita de
Jap6n. En esto, como en otras cosas, el postmodernismo se parece much al barroco; es,
como sugiere Andreas Huyssen, la "Internacional Norteamericana" (o japonesa). Pero si
el postmodernismo no so entiende como un movimiento cultural correspondiente a, o
generado por, el "post-Fordismo" de los pauses capitalists mis avanzados, sino como






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


(tomando prestado un concept de Hugo Achugar acerca del modernismo uruguayo
reelaborado por George Yddice) "multiples respuestas / propuestas est6tico-ideol6gicas
locales ante. frente y dentro de la transnacionalizaci6n", entonces la condici6n de las
nuevas formas de producci6n political y culturales en America Latina es coincidente con
el postmodernismo, mas que su contrario.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Gossip and the National Imaginary in Jamaica Kincaid's
ASmall Place

Nalini Natarajan
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras
Paper presented at: Coloquio Internacional Sobre el Imaginario Social
Contempordneo. 13-15 February 1991, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras and
Cavey. Puerto Rico.

An important element in Benedict Anderson's analysis of the creative imaginary
of nation has to do with literature and its tropes. The nation's emergence, in Anderson's
narrative, occurs at a moment in European history with the onset of new 'modes of
apprehending the World' (Anderson. 28). He reads this as a relinquishing of the 'non-
arbitrariness of the sign' (Anderson, 21) essential to the sacral ontology of the medieval
world. The consequent separation of language from reality, in contrast to religious 'truth-
languages', ushers in a mimetic function for prose that makes possible the imaginary of
nation. Nation is imagined in terms of two metonymies -my own reading of Anderson's
analysis-- that represent it:
1) Print Communities, that is communities linked by literary and a common
language, which form around an imaginary sense of simultaneity. (Anderson calls this
calendrical time, which replaces religious time). Thus, reading of events in print (novel
or a newspaper) can suggest the solidity of a community.
2) Fictional and Actual Pilgrims. The places encountered in picaresque
journeys represented in the novel, can suggest plurals --the hospitals, railway stations,
etc. that constitute the infrastructure of a nation.

In Anderson's words, the novel depicts:

(T)he movement of a solitary hero through a sociological
landscape of a fixity that fuses the world inside the novel
with the world outside. (Anderson, 35)
The horizon of the world in the text is clearly bounded as this specific world --be it
England, colonial Mexico, colonial Philippines, whatever. In the case of the foundational
fictions of the national movements, the oppressiveness of the particular colony both
defines the community and helps it imagine its unity in antagonism.
In a significant twist, Anderson locates the borders of imagined nations emerging
from colonialism in the exclusions of the administrative arrangements of Empire. Thus,
the nation is bounded by the trajectory of journeys made by the members of the bilingual
intelligentsia, once, in Anderson's terms, their colonized status bars them from the
metropolis. In this argument, exclusion from the metropolis defines the national
imaginary of the colonized through 'the established skein of journeys through which each
state was experienced by its functionaries' (Anderson, 104-105).
It is easy to see in these metonymic identifications of nation as readers and
travellers an exclusion of those large population segments that comprise diverse nations
of the globe the exclusions of print literacy, of the finances supporting travel, of the
politics behind publishing that restrict the markets of print. In an effort to examine the
post-colonial national Imapnary in the light of these exclusions, I intend to examine a
short Caribbean text, Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place.






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Anderson's analysis revolves around the arbitrariness, yet representativeness of
the sign. The textualised event, the place, the journey that allow imagining derive their
power from their representative significance. Certainty lies behind this imaginary.
Other analyses of the space of the Social Imaginary see literature as occupying
other areas than Nation. In Simon During's formulation, literature in eighteenth and
nineteenth century Britain is 'Nationalism's Other' (During, 138-154). While having
nothing to do with nationalism, this imaginary would order, regulate and circulate for
imitation or better understanding of social behavior, images of social existence. It is clear
that During's analysis establishes a normative, though not nationally representative role
for the Imaginary. Its result he claims are autonomous subjects regulated by internalised
representations.
It is in contrast to the normative and the representative manifestations of the
Imaginary that I read Kincaid's text. I find here relevant the distinction Bakhtin makes
between 'whole' cultures that are 'self-sufficient' 'in the sense of not knowing their
otherness to others', and those which are no longer sealed off and deaf to their polyglot
ambiance (Pechey, 63). Bakhtin's analysis highlights moments of transition, such as
Europe in the Renaissance as examples of such transitional, liminal states. This site of
passage has to be acknowledged to conceptualize the post-colonial Imaginary. A new
cultural space is formed in times of anticolonial struggles and the first era of
decolonization. If one refuses the retreat into an essentialized notion of 'ethnic' identity,
one must read in post-colonial narratives and discourses collusion as well as resistance to
the dominant ideologies of the colonial era.
The dialects of privilege and dispossession, exclusions of the metropolis and
alienation from country of origin, cause the cosmopolitan post-colonial writer to
negotiate two Imaginaries-the national and the cosmopolitan. Wearing their '"Third
World" identifies as a mark of distinction in a world supposedly exempt from national
belonging' (Brennan, 2), not only do they write post-colonial spaces into the epistemic
aftermath of colonialism, they are also the "privileged native informants" (Spivak, 256).
Since Jamaica Kincaid is currently one such high-profile Caribbean writer, the above is
pertinent to the remarks that follow.
In Jamaica Kincaid's Small Place (Plume, 1988), literally Antigua, the space
of the nation is not identified with the historical institution of the state. It also deflates
the imaginary of nation as a homogeneity of cultural experience. Mimicking the many
languages and styles of the nation, Kincaid fleshes out the national Imaginary by
novelistic description of scenes, streets, houses, etc. Unlike many other exilic texts,
nostalgic descriptions of island beauty, when expressed are bracketed as the tourist's self-
indulgent vision.
The Imaginary of nation is shaped as gossip, an undervalued form of everyday
talk, which is now creatively empowered to reclaim a kind of participation for the
hitherto marginalised, the people, another metonymy of Nation. Gossip displaces and
thereby defeats here the representational function of print. All information in the text is
unauthorized. The unliterary nature of the discourse is highlighted by the unrepaired
library and lack of books that frame the text. The nation is imagined through an
epistemology of doubt, doubt about established version of facts. This is especially
noteworthy in the pages that describe the horrors of neo-colonial politics, not as fact, but
as a tourist attraction related in town gossip. (69)
Gossip's status at the borders of the social and the textual avoids both the
insistence on the anxiety about the boundaries between society and text in discourses
representing 'holistic, representative visions of society' (Bhabha, 296).
Gossip is the medium of the text's relentless tirades (against the enemies of
Antigua, domestic and colonial); fragmented information (about the doctors, the
politicians, the businessmen), repetition (the Library, corruption, colonial atrocities),
rumours (the horror stories of domestic violence). The plethora and inconsistency of
punctuation quotation marks left open, dashes, colons, brackets reinforce in graphemic






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form the impression of fragmentation. of quick changes of scene and thought. of the
spoken word characteristically stressing, important phrases, pausing, reformulating
expressions. The fragmented telling, the petty prejudices. the mistakes and
inconsistencies, the trivial details, the lack of proof in many of the judgments make this
all a very non-authoritarian non-positivist imagining of nation.
Yet it establishes a collective imaginary, but its task is the emptying of all the
signifiers whereby the nation defined itself. One such would be the signifier England.

We (the Antiguans) felt superior to all these people (the
English): we thought that perhaps the English among them who
behaved this way weren't English at all but from another
England, one we were not familiar with. (29)

Similarly here is Nation itself, emptied of all patriotic significance:

When Antiguans talk about 'the Nation' they are referring to
the nine by twelve mile long, drought-ridden island of
Antigua: they are referring to Barbuda, an island even
smaller than Antigua, and they are referring to a barren
little rock where only booby birds live. Redonda. (51)

The 'gaps' in signification, the text's use of gossip as a mode of perception and its
attendant epistemology of doubt, seems to me to establish what is implicit in the
imaginary dictum of national life 'out of many one'. That is, the text establishes being a
national as really a position of negation and liminality.
For a large section of the text, the people are represented as negations and
absences. Thus, they are not tourists, not the Middle Eastern merchant family, who own
a lot of Antigua and lend money to the government. They are not the colonizers, the
English, or the North Americans who build holiday homes here. The Antiguans are
introduced as absences, by what they were not allowed to do -attend clubs, attend
schools. What I am pointing out here is the appropriation of political exclusion into a
rhetorical strategy for imagining nation. The liminal spaces they occupy and from which
they speak are themselves constantly erased. For the Antiguan collective voice is
sometimes 'we' and sometimes 'they', underwriting the others of the people as one.
Significantly the site for this erasure of a fixed signifier for the 'people' can be read as the
cosmopolitan writer's Janus-face. In the text, the 'we' usually refers to the face of
Antiguans as victims (of colonialism, of corruption, of poor facilities, 29-31) and the
'they' to their own inferior abilities. This portrayed also a generation gap, and as marking
colonial from post-colonial. Underwriting the status of the following extract as
representational and Imaginary, the extract is inserted in parenthesis in the text:

(In Antigua today, most young people seem illiterate.
On the airwaves, where they work as news personalities,
they speak English as if it were their sixth
language...43)

In order to elaborate on this absence, liminality, this 'otherness' of nationality, I
return to the temporal and spatial tropes in Anderson's version of the National Imaginary.
I spoke of Anderson's notion of the way the newspaper can be a vivid figure for
imagining a community, and suggest this anonymity in community of calendrical time.
Kincaid's text gives us an interesting perspective. The imagining of Antiguan politics is
mediated by the newspaper too but in a way that destroys its borders. It becomes an echo
of other places. Which brings us to Anderson's notion of the simultaneity of event and
the imaginary of nation. In Kincaid's text, events in Antigua are plagued by a kind of






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


global determinism. Thus, the first Prime Minister, the former president of the Union that
spearheaded independence from Britain, is seen by the people as 'the event of George
Washington, liberator and first President of the United States; sometimes when Antiguans
look at this man, they think of Jackie Presser, the head of the teamsters Union in
America. who is now serving time in prison for misappropriating his union's funds (SP.
70). Sometimes they see 'the event of Haiti and the Duvaliers' (SP, 73). But then, sitting
with the prospect of that event facing them, they, Antiguans, say, perhaps .not. perhaps
that event will not be the event to take place' (SP, 73). 'And so then they imagine that
such a man will materialise in Antigua' (74). These events or cases, are brought to the
people by the newspaper and the media, and the extracts show the global (here not
identical with metropolitan) as muffling the local, giving rise to a kind of Imaginary of
Global Determinism.
The second trope in Anderson's model of the National Imaginary is the Journey.
In the imaginary the nation is metonymically represented as travellers, those who in the
course of journeys see the plural institutions that comprise the nation. But the post-
colonial perspective on journey negotiates the treacherous terrain between two worlds. In
Kincaid, the journey of the national is vicarious, never more than the guided tour she
offers the traveller. The language of the metropolitan Imaginary, the tourist brochure
contrasted immediately with the real place, the worst aspects of which are highlighted by
the national herself:

You might say, what a beautiful island Antigua is-this
place where the sun always shines and where the climate is
deliciously hot and dry for the four to ten days that you
are going to stay there; and since you are on holiday,
since you are a tourist, the thought of what it might be
like for someone who had to live day in day out in a
place that constantly suffers from drought (while at the
same time being surrounded by a sea and an ocean) must never
cross your mind. (4)

The First World tourist finds comfort in the contrast of the bad highways from those of
his home, feels alive visiting heaps of death and ruin, while the native of Antigua is
limited by poverty to make those very reassuring comparisons. In Kincaid, Anderson's
meaning endowing journey still mediates the imaginary of nation, but it, in contrast to the
tourist, the native is, by definition, one who does not travel.

That the native does not like the tourist is not hard
to explain. For every native of a place is a potential
tourist and every tourist is a native of somewhere.... every
native would like to find a way out, every native would
like a rest, every native would like a tour. (18)

We may note the multiple signification of words like "tourist", "native".

To conclude, what better site to demonstrate the 'otherness' as one that underlies
the of 'out of many, one', of the national imaginary than a small place in a hegemonic
global system? "People" as metonym for nation leads to the establishing of nation, both
as counter-colonial space and as corrupt, self-seeking, inefficient, functionally illiterate.
These conditions are of course by no means limited to the "Third World". More
importantly, the ceaseless process of signification, contained within the trope of gossip,
states the alterity and rupture implicit in all writings of the national.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Works Cited

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of
Nationalism. London: verso. 1983.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.

Bhabha. Homi. 'DissemiNation: Time. Narrative, and the Margins of the Modern
Nation." Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. New York: Routledge,
1990.

Brennan, Timothy. "Cosmopolitans and Celebrities." Race and Class. 31, I (1989).

During, Simon. "Literature Nationalism's Other? The Case for Revision." Nation and
Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. New York: Routiedge, 1990.

Nayar, Rukmini. "Text and Pre-Text: History as Gossip in Rushdie's Novels." Economic
and Political Weekly, May 6 (1989): 994-1000.

Pechey, Graham. "On the Borders of Bakhtin: Dialogization. Decolonization." Oxford
Literary Review. 9, 1-2(1987).

Spivak. Gayatri. In Other Worlds. New York and London: Routledge, 1988.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Woman as Creator/Destroyer in Three Poems of Lorna Goodison

Mary L. Alexander
University of the Virgin Islands-St. Thomas

Paper presented at "Extended Boundaries," the 13th Conference on West Indian
Literature. April 5-8. 1994. University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras campus.

The Jamaican writer and artist Lorna Goodison has been described as a poet
whose work has been "shaped by a literary tradition that reflects certain customary
European roles and representations....but [which] also reflects some central aspects of the
experience of West Indian women" (Chamberlain, 194). Indeed, an examination of her
poetry reveals an elegant interweaving of standard English and Jamaican vernacular using
universal images including those that arise from a solely West Indian experience. It is
also readily apparent that much of Goodison's poetry is concerned with the experience of
womanhood: "Woman as daughter, as sister, as mother, as matriarch, as leader, as
fighter, as sustainer, as lover, as sufferer, as victim of male abuse" (Baugh, 88).
In three of her poems, which explore specific aspects of the feminine condition,
"Farewell Wild Woman (I)", "Farewell Wild Woman (II)", and "On Becoming a Tiger."
Goodison has employed particular images and symbols invoking a mythic quality from
an otherwise intense, personal voice. In these poems, the mythical archetype of the
creator/destroyer force in the feminine experience is juxtaposed with the personal and
social concerns of being a woman. Goodison has imbued the poems with a universal
appeal, yet there is no mistaking a perspective and a sense of place that is both Black and
West Indian.
Images of repression and taming of the instinctive and natural wild woman have
appeared in several of Goodison's poems. In "Guinea Woman" the native, feminine
power of Goodison's African great grandmother is subdued and civilized by her European
captors.

They washed away her scent of
cinnamon and scallions,
controlled the child's antelope walk,
and called her uprisings rebellions. (65)

In "She Walks into Rooms," mutable feminine nature with its infinite and
disturbing mysteries is checked by social censure:

She walks into rooms
and they run for towels
say "girl, dry yourself." (81)

In "On Becoming a Mermaid" female sexuality has been altered to become
passive and impotent:

Your feet now one broad foot
The toes spread into
a fish-tail, fan-like
your sex locked under
mother-of-peari scales (55)






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In a patriarchal society, the wild nature of woman. particularly her sexuality, has
always been a threat to those in power. Mascetti describes the nature of feminine
sexuality as consisting of two poles. One pole is reached upon ovulation. expressed in
terms of feminine receptivity and surrender to the male principle. At this end of the
continuum, a woman is most fertile and thus most likely to conceive. In a mythological
context, this is the creative aspect of a woman's cycle. The second pole is associated with
the period during and directly after the menstrual flow. It is non-fertile and multi-
orgasmic. So it is that these two phenomena, menstruation, "the river of death," which
signifies the failure of fertilization, and intense sexual energy which does not have as its
outcome the creation of a child, both manifest the destructive aspect of the
creator/destroyer archetype (36, 80).
It is this second apex in the continuum of feminine nature that causes a profound
insecurity in a male-dominated power structure. A multi-orgasmic woman whose sexual
appetite may feel constricted with just one man, can inspire not only awe but an abiding
fear in those who maintain the status quo. Indeed, in western society the blame for this
state of affairs traces back to Eve, the original temptress, whose guilt and wayward ways
were indelibly stamped in her feminine descendants, all of whom were considered
sexually insatiable and fundamentally untrustworthy. Additionally, in a patriarchy, a
non-fertile woman whose activities do not produce children to carry on the family name
is not much good either. Hence it has been deemed necessary to curb and repress this
wild and unmanageable aspect of Woman's nature.
Goodison's wild woman can be seen as a metaphor for the instinctual nature that
is an intrinsic part of every woman's physiology and psyche. In "Farewell Wild Woman
(I)," the wild woman has been judged morally and socially improper by the powers that
be and it seems prudent to avoid her company:

I seem to have put distance
between me and the wild woman
she being certified bad company. (115)

It appears that one has to be on guard constantly against the alluring enticements
the wild woman offers:

Always inviting me to drink
bloody wine from clay cups
and succumb to the false promise
in the yes of slim dark men. (115)

"Drink[ing] bloody wine from clay cups" conjures images of the regenerative
powers of blood and the rituals associated with that ancient idea. It is also of interest that
the ritual cup, a/k/a, Grail has been regarded as a symbol of the feminine-a spiritual
womb which receives but also gives (Biederman, 158).
Chamberlain has suggested that oftentimes the men that appear in Goodison's
poetry are indicative of her own particular image of a muse:

Goodison's muse is not some woman of shadowy power and intermittent
presence, as a tradition dominated by men would have it, but is instead the
figure of a man, overwhelming and unreliable at times (as muses tend to
be), and created as a woman's image of inspiration. She writes about her
muse in all the ways that are familiar to readers of European literature...
except that her muse is different, inspiring her desires and dreams-and
occasionally prompting her dismay-as a woman as well as a poet. (207)






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Goodison's "slim dark men" have certainly offered not only poetic inspiration and hope.
as well as sexual excitement, but it is also clear that they are all too capable of "false
promise." Turning one's back on one's muse or on a provocative "yes" to live a
conventionally proper life is easier said than done. The wild woman always seems to be
lurking just out of sight beckoning with a promise of adventure:
Sometimes though when I'm
closing the house down early
and feeling virtuous for living
one more day without falling too low
I think I see her behind the hibiscus
in dresses competing with their red,
and she's spinning a key hung on a
cat's eye ring
and inviting me to go low riding. (115)

Cats and allusions to cats make appearances throughout Goodison's poetry.
Archetypically, cats are regarded as feminine animals, creatures of the night, intuitive and
mysterious (Biedermann, 60). The symbolism suggested by the "cat's eye," a gem noted
for its changeable lustre (Evans, 206) is of the psyche and physiological changes that
characterize a woman's monthly cyclic nature.
The wild woman has apparently exerted a powerful influence on the poet, for she
has felt compelled to dedicate a second poem of farewell to her. In "Farewell Wild
Woman (II), the wild woman seems to have disappeared. What has happened to her is
open to conjecture:

Rumor spreads a story
that bad love killed her
kinder ones swear
that just like that,
she dreamed herself
off precipices
sheer as her dresses. (116)

The wild women here has assumed the energy of Goodison's double-voiced
muse. Convention deems that the wild, instinctual nature of the feminine can lead to
nothing but a shameful and disreputable end. Womanly artistry is regarded with more
sympathy, but muses are notorious for self-destructing.
However, the poet, as a woman and as a sensitive artist, instinctually realizes that
the wild woman has not been destroyed and is only lying low, biding her time. In fact,
for all she knows, the poet may have unconsciously hidden the wild woman herself.

Only I think I know
where she went,
(I might even have hidden her
myself)
in a priest's hole
at the side of this house
and feed her occasionally
with unscorched bits of memory. (116)

The innate relationship between the erotic and the spiritual, the sacred and the
profane, is often looked upon with suspicion in Western thought and thus, must be






S A R GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


discretely dealt with. Furthermore. the homology of body as house as cosmos is an
ancient concept central to the idea of human spirituality. Eliade writes

[The) religious man can live only in an open world .. man desires to
dwell at a center, where there is the possibility of communicating with the
gods. His dwelling is a microcosm; and so too is his body. (172)
Thus, what better place for the wild woman to find sanctuary than "in a priest's hole/at the
side of this house" (Goodison, 116)?
The poet does not feel ready to embrace the fierce intensity of the wild woman
completely; thus, she is content, for the moment, to keep her hidden, nourishing her with
recollections of the fulfilling and positive experiences they have shared in the past.
Goodison's double-voiced muse of literature and love materializes again in the
poem "On Becoming a Tiger." Chamberlain, commenting further on the poet's muse,
notes that

Her muse is an image of otherness, a power beyond and within herself,
both of her own devising and determined by her literary heritage. (207)
As such, Goodison's woman, having experienced too much dismay with the otherness of
her male muse, has taken the advice of a fellow poet--"if the business of drinking/should
become too bitterJ... one should change oneself into wine"--has surrendered to her own
inner muse, who in the guise of a tiger, has been asleep inside her, "drowsing and inert"
(134).
The tiger is not only a reflection of Goodison's muse, but it can be seen to
symbolize for Goodison the maternal instinct. Her use of the animal as a symbol and
metaphor for this primal, womanly instinct is apt for the "huge and fierce cat of Asia/with
the stunning golden quartz eyes" (134) was identified by the Chinese with the yin
principal, that is all which is shadowy, cool, dark and feminine. In their mythology,
Wang Mu, Queen of the West and the goddess of female energy, is a monster-mother,
human-faced with tiger's teeth and a cat's tail (Monaghan, 161)--savagery and domesticity
incarnate. The tigress' gentle and graceful demeanor cloaks a powerful fierceness
particularly when in defense of her cubs, and as embodiment of the creator/destroyer
archetype, the she is fecund and cruel, both cherishing and destroying (Mascetti, 106).
Medieval bestiaries praised the mother love of the female tiger and noted that to
facilitate her capture, hunters would routinely place a mirror on the ground. The tigress
spying her image would mistake it for cubs and would instinctually recline so that they
could nurse (Biedermann, 344). Goodison's woman discovers her tiger essence by staring

for seven consecutive days into a tall mirror
that she had turned on its side. (134)

Having divested herself of external distractions, the woman/tiger can focus her
gaze inward to rediscover poetic inspiration and her instinctual womanly nature:

a red glowing landscape of memory and poems,

and
a heart within her heart
and lying there big, bright, and golden
was the tiger, wildly darkly striped

The mother-daughter relationship is of prime importance for passing on womanly
traditions. Generations of mothers have bestowed on generations of daughters wisdom






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


and feminine instinct that constitute a feminine collective unconscious. It is her mother
reaching out in a dream who reveals the woman's tiger nature hidden under a
conventional facade.
The poetic/maternal energy surging through the woman/tiger has necessitated
replacing her normal companion, a domestic cat with its more powerful and wild relative,
the ocelot. However, ironically, the woman/tiger seems to relish domesticity, filling
vases in her house with tiger lilies and contentedly stalking the halls at night pondering
tigerly questions:

What are the ingredients in tiger's milk?
Do tigers ever mate for life?

and
Can she rewrite the story of Little Black Sambo?
Can a non-tiger take a tiger for a wife? (135)

Even though the woman/tiger is now living "an openly tigerly life", she still feels
the need to be circumspect about the intense and urgent forces she embodies:

She has taken to wearing long dresses
To cover the rounded tail coiling behind her. (135)

In conclusion, in these three poems Lorna Goodison successfully explores the
personal and social significance of the instinctual and the artistic woman. In addition,
through a use of striking mythic images, she has succeeded in illustrating the archetype
of woman as the creator and destroyer of life--an archetype arising initially through the
biological processes of ovulation and menstruation but which encompasses a complete
feminine mystique that defines the inner as well as the outer woman.






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Works Cited

Baugh, Edward. "Goodison on the Road to Heartease." West Indian Poetry: Proceedings
of the Fifth Annual Conference on West Indian Literature. eds. Jennifer Jackson
and Jeannette Allis. St. Thomas. U.S. Virgin Islands: College of the Virgin
Islands. 1986.

Biedermann, Hans. Dictionary of Symbolism: Cultural Icons and the Meanings Behind
Them. Trans. James Hulbert. 1989. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Eliade, Mircea. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. Trans. Willard R.
Trask. 1957. San Diego: Harvest/Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.

Chamberlain, J. Edward. Come Back to Me My Language. Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Evans, Ivor, ed. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1817. New York: Harper &
Row, 1981.

Goodison, Loma. Selected Poems. Ann Arbor. University of Michigan Press, 1992.

Mascetti, Manuela. The Song of Eve. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

Monaghan, Patricia. The Book of Goddesses and Heroines. St. Paul: Llewellyn
Publications, 1990.






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Beginnings of West Indian Verse Traditions

Luis Pomales
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras
Paper presented at "Extended Boundaries," the 13th Conference on West Indian
Literature, April 5-8, 1994, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras campus.

Most books or anthologies on Caribbean poetry begin the West Indian literary
tradition with an ode by Francis Williams written c. 1759. Paula Burnett's Penguin Book
of Caribbean Verse in English begins with the anonymous "Pindarique Ode on the arrival
of his excellency Sir Nicholas Lawes. Governor of Jamaica"; it was printed by R.
Baldwin on Church Street in Kingston, Jamaica in 1718. As early as 1661, however,
Edmund Hickeringhill, from Britain, wrote "A Trip to Jamaica" in verse and prose, and in
1682. Mathew Coppinger, also from Britain, published three poems dealing with the
British or British creoles in the West Indies. Two of those poems by Coppinger were
addressed "To the Honourable Jonathan Atkins, Governor of Barbadoes" and a third one
was "An Elegy on the Death of that Noble and Renowned Gentleman, Colonel Simon
Lambert, of the Island of Barbadoes." Thus, what Francis Williams did, in dedicating his
ode to Governor Haldane, was to follow a trend of the century. Francis Williams was a
free-born Jamaican-black who was subjected to an experiment by the Duke of Montagu
"to discover, whether, by proper cultivation, and regular course of tuition at school and
University, a Negro might not be found as capable of literature as a white person." He
attended school and University (Cambridge) in England studying Classics and
Mathematics, and on his return to Jamaica the Duke tried to get him appointed to the
Governor's Council but his effort was blocked by the Governor (Undo 75-80).
Williams's ode is important because it is the first poem written by a black West Indian,
and because in it, his voice indicates the distance between races.
John Tutchin, another early British writer, deals openly with the Caribbean in
"The Earth-Quake of Jamaica" (1692). Tutchin created for himself the image that
Alexander Pope transmitted to posterity. In book II of The Dunciad (1728), the Whig
journalist Tutchin appears as one of the two figures in a "shaggy Tap'stry": "Earless on
high, stood un-abash'd Defoe, /And Tutchin flagrant from the scourge, below ..."
(Peterson i). The truth of the matter is that Pope was no more accurate about Tutchin
being whipped than he was about Defoe losing his ears.
John Tutchin was not only an irascible journalist, and from 1702 until his death in
1707 the author of the newspaper The Observator; he was also a very productive writer of
verse. Defoe found him to be "so woundy touchy, and so willing to quarrel, and that
"Want of Temper was his capital Error" (quoted in Peterson i-ii). Like many other British
writers who wrote on Caribbean themes, however, his name no longer forms part of the
literary canon.
Unlike most other British or British creole writers, Tutchin's "The Earth-Quake of
Jamaica" does not enter into the Edenic description of the islands and the plantations.
Perhaps because no evidence has surfaced to prove that Tutchin traveled to the
Caribbean, his descriptive talents focus on the single historical fact of the 1692
earthquake and its consequences. By so doing, he cleverly uses the poem to make a
political statement about a supposed rebellion and vividly captures a significant moment
in the social history of the colonial Caribbean. Similar to other early poetry, no voices
are heard in the "pindarick" poem except that of the distant Muse of Tutchin as he
describes the Jamaican catastrophe in graphic and precise detail. "The Earth-Quake of
Jamaica" differs from his other poetry in the fact that it is a Cowleyan "Pindarick"
moralizing on a disaster (Peterson iv). Tutchin aimed to compare invulnerable nature
with vulnerable man:






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Can human Race
Stand on their Legs when Nature Reels?
Unhappy man! In all things crossed
On every giddy Wave of Fortune toss'd ... (Tutchin I)
The poem was published in early December. Some six months earlier, late in the
morning of Wednesday, 7 June 1692, the earthquake had erupted in Port Royal, the
"boom" port on the south side of the island:

Part of the Island was Prey to Fate
And all the rest do's but prolong its date ... (Tutchin VII)

The famed capital of the buccaneers fell in three shocks lasting less than three minutes,
but news of the disaster did not reach London until August 9. The earthquake then
became a widely discussed event The London Gazette ran stories on it, and scientists
like Sir Hans Sloane published eye-witness accounts in the Philosophical Transactions of
the Royal Society. Moralists declared God's wrath had come down upon the wickedest
place in Christendom, and "the actors of the drolls" in Southwark Fair mockingly re-
enacted the event until the Lord Mayor put a stop to the performances (Peterson iv-v).
Tutchin impresses both in the way he treats the event as if he had been there and adapts it
to his moral point of view. Again, for British poets such as Tutchin politics were always
relevant (Peterson v). He uses this poem to challenge sinners to repent: the "Hurricane of
Fate" wailed on murderedd Cornish." This phrase makes an obvious reference to the not
yet forgotten Monmouth Rebellion. Tutchin cleverly and subtly alludes to the act of
Parliament passed in 1689 reversing the attainder of Henry Cornish, the alderman who
had been brutally executed in 1685 for high treason because he was believed to have
participated in the Rye-House Plot with the Duke of Monmouth. Furthermore, 355
"convicted rebels" from Monmouth's Rebellion were among the indentured servants
shipped to Jamaica as a punishment for various crimes and misdemeanors. They landed
at Port Royal in 1685-86 with instructions to the Governor that they duly serve their ten-
year indenture. On the day of the Jamaican calamity, after his morning service, the
Anglican Rector in Port Royal, Dr. Emmanuel Heath, went to drink a glass of
"wormwood wine" with John White, President of the Council, "as whet before dinner":

But while they put the Glasses round,
Death steps between the Cup and Lip,
Nor would it let 'em take one parting sip. (Tutchin IV)

Dr. Heath's pre-prandial drink had been interrupted by the geological calamity... (Pawson
120).
The fire and Winds contend,
But both concur the Vaulted earth to rend;
It upwards rose, and then it downward fell,
Aiming at Heaven, it sunk to Hell... (Tutchin V)

The Neighboring Seas now own no more,
The sturdy Bulwarks of the Shoar,
The gaping earth and greedy Sea,
Are both contending for the Prey;
Those whom the rave'nous Earth had ta'ne,
Into her Bowels back again
Are wash't from thence by the insulting Main. (Tutchin III)






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According to Pawson,
The sand in the street rose like the waves of the sea, lifting up all persons
that stood upon it, and immediately dropping down into pits; and at the
same instant a flood of water rushed in, throwing down all who were in its
way; some were seen catching hold of beams and rafters of.houses, others
were found in the sand that appeared when the water was drained away,
with their legs and arms out. (120)

To crown this horrible scene, there floated on the water not only the corpses of recently
killed, but also of those previously buried in the cemetery that had been severely shaken
in the earthquake, and had yielded up some of its inhabitants. The contemporary
estimates of the total number of dead at Port Royal due to the earthquake and the
aftermath brought the number to about four thousand, slaves and free men (Pawson 122).
One hundred and twenty years later, the description of another Caribbean disaster
was described in verse by a Barbados born, British creole poet, Mathew James Chapman
(1796-1865). In "Barbadoes," published in 1833 and reviewed in Blackwood's Edinburgh
Magazine while he was studying at Cambridge, Chapman describes the I May 1812 fall
of volcanic dust from the eruption of Soufritre, the St Vincent volcano. The poem
leaves a fantastic and vivid picture of terror.
But on one well-remembered morn, there rose
Or seemed to rise, no sun. No stars disclose,
Nor straggling moonlight, the uncertain hour
But darkness reigns with undisputed power
Horror on horror! Onward rolls the day,
And yet there comes no solitary ray,
The birds fly screaming round the night-wrapt walls

The obscene bat is wheeling through the halls;
The affrighted herds in wild confusion run
All that has life bewails the veildd sun.
The trembling negroes in their huts crouch low,
And fear some terrible though unseen foe.
The boldest and the wisest shrink aghast,
No thunder-voice is heard, no rushing blast,
A frightful stillness fills the invisible.
In vain they listen-all is silence still ... (13-14)

Twentieth-century Barbadian poet, E. Kamau Brathwaite, apparently unaware of
Chapman's description (as of 26 January 1994), makes his own distinct observations
about the legend of the volcano's eruption in "The Dust":

But that isn't all!
you remember that story
Gran' tell us 'bout May dust?

No! what another fuss that?

Well it seem that
they have a mountain near hey
that always smoking' an' boilin'
like when your belly got bile.






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What you sayin'. chile!

But is true!

Now how you
know! Any-
body live there? You
know any-
body from there who
live out near here?
Besides, where
exactly you say this place is?

That isn't you biz-
ness! Besides,
is miles an' miles
from the peace o' this

place an' is
always purrin' an' pourin'
out smoke. Some say
is in one o' them islands away
where they language tie-tongue
an' to hear them speak so
in the St. Lucia patois
is as if they cahn unnerstan'

a single word o' English.
But uh doan really know. All uh know
is that one day suddenly so
this mountain leggo one brugg-a-lung-go

whole bloody back side
o' this hill like it blow
off like they blastin' stones
in the quarry.

Rocks big as you cow pen hois'
in the air as if they was one
set o' shingles. That noise,
Jesus Christ, mussa rain down

Splinter an' spark
as if it was Con-
federation.

But you ain't got to call
the Lord name in vain
to make we swallow
this tale! It int nice,

Olive, man!
It is true!
An' the Lord God






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now that uh sorry.

But it black black black
in yuh face in yuh food,
in yuh eye. In fac',
Granny say in de broad
day light, even de white

o' the skylight went out.
An if you hear people shout!
how they can't find the way

how they isn't have shelter
can't pray to no priest or no leader
an' God gone an' darken the day!

Gran, say that even the fowls in the yard
jump back pun they coops when the air
turn gray an' the cocks start to crow
as if it was foreday momin'.

It went dark dark dark
as if it was night
an' uh fright-
en, you know ... (147-49)

The description of the volcano was not the only thing Chapman left in his poem
"Barbadoes." He wove this panegyricc of the condition of the slaves" into his poem as
well:

Where Niger rolls his rapid stream along
Enriching many a plain unknown to song;
Whose bank the palm and flowering lotus shade
To screen from curious eyes the bathing maid!
The despot spirit haunts the ancient woods,
Rules in the village, ravages the floods,
There, prompt to ill the savage feeds his pride,
Or bows his neck to creatures defied;
There darkling Superstition sits and broods,
Making vast regions barren solitudes;
There Sin and Satan occupy and spoil,
And War and Famine desolate the soil;
All, all is savage; dark-browed Hatred reigns,
And demons howl along the blighted plains.

From thence transplanted to this genial clime,
The serf forgets his heritage of crime;
No more he thinks upon his Libyan skies;
His natives rites a purer faith supplies.
He looks with gladness for the promised day,
And horrid superstition flies away.
His life, his home, his property secure,
He knows his lot is better than before






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He grows for freedom. if'tis Heaven's decree
These sons of Canaan shall at last be free.
But ah! forbear, nor tempt his dangerous rage:
For he is yet in freedom's pupilage.
0. let not loose the fierce intestine foe,
Let streams of blood in every island flow;
Listen to reason: let soft mercy plead;
To free the negro, must his master bleed?
First learn the right and then the right pursue,
Lest one wild ruin all the empire rue.
Change is not wisdom, nor can license claim,
Or brute injustice, Freedom's holy name. (80-81)

In the classical trope of this early West Indian poetry, the poet introduces the slave as
saved from savagism and superstition-a recurrent topos-where their capture and
enslavement is read as voluntary relocation, where the slave is content in a new
environment and waits cheerfully and patiently at his master's side for freedom and
salvation:
Lo! where the gang assembled wields the hoe
And each begins his own appointed row,
Song and the jocund laugh are heard around-
Quirk upon quirk, and ready jokes abound.
The task allotted they with ease can do;
No shapes of dread affright their steps pursue:
They fear no lash, nor worse the dungeon's gloom
Nor nurse the sorrows of a hopeless doom. (13)

Chapman, like other poets such as James Grainger ("The Sugar-Cane"), who Chapman
mentions in his preface, left his notions not only in his poems but also in his explanatory
notes. The intentions were far from obscure: it was convenient for the white ruling
society to maintain the status quo in the Caribbean archipelago.
It is also interesting to note how some of the colonial writers describe and point
out superstitions and savagery when writing about the "other"-first the Amerindians and
later the Africans-and remain oblivious to their own. For example, Coppinger in his
1682 "Elegy on the Death" ... makes use of the "superstitious" device "that the stars
dictated the general mutability of sublunary things" (Tillyard 53):

Before some Famine, Pestilence, or War
Or Monarchs Death, Heaven sends a blazing Star,
To let us know not what to hope, but fear,
When such Portents his Messengers appear.
And can great Lamberrt dye, and Nature show
No sign, so great a ruine to forego?
Had I beheld th' Illustrious Prince of Light
Resign his glorious Rays to sable Night,
And some bright Constellation fall from thence,
I instantly should have inferr'd from hence
Our certain loss, and boldly would have said,
The heavens declare that vertuous Lambert's dead. (1)

Ten years later, Tutchin resorts to precisely the same kind of superstition:

Sometimes a Flaming Comet does appear,






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Whose very Visage does pronounce,
Decay of Kingdoms, and the Fall of Crowns,
Intestine War or Pestilential Year;
Sometimes a Hurricane of Fate
Does on some great Man's Exit wait...
But here, alas! no Omens fly,
No secret Whisper of their Destiny
Was heard; none cou'd divine
When Fate wou'd spring the Mine ... (Tutchin III)

I would like to close with two particulars that, although in prose, extend the
"poetic" tradition of colonial Caribbean literature. They deal with the use of folk-based
speech sounds and patterns--what would now be identified as dialect, creole, or in E.
Kamau Brathwaite's term, "nation language"--as they are represented in British and
British creole writing. The device was used as early as 1796 by Peter Pindar (John
Wolcot) who used it as the "voice" of the captive slave in "Aid or the song of the Captive
Negro." The example below appeared in Tom Crinkle's "Log Scenes in Jamaica"--
published in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine of June 1832. It was later printed in book
form because of its popularity. According to Crinkle's text,

The wine circulated freely, and by and by Fall indulged in some
remarkable stories of his youth, for he was the only speaker, which I found
some difficulty in swallowing, until at length, on one thumper being
tabled, involving an impossibility, and utterly indigestible, I involuntarily
exclaimed, "By Jupiter!"
"You want any ting, massa," promptly chimed in the black servant
at my elbow, a diminutive kiln-dried old negro.
"No," said I rather caught.
"Oh, me think you call for Jupiter."
I looked in the baboon's face-"Why, if I did; what then?"
"Only me Jupiter at massa service, dat all."
"You are, eh, no great shakes of a Thunderer, and who is that tall
square man standing behind your master's chair?"
"Daddy Cupid massa."
"And the old woman who is carrying away the dishes in the
Piazza?"
"Mammy Weenus."
"Daddy Cupid and Mammy Weenus-Shade of Homer!"
Jupiter to my surprise, shrunk from my side as if he had received a blow,
and the next moment I could hear communing with Venus in the Piazza.
"For true, dat leetle man of war, Buccra, must be Obeah man;
how de debil him come sab6 dat it was stable boy, Homer, who broke de
candle shade on massa right hand, dat one wid de piece broken out of de
edge;" and here he pointed towards it with his chin-a negro always points
with his chin. (900)

The European reader, unaware of any alternative meaning to be found in Cringle's
entertainment piece, no doubt would have chuckled at the "ignorance"--another topos--of
the Negro voices portrayed through the dialogue. The dialogue also demonstrates other
characteristics worth mentioning such as names-Cupid, Venus, Jupiter, Homer etc.--that
were given to the slaves that stripped them of any sense of African identity and the use of
a distinct creole vocabulary--Buccra, massa, and Obeah man-with multiple
significations. Finally, in another scene in Tom Cringle's "Log Scenes in Jamaica," the






S A R GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


prejudiced writer describes, unwittingly, a very important element of the Africans
religious beliefs:
The following night there was to be a grand play or wake in the negro
houses, over the death of the head cooper .. the scene was wild enough ..
about twenty women, all in their best clothes, sitting on the ground, and
swaying their bodies to and fro. while they sung in chorus the wild dirge .
"I say, broder, you can't go yet."
Chorus of female voices.
"When de morning star rise, den we put you in hole."
CHORUS.
"Den you go in Africa, you see Fetish dere."
CHORUS.
"You shall nyam goat dere, wid all your family."
CHORUS.
"Buccra can't come dere; say, dam rascal why you no work?"
CHORUS.
"Buccra can't catch Duppy, no, no."
Three calibashes, or gourds, with pork, yams, and rum, were placed on a
small bench that stood close to the head of the bier, and at right angles to it
... the women, singing men and drummers, suddenly gave a loud shout,
or rather yell, clapped their hands three times, and then rushed into the
surrounding cottages, leaving the old grave digger alone with the body ...
He lifted the gourd with the pork, and took a large mouthful.
"How is dis? I can't put dis meat in quacco's coffin, dere is salt in de pork;
Duppy can't bear salt," another large mouthful-"Duppy hate salt too
much,"--here he ate it all up, and placed the empty gourd in the coffin. He
then took up the one with the boiled yam in it, and tasted it also. "Salt
here too-who de debil do such ting?--must not let Duppy taste dat"...
discussed it also and emptied it and then came to the calabash with rum.
"Rum! ah, Duppy love rum--if it well strung, let me see--Massa Niger,
who put water in dis rum, eh? Duppy will never touch dat"-a long pull-
"no, no, never touch dat." Here he finished the vessel and placed it beside
the others... and the story goes on about Quashie and the snake that
comes "to catch Quacco's Duppy, before him get to Africa... De metody
parson say de devil, old serpent, dat must be old serpent," etc. (904-905).

Again, as in the previous scene, Cringle has picked up various elements with his playful
vocabulary that are important to the West Indian literary tradition and culture: the
description of the chorus of women at the wake, the religious observance and beliefs such
as the Duppy or spirit of the dead returning to Africa, freed from Buccra, to join his
relatives in a festivity of eating (nyam), and burying the dead one with food for the trip
calabashess filled with yam and meat, etc.).
Uncovering, piecing together and critically examining the information about the
West Indian literary heritage that comes from these examples of colonial poetry and prose
forms is a slow, demanding, but ultimately rewarding process.






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Works Cited

Brathwaite, E. Kamau. History of the Voice: The development of nation language in
anglophone Caribbean poetry. London: New Beacon, 1984.
--------. Rights of Passage. London: Oxford UP, 1967.

Burnett, Paula. Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse in English. London: Penguin, 1986.

Chapman, M.J. Barbadoes and Other Poems. London: James Fraser, Regent Street, 1833.

Coppinger, Mathew. Poems. Songs. and Love Verses Upon Several Subjects.
London: 1692.

Cringle, Tom. "Log Scenes in Jamaica." Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. No. CXCV,
June 1832, Vol. XXXI. (884-906).
Hickeringhill, Edmund. Miscellaneous tracts essays, satyrs. &c. in prose and verse.
London: S. Briscoe & B. Bragge, 1707.

Lindo, Locksley. "Francis Williams: A Free Negro in a Slave World." Savacou Vol. I
(June 1970): 75-80.

Pawson, Michael. Port Royal. Jamaica. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975.

Peterson, Spiro. The Augustan Reprint Society: John Tutchin Selected Poems. No. 110,
(1964): i-xi.

Singleton, John. A General Description of the West Indian Islands. Barbados: Esmond &
Walker, 1767.

Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. 1944; Rpt. New York: Vintage, 1972.

Tutchin, John. Selected poems. London: 1692.

Wolcot, John. The Works of Peter Pindar. London: John Walker, 1796.






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Edna Manley's The Diaries: Cultural Politics and the Discourse of Self
Consuelo L6pez Springfield
University of Wisconsin-Madison
The late sculptor Edna Manley, wife of Jamaican Premier Norman W. Manley and
the mother of Michael Manley, Jamaica's late Prime Minister, played a pivotal role in
Jamaica's "cultural renaissance" of the post-1938 period. Her diaries, written between
1939 and 1987, reveal her ideas on aesthetics, history, and self-representation. They
demonstrate her on-going struggle to integrate her aesthetic sensibilities with the political
reality that defined her social landscape. Often torn between Eurocentric conceptions of
the artist as an individual talent expressing personal aesthetic ideals, on the one hand, and
Afrocentric perspectives of art as shared communal expression, (1) on the other, Manley
created a "hybrid" symbolic universe suggesting "wholeness." Her self reflections, in
diary form, also illustrate her determination to link opposing metaphors of the self into a
central. organizing image. In this essay, I will attempt to show how The Diaries conveys
the texture of her life-in-process and the relentless spirit of commitment that led to her
political engagement Her internal battle, I will argue, finds its reconciliatory images in
archetypes emphasizing the strength and determination of black Jamaican women.
The Diaries, edited after her death by her granddaughter, poet Rachel Manley,
capture her creative and personal growth allowing a pattern to emerge as sure, bold
carvings on wood gradually produce images of a subjective self. In brief recollections of
a day's events, Manley documents a journey to self-hood, a tale of marriage, widowhood,
and of her identification with the large black Jamaican community. As she writes and
sculpts (and she writes about sculpting), she comes to terms with her own womanhood as
head of the family and matriarch to a society under stress. In a sense her
autobiographical journey is also a nationalist vision coinciding with her son's political
campaign for a government that represents, if only on a symbolic level, the aspiration of
the popular masses. Hers is a narrative, too, of a woman seeking a room of her own,
wanting to nurture and be loved.
In order to interpret Manley's cultural discourse, let us turn first to her life-story
which is a story of cultural assimilation. Bom in Cornwall, the daughter of a Yorkshire
clergyman and a Jamaican mother, Manley demonstrated, early in life, a daring,
independent mind. In 1921, while studying art in London, she married her cousin,
Norman, a dark-skinned intellectual from Jamaica's "brown middle class" who would
later guide the Crown Colony towards independence. As a young mother of two, she
soon became intensely engaged in Jamaica's new nationalist movement as editor of
Focus, the colony's first literary magazine and the nationalist weekly Public Opinion. She
also took part in mass rallies, soup-kitchen lines, and partisan meetings, helping to
promote the newly-formed People's National Party (P.N.P.) which Norman headed, all
the while continuing to sculpt, teach, and encourage young and aspiring local talent.
Although she soon established an international reputation abroad and created a
national audience for art exhibitions, she remained artistically alienated in bourgeois
society and in need of self-confidence. "There was nobody to judge things by," she told
artist Basil McFarlene, "nobody to share the excitement of the creative life."(2) For
nearly fifty years, she turned to diary writing as a vehicle for exploring her inner life and
the social conventions of her age. Let us listen to her own words as she describes her
need for autobiographical analysis:

So I take a pen and write when the loneliness, the emptiness comes
on-might in itself help one to grow and to understand. For this I
am sure it isn't wise to meet death without an effort of cognition-it
isn't wise to go on with the assumption that courage is the only valid






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


virtue. One has to have thought. one has to have wrestled with the
angel. (90)
As diarist, Manley aims at educating her offspring and future generations of West
Indians. In minute details, she chronicles the joys and anguish of a family who
introduced a new era of political self-determination to the people of Jamaica. Her
emotions are explored often in partisan settings: fear during her public speaking debut in
a church in Harlem, worry over Norman's Jamaica Welfare program, bitterness toward
Alexander Bustamante's "bully-boy" tactics to defeat the P.N.P.,(3) and pride in
Michael's acute sensitivity to the spoken language of the folk. Although feminist critics
contend that "the female autobiographer has lacked a sense of radical individuality ...
that empowered Augustine and Henry Adams to write their representative lives large,"(4)
Manley's diaries illustrate that the personal is historical. Individuality and community
intertwine; creative service leads to self-empowerment. Her diaries also justify partisan
failures to present and future generations. "One of the things that future generations may
not understand is that with all our faults, our weaknesses, we nevertheless were breaking
new soil," she insists. Being the first Jamaican "First Lady" was "a tremendous job--like
putting an unbroken horse to draw a chariot. You're there-there's no running away and
the footlights are on" (215).
Her audience is perceived as plural: the self, Norman, Rachel, and succeeding
generations, all of whom are seen to be intelligent, interested in art, life, self-discovery,
and human relationships. As the diarist ages and comes to terms with the inevitability of
death, her relationship with the reader shifts. The initial "you" of the first entry, for
instance, appears to be both an "other" self and an imagined reader who may have been
Norman (for Manley's letters to her husband are filled with inner probing). Later on,
aware of the historical value of the diaries, she often comments didactically on life,
politics, and art. (5) She captures historical events as a backdrop to her life, seeing
history as a place where inner and outer lives meet.
Although much of the diaries deal with her political life, they also demonstrate a
persistent conflict between her need for solitude, a precondition for creative growth, and
her involvement in communal life. To resolve a dialectical struggle between these two
competing views, she produced a third, "hybrid" cultural aesthetic with feminist creativity
at its center. Cuban poet Nancy Morej6n refers to this process of mdtissage, the
interweaving of cultural forms, as

the transmutation between two or more cultural components
with the unconscious goal of creating a third cultural
entity--in other words a culture--that is new and independent
even though rooted in the preceding elements. Reciprocal
influence is the determining factor here, for no single element
superimposes itself on another, on the contrary, each one
changes into the other so that both can be transformed into
a third. Nothing seems immutable. (6)

Frangoise Lionnet points out that "in this constant and balanced form of
interaction, reciprocal relations prevent the ossification of culture and encourage
systematic change and exchange" (16).
To be sure, Manley sees her artistic goal explicitly as the fusion of European myth
with West Indian social reality. In 1984, for instance, frail, exhausted and depressed, she
contemplated suicide while wrestling with The Listener, inspired by the tale of Orpheus.
As she yearns for the "strength" and the "way" to say farewell, her granddaughter,
Rachel, comes to her aid. In one entry, she writes:

Rachel's poem arrives and she writes of Eurydice-and there






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it is at a bound--NOT farewell--but 'and she looked back.'
In Rilke's great poem Orpheus is summoning her back from death--
the gods grant Orpheus the chance to challenge them and play his
heavenly music, which defies even death. But she must follow the
music as it seems to precede her. . she must not look back to
see its source. But she looked back. (286)
We can see that Manley re-interprets the ancient myth to fit her crucial needs: coming to
terms with Norman's death,(7) her advancing years, and a landscape reft by political
terrorism. "How," she asks, "does one put into contemporary and acceptable form an old
Greek legend--born in the land of reggae-born in the land of a place where life and death
are perhaps not accepted as tragedy but with a robust, almost emotionally excitable (sic)."
Important is the arrested image--one that appears in many other works--of a person
glancing over a shoulder in sudden anticipation. It is an image drawn from her innermost
self, symbolizing her ambivalence toward and her deep desire to understand and to accept
radical social change. "Karl Marx made his titanic contribution when we were
youngsters--and then, bearing his thinking in our minds, we worked, we wrestled with the
Jamaican context," she writes. "God bless Marx, but God help his followers." To this,
she adds, "the women are the force in the Caribbean now-in Jamaica anyway. They have
borne the loads" (181).
The cultural product of an earlier generation, Manley adapted to changes in
Jamaican society by transforming, through artistic form, "the surfaces of things to reach
their archetypal essence."(8) From the creative tension between two competing artistic
traditions, she draws strength and a vision, deeply felt, that artistic growth mirrors the
female rhythms of life: the freedom of childhood, the creativity of childbearing, and the
wisdom of old age. As Lionnet explains, "it is by returning to the physicality of their
experiences, to the racial and sexual characteristics of their bodies that mitis women
become able to create culture" (33).
Throughout her diaries, Manley uses water symbols to describe her inner self.
Her private dwelling place can be found in the rugged coasts and surging waves of
Cornwall and in the bright sunlight and sea-waters of tropical Jamaica. Water imagery
permeates her artistic consciousness and the dark, mysterious properties of the ocean
womb, the primal flow of life, are the source of her feminine self. The first entry begins
with an evocation of mood that is at once pensive, wistful, and restrained. The inner self,
dark, mysterious and secret, is likened to a deep, dark pool. As she ponders the recesses
of her own psyche, she penetrates into the essence of self-existence as a necessary means
toward self growth. "Outside at the bottom of the hill," she writes, "lies the deep, still
pool, without a ripple, without a movement, so secret, so inscrutable, holding its
imperturbable mirror to the drifting wane white moon." Although the moon moves on, "it
leaves something to remember, something to care for, something to develop and make
grow, something that not everyone understands to build on" (3-4).
The "ocean my mother appears, moreover, as the source of her creative
inspiration. The diarist perceives herself an "ocean creature" seeking rebirth in the sea's
depths and in the sensuality of its sweeping waves. "I have been wrestling with the idea
of an ocean sculpture and all the drawings are locked into the almost obsession about a
woman's figure lying in the water," she writes. "As a child I had been a little obsessed
with the danger-'moods and calm'--almost playful moods of a summer sea. Now as I
write I remember in the studio this morning, how the thought came of a Caribbean sea--
and this I think came after I had released and faced the fear" (286). Her inner self exists
in a world of twilight, like a great octopus at rest, drifting with the sea, nebulous, yet
capable of the most instantaneous and tremendous tension" (6). Female metaphors of
moon, water and mist form links between two worlds: the England of her childhood
memories and the reality of Jamaica, a place of becoming and of affirmation.






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As she ages, she seeks solutions to the difficult transitions that she encounters in
life: the loss of youth, fecundity, husband, and financial security. At each stage or
"path." she searches for a center, a point of new departure. Metaphysically, she attempts
to transcend the contradictions between the collective self and the seeker of "some kind
of intellectual and emotional freedom" (2). Life is a "struggle to free oneself from
oneself," Manley writes in 1939; "at some period one achieves complete self-
consciousness, and the realization comes that one's mind is like a cocoon, that such times
as one has lived has only succeeded in enveloping one in layers and layers of ties and
conventions--and then the rest of life stretches out as a suddenly (sic) brief time in which
to struggle out of the wrappings to some kind of intellectual and emotional freedom" (2).
Just as Manley views her life as a process of becoming, her diary is a way of
perceiving "moments of awareness and moments of crisis" (50). This is endemic to the
genre; as Robert A. Fothergill explains, "unlike the autobiography, which may tell in
retrospect the history of self-development and the resolution of internal conflicts, the
diary receives the actual form and pressure of these processes."(9) In her relations with
the world, she often wants to escape to her own private reality, to resolve the tension by
imposing a final image of herself, one that reflects resourcefulness and love. Her desire
to impose a controlled image of herself while struggling, conversely, against artistic and
personal atrophy, mirrors the experiences of other women writers. As Felicity A.
Nussbaum reminds us: "it is common for women to position themselves simultaneously
in opposing attitudes toward self and gender in their autobiographical writings, in an
attempt to find a coherent subject position, to declare a consistent T" (10).
Through the working of consciousness that is the very essence of diary-writing,
Manley develops a profound awareness of an inner need to transform her aesthetic
rendering of race into her own personal icon. Although she had cast her vision of the
revolutionary potential of Jamaica's oppressed black population as early as 1935 in The
Negro Aroused, it was not until her later years that she embraced race as vital to her
identity and self-worth. "Norman felt you must lift from the bottom up-that you must go
to the people," she writes at eighty; "I knew nothing of politics--but seeing it in the terms
Norman saw it, I learnt from him" (206-9). In time, she learned to understand "all the
difficulties of overcoming a sort of still strangeness that comes from difference of colour
and class"(209). But it was not until she experienced the loss of privacy, wealth,
husband, and physical strength that she saw herself as a woman of color. (11)
Her diaries reveal that life transitions were difficult and often painful; and to
survive as an "older woman" in a society comprised overwhelmingly of young black
people struggling to free themselves from the burdens of the past, she was forced to seek
common ground with men and women who held newer and, at times, opposing views of
race in political discourse. But it was not until Michael's 1972 campaign, when she
worked on a number of works portraying the Afro-Caribbean grandmother as an heroic
spiritual leader that she alleged Black ancestry. "I know that my tie with Jamaica comes
very strongly through my mother, as well as through Norman," she writes in a diary
entry; "also, in a deep acceptance of being coloured"(12). She fails to mention, however,
that her family in England was both shocked and angered by her sudden racial claim.
Whether this was due to a conscious omission or an editorial decision is uncertain. We
can only speculate that access to the original diaries might reveal the private
repercussions of her public stance.
Entries indicate that changes in Manley's attitudes toward racial identification and
interdependency were gradual and thinly-veiled. In the diary entries of the 1940s,
Manley describes the hill people as "almost a lost people," a "tragic people," who are
"dark and desperate and really very stupid" (26-31). Initial entries attest to a romantic
self-image as an existentialist artist and political wife whose creative work interprets
social reality for a people in need of artistic vision. As she experiences interdependency
in an explained familial circle, however, she outgrows the early prejudices that had
emerged during unsuccessful political campaigns in the hill country. She shows no






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sympathy for the middle class "leaving in swarms" and driven by "love of money. their
special privileges, a refusal to face and accept colour and racial qualities" (144).
Psychological ties to the black community can be found in an entry describing her work
on a nude. "a young girl--black, three quarters length, standing in a pool of water." The
"pool" of water recalls earlier references to the inner psyche--profound, peaceful. and
protected from the banality of social life. Her creative purpose in carving the girl, we are
told. is "to find my own handwriting in a nude, my own emphasis and simplification."
She describes the figure as "a very young girt--utterly wild and untamed--not fully
mature--caught standing in a river--kinky hair, uncombed--slim arms--very negro...Life
hasn't begun yet for this girl--the men. the childbearing, the weary looks--no I have
chosen 'a bright morning'" (65). The passage reveals her desire to express her personality
not in an European image, as in her early sculpture of Eve, but in the image of a Rastafari
youth.
As she ages, she reacts to the growing urban violence that tears at the very fabric
of social life by turning to archetypal images expressing the sanctity of human life and
the increasing burdens placed on black women. Indeed, her ability to acquire new
strengths. new sources for self-hood, are linked to her own survival within the family and
the black community at large. "As I think of survival, I think of my Jamaican woman,"
she writes; 'I called my woman and children in the end, Ghetto Mother---the agony of the
ghetto mothers"(249). In her mythological world of women-centered themes, the ghetto
woman is strong, resilient, and protective. The Cry of the Children. she explains, "came
straight out of my heart... It is, I know, a naked statement of me-and all I went through
in 1980 with the killing of the children" (227).
Her artistic renderings of generational unity among black women parallel her own
efforts, moreover, to establish a genealogy among her female Jamaican ancestors. She
relates an incident that occurred in 1965, while discussing plans for a statue of the
national hero, Paul Bogle, leader of a popular rebellion. To surmount anti-white
sentiment, she claimed that she came from Hanover. her mother's Jamaican birthplace.
"We're a bit backward in Hanover," she declares, "but still I'm doing the statue and I
know about Bogle" (71). She remembers her mother as "a passionately independent
woman" (278); and she describes the "mutual" grandmother whom she and Norman
shared as a "horsewoman par excellence." To this, she adds: "she could ride any horse
(like me!), only she was beautiful and had a magic side-saddle seat-whilst I rode like a
'gamin', no seat, no grace, but GOOD and sensitive hands" (250).
From a reading of The Diaries, it is obvious that Manley's identification with
blackness marks a period of growing attachment to and deep concern for her role as
grandmother and guardian. As she interprets the devastating effects of political violence
and economic blight on Jamaican family life, we meet her children and grandchildren, the
troubled offspring of an unstable society, who depend increasingly on her precarious
resources. "There is so much that is worrying just now, both on the personal front and
politically," she writes; "but the carving and my faith in it is a sort of rock to which I
cling" (120). In her later art, binary opposition dissolves as she sculpts images of
maternal interconnectedness. "It's been a strange experience," she confesses while
carving And Would not be Comforted. Weening. and Women and Children. "There's
been no duality over it-only a shrinking away from the subject, a fear that it was
negative, and then finally I felt it is the truth" (222).
Indeed, her relationship with her granddaughter, Rachel Manley, raised as her
own girl-child, forms a sub-text within her narrative, shaping her autobiographical
discourse, internalizing her feminist views. Their relationship, based upon
interdependency, enriches her life, inspires her art, and deepens her convictions that
women should exercise courage and daring in their quest for inner truth. In one entry, she
recollects "sitting in the labour ward" while Rachel gave birth, feeling "an umbilical cord
pulling her to me (102)." Rachel's childbirth experience reawakened her creativity.
Scarcely a week later, she writes, "all the sense of loneliness and disaster is falling away--






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


I'm going to carve...Oh, God--I'm happy. I'll carve it... a baby, a baby within a form--
within a form .. a baby" (103-104).
Metaphors of pregnancy and birth also reveal Manley's intense belief in the
human capacity for love and change. Her beliefs go beyond traditional Western feminism
to embrace society as essentially androgynous. "In spite of his tremendous genius, Blake
saw God as a father figure, but what about the mother figure," she writes in 1981; "when
I was at Nomdmi (her home in the hill country), and very inspired. I was feeling my way
toward a Man Woman Godhead" (224). To Manley, "Godhead" signified "stillness at the
core" (50). a state of peace and wholeness.
Although, Manley had embraced feminism at an early age and in her personal
terms, she did not link the feminist struggle to the class struggle. Certainly, she believed
strongly in the power of women to transform society. I would argue that by making the
private diary available to a public reading, she implicitly challenges women and men to
question the direction of social change.( 13) Her diaries indicate that through metissage,
the creative interweaving of cultural traditions, we can construct empowering new images
of a communal self, released from the bondage of patriarchal constructs and the power of
its institutions.



End Notes
1. C. Rhoda Cobbam provides important insight into Manley's role in the
development of Jamaican literature. She writes "in the renaissance of the post-1938 era,"
Manley enjoyed "the adulation of the young men within the 'little group' and was fond of
taking up and dropping her prot6ges on aesthetic as well as personal whims." See The
Creative Writer and West Indian society. Jamaica: 1900-1950 (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Microfilms, 1981), 56.

2. "Edna Manley's Retrospective," 33-37.

3. "Busta," a cousin of Norman, was his political rival for many years. He became
Prime Minister while head of the Jamaican Labour Party.

4. Bella Brodski and Celeste Schenck, Life/lines (Ithaca: Cornell UP), 1.

5. Wayne Brown's biography of Manley, based largely on her early diaries and the
correspondence between Edna and Norman Manley, must have influenced her assessment
of the historical value of the diaries.

6. Nacidn X mestizje e Nicolsa Guiln (Havana: Uni6n, 1982), 23. Translated
by Francoise Lionnet and quoted in Autobiographical voices: Race, Gender. Self-
Portraiture (Ithaca: Comell UP, 1989), Mdstissage can be compared to the notion of
"mestizaje" popular in Latin American Literature. It refers to racial miscegenation
among white and Indian populations. Lionnet argues that it should be used positively to
express solidarity among colonized peoples.

7. Norman died on 2 September 1969 at the age of seventy-six. He had been
stricken by cardiac asthma in 1968 precipitating a move to Nomdmi.

8. Basil McFarlene, "Edna Manley: Fifty Years a Sculptor," Catalogue for an
exhibit of sculpture held at Bolivar Gallery, Jamaica, in December, 1971, 9.






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9. Private Chronicles, 126.

10. "Eighteenth-Century Women's Autobiographical commonplaces," in The Private
Self: Theor and Practice of Women's Writings, Shari Benstock. ed. (Chapel Hill: U of
NC Press, 1988), 154-55.

11. She claimed black ancestry during the time of Michael Manley's leadership in
the P.N.P.. and it was popularly held that her new racial identification was a pragmatic
attempt to gain votes among the large black voting constituency.

12. Entry dated 25 August, 1972, The Diaries, 111.

13. In the introduction to The Daries, editor Rachel Manley writes, "these diaries
she bequeathed to me, often reminding me of their existence and my eventual
responsibility for them. I once asked her what I should do with them. She said when the
time came I would know." As editor, she removed, she explains, "a short story included
in Diary One, a travelogue of China in Diary Two, a list of odd, hallucinatory incidents"
in Diary Three and "the poetry dispersed throughout the diary." (London: Andre
Deutsch, 1989), x.






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The Art of Mervyn Morris: An Examination of Two Poems

Derrilyn Morrison
University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica

Paper presented at "Extended Boundaries," the 13th Conference on West Indian
Literature. April 5-8. 1994, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras campus.

Given the variety of theories that exist today, analysing the work of any author
becomes a challenging experience. The challenge is compounded by the fact that the
critic's view of art does not always coincide with that of the artist. However, in
examining the art of Mervyn Morris, I have chosen to use his own definition of art as a
guide. He says:
We may quarry art for information, as
academics and intellectuals do. What artists usually
hope for, however, is that their work may be received
primarily as aesthetic experience, significant
(hopefully) but above all pleasurable and/or moving.*

This paper will therefore show how Morris has defined as well as extended the boundary
of his own literary experience. To this end, it will examine two of Morris' early poems,
"A Drowning" and "Into The Forest", which have been considerably revised since their
publication in Bim. From an artistic point of view they are definitely better poems. Their
focus is sharper and our own experience more gratifying.
"A Drowning" (Bim, Vol. 11, No. 41, 1965) describes how death comes to us
suddenly, when we least expect it. The poem recreates vividly the impact that the
student's death has on the school community. Images of the sea and of coldness and
silence dominate the poem.
First the narrator sets the stage for the announcement of the death news. The
poem opens with news of "an accident at sea". The announcement is made in the
lunchroom, full of "lively boys" and "splash of noisy talk", which allows the narrator to
exploit the irony of life. The lively scene here contrasts with the idea of death. The use
of the word "splash" makes the link with the sea where the drowning has taken place and
becomes an echo of the sound of the student splashing helplessly to his death. The "noisy
talk" of children contrasts with the "shivering" of the adults who are "worried weak", and
this image of the adults combined with reference to the "bitter" taste of coffee that has
gone "cold", prepares us for the revelation that the accident has led to a student's death.
Before the announcement of death is made, however, the narrator creates suspense
and heightens the tension. Someone shouts, "I hear something; bus is coming!". Then
we are given a description of the bus "groaning, grinding up the hill". The labouring
movement of the bus is symbolic of the heavy burden it carries. Next we are told that
there is a "bubble" of activity, which again serves the purpose of irony. The lightness that
"bubble" suggests contrasts with the heaviness that descends on the room once the death
of Marriott, the student, has been verified:

The room sinks dead swallowed in silent panic.



* Mervyn Morris: "Gender in Some Performance Poems"
Critical Quarterlv. Vol. 35, No. 1, Spring 1993, p. 78.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


This line enacts the death of Marriot. The "silent panic" is transferred from the
drowning student to the room full of living beings. It is as if each person present
experiences that awful moment of the realization of death. The narrator tells us:
the mourning's private, solemn and intense.

Once that climax has been reached, the story ends abruptly. There is little left to
be said. The death news is assimilated and life goes on. It is up to the living to carry out
the last rites. We are told that "A wave of teachers rise/like undertakers". This image
connects with the image of the "dead room ... swallowed in silent panic". It is that of the
familiar death/rebirth cycle. The teachers "rise" as one body to "descend the cold stone
steps", literally, as they leave the building; but the narrator here also alludes to the final
destiny of man.
In harmony with the narrative style of this poem, the first two stanzas are
markedly longer than the third and final stanza. We note too that images of life are
juxtaposed with images of death, so that while we receive the impression of the cycle of
life continuing, it is edged with the knowledge that we all go down in death when we
least expect it.
Eight years after its publication in Bim, this poem was republished in The Pond
Morris' first collection of poems, where it appeared under a new title, "Outing". A close
examination of the poem reveals that not only has the title changed but so too has the
structure of the poem. The final stanza, originally the shortest, is now the longest stanza
of the poem; and stanza two has been reduced to one telling line:

Drowned, drowned, Marriot is drowned.

These words, you will notice, came originally towards the end of the second stanza, after
the build up of suspense. Morris, by reshaping his poem, signals to us that the focus of
this death experience is now more complex. The focus is now more sharply fixed on our
awareness of death as a universal experience.
The new title "Outing", suggests this complexity. An "outing" by definition is a
pleasure trip, a day out, away from the normal routine of life. This normally happy
occasion is used to sharpen the tragedy of the student's death. "Outing" also suggests
going out on another level, as is the case with the student who, by drowning, has gone out
of existence. The Jamaican usage of the word "outing" also adds another dimension; we
speak of "outing" the fire of the light A child has died, his life has been snuffed out at a
time when pleasure was uppermost in mind. So however we look at it, the poet has
sharpened our awareness of the irony from the very beginning of the poem.
"Outing" thus forces us into a recognition of the tension between life and death.
All the trappings and details, along with the narrative poem, have been whittled away, to
this end, leaving the bare essentials. Thus, the poem opens on a more dramatic note of
urgency. The first stanza reads:

A rush of boys reporting in.
Enquiry, and a hush.

In two lines we have it all: the intimation of disaster, the "reporting" of the death and the
instant "hush" that follows death. The actual announcing of the death is made to stand
out by placing it in a line by itself, and, as mentioned before, this makes up the entire
second stanza of the poem. It thus marks sharply for us the moment of man's
confrontation with death and becomes the emotional trigger that forces us to stop and
contemplate our own reaction to death. The bald fact of the child's death becomes for us
a sudden painful reminder of our own mortality.






S A R G A S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


The last stanza of the poem remains unchanged. The final image we receive, thus,
becomes the most important. It is that of a body of undertakers rising to complete the
ritual of life and death. As the sharpest image in the poem it carries more tension and
weight than it previously carried in "A Drowning". Our experience of the poem as a
moment in time, a personal confrontation with death, is sharpened. We are forced to
focus on our own mortality, that in time we each "descend the cold stone steps".
What has been demonstrated here is the way the poem changes and becomes a
new and more complex aesthetic experience and, of course, a better poem. Thematic
shifts accompany structural changes in the poem, and new language choices come closer
to the spoken form. Not only does this make the poem read better, but it increases and
clarifies meanings that would otherwise have remained hidden. A look at "Into The
Forest" (Bim, Vol. 12, No. 46 1968) further demonstrates this for us, as well as shows us
how Morris is continually extending the boundaries of his work.
"Into The Forest" takes a look at the predicament of the artist/poet who
contemplates the choice he faces: either to write poems that are limited by his
experiences of the exterior world or turn to the interior, the world of the mind, for
inspiration. The central image of a man standing on the seashore in bright sunlight, the
sea on one hand and the dark forest on the other, graphically depicts the artist's
predicament
The poem opens with the poet-persona's criticism of his work:

fy measured verse was drawn too plain
in sunlight where the common lies
warm us like sea...

His dissatisfaction falls immediately on the sense of inadequacy his work gives. For all
its being "measured", carefully written, it lacks depth, not reflecting his sense of life as a
complex experience. The plainness of his poem has nothing to do with clarity of vision
either, for the poet goes on to criticise the lack of clear vision that the world shares. The
poet recognizes that they only fool themselves into believing that they are "seeing clear"
when in fact they are "seeing nothing".
The exterior world that the poet contemplates rejecting contrasts sharply with the
interior world which beckons to him. In stanza one, the images associated with the
exterior world are images of "sunlight" and blue sky; of floating clouds and warm sea; of
the song and laughter of the adventurer seen in "the sailor/laughing on the beach". But all
this beauty carries an edge: The sunlight is linked with "the common lies" which "warm
us like the sea"; and for all the clear sky above, vision is illusory. On the other hand, the
interior world, presented in stanza two, is a world that is dark and dangerous. It is "the
forest" filled with "grim creatures" lurking behind "dark tree trunks". The over-riding
emotion it inspires is fear: "There the sun is filtered/to a nightlight feeble against fears".
The reference to "grim creatures" which "lurk in the forest" reminds us of the frightening
forests of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Morris' "forest" presents the same challenge.
The artist has to brave his fears, enter the forest, and find out the truth about himself
and/or life -a truth that is not always agreeable. The poet tells us that in the forest "truth
smells dank".
The invitation to enter the forest carries with it a sense of urgency:

Come, into the forest...
Come, flee
the sunlight safety of the shore.

The use of "flee" suggests that the poet's survival is in question if he remains on the
shore. It is ironic too that safety lies not in "the sunlight" of the exterior world, but in the






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


"dark" and "damp" world of the interior forest. It holds too the tension between the poet's
fear and desire, as does the last line of the poem: "The bright boat burns on the beach".
The revised version of this poem. published five years later in The Pond as "The
Forest", takes the poem further from the experience out of which it originally came:
Momrrs' irritation with his friend and critic Wayne Brown, who had little respect for the
kind of poetry that Morris himself preferred. In "The Forest". Morris clarifies the issue
regarding the poet's position in relation to his art by sharpening the focus on the forest
itself which, as we have already seen, represents the interior world. The poet's conflict
with the exterior world is clarified in the first stanza of the poem:

That world I knew was all too plain:
a dry world, crisp and certain
in the sun...

This "dry world" means death for the poet. Dryness suggests sterility, lack of creative
energy. In light of this, the "damp leaves" of the forest and the dampness of the air there
present the forest as a place where creative forces are latent. The silence "where no bird
sings" will change if the poet enters with his song. The dark is created by his own fear.
But the poet can only prove this by braving that fear and entering the forest. He must
"flee/the sunlit safety of the shore". The safety of writing poems that relate to the exterior
world of "the shore" (pun intended), as opposed to writing poems which reflect the poet's
inner perceptions of life and/or truth. Here he stands the risk of isolation, but he faces too
the satisfaction of knowing that he has conquered his fears. His very existence as a poet
hangs in the balance, as "flee" suggests. So his opening line: "That world I knew was all
too plain", becomes more than just a contemplation of rejection -- it becomes a rejection
itself.
Once he enters the forest, the persona cannot stay on the edge. He must go "Deep
in the forest where the air is dank". Here Morris has substituted "air" for "truth". Damp,
smelly air might be unappealing, but it suggests too the need for exposure. It is a
challenge that the poet faces. He must go "deep" within and "embrace the gracious
maggot of the mind". "Maggot", both as "larva" and "whimsical fancy"' shows the rot
that sets in and the need to come to terms with the elusive imagination if the poet is to be
at peace. However the poem ends in ambivalence. It closes with the same image with
which the original poem closes:

The bright boat burns on the beach.

In this one sentence we find both the rationale for not accepting the invitation to explore
the forest as well as the consequence of doing so. The boat "bums on the beach", a
symbol of the strong temptation to stay on shore; but it also "bums" in the sense that his
desire to remain safe has now been destroyed. Our sense of the tension within the poet
comes across more strongly now that Morris places the focus on the forest itself. His
rejection of the dry world adds force to the image of the boat burning on the beach.
"The Forest" thus demonstrates Morris' move towards extending the boundary of
literary experience. The interior world of the mind, vastly unexplored and therefore
frightening and dark, awaits the poet and all those who dare to enter with him. The
invitation/challenge to enter that world becomes hard to ignore. We see Morris, through
the later collections of his poems, moving on to explore the interior world. The literary
landscape becomes for him a synthesis of the private and the public; and he moves freely
from one into the other. Even the very structure of The Pond (his first collection) reflects
this by closing with poems which show the poet's involvement with the inner landscape.

Concise Oxford Dictionary, Eighth edition.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


It ends with "Journey Into The Interior" (p. 40), "The Pond" (p. 42), "Narcissus" (p. 43),
and "Mariners" (p. 45). The last poem sets the note for future works. It hails the poet's
personae as "seafarers/sick in the deep/bilious in daylight", but nonetheless tough on the
job:
Scaling the night
Keen in the darkness
fish-eyed in light

As Morris extends his own boundary and comes closer to the language we speak,
he is also extending the boundary of literary experience for all those who share his
poems.






S A R G A S S O 9 (1997"): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Walcott and Elements of the Caribbean Voice:
Comments and a Creative Response

Elena L. de Torruella
Sacred Heart University
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Paper presented at "Extended Boundaries," the 13th Conference on West Indian
Literature. April 5-8. 1994, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras campus.

Walcott views the creative process in a variety of ways which are dramatically
reflected both in his poem about Jean Rhys, written in 1980, entitled "Jean Rhys", and in
his Nobel acceptance speech, written in 1992. Walcott brings into focus different aspects
of creativity; together, however, these two works complement one another and set up
important ideas about the elements of an authentic Caribbean voice.
In his poem about Rhys, written just one year after the octogenarian died, Walcott
emphasizes the decades of creative "stewing"--as he aptly calls it-which the creative
process demanded of Rhys, before her thoughts and emotions integrated themselves into
the strong and distinct narrative voices brilliantly heard in her final and long awaited
novel, Wide Sargasso Sea.
Walcott highlights such lifelong "stewing" by bringing us all the way back to
celebrate a day when Rhys was a young child, pictured as decorously sitting out a boring
Sunday afternoon among the women of her Creole family in Dominica, her "right hand"
resting on Bronte's gothic novel Jane Evre: "married to Jane Eyre", says Walcott. Walcott
traces his way to the beginning of the process, and he imagines the first insights which
led to this work. Married not to life, but to art, for life.
Walcott focuses on the process of writing, in sketching for us a young Rhys
looking down the corridor of her own future, envisioning herself as married in a "white
paper" wedding dress. It is the process which demands of Rhys the promise "for better or
for worse, a writer, for richer or for poorer, a writer." To earn death, a writer. As Rhys
herself commented, "If I stop writing my life will have been an abject failure.... I will
not have earned death." I So, for her own peculiar reasons, her creative efforts proved to
be one of the few consistent forces in her life.
Considering the excruciating length of time it took for Rhys to produce the novel
she conceived as a young person and finished in her seventies, we are tempted to look
more closely at those aspects of Sargasso which did indeed make its creation arduous.
The novel's structure, with its distinct and powerful narrative voices, is remarkable.
Through this structure, Rhys has shaped her artistic reality so that it is nearly as
subjective as experiential reality. The three narrative voices-the frenetic nihilism of
Rochester's, the assurance of hristophine's, and the progressive fragility of Antoinette's--
are distinctly individual, yet each is also, in its own mode, a voice which critics Mordecai
and Wilson would see as flowing to and from issues, "criss-crossing valuings of the
Caribbean, including race, class, gender, slavery, history, and personhood."2
Equally important, Walcott implies that Rhys's early literary solitude, combined
with the oppressive company of the people around her-people "like moths/ doomed to be
pressed in a book/ to fall into the brown oblivion of an album/ embroiderers of
silence"(62)-turned the child's thoughts inward, probably oftentimes. Under these

1Smile Please. New York: Harper and Row, 1975, 133.
2Mordecal, Pam and WIlson, Betty. Her True-True Name. New York: Heinemann International,
1990, xiii.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


circumstances, Walcott sees Sargasso's creative process take on its slow and
magnificently complex gestation.
Adding drama to her isolation was the overwhelmingly sensuous tropical
ambiance of the small island where Rhys found herself during her childhood, a drama
which both she and Walcott have absorbed and recreated repeatedly in their art. There is
in both a particular density and overlay of sounds, colors, and textures, sometimes Edenic
and sometimes steeped in a menacing inertia:

the green-leaved uproar of the century/ turns dim as the Atlantic, a rumorous hazel
behind the lime trees, breakers/ advancing in decorous, pleated lace;/ the cement
grindstone of the afternoon/ turns slowly, sharpening her senses, the bay below
is green as calalu, stewing SargassoJ In the fierce hush/ between Dominican
mountains .... (40-48)

There, within the "fierce hush" of the mountains, within a silence which is both
interior and exterior, the characters of Sargasso are first conceived. The eventual nuance
and ambivalence of each separate consciousness is mirrored in the imagery of the tropics;
each is so intimately tied to the sensibilities and socio-cultural conflicts of the early
nineteenth century West Indian Caribbean that the novel simply could not have been set
anywhere else and have reflected the same intense triangular character consciousness.
What may have begun as a simple fascination with Bronte's Bertha, therefore,
ends as a sophisticated post-modern experiment, its structure and themes tied only to the
least developed and barely implied themes in Bronte's Jane Eyr. The issues Rhys finally
explores in Wide Sargasso Sea are far from childish conceptions of the unwritten life of
Bertha: Rhys has taken on racial misunderstanding and understanding, and layered upon
this her inquiry into the boundaries of love and hate, of sanity and madness; and finally,
she sets out a symbolic vision of feminine emotional independence.
Walcott's poem on Rhys has opened the way for us to speculate on all of these
points as aspects of an authentic Caribbean voice. His focus also brings us to ask
ourselves what is in the creative process which keeps the writer writing, revising,
uncovering the shape of things, the truth of things, for an entire lifetime, notwithstanding
earning death.
In bringing us back to one early Sunday afternoon in Dominica, Walcott asks us
to acknowledge the process which is just that, a process, an evolving, imploding,
expanding, free, subjective, creative act; a process which is Rhys's gradual confrontation,
shaping, and celebration of insights and questions-the resolved and the unresolved.
In his 1992 Nobel Lecture, Walcott returns to the Caribbean, to Trinidad and a
little village, Felicity, on the Caroni Plain, where he witnesses a kind of revision of
Ramleela, the epic dramatization of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. The actors in this little
village are not necessarily aware of the heritage they reenact, yet Walcott convinces
himself-and us-that these young Indian/West Indian actors "believed in what they were
playing, in the sacredness of the text, the validity of India."3 Their performance is perhaps
unwittingly revisionistic, since Walcott perceives the players and actors as individuals
who have assimilated some of their history, yet in the ritual before them, do not at all
seem to see themselves as creating an echo of the past, but rather something entirely in
the present. The "canefields, indenture, evocations of vanished armies, temples, and
trumpeting elephants" (86-89) are not their concern; all their energy is pouring into
"elation, screams,... more and more costumes, and the delight of conviction, not loss"
(89-92), focusing exclusively on the dramatic moments of the afternoon before them.


3Walcott, Derek, "The Antilles, Fragments of Epic Memory: The 1992 Nobel Lecture," World
Literature Today. Spring 93, vol 67, 2, 261, lines 76-80.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Walcott's sketch of Felicity brings him closer to his meditation on his own
creative process. It is seldom as simple as the pure spontaneity of the Felicity actors, for
Walcott is continually working through the dark history of his Antilles. In his Nobel
lecture, he sees its geography as recapitulating a fragmented cultural heritage, the
scattered islands pieces of something once mainly Eurocentric, which needs to be pulled
together.

This gathering of broken pieces is the care and pain of the Antilles, and if the
pieces are disparate. ill-fitting, they contain more pain than their original
sculpture, those icons and sacred vessels taken for granted in their ancestral
places. Antillean art is the restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of
vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the
original continent.4

The poet Walcott takes the pieces and his glue. When he is finished, the old
fragments are more than the whole of their traditional shape, as he has created a new
poem which gives out its very own luminosity. How has Walcott done this?
In one respect, he uses history, yet artfully pushes it aside, so that the new images
he creates take full advantage of the light of history, while still holding their animated
pose. This is what Walcott means with the words in his Nobel lecture, "For every poet it
is always morning in the world. History a forgotten, insomniac night...." (265).
Defining his Caribbean voice, Walcott moves ahead of the dimensions of tradition
into an arresting spotlight, and there produces a sense of immediacy in his poetry by
drawing upon a striking multitude of cultural/linguistic hybrids (or, using Bakhtinian
terms, interanimated, heterglotic hybrids), and also by blending high and low linguistic
and cultural shifts.5
The following is a superb example of Walcott's creative immediacy, a medullar
ingredient in his creative process, from Another Life:

Through the stunned afternoon, when it's too hot to think
and the muse of this inland ocean still waits for a name,
and from the salt, dark room, the tight horizon line
catches nothing, I wait. Chairs sweat. Paper crumples the floor.
A lizard gasps on the wall. The sea glares like zinc.
Then, in the door light: not Nike loosening her sandal,
but a girl slapping sand from her foot, one hand on the frame.
(AL-XXV)
The local muse comes in from the hot afternoon sun; behind her is the too shiny glare of
Caribbean water in the afternoon light. Her sudden appearance changes the still life from
something bright but static to something which celebrates the immediacy of animation,
emerging from a mythical Nike like an overexposed photo. The reader, like the poet
himself, "falls in love with the world, in spite of History" (265).
No finer example of pure immediacy tied to time and to Caribbean place can be
found to speak of this aspect of Walcott's creative process than in the final lines of
Omeros:

... Achille put the wedge of dolphin
that he saved for Helen in Hector's rusty tin.
A full moon shone like a slice of raw onion.

4Waicott, lines 164-172.
5 Bresiow, Stephen P.,"Trinidadian Heterglossia: A Bakhtinlan View of Derek Walcott's Play A
Branch of the BSe Nte," 2WT. 63:1 ,Winter 1989,36-39.






S AR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


When he left the beach the sea was still going on.6

We are tightly focused on small immediacies: a fresh language breathing through
simple things, without any "corruption into significance" as Walcott would say.7
So alive is the sea in this last line of Omeros that one hesitates to close the book,
since the sea is still there, still going on. Walcott hovers between allegiance to local
experience and traditional literary expressions.8 He here creates an astonishing moment
against an "immense and complex backdrop"9 and, in the purest of terms, sketches "a rich
portrait of cultural identity and historical transformation." 10

The two poems which follow are my responses to Walcott on Rhys and to the
final chapter of Omeros. The first emphasizes the length of Rhys's creative process for
Wide Sargasso Sea, as well as the uneven nature of that process, in which one character
develops much more quickly in the imagination than another, or one aspect of a
personality, as perhaps reflected in a monologue, becomes clear even before the mind
fully sketches out a character's physical features. The second poem celebrates Walcott's
picaresque immediacy and sense of historical dynamic and the confident reduction of
boundaries when working with his Caribbean revision of the mythical Helen of Troy.


Fierce Hush:
A Response to Walcott on Rhys

She stared down the windless candle flame
until the light
blinked, broke, spread, divided,
like the coupling and uncoupling of the night's fireflies
meeting
in the spaces
of the black mango leaves.

Pulling and stretching the comers of
her eyes
with childish hands,
she fell the light
into a pile of blurry match sticks.
Before she mused further,
the parrot
was seared,
and so were Antoinette's
mad, disheveled wings.
It isn't like it seems to be.

6Walcott, Derek, Omroas. New York: The Noonday Press, Farar, Straus and Giroux, 1990,
325.
7Fragments of Epic Memory, 266.
8j. Edward Chamberlain, Come Back To Me Mv Lanauage:Poetrv and the West Indies. U of
Illinois Press, 1993.
98reslow, 270
10Bresiow, 270






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


It never is.

The creole hammock lurched.
The book,
with several termite tunnels
burrowed in its spine,
half slipped
from her
small hands.
But she seized it up again,
and with that
closed
her eyes.

There
were the pebbles in Tia's pool,
red.
They seemed like submerged fire.
Imagine
the entire green calalu sea
sluggish and firey,
from Martinique to Dominica, to Jamaica.

There
immediately
appeared Christophine's
face,
her yellow kerchief
tied
in two high Martinique points.
Christophine
waited years
for
her time
to speak.

The child in the hammock
shivered.
It was late.
The boredom of the Sunday ladies
was wearing off.
She looked over the veranda
and caught sight
of
one flamboyan flower
falling
extravagantly
from branch to branch,
as if
its burning reds were meant to end earlier
than the rest.





S A R G A S S 0 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Helen at the Halcyon


He ordered island fish.
The beach cafe had small tables
with palm-green iron umbrellas
that cut circles from the afternoon light,
washing cafe and beach
in an immense lilac emptiness.


In her element,
Helen
waited table, crossing the room
as graceful as a swelling wave
going nowhere,
dark, slow glistening.

Her slender hand
searched the deep frilled bosom of her blouse
for a kerchief. Helen.
Finally,
she dabbed a moist and sinuous neck.
The restless arms of palms on either side behind her,
an easy conjugation of curves.

"Ready", she said.
Her slow eyes stalked mine with the leisure
of a panther, sated yet still unpredictable.
"Fish ready."






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


The Richardson Seminar Room Poetry Series

(Poets Richard Weinraub Marx, Peter Wood, Michael Sharp, James Skaggs. Tony Hunt,
Maria Arrillaga. Daisy Mora de Le6n. and Luis Pomales have read their work in the
Lewis E. Richardson Seminar Room of the Department of English. College of
Humanities. University of Puerto Rico-Rto Piedras over the past several years. The
poems that appear below come from those readings.)



Richard Weinraub Marx

The Red Virgin
(Paris, 1871)
My love's so strong she's hauling a large cannon;
her head's so big that it could carry France.
The working women call her the Red Virgin,
so why is this the woman I romance?
I guess "romance" is really not the word
that captures what I feel about Louise;
our conversations usually are surd.
Sometimes I fear she has some red disease.
Sometimes I even worry she's a man
who's acting like a woman to deceive
the Germans. God, she sort of looks like Pan,
but she won't get my goat since I believe
that man or woman, virgin or whore,
her spirit is the thing that I adore.

Dn SonM: Two Wing of the Same Bird

This Rufus T. Firefly looks very Puerto Rican
like my cousin Sime6n with his big Jewish nose
or Governor Ferr6 playing jacks
and the flute while deputies doze.
"The country's taxes must be fixed,
and I know what to do with it.
If you think you're paying too much now
just waitll I get through with it."

Trentino is smoking Havana cigars.
(This t.v.: Sylvania-this sofa: a Castro.)
He's sending a beautiful Rican-Raquel-
and some pinky to the Governor's mansion
to sow revolution-aha, Fidel!

Pinky's attempting to steal plans for war,





S AR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

but all he gets from the safe is an infernal rendition
of "Stars and Stripes" forevermore.

And then nodding plumes: "You swine!"
The Bay of Pigs is the F.B.I.'s;
founded by Bonaparte in 1909
("I danced before Napoleon"),

the bureau performs its dirty tricks--
an exploding cigar, a poison pen--
trying to kill Trentino over and over again.
"To war! To war! At last we're going to war!

The Communists retaliate with bombs in Moscoso Drugs.
But with Harpy Marx as Paul Revere
and Grouchy as George Washington
("The Mayflower was full of fireflies!"),

Ferr6 and his Republicans have won a major victory.
"For Freedonia! For Freedonia!
Hail Freedonia! Land of the free!"

But in the end they throw tomatoes
at Mrs. Teasdale standing tall like Liberty.

Chinese to Jews

It was no laughing
matter today--not powder but
lead in the guns of the squad
as they
flew across campus like B's
over Kampuchea

It began as a
lark for me
spray gunning blue
mailboxes red, white, and black
and cutting down
flyers puffing ROTC-symbolically
clipping the eagle's wings
And when the Rotcie Nazis came
to French class all in uniform
we shouted them out of the schoolroom with fists
comparing the Chinese to Jews
and Nixon to Hitler

But today they had guns on their roofs
and we fired stones

A woman was killed on her balcony
and the blades of the hellicops





S A R GA S S 0 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


chopped through the bones of the sky
raining palms
and I cried from the gas
not mechanically

for although the SWAT Squad had
Lugers and Thompsons
their faces were Rican
and all of a sudden
American

fighting their wars over God
gold and gelding--Guatemala
Hispaniola, Vietnam

and in Puerto Rico--napalming the
parrot and change for half
of an eagle

all we could do was to
put on poor masks--paper
bags, bandannas, and our
wives' ruined stockings--
and hide ourselves from
the helmets covering us









Peter Wood

A Short Way Down the Long Road To Princeton

We're not all Black in "Garbage Park."
We're mixed, which earned our nickname from
some people east of Two-oh-six.
We're west, a zone held in between
the armory, the town-line creek, and
a cemetery. Nowhere to grow,

we're all filled up with home-made
houses, raggedy gardens flopped
over fences, chickens in some yards,
geese, hares, goats and peacocks in the
sculptor's comer lot; sometimes, at
Lavender's by the creek, a pig.

Nobody down here says you can't





S A R G A S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

hang our laundry or must tie up
that dog or keep a lawn or turn
that music down. Junior McCrae
may be killed with common consent
unless his Harley beats us to it.

And we almost hate to use our
own front gate whenever the lovers,
Heather and Bristol, are screwing
in her father's car by our mailbox.
Dogs bark all hours: you can tell we
lack class and good breeding down here.

Around us, in Princeton's radiance,
real estate glistens. Houses for
thousands of gentry flush like fungi
on dung--sudden disgusting clumps.
People from glossy catalogs
drive Audis wrong way up our streets,
muttering, "Cheap!" or, "Could be cute?"
Their checkbook, like a great white shark,
snaps at the good life of Garbage Park.


Looking Me Up in the Lexicon

In Beowuaf, Widu meant Tree. A dark form looms
in thick atmosphere, shaggy dancers circling it.
In Welsh it was Gwydd: Wild (of the forest),
as Heathen from Heath. The sparks of their fires.

Wod meant Raging, violently, insane,
'Why do the heathen rage? possessed
by spirits, by Woden. Gods ran wild
in ancestors called Wood like me.
I feel my neck hairs stand on end.

Wod see Wat (also Wet): To arouse, to inspire;
in Latin, vat.: Seer, prophet, poet!
Glimmers confirming a Wood's wildest dream
fill the eyes with wrinkled light,

but they read on. Wet see We:
Of weather and wing! The stormy petrel,
a poet's totem, soaring in tempests,
the aurora of the nerve-ends flushed to pink

as the thirsty imagination laps and gulps up
cocktails of wishful intuition, heedless
of the bad alcohol of Winnow and Wind,
too drunk to recognize Wheedle.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

Swallow
From the world whose invisible flowers open
as the fingers partway uncurling from Joan's palm
give shape to a weight that's spinning in this world
of clay and wool, a skinny Scotch ghost comes
haunting my studio. He's family, I guess from the way

he scoffs at my pomp and upholds "the language
of ordinary men." Family style, he insists
I can't make divinations from flowers or birds,
or summon spirits with poems, even his. He's right,

of course, He ceases to exist. I can almost smell
the smoke. His scoffing is our family heirloom,
our charm against witches, churches and bosses.
Mine against my government. Is the ghost gone?

But whose is the face that's meant to fill
the disembodied mask with black ties extended
that flapped above our heads one day? A broad skull,
horrid sulfurous lower lids, the eyes huge,
fluorescent red... a glaring emptiness shaking
an awful scrutiny down upon us. What had we done?

We had intruded where the red-winged blackbird
rules over the reeds with this terrifying illusion.
We had come creeping along planks through phragmites
to spy on swans and cygnets splashing in dune pools,
hoping for a swan sign to celebrate our neighbors.

The neighborhood kiln had just fired its first load.
Someone had read from the Book of Changes.
Someone knew the Algonquin name
for the moon that was shining.
Someone pressed the whorl of a conch to his lips
and blew a long tone at the moon. Then mud that
hands spun cold and wet, in fire became stone.

Not swans, but swallows hawking mayflies from pondfilm,
with overstuffed, wide beaks leaking gauzy wings
and damseltails all the way back to their artful
retorts of mud and straw tucked under lighthouse eves:
not swans, but easily a sign for spinners, conch blowers,
sculptors- my neighbors who daub and dine gloriously
scribbling forms that vanish as they swoop.

A fleshy artisan, twirling wreathes of calcium
out of surging tides, made the conch stone.
Who thinks what eddies twisted and whirled it
till it wound up on our lips importuning the moon?

The moon is a stone. No one can wrap it,
or hang it for weighing. What's it worth






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


to join wrists and blow from the spiral shell
a hollow note towards the moon's blank reflection?
What price do you put on stagy illusions?

Not zero, I hope. Moonclues keep the neighborhood
merry, keep us feeding the kiln fires, keep us
clowning along the weird routes in this kingdom
of long wings and forked tails, flat as cave art

stencilled on the sky's wall, where the blackbird
performs our kind of feat, conjuring a demon
to drive rival illusionists out of this place
neither land nor water, where the air is full
of calligraphies turning gnats into songs.

The ghost says my face would do to fill
the black mask horrifying the air; the eyes
are red from bonfires and from chanting moonfire
into my brain. They blink in broad daylight,
unable to see what people lie bleeding from,
or that strangers' hands, twining handsome thongs
have bound me into a club like a bloody stone.






Michael Sharp


Countertone

Night falls on angry streets
when Compline is reversed.
A man becomes his asagai,
a woman her pile of birds.

I cannot say it means,
this mezzo presentiment
that is, beyond the pitch,
a note that's polymorph.

A sound that has no Angelus,
a language burned of it,
whose fury is a countertone:
the word beneath the web.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

At the Mec
Fortinbras: Where is this sight?
Horatio: What is it you would see?

William Shakespeare

They're doing Hamlet
at the Mec,
a oneman show
where Piet Retief
withholds his cue
from Luther in the wings.

The minister's in purple
for the boer
beneath his robe.
This play's the dust
of empty hearts,
the stinkwood at the core.

The solipsism
of the scene
voorrreks the role
and Luther is,
as Fortinbras,
disarmed at centre-stage.



Massacre

They have fallen these little boys,
one blown headless into the dunes,
one quivers like magnetic north,
another hangs from the barrel of a gun.
Rainwater collects in a skull.
The wind slides through the reeds like gas.
On the marsh, only the dead are alive.

This was a perfect place for a massacre.



Particular Webs

I am on a Union cruise,
a dancer at the Mec.
I'm the lover on the stoep,
the glasseyed garden boy.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


I'm pinned against the Monument
a witness at the wire.
On Tsitsikama's shoeless road
a child with Transkei skin.

I'm in the photos Diane took
of Mother on the Cape,
of Nelson on the hellish stairs
and Winnie sawn in two.

I'm in Oudtshoorn for the cull,
crossing the line with Dad.
As these particular webs unwind
I'm at False Bay again.


Veld's End

The glass breaks. A coil in time
hangs like the spring of a Jo'berg clock.
I stand at the end of the long corridor.
To my left, stairs climb to a third landing
where rows of beds are laid out like the dead.

From the window of the laboratory,
mist twists into the shapes of men
behind the wire, at velds end.






Anthony Hunt

Anmtak

Find the time...
take the time.
Meet some people on the move:
young couples with their babies in the night,
students on a summer tour,
the elderly retired and out to take the trip
they never took before.

All Aboard...The Pioneer, The Empire Builder, The Desert Wind.

Above the wheels that clack
across the miles,
we walk the aisles
finding the balance






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


feeling the lurch.

The land slips away
sense-surround
in cinemascope
whole scenes pierce the eyes
disappear among the lobes...
travel down the synapses of mind.

Entrained, we follow ancient trails
across the wind-swept flats
through the sandy hills,
over mountains high and low
up the rivers as they flow
upon the sliding earth.

Rocks and trees
dust and stone and bone
depositions made in time...

this eroded structure in us all.

Sneaking into cities in the night:
shaky neighborhoods, abandoned shacks
graffiti on the warehouse walls.

For everyone
the Mississippi looms until it's crossed.

West along the Platte...
after Denver in the early morn
we scale the Rockies' eastern face
then wind down the day among the rust-
red canyons of the Colorado.

Grand Lake, Grand Mesa, Grand Junction.

Rising with the sun, changing time
momentarily getting off and on again
slowing up and speeding down the line
changing tracks...
always heading west.

Red Buttes, Canyonlands, Book Cliffs, Green River.

Shale, sandstone
in the distance...snowy peaks
frail aspen leaves
waiting to turn gold
before they die...
everywhere the pines.

Near Winnemucca,
as we traverse the vastness





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

of scorched alkali.

a lady with a weatherbeaten face
(and a beer in hand)
turns to me and says:

"I wouldn't want to hang around HERE!
Would you?"

Always on the move...
will we ever see
The way?


Keeping Women Happy

To keep a woman happy
you have to use your hands.

Hold her when she hurts,
stroke her hair...
or if she doesn't hurt
do it anyway.

By all means dance with her:
fingers spinning round her waist
or palm to palm, upraised in air
while bodies press and turn and bend.

Make her skin begin to tingle.
Stroke her upper lip with just your fingertip,
or put your hand upon her neck-
just where her hair begins to flow in the air-
and knead her flesh until she sings.

Hold her up, grasp her under both her arms;
lift her off her feet.
Set her down again and run your hands
along her sides;
Make her body feel awake.

Then...

Help around the kitchen;
dry the dishes. Wash the clothes.
Fix things with your tools.
Do some gardening.





S A R GA S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


James Skaggs

Remnants

I
And even now, long after passion, comes
That errant, painful, unfulfilled desire
For what and who we were before our song
Became a sad, wordless refrain, and vows
Exchanged behind dust darkened blinds,
forgotten
Now, as shadows after a twilight, gone
Without a trace, until from some deep shelf
Behind a time locked door, I find
Some small remembrance stored; enough to know
That days and years cannot erase the pleasure
Or the pain; that, ceaseless as the waves
We shall remain forever faithful, two
Who risked a dream, then chose two paths;
though far
Apart, we lift our children to the light.

II

No tears, she said, the children of my grief
Are dead, and I, now barren, still remain
To tell sad tales of fire and ice.
I hear an owl's cry and in my heart's dark
comers
Hide all sorrows, hoard vast treasure troves
Of doubt, deceit, despair, heap high bare bones,
Lost fragments of myself, forsaken, gone
As swiftly as a dying winter wind.
No trace outside the heart hid corners dares
Admit that once, before the dimming of last
light,
I walked with joy, stepped high the dance of
life,
Drank deep from brim full cups, stole years
from hours
We shared, and in my cedar chest of hope
Saved, piece by piece, the remnants of your love.


janus rising

black bow accents starched white
under black jacket over white breast
and I am a study in ebony and off-white






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


nervous crystal goblets chatter in assorted pink hands
fingers that only an hour earlier tied black bow
buckled back cummerbund
tucked starched white into
trousers black with black stripe
yet black on black is not black
it is blacker
than black but
not as black as
shades
hiding
clear neutral panes
preferring neither black nor white
telling only the inside
outside
tale
too much
too little
color
the vigil

48 hours
I am thinking of your smile
that will warm this
insufferable chill I feel
as December wind pares flesh to bone

I left you in darkness
and night again enshrouds me
as I step from astrojet to superbus
and begin the interminable countdown
my long
long
wait

24 hours
Virgil Thompson's Pastorate
one Christmas Plainsong for alto recorder and guitar
and I am lost
in vigil silent
you must be removing hangers from rear storage compartments
balancing red and white packages with blue ribbon
under each arm
I can fathom the depth of the effort
I too have overreached

harpsichordian staccato breaks my trance
realities replace reveries
I am anxious for the smile






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


so long I've shunned the sun
what can I say

I see you now
descending the long
long corridor
bulky with life
baggage
a bit disheveled
as always
spontaneous
real
and smiling
I say
or did you
comment Va va

one of those jokes that lovers alone can share
only they dare insult their other's intelligence

bien
et vous
there is no translation



saturday night in the heartland


hurrahhurrahhurrah
for the red
the white
and the blue

red is the blood
mine is the blood flood
I struggle
to uncoil the serpent
strangling my life breath

white is the sheet
under which I lie and sweat
sweat odors of half truths
vows exchanged in darkness


blue shines the uniform
columns of marchers
line upon line
wave upon wave
holding rank
keeping time






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


triple striped soul
I renounce the netherland
of the not caring
my country tis of thee
sweet land of liberty
of thee I sing

standing in permanent press
dacron polyester
with crease razor sharp
but the seat's worn thin
and the pocket's empty





Marfa Arrillaga


Dream
The granddaughter was a guerrilla
The grandmother was a gadabout
The daughter wanted to rest.
The granddaughter tenaciously struggled to build a
meaningful life for herself and for everyone else.
The grandmother was terribly afraid she would be left alone.
The daughter wanted more than anything else to create.
The granddaughter had left everything behind her in order to
find herself. Only her life mattered. Live your life. Don't
live mine, she said.
The grandmother knew who she was only in terms of personal
and family relations.
The daughter felt trapped. The granddaughter had abandoned
her. The grandmother screamed for attention.
The grandmother was very angry and rebellious.
The daughter was afraid that they would not let her live.
The granddaughter had disappeared and nobody knew where she
was.
The granddaughter was very angry and rebellious. She felt
lonely and abandoned by the daughter and by the grandmother. She
left in order to become a guerrilla. She joined a tribe of women
who believed in freedom for all human beings. They staged ritual
choruses where they rhythmically named those valiant, loving and
generous women who had courageously managed to realize themselves
to the point of being anywhere securely centered and aware of a
growing tradition of strength. They knew no fear, coercion or
isolation. They trusted their ability to do whatever needed to
be done at any given moment. And to be, simply to be, because of





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


the communality of affection, generosity and valor they shared.
the granddaughter had entered a different dimension from which
all women could be happy.
The daughter created when she was able. The demands of the
grandmother were always there and the granddaughter had
disappeared. One day she received a letter from the
granddaughter. Dear daughter, it said, we need your experience.
Please share it with us. The daughter answered:
Dear granddaughter
It is good to be courageous, loving and generous. To suffer
no fear, coercion or isolation. I feel alone because you have
left me and grandmother's demands make me afraid.
The granddaughter replied:
Dear daughter.
I am a mirror of yourself. I belong to your tribe.
The daughter understood that she would never want for
anything and went to see the grandmother. The grandmother was
out gadding about. The daughter returned home and went happily to sleep.


Friends

I
Writing is the pleasure long sought after
Like lying in the sand in Boquer6n
next to my friend Ang61ica.

II

I was away
I had to go and get it
Let him have the option of the spoon
to stir the honey in his cup of tea.

III

Let me call the names of women
Let me call the names of friends:
Adriana, Ester, Migdalia, Laura,
Ana, Virginia, Asunci6n, Olga,
Patricia, Noemf, Raquel, Irene.

IV

This is a song to say
This is a song to mend
This song is a celebration
Of our walk down this lovely
shadowy bamboo road together.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Hung up on the morning

Peering through the blinds
a touch of dawn
first opaque hint
of life without.
Dirty cloudy morning
invites wandering
life within to break out,
to see, to merge, create,
alive to be.

Cold, too cold for spring.
A purple scarf that comforts,
like silk the roughness.

Coffee black, buttered toast,
the festive counter teems with fags.

A crooked cake,
the shade of lit cigarettes
as the Morton Street lamp post
stands erect, delicious.

Soap flakes spread around
by a battered, tattered hand
turn to grass, compound of dirt,
and trees and birds.

The trees hold first prom corsages,
tiny imitation flowers that are quite lovely.

Leaves gathered in ribbons straining to be young
in spite of their ageless knowledge
of scattered bird calls, ('tis the mating season).

Early dog walkers the extent of the city's loneliness
the animals smell one another
while a man with a mustache
follows the hooded girl in pigtails
to find out she is not quite his ideal of beauty.

Cross the street, another doughnut,
to the pier, one gets greedy.
A car was traded for sandals,
Achilles knew about transportation.

Pimple faced boys
watch me munch while apples cold
melt in my mouth.

Ghosts of sunny Sunday people
blowing smoke rings proof of hard earned leisure





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


bid me go home. think of air pollution.
for it's easy to get hung up on the morning
even a cloudy smoke stacked morning
with no hope of sunshine.






Daisy Mora de Le6n


Reverie
It's a day of spinning will
a kind of raininess...
Deep inside grows
a tropical storm
on my head
I raise my consciousness
and perceive
your lonesome story
of human perfect human.
Choosing to be
that which is not:
Ramadan
I still hold a raker
soft and silent, then
ring at your door
you the sleazer
you the Almighty Dog
of the Universe

Voidness

Vacuity

Emptiness

In Morocco
(1989)

Bold Reality

"Let me live my life,
I don't wear high heels
don't like your manners
definitely, not your type".

"Happiness doesn't mean
to be overwhelmingly laughing





S A R GA S S 0 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

every second".
Another road to the north.
Buddha in the Caribbean Coast.

Dangerous Steps: Moods
To avoid personal injury
Do not stand in



Song

It's a free country
where people starve
to death
It's a free country
where people kill and rape
la, la, la, la
It's a free country
let's start again
Imagine...

drive your car
build your house
love and marry
see your progress
It's a free country.
1988



Palette

What do you paint?
don't you see baby?
He is painting tourists, see
Hey, amigou, would you make us a nice favor?
See, I grab her ass and teats
and you do the rest..
Listen, I'll paint you
one by one but... ego trips
that's too much to ask.
Honey, see this (she gets a mirror
and makes funnies just to make the painter
angry.)
Could you put some light and color
in our hearts. Come 'on

Painter keeps painting and suddenly
the guy gets his hands on his gun

out of a very small box





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

well hidden under his jacket...

See this, I'm gonna use it
if you don't do something
cool and nice with the two of us.

So, get on your wheels and work.
The painter, knowing nothing of guns
and believing the guy was fooling around
took his palette and chalks
the style began to spring out
as if by a good chance
he had gone to heaven and back
he came enthusiastic and full of joy.
See darling, a jazzy classy woman like me
had to render good fruits!
He is getting it! Ola, la...

Journey to the Self

Awakening
Opened eyes
Incisive heart
Abandoned...
To emptiness
at last reopening
myself
Again the self
1993





Luis Pomales


images from a distant past

I remember, yes, I remember,
walking with, a friend?
he, carrying a flambrera, a dinner pail
to the sugar-cane field.
His father, under attack from the blistering
sun, from dawn to dusk
and from the sharp as razors
green and yellow leaves,
as he cut the sugar cane.
Making a stop to eat cold food. No delivery cars,
no pizzas or fast food then.
Perhaps some rice and beans and boiled
green bananas, yautda, fame and a glass






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

of water to wash it down.
I remember the images, but like the cane-field
that was gone. I don't remember your name.


Those were difficult times
I never met my father--in a sense.
When he died I was one. All I know
about him, came through my sister
and my mother.
My mother--under the scorching
island sun--dressed in mourning black
for many years. Seems to me like
half her life. Never again marrying,
though she was young, intelligent and pretty.
Life wasn't easy for her.
She wasn't my father's family's
accepted one, even after he
was gone.
They always thought he
should've married someone more
promising.
Not only was she dark-brown skinned
and poor, but evangelical, to make it worse.
They were difficult times.
We lived arrimaos to a distant relative
who helped raise us, the best way she could;
we became strong, independent and free.
This paean to God, not to Apollo,
is to remember days
when all we had to eat was marota,
and cafd medio puya,
when the rain of
poverty seemed always to be around.


Grandma's notions about life

My grandma, bless her soul,
she had some funny notions about life.
Oh, she had a racial prejudice.
A Puertorrican and prejudiced youll ask?
You'd be surprise
Well, here's thecantaleta she'd drone on:
Always have a white barber cut your hair very, very short.
Don't let your pass show.
Never go to the beach or to the pool,
that's for whites and blacks.
And if you do, wear long sleeves, and carry an umbrella
and stay near the shade.
When at home, always useun gorro de media






S A R G A S S O 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

And squeeze your nostrils with a clothespin.
as much as you can take.
Don't sing or dance merengues, jazz or mamhos
always do dan:as and soft boleros.
As for girls, they must be white,
if not, three or four shades lighter than you are,
and pelo lacio, of course .. Pa adelantar la raza.
Always carry a handkerchief to wipe the sweat
andbrillo off your face.
Never eat watermelons or bananas--people associate
those things with blacks.
Don't wear loud color shirts, such as yellow or red,
nor dress all white, they're a dead giveaway.
Don't shoot the breeze with them (no te asocies)
Don't laugh too loud.
Someday you will be grateful;
you'll see that I was right.
You wanna know what happened to abuela? She died,
of a heart attack, when the apple of her eye (la querendona)
eloped with a conga player--from Loiza--black as tar.



On a # 9 train going to the NYPL

Wassamara wid you?,
You Pororrican?, me too,
de Naranjito.
I is living in this place tuentifai yiar.
I works at the same factory,
pegando broches a brassiere
Tuentifai yiar, invierno tras invierno.
I have in the bank 12,000 billetes,
que no es cdscara 'e coco,
for a house
when I go back to Puerto Rico,
en las montaflas.
Tengo una coleccidn de discos
de Ramito y alguos de Felipe-
That was music. Ahora to' es un relajo.
El maldito graffiti y el rap. 's up bro, high five.
Tuentifai yiar.

This is my stop. goodbye.

28 April 1994





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Other Poets


Linda Greenberg

Sweet Earth that Bears Fruit

amid the bowers of the earth
the wind-ridden groves and dales
we stand ignorant
placid
we chew our cud
talk of the price of oranges
is the daisy or the sunflower in this year?

the bees pay homage
strange dances in a hive
they rest our mutual mother's weary back
mate our inanimate siblings
Earth does not forget
her gift:
sweet honey for winter chill

the fawn steps gently on morning dewed grass
eternal crystals of life are hers

ours, rubies and emeralds
stolen from inside our mother's purse

a sweet earth
trampled upon by her children
ignored
our lives are nothing
a rotten fruit fallen off the branch

Will we follow a broken cow?






S A R GAS SO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Edwin Feliu

Lost
Cheap and filthy apartment in the south cone of the Bronx,
thrifty nifty cockroaches in regiment
rehearsing their tap sham dance
over cellophane soda cracker crumbs,
and a gray silence.

Above the paneless only window
a humble wooden cross hangs on,
while man in Christ-like pose
hallucinates about coconut whispers,
palm tree dances and a little place in the sun.

Across the wall, a witness painting
vouches for the many hollow days and nights:
bright star inside a blue triangle
with tongues of red and white.

On a comer, a metal table,
almost eroded by rust,
where rubber bands and needles
lie over a tablecloth of dust.

Thrown on the floor a picture
of his family back in subcutaneous Llorens,
and a few old powdered love letters
of a woman who said she'd gotten married
but hoped he would understand.

And that was all he had.
And though many times
he saw an angel dusting his brain
and floated in rivers of fire,
trying to incinerate and obliterate
the day Fate brought him to this concrete maze,
he still thought it was cool-
undeniably cool-
and he waited for the day the angel would redeem him
from the burning darkness that slept in his eyes.

Conftsioa
Sitting by old bench, watching pigeons walk, tip-toeing,
pecking at the ground,
beer ads beauties stare and invite me to fantasize through
effervescent waters,
Japanese cars cruise in slow motion by the mute historical
Spanish bricks made in USA,
ragged clothes black hobo takes two steps forward, spins around,
two more steps, and on he goes,





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


flock of tourists down Calle Cristo enter Spanish named cafe,
hosted by English speaking French women,
Winter clothing store is having big Summer London Fog sale,
under 90 degrees Fahrenheit dome of fire,
voo-doo Haitian handicrafts salute Colombian leather and dance
to Dominican merengue,
today is July 25th. the day that Americans entered in Gudnica Bay
in cannonball parade,
Carl Sandburg was there thinking "Chicago" and I am here, told
today is actually July 25th, the day of Puerto Rican Commonwealth.

I wonder what's real.

My last name's Spaniard,
my second last name's Basque,
I go to Irish pubs,
drive a German made in Brazil,
Listen to devilish African jazz,
feel at ease eating greasy Corsican cuisine,
wear clothes made in Bangladesh and Costa Rica,
read Baudelaire and Dostoyevski,
drink Mexican margaritas,
write long beat poems in Spanish
and live in the Caribbean.
I browse through the long-read, hardly understood book on
new millennium and world political order,
and I still sense the prolepsisized image of my being tremble
and I think I'm not getting a definite perception of myself.

I wonder if I'm distrustfully paranoid or simply confused.


I Wondered

Insomnia weighed on my eyelids,
ostensibly, measured by cigarette butts
laid countless on the plastic cemetery.

I desired to walk the night
by the hot, sandy streets, disposed
perpendicularly to the timeless sea.

I heard fireworks. Or were they gunshots?
Nevermind. I changed my mind.

Instead, I went up to the roof
to catch glimpses at the electrical city skyline,
and noticed the noisy silence of urban cages.

I saw a bunch of kids, expensive
sneakers burning rubber by the parking lot
of desolated beachside passive park.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues

And I could hear the clave :
Play-that-sal-sa-beat,
Play-that-sal-sa-beat
Flanked by their shiny cars,
testimony of devoted polishing to mirror
perfection, stars looking at themselves on the hoods.

And the kids kept banging:
Play-that-sal-sa-beat,
Play-that-sal-sa-beat.
With fire on their baseball caps,
their faceless faces disseminated in the night,
purple phantoms ejected from their mouths,

And the rhythm kept going:
Play-that-sal-sa-beat,
Play-that-sal-sa-beat.

And their frantic rapture bursts
of canons claiming territorial dominance
echoed in the warmth of the four winds.

And everything was so musical,
like the tin-tan of Budweiser cans
hitting against the thickness of their many rings.

And the timbales bang sang:
Play-that-sal-sa-beat,
Play-that-sal-sa-beat.

And the blasting cleavage of Uzis followed
accompanied by unison laughter;
and belonging
had the chromic luster of 9 millimeters;
and Identify was a gun;
and Greatness anticipated
the expense of somebody's brains.
I wondered
if I should be next.

Play that salsa beat.






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Marta Cruz

I Know of Your Dream

How do I move in the morning mist?
Is there such mist to move
and
get lost in?
I know you wonder
I know you dream.

How warm are my kisses?
How plump are my lips?
I know you wonder.
I know you dream.

The magic of the tropics
that is within me
sways in the joy
of the palm trees.

I know you wonder
if this sway
is within me!
I know, I know!
I know of your dream.

I live from the memories
of banana leaves
of retrieving sunsets
with birds in the trees.
I know you wonder
how it could feel.
I know of your dream.

Of mornings and sunsets
held in my arms,
Of birds' chirps and sun rays
close to my heart,
I know you wonder.
I know you dream.


Eros

Te siento en el hastfo de mis dfas
espantando la bruma
que me opaca, que me aturde.

Te siento en mis noches frfas
cuando el recuerdo de tu piel vibra
y se acelera posindose sobre el deseo






SAR GASSO 9 ( 1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


de tu peso, de tu cuerpo.

Te siento en mis tejidos
convirtiindote en parte de mis sentidos
ardiendo, penetrando
alterando
el nivel de los fluidos.

Te siento en la soledad de mis aflos
en el nostAlgico gemido
por las caricias, por los labios
zaguanes de nuestras pasiones.

Present y constant quedas
en el hastio de mis dfas
en mis noches frfas
en mis tejidos sensuales y h6medos...
Quedas, en la perenne soledad de mi vida.


Lun pensamiento soleado?





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Book Reviews


Continuity and Rupture:
The Recent Fiction of Mayra Montero and Rosario Ferr6
Mayra Montero.
Del rojo de su sombra.
Barcelona: Tusquets, 1992.

Rosario Ferri.
La batalla de las vfrgenes.
San Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1993.

Mayra Montero and Rosario Ferre are Puerto Rican writers who have received
praise for their work outside the Latin American public. Their tales immersed in "exotic"
or traditional class cultures have attracted a European and North American audience.
Translations of their work abounds, and both are in great demand for interviews, lectures
and readings. Montero began writing short stories and since 1987, she has written and
published three novels: La trenza de la hermosa luna (reviewed in Sargasso 4). La iltima
noche aue paseo contigo (reviewed in Sargasso 8), and the most recent Del roio de su
sombr Rosario Ferri's first book. Paneles de Pandora, was highly praised; this
collection of short stories and poems broke away from mainstream Puerto Rican narrative
works. Since then, she has published children's books for adult readers, prose poems,
hybrid essays (a composite of journals, letters, diaries, news reports, conversations and
essays), translations, scholarly research, and a novel, Maldito amor (translation reviewed
in Sargasso 6). La batalla de las vfrgenes is her second attempt in the genre that has
continued to elude contemporary Puerto Rican writers.
In La trenza de la hermosa luna. Montero introduced a theme previously absent in
Puerto Rican narrative works: the Haitian culture and specifically the world of the spirits,
of voodoo. The story was told from a Haitian view, and the only hint that it was
addressed to a Spanish-speaking audience was its language and its detailed explanation of
rites and terminology. It was a story of political intrigue, and within it, a love story. The
sensual description and the rhythm of the discourse made this novel an unpretentious
jewel. Montero departed from the foreign setting in her second novel, La 41tima noche
que Das6 contigo. which she centered in present-day Puerto Rico among the urban middle
class. She used a cruise ship voyage as a frame. Several stories converged; a "realistic"
portrait of a middle age couple was told through alternative interior monologues; and the
stopovers at various ports around the Caribbean brought in the "exotic" element. She
used the same style of narration as in her previous novel, but this time the story's only
purpose seemed to be an erotic description of sexual encounters where stereotypes such
as the black male phallus were reinforced.
In Del rojo de su sombra, Montero goes back to the Haitian world of her first
novel. The political situation now is after Aristide's election. This time the setting is not
Haiti but a region in the Dominican Republic where a Haitian population has lived for
many years as the cheapest cane-cutting hands. The gagd is described in detail, and the
story revolves around Zule, a young Haitian woman who moves to the Dominican
Republic with her father. There Zul6 becomes the duetfa of the most powerful gagd in
the region. This time around the political turmoil in Haiti is barely mentioned, and the
emphasis is on the sexual encounters of two women: Anacaona and Zule. They do not
have many affairs, actually, each one has only two: Anacaona with her first husband and
then with Zule's father, Zule with Corid6n, her initiator in thegagd and then with Simild,
who will become her rival for the supremacy of the gagd. Yet it seems that the purpose






SAR GASSO 09 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


of so much description of the rituals of these ceremonies is only an excuse for the sexual
attacks on these women. This is not intercourse between a man and a woman, but a rape
scene where the woman is physically attacked and subdued and penetrated over and over
again until the man is totally satisfied. Much like in her second novel, there is no irony to
subvert the text: on the contrary, there is a celebration of the act.
There is no doubt about the author's ability to tell a story and to establish an
atmosphere of suspense. But has the author endowed the narrator with any capacity to
question the text? The reader is at a loss since, if it occurs at all, it would have to come at
the end of the story. However, given the common reader's probably limited knowledge of
voodoo and gagd, the meaning of the characters' actions remains hidden.
In Maldito amor, Rosario Ferre used multiple voices to tell the story of an upper-
class 19th-century Puerto Rican family who is destroyed by its prejudices and
materialism. This is a recurrent theme in Ferri's fiction, and she has developed it
meticulously throughout the years. Ferr6 has also used her knowledge of contemporary
reality to ridicule the "new" values manufactured by politicians and pop culture investors.
The last segment of Maldito amor deals with a war between the fanatic supporters of
Rock music and, on the other side, the equally fanatic "true believers" in Salsa. In La
batalla de las virgenes. she plays with the concept of religious morality, something so
prevalent in our society that every year a self-appointed minister of "God" proclaims a
day for "praising the Lord" (Clamor a Dios), and he urges all political leaders to attend
unless they wish to encounter the wrath of God and his people. As expected,
representatives of all political persuasions come and make speeches praising the Lord. In
her novel, Ferr6 describes the 1990s as a war between two Virgin Marys: the national one
called "la Virgen del Pozo," and the Yugoslavian one called "la Virgen de Medjugorje."
This "war" will again divide the Puerto Rican society into two classes: the upper and
upper middle classes who venerate the foreign Virgin, and the working class and the
lumpen who are followers of the local Virgin.
In the middle of this war, there is a woman trying to define herself apart from her
roles as daughter, wife, and mother, and a priest who wants to help the poor but who is
not ready to part from the official doctrines of the clergy.
The story is told through diaries, letters, and several narrators. The narrative flow
captures unstated comments that reveal the prejudices in our society and constantly
subverts the official voice of authority. What is lost in La batalla de las Vfrgenes is a
unifying sense of both idea and discourse; this is why the various stories seem to have the
same weight, and why their subjects receive only superficial treatment Many ideas are
tossed about but few, if any, are dealt the precise strokes of the professional writer that
we are accustomed to in Ferri's work. I believe that instead of developing the economy
she so brilliantly displays in stories such as "El collar de camandulas" and "Cuando las
mujeres quieren a los hombres," in La batalla de las Vfrgenes she attempts to stretch a
story into a novel-length work.



Maria Cristina Rodriguez
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras





S A R G A S S 0 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Here and Elsewhere

Guinness, Gerald. Here and Elsewhere: Essays on Caribbean Literature.
San Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, 1993.
For the intellectual, inviolable isolation is now the only way of showing
some measure of solidarity. All collaboration, all the hidden worth of
social mixing and participation, merely masks a tacit acceptance of
inhumanity.
Theodore Adorno.
The Here and Elsewhere cultural dynamic Derek Walcott elaborates in The
Arkansas Testament--that tug between the local, native and parochial and the larger world
outside--is further complicated in the case of Gerald Guinness by his own history: born
of a Puerto Rican mother and an English father; raised in England and educated at
Cambridge; he chooses to live in Puerto Rico and to write about Caribbean literature,
although he is, by his own admission, an outsider. Thus Guinness is an Elsewhere who
chooses Here.
We would not guess these complications from the evidence of this book.
Guinness's perspective is always that of Elsewhere. He values, above all, the great
Russian writers of the nineteenth century and European literature in general. He has
nothing good to say about writers of the Caribbean, except for V.S. Naipaul, and his list
of those who come up short is a roll call of Caribbean achievement--Jean Rhys, Wilson
Harris, Derek Walcott, Luis Pales Matos--or those who defend it--Edward Said, Roberto
Fernandez Retamar. Of course, we have come to understand the extent to which Naipaul
has become the litmus test by which we determine whose side we are on, and here
Guinness is clearly the colonial who finds nothing of value in the colony.
We have been down this road before, and it would be as easy to dismiss Guinness
for his Eurocentrism as it would be to defend him against Third World chauvinism.
(Guinness's Here is not here obviously, but Elsewhere, the privileged white male Europe
of his youth and education.) I would like to argue, however, that the issues are not as
clear as they seem to be, and that the role Guinness plays serves a useful function, one
which helps us understand what the function of the intellectual in society needs to be.
Intellectuals are, for the most part, hired guns and they serve wherever in the
landscape they are asked to serve, whether it be power, fashion or influence that calls the
shots. Such hired learning is almost always irrelevant. The real intellectual, however,
swears only by his intellect: he calls them as he sees them, regardless of fashion or
power, indifferent to consequences. There are real intellectuals who do commit
themselves to a people, cause or belief, but I believe that in one way or another they
suffer as much as they gain. In the Caribbean, C.LR. James -a writer Guinness, I would
guess, would not value highly- deserves mention, as does Kamau Brathwaite. Harder, I
think, is the role of the intellectual outside any allegiance except that to his own reason,
who is, consequently, always out-of-fashion, marginal, an outsider, disregarded.
("Without being cynical or oppositionist," Guinness writes, "literature must inevitably be
subversive and this means as much subversive of the pieties of the left as of the right.")
Such a role, Adorno argues, is necessary to preserve the integrity of the intellectual,
which is crucial to his value. ("It is part of morality," Adorno writes, "not to be at home
in one's home.") We need Cassandra to tell us her visions, if we are to survive.
This is what it comes to. The lone intellectual committed first of all to his
understanding, no matter the consequence, is necessary to our well-being, even if he is
wrong. There is his integrity, courage, reason. This is all he has, and if that does not
mean that he is right, it does mean he must be answered.
"I believe that the Puerto Rican intelligentsia," Guinness writes, "constitutes the
spiritual conscience of this island and the best bulwark it has against total assimilation to






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


and by the dominant culture of our North American neighbor." Given what we know
about intellectuals in general, this is ludicrous. However, we need to remind ourselves
exactly what real intellectuals do. and why we need them. Thus we must measure up to
Guinness's scrutiny, answer his questions, satisfy his standards, knowing that in his
reason and honesty he establishes the only solidarity he can, or that is possible, with the
rest of us.
Guinness's book is published by the University of Puerto Rico, where he teaches.
This is an important activity for the university to engage in. The faculty of any institution
needs to be held accountable periodically to the institution which signs its paychecks.
The community needs to see what its faculty has done. Here, the institution provides the
means by which we may judge.



Robert Buckeye
Middlebury College







Motherlands: Black Women's Writing from the Caribbean and South Asia.
Edited by Susheila Nasta.
New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 1992.

This collection of some sixteen essays attempts to link critiques of recent
literature by black women sharing histories of colonialism, patriarchy and often
displacement through the conceptual frame of "motherland." "Motherlands" says the
editor refers paradoxically, not to the native land but to the colonizing mothercountry
(Introduction, xix), whose power needs to be demythologized; women's language, texts,
experiences are written into this effort. Each essay is an analysis of one or two texts
within a context emphasizing either representations of. by or read by women. Some
essays, like the study of Flora Nwapa by Elleke Boehmer, engage with the ideologies of
gender infusing nationalism; others, like Shirley Chew's, claim an antipatriarchal textual
space in women's writing. The collection sways between claiming an enabling space of
resistance for women's writing and identifying the symbolic, historic and contemporary
forces that need to be resisted. The second section comprises a group of essays which
explore the metaphorical significance of mother figures. Cultural specificities are
asserted in dissent against the background of "universalist" feminisms.
Certain theoretical issues emerge provocatively from the collection. First, the link
between post-colonialism and feminism. The book implies a merging of the two analytic
categories, claiming that the colonial experience was crucial in determining the
contemporary context of women's oppression. This emphasis results in a restriction of
the women considered to be "middle-class" representations of "middle class" women.
The role of these literary women in unseating colonial as well as indigenous patriarchal
domination is well argued throughout the book. But there is no sense in which Anita
Desai or her representations can constitute "true" subalternity except in the discursive
sense that they "cannot speak," i.e. that conventional historiography silences them.
Moreover, only a minority of women in the post-colonial participate in a "literary"





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


culture: we thus need to include other cultural forms if women are to participate fully in
cultural transformation.
In this sense, Carolyn Cooper's paper, with its astute reading of the "folk"
practices in the otherworldly, crucially intercepts a discourse dominated by the female (if
colonized) elites. Her stress on the "ancestral" value of "spirit possession" brings in an
unproblematized "Africanness." The contemporary material role of spirit possession in
the ongoing hybridity and cultural mixing within which its practitioners live is of more
interest to this reader.
Cooper's essay's emphasis on folk culture also interrupts a somewhat utopian role
for writing enshrined in the collection. Diverse essays consider narrative to be self-
creating, self-consciously revisionist, transgressive and so on. It is arguable that such
notions derive from French Feminist valuations of dcriture and may be only marginally
applicable in poorer countries where the book is still a luxury item for most. Cultural
Studies' interest in mass culture, popular forms and Cinema is a corrective, in this sense,
to book-dominated critiques, which were, significantly, a result of colonial presence in
many parts of the world. Chew's essay quotes from work that demonstrates how Brahmin
and British literate textuality colluded to silence the woman.
The book has also some interesting essays on the mother-daughter relation (Laura
Niesen) and diaspora (Isabel Carrera). The book's intercultural focus is also one of its
strengths.

Nalini Natarajan
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras








Poetry Notes

Rain Carvers
Judith Hamilton
Kingston, Jamaica: Sandberry Press, 1992.

flame tree time
Elaine Savory
Kingston, Jamaica: Sandberry Press, 1993.
Fellow Traveller
Jane King
Kingston/Toronto: Sandberry Press, 1995.

Judith Hamilton's Rain Carvers (1992), Elaine Savory's flame tree time (1993)
and Jane King's Fellow Traveler (1995) form part of the Caribbean Poetry Series from
Sandberry Press, established to publish Caribbean literature and children's books. The
writers have been published in journals and anthologies in North America, the UK and
the Caribbean and present interesting first collections.
Elaine Savory's thirty some poems in flame tre time explore such universal
themes as birth, struggle, survival, death, creativity, sorrow and nostalgia. Ms. Savory






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


uses her Caribbean voice to enhance these universalities. Some are more successful than
others. "Thanksgiving" is among the strongest. Here Ms. Savory juxtaposes an urban
life of sacrifice, corruption, and death with an island life of familiarity, nature, and
tranquillity. The time and space of the poem reaches those who are forced to be away
from their nation as is/was the case with Ms. Savory who divides her time between
Barbados and New York:

I try to live quiet.
Serve my term
around these riches
where bank clerks
trained to sniff out poverty
know the exact stink a loser has.
But I dream
often
of roasted chicken
red pepper
the sky soft as a mattress
drumming quarrels in the dark.
"From the Source to the Sea," a beautiful, gripping dirge written in five parts, pays
homage to her mother. It begins with

i
November 1984

and so we fight only too well
knowing sometimes
how to wound one another
sometimes my love for you
is like a spear
splitting my ribs
& one inch from my heart...

and ends with

v
Daughter to Mother. March 10 1985
i never felt
the pull
of death
before
that subtle tide
of wanting
to be with you

other days
the counter-tide
of mothering
tows me to shore
my tears baste chickens
and i hunt for rituals





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


In "ideology (for a favourite marxist)" Ms. Savory's voice shifts to openness with her
familiar subject:

you are a man of structures

but i know
you make your world strict
precisely
as you know well
that whatever is most difficult
to capture
to hold

is that which is most
full of the creative

and of life ...

Ms. Savory bravely celebrates many other themes which stretch and burst like the
colorful flowers from the flamboydn tree, the title of one of the poems as well as the
collection. Overall, this first book by Elaine Savory (she has completed a second
collection, gingerbread house) is well balanced and the tensions in her poems are tightly
integrated.

Judith Hamilton's Ra, Cayrers is a more compact body of poetry. Abstract
notions flow past ones' eyes like the flash of a memory or the click of a camera. Ms.
Savory and Ms. Hamilton have two distinct styles. This becomes evident in the way they
treat their subjects in their first collections. Here are samples from Ms. Hamilton's
poems:

"epitaph":
house vacant
tenant get im green
card.

"dementia":
crippled
she shufflin
through the light

boxin
wid night

"rain carvers":
sitting
in

its silver
sting

they chisel
and thump





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


and split the
rain
While the majority of Ms. Hamilton's poems are characterisitcally short, longer poem
such as "poem teacha," farmer's prayer." and "fragments" are also included and give
equilibrium to the collection.

Jane King's Fellow Traveller runs the gamut of drama and emotion, grief and
gaiety. It is a book. to paraphrase Mervyn Moms, that more than rewards the reader with
the way in which its voice celebrates the themes she has chosen. She is driven by an
alert intelligence." In "Wash Day" she writes,

Sorting the laundry
into piles of dark and light
thinking about the theory
there should be no spot
of colour with the white
or of the contrary
which holds that black
is soiled by linty flecks

but laziness wins out.
To follow this philosophy throughout
I'd have to wash each item
separately
and ideally dismember some clothes
and they'd never sew back whole.
This flowery blouse
must be distressed by dresses
that can classify themselves in piles so pure
either can kick her out.

Flower blouse, I'm trying to decide
where to hide you.
In the same text, Ms. King switches from what is funny and witty to subtly denouncing
the ills of the world. She pulls in her readers and makes them active participants:

Have you heard any news?
I hear some stupid white hate group's arrested
for wanting to assassinate black leaders
starting with a man called King, whose beating
got a whole race rioting.

Putting his good pale shirt
in with my bras, white towels
I turn black leggings inside out so
lint won't show.
Her voice then moves back to the ironies of this sometimes brutal and chaotic world:

I saw an article in lime
how police flagged down a man for speeding
how his pickup truck smelled funny





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


so they lifted his tarpaulin
to find out what he was hauling
was a decomposing dummy.
She was nobody's mummy
and had long since stopped bleeding.
At last he stopped
no doubt relieved, thinking: fair cop.
he showed them where another sixteen lay
concealed.
Calmly agreed
he could identify the slack
slimy bits of some chick that they
had fished out of the river
five years back
no one had claimed her
it took her killer to name her.

White hot iron hissing
not one of those eighteen
ever
reported missing.

Finally, she brings us back to the chore of laundry that serves as a metaphor for our
encounters with life:
Perhaps some time
some housewife sorting socks
and wondering why
there are so many odd ones
looking out the window
sees a gap
where an absolute lone
painted lady used to bloom
and wonders
yes, and where do teaspoons go?
Flowered blouse
I'm putting all the washing in one load.

Ms. King's well balanced collection will inspire her readers to re-read lines, analyzing
and savoring their content.
These three excellent collections published by Sandberry Press are a welcomed
addition to the impressive and growing body of printed anglophone Caribbean poetry.

Luis Pomales
University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras






SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


Embudo
Elidio LaTorre
San Juan: Edici6n del autor, 1994.

Embudo--"poemas de fin de siglo"--de Elidio La Torre Lagares, un esfuerzo de
publicaci6n privada, present unos veinticinco poemas desde una posici6n denunciante de
lo que esa voz ha recogido en su paso por la vida. Unos estAn prefados de metAforas que
revientan. en una explosi6n contundente, tratando de evitar el embudo por el cual deben
llegar a su estado final; otros apuntan hacia un enorme piano que reclama, con estilo y
gracia, a veces lleno de furia, su marco existencial. La voz del poeta se mezcla de aqui y
de all en subidas y bajadas y en virajes sdbitos que perplejan por el correr desbocado
hacia lo que puede ser una meta, un destino de palabras que desenmascaran los aparentes
vacios peligrosos por los cuales deambulan sus seres...

Hay olor a muerte;
entire los intersticios del pavimento
supura el azufre;
los malhechores delinquen
en carrozas de fuego
luciendo sonrisas de metales
que un trabajador s61o forja
en el yunque de sus suefios
(de "Decayendo")

Pendulando
en las horas
te insertas, te sincronizas
y te riges por una media temporal,
que dicta tu existencia
calculada
y premeditada...
y aun no tines nada.
(de "Nada")

Hoy, sencillamente,
hiciste algo simple:
tomaste el sol con tus ojos
y lo arropaste de mar.
Te sentiste distinto:
vivo, digital.
Te tomaste manto de sentidos
te viste a tf mismo tri-dimensional.
( de "Hoy sencillamente")

En la mayoria de los poemas de La Torrne Lagares --me parece- no existed complicidad
entire el lector y la voz. Estin ahb descubridndose, desarropindose por la voz por to que
son o quieren ser. Tal vez en eso estriba el interns de leerlos--parafraseando a Puig, uno
quiere saber mis alila de lo que dicen, el c6mo llegaron a su realizaci6n...


Luis Pomales
Universidad de Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


A Tribute to Gerald Guinness

After nearly three decades in the Department of English of the College of Humanities of
the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, Gerald Guinness now threatens to retire from
active, semester-by-semester involvement in academia, and spend more time
"Elsewhere," reading, writing, and reflecting upon literary experience and expression.
Gerald was born in Puerto Rico, a product of American, Puerto Rican, and British
forebearers, and spent a small part of his youth here, but his cultural and intellectual
formation reflects a very definite British cast: he is a Cambridge graduate, with a Ph.D.
conferred by the University of London. Yet he is also a dedicated reader of Caribbean
and Latin American literature, and his articles, reviews, and translations in journals, The
San Juan Star, and books have made him one of the most productive and often
controversial figures in the English Department and the College of Humanities. He
promises not to be a stranger to Puerto Rico or to Caribbean literature after he retires in
May 1998.

The essay that follows was read, along with others by Drs. Mercedes L6pez Baralt and
Federico Acevedo, at the launching of Here and Elsewhere: Essays on Caribbean
Literature. The book is also reviewed earlier in this edition of Sarasso. No attempt was
made to formalize the essay, and it appears as read.


Gerald's Contribution:
Launching Here and Elsewhere: Essays on Caribbean Literature

Lowell Fiet
University of Puerto Rico-Rfo Piedras

I will try to be brief and, perhaps, less academic than other presenters. The points
to be made are several: first, I want to place Gerald's book, and this activity as well,
within the context of the English Department and the College of Humanities of the
University of Puerto Rico -in other words, the "politics" of our mutual intellectual
endeavor. My second point goes to the "ethics" of the same enterprise by trying to
describe the special qualities that Gerald, a critic as much divided (and linked) as the
writers he chooses to examine, brings to the study of Caribbean Literature. The third
section waxes metaphysical --what today we might call theory: Guinness, Theorist or
anti-Theorist of Caribbean Letters? And finally, I do have some critical knit-picking in
mind concerning Derek Walcott -111 call this the "poetics." You will forgive, I hope, the
cuteness of the Aristotelian categories.
My own work pretends an anti-Aristotelian bent (and I like to play with
postmodern, postcolonial, post-critical vocabularies), yet when dealing with Here and
Elsewhere, with the "idea" of Europe and its encounter with African and Asia in the
Caribbean, with Antillean and Aegean metaphors, and finally with writers whose interests
are what used to be called Adamic but who we might now call Edenic, like Walcott, or
anti-Edenic, like V.S. Naipaul, the Aristotelian categories seem more appropriate than
their newer critical and/or theoretical re-packagings.

the politics

The English Department does not frequently celebrate or applaud the
accomplishments of its own. A colony of expatriates inside the colony, we feel self-





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


consciously constrained, afraid to reveal our weaknesses and, likewise, uncomfortable
with our strengths. We are the principal victims of this cultural paranoia: not only does
it mean that others do not know what we do: more importantly, we lose track of our own
accomplishments and don't know who really does what or how well. The too frequent
result of that over-defensiveness is mediocrity: doing anything, as opposed to doing
things well, becomes the remarkable quality. Work done in Spanish or done in
nontraditional or adjacent fields is often overlooked. Work by colleagues in other
Departments is simply ignored. We lose sight not only of what is being done but also of
what it is we should be doing. Even the accomplishments of our most widely noted
members get pushed aside: When did we last have a book launching, when did we last
come together with colleagues from other departments tofestejar one of our or their
accomplishments? When have we celebrated the much publicized but less practiced
bilingual-bi-inter-multi-cross-culturalism that is supposedly the modus operandi of our
academic and social existence Here. What did we do for Gerald Guinness' previous
book, the translation and introduction to El pais de cuatro pisos by Jos6 Luis Gonzilez?
Perhaps, we tend to forget that we exist Here and not Elsewhere, that the English
Department has to maintain an organic link to the Caribbean and to a Caribbean
university inside a Spanish-speaking island-nation. The resistance to Caribbean literature
inside that context (and inside the so-called "colonial mentality" in general, for English is
not alone in its embrace of metropolitan as opposed to colonial and postcolonial cultural
production) is particularly to the point. Here and Elsewhere: Essays on Caribbean
Literature, if only indirectly, addresses all of that. It begins the constitution of an "ethics"
for our academic and intellectual practice as a Department and a College.

the ethics

I use the Aristotelian term judiciously, I hope (we are in company of philosophers
and must step lightly), to indicate that personal well-being and collective well-being, like
notions of Here and Elsewhere, are, to greater or lesser degrees, always linked. Gerald's
book treats Puerto Rican, Cuban, Trinidadian, St. Lucian, and Dominican literatures (or
national literatures) -novels, stories, and poems written in Spanish and English- with
equal ease. He is a remarkably careful and thorough reader perhaps his greatest
attribute as a critic; "wit," in that wonderful Restoration sense, being, of course, another.
These are special disciplines, maybe dying or lost arts, to read so widely and yet in such
detail, to write with verve, charm, amd style and yet with such specificity. The other
characteristic is a broad cultural knowledge that defies categories and localistic
distinctions. Poetry, whether written by a Puerto Rican burguds or a St Lucian upstart,
must first be poetry and respond to that "nation" or corpus of forms, rhythms, and ideas
before it can serve any other more local or national concerns. Perhaps, the Oxbridge
background fosters that sense of cultural "internationalism." Gerald and his work display
all of that, as did Gordon K. Lewis, the other British-formed Caribbeanist who has so
influenced our discourse.

the metaphysics

That is what I mean by the "metaphysics" of Here and Elsewhere, because what is
under discussion is a kind of cultural theory -an uncommon attitude or belief structure
which privileges artistic over other signifying practices. This is not Henry James'
"International theme" (or I hope not, at least, since James is a writer I have great
difficulty reading); nor is it an aspect of the now politically correct "multi-culturalism" of
North American institutional life -even though Gerald mentions both in his
"Introduction."
Here and Elsewhere are Walcott's terms, and yet I think Gerald wants them set in
tones other than the notion Walcott presented when he read from The Fortunate Traveler





SAR GASSO 9 (1997): Poetry and Cultural Issues


here on this campus in 1982. (Walcott divided his later The Arkansas Testament [ 19871
into specific Here and Elsewhere sections.) At that time, the poet claimed that the
Caribbean was the place where the first and third worlds came together face-to-face with
greater frequency than in any other place on earth, and it was the friction between those
worlds that made it such an interesting and creative site for new writing. I don't think
Gerald would disagree with that statement, but his Elsewhere is a culturally and
historically more expansive notion, a kind of a historical universe of literary and artistic
values (and here I am not speaking only of "high" culture). I have chosen Aristotelian
categories, but there is an implicit Platonism in this universe of forms, rhythms, and ideas
which runs the course of human civilization. It is there that the notion of Here and
Elsewhere, at least as they serve in the examination of the work of Derek Walcott, begins
to falter. The performative or unscripted, that which assumes and then discards masks,
the improvised, the acted, maintains an inferior position inside that universe.

the poetics

Thus, we come to my major -- which is really minor quarrel with Gerald about
Walcott: the absence of Walcott the playwright-director-performer. Here, it seems to
me, Walcott is playwright and poet; Elsewhere, he is mainly poet and only sometimes
playwright. In fact, his recognition Elsewhere as poet is, perhaps, more related to the
failure of his project to create a Caribbean theater so well documented in the essay "What
the Twilight Says: An Overture" (1970) and the play A Branch of the Blue Nile (1982).
Elsewhere has bestowed a prize on a poet without understanding that he is also
playwright and performer, an improviser of movement and forms. Now, we all know that
there is no necessary relationship between literary prizes --even Nobel prizes-- and lasting
artistic merit. Furthermore, it was "the arrogant poet," Pablo Neruda, himself a Nobel
prize-winner, who in his memoirs, Confieso que he vivido, suggests that recognition and
fame are accidental, and that the truly great poets of his generation lived and died in
obscurity. Off the top of my head (and unfairly), I flinch when I think of Bjorn Bjornson
and not Henrik Ibsen receiving a piece of such a prize or of Jacinto Benavente and not
Garcia Lorca as Spain's Nobel prize-winning playwright. Eugene O'Neill received his
Nobel too early --much of his early production seems insubstantial alongside The Iceman
Cometh and Long Day's Journey Into Night- and Beckett's probably came too late. Most
great writers do not receive such awards.
The question I am trying to ask here is, Does Walcott's receiving the Nobel prize
mean that his work will not receive the honest critical evaluation it requires? Must we
now simply accept Walcott's plays and poems as sacred cows and view any critical
bloodletting as sacrilege? In fact, Gerald sees "a current indulgence towards Walcott (as
a favored son, perhaps) that is fairly current in Walcott studies these days and that in the
long run will inhibit any true estimate of that writer's worth." His desire is "to bring
criticism, as opposed to 'appreciation,' to bear on the (Caribbean's) most distinguished
poet, so as to convince students (and anyone else who is interested) that Walcott matters
as a living force in our culture and isn't merely someone one has to read as a part of
'Caribbean Studies'...." But is it the case that Walcott receives "appreciation" and not
criticism, and is the reading that Gerald gives to "A Far Cry from Africa," for example,
reflective of that kind of critical reading?
I don't have the time to answer those questions fully. I would, however, like to
suggest that "difficult" and "unlikeable" poems (not to get into issues such as "apparent
insincerity" or "strained" and "muddled" imagery) are sometimes more instructive than
others that lack that difficulty. My response to this particular poem is that it is an
absolutely necessary step taken by a brilliant journeyman poet attempting to deal with the
contradictions of his own personal and historical moment. Its excesses and eccentricities
are balanced by its ironies, and if Walcott is muddled or insincere it is not without being
conscious of it. Walcott could not not write this kind of poem. Perhaps it should have




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