Material Information

Uniform Title:
Portion of title:
Kyk over Al
Portion of title:
Portion of title:
British Guiana Writers' Association
Kykoveral (Guyana)
Place of Publication:
Georgetown Guyana
Publication Date:
Two no. a year
Physical Description:
v. : ; 23 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Guyanese literature -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
Caribbean literature (English) -- Periodicals ( lcsh )
review ( marcgt )
periodical ( marcgt )
serial ( sobekcm )
Spatial Coverage:


Dates or Sequential Designation:
Began in 1945?
Dates or Sequential Designation:
-49/50 (June 2000).
Numbering Peculiarities:
Publication suspended, 19 -1983.
Issuing Body:
Issued by: British Guiana Writers' Association, 1945-19 ; Kykoveral, 1985-
General Note:
Vol. for Apr. 1986 called also golden edition that includes anthology of selections from nos. 1-28 (1945-1961).
General Note:
Description based on: No. 30 (Dec. 1984); title from cover.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
12755014 ( OCLC )
86649830 ( LCCN )
1012-5094 ( ISSN )

UFDC Membership

Digital Library of the Caribbean


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o ,


JUNE, 1992




JOHN FIGUEROA Jamaican by birth; distinguished poet, critic, lecturer, broadcaster;
now lives in the UK
RALPH THOMPSON Jamaican businessman, poet and critic.
HERBERT INNIS Guyanese Amerindian; writer and teacher.
ROOPLALL MONAR Guyanese poet, short story writer and novelist; Peepal Tree
Press has published a collection of short stories, Backdam People, and a volume of poems,
Koker, his first novelJhanjat was published in 1990 and a further collection of stories,High
House and Radio, is due to be published in 1992, both by Peepal Tree Press.
CECIL GRAY Noted Trinidadian poet, short story writer, editor and lecturer; now lives
in Canada.
TONY KELLMAN Barbados poet and short story writer; his collection of poems
include: The Black Madonna and Other Poems (1975); In Depths ofBurning Light (1982);
The Broken Sun (1984); currently teaches Creative Writing and Literature at Augusta
College, Georgia, USA; Peepal Tree Press published a full-length collection of his poems,
Watercourse, in 1990 and is to publish his novel The Coral Rooms in 1992.
MAHADAI DAS Guyanese poet; M.A. (Philosophy) University of Chicago; her collec-
tion of poems, Bones, was published in 1989 by Peepal Tree Press.
STEWART BROWN Lecturer at Centre of West African Studies, University of
Birmingham; has taught in Jamaica and Nigeria; editor of anthology Caribbean Poetry
Now and joint editor of Voiceprint; author of collections of poems Zinder and Lugard's
Bridge; editor of The Art ofDerek Walcott., a collection of essays.
BRENDAN DE CAIRES Young Guyanese; Honours Degree in English Literature at
Oxford University in 1991; works for Human Rights Association in Guyana.
ALIM IIOSEIN Guyanese art and literature critic; lecturer in the Department of
English, University of Guyana.
E.A. MARKHAM Born in Montserrat; lives in England; poet, editor, critic, lecturer; his
books include Human Rites (Anvil Press, 1984), Living in Disguise (Anvil Press, 1986),
Towards the End of a Century (Anvil Press, 1989), and a collection of short stories,
Something Unusual (Ambit Books, 1986).
BRIAN BOWEN Young Guyanese poet.
STANLEY GREAVES Distinguished Guyanese painter, teacher and writer on art; poet;
now lives in Barbados.
JOHN GILMORE Barbadian historian and writer; edited Banja, a magazine of
Barbadian life, history and culture; co-editor Caribbean Week.
GRACE NICHOLS Guyanese poet; Winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1983
for i is a long memoried woman (Karnac House); has also published The Fat Black
Woman's Poems (Virago 1984), Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman (Virago 1989), a novel
Whole ofa Morning Sky (Virago 1986), and books of stories and poems for children; lives
in England.
LORNA GOODISON Jamaican poet; artist, designer, illustrator; books include Tamar-
ind Season (Institute of Jamaica, 1980), lam becoming my Mother (New Beacon, 1986),
Heartease (New Beacon, 1989).
JOSEPI SINGII Guyanese; Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force.
DAVID FORD Guyanese; former Permanent Secretary; has published an excellent
Memoir Remembering.
SASENARINE PERSAUD Guyanese novelist, short story writer, poet; novels Dear
Death and The Ghost of Bellows Man published by Peepal Tree Press; lives in Canada.
SIIRIDATH RAMPIIAL Guyanese; former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth;
Chancellor of the University of the West Indies and the University of Guyana.
FRANK BIRBALSINGII Born in Guyana; literary critic; senior lecturer in Caribbean
literature, York University, Canada; important promoter of West Indian writers.
LMICIIAEL AARONS Guyanese poet now living in the United States.



KYK-OVER-AL No. 43 Edited by Ian McDonald

June 1992


Across the Editors' Desk .......................... ....................... ..................................... 2

Leda and the Swan (3 drawings)

The Other Island
The Church at Brou : 4 poems
On hearing Dvorak's
"New World" Symphony
A poem
Candle-stick Maker
Cast Offs; The Yawn
Captive Unicorn
lHome; Auntie
Morning Song; School Days
Rice Pot; Off Campus.
Only an Osric
On Reading 'Omeros; Stephen
Three Haiku; Victorian Tragedy
White Sails
Everybody Tun Selfish
Venita Duesbury
White Birds,
The River Wanted Out

to Adrian Thompson

Iis Father's House
Election Fever
Extracts From the Coral Rooms

The Power to Exclude
"One Touch of Nature
Makes the Whole World Kin"

with Roy Heath

Dimensions of a Creole
Continuum by John Rickford
Shape Shifter by Pauline Melville

Alim Hosein .........................39, 70, 99

Ralph Thompson ............................12

John Figueroa ..................................15
E.R. Markham .................................20
Grace Nichols ..................................21
Ian McDonald ..................................22
Brian Bowen ....................................23
Mahadai Das ......................................24
Herbert Innis ...................................25

Stanley Greaves ...............................26

Cecil Gray ...........................................28

John Gilmore ...................................31
Rooplal Monar ................................33
Michael Aarons ...............................35

Lorna Goodison ..............................37

Joseph Singh ....................................40
David Ford .........................................44

Sasenarine Persaud ...........................48
Rooplal Monar ..................................53
Tony Kellman ..................................67

Stcwart Brown .................................71

Shridath Ramphal ...........................77

Frank Birbalsingh ............................81

Alim Iosein ...................................100
Brendan DeCairies .......................103

Notes on Contributors
KYK Credits and Information

Inside Front Cover
Inside Back Cover -

KYK # 43


Apology and Appreciation

Kyk 43 has been delayed, as was Kyk 42. We apologise to subscribers
in particular most sincerely for this. Kyk 42 was supposed to come out in
December, 1990, and came out in July, 1991. Kyk 43 was then supposed to
come out in December, 1991, and comes out now in June, 1992. We are
averaging one issue, when we had originally planned two issues, per year.
There are two reasons for delay. One is the sheer cost in time and
perseverance in getting the material collected, sorted, edited, printed and
published. One's personal time slips by insidiously fast and Kyk deadlines
are lost in the plethora of other deadlines. The need is for more help both
on the editorial and business sides of bringing out the magazine and this is
being pursued. Brendan De Caires and Vanda Radzik have rendered
invaluable help in releasing this issue without them the issue might well
have been delayed even longer.
The other reason for delay is financial. Kyk gets no subsidy and sales
in Guyana and the West Indies, sadly, do not come near covering costs.
What keeps Kyk alive is the generous and imaginative support by the
business community in Guyana and the contributions which overseas
subscribers, especially in the UK, make to the magazine. We are more
grateful than we can say for the assistance we get from business houses in
Guyana and from the foreign exchange subscribers in Britain -they are our
lifeblood. In respect of our support from the business community, how-
ever, there is a limit to what we can ask and this limit tends also to limit the
number of issues we can bring out per year.

Bill Carr A Love and Reverence for Literature

Bill Carr, born in England, educated at Cambridge, but very much a
West Indian for the rest of his life died on February 25th, 1992, at the age
of 60. His career was spent lecturing and writing on literature first at UWI
in Jamaica and then at the University of Guyana until the end of his life. His
lecturing was inspiring, his writing lucid, his criticism perceptive, and his
conception of what mattered in literature clear, firmly expressed, and more
likely than most critical writings to out- last the temporary formulations of

KYK # 43

fashion. He was also a devoted lover of the theatre and in his prime played
many memorable roles. When he died I wrote an appreciation which
appeared in Stabroek News in Georgetown.
Two weeks before Bill Carr died I had got a book of essays on
the poetry of Derek Walcott to give to him. Between visits abroad I
never got around to giving the book to him. I feel sad he never got
to see these essays and I am sorry I will miss his commentary,
disdainful and delighted by turns on what the essayists might have
dared to say about his much-loved poet. I am even more sorry that
I will miss his exulting joy in Walcott's words themselves. How he
would have loved the lines from Omeros quoted in John Figueroa's
good essay on that great poem:-

"but the right journey
is motionless; as the sea moves round an island

that appears to be moving, love moves round the heart
with encircling salt, and the slowly travelling hand
knows it returns to the port from which it must start.

Therefore, this is what this island has meant to you
why my bust spoke, why the sea-swift was sent to you:
to circle yourself and your island with this art".

And these other lines in which, as an adopted West Indian, Bill
would have recognized the slow coalescence and growth of the
unique culture he had grown over long years to love:

"Why waste lines on Achille, a shade on the sea floor?
Because strong as self-healing coral a quiet culture
is branching from the white ribs of each ancestor,

deeper than it seems on the surface; slowly but sure,
it will change us with the fluent sculpture of Time".

He himself was writing a book on Walcott whose poetry he loved
measurelessly. Over the years I saw some of the completed chapters.
He never finished the book he grumbled to me once that Walcott
was writing so much great poetry so fast that lesser men could not
hope to keep up with critical comment on his output but I hope the
completed part will be preserved and published sometime.
Bill Carr was a Yorkshireman he could not be weaned away from

KYK # 43

his admiration for the dull but dogged opening batsman Boycott -
but the main part of his life was spent lecturing in English first at
Mona and then at Turkeyen. At his best Bill Carr was an incisive,
brilliant lecturer and a piercingly lucid literary critic. A few years
ago, when he was up between bouts of illness that laid him low, Iwent
to hear him give a lecture on the poetry of Martin Carter. I thought
he might be too weakand unwell to be much more than ordinary. But
without a note and holding only the poems in his hands like a prized
possession, he gave the perfect lecture pithy, loving, original, witty,
and assured and his reading of the poetry was loving also, faultless
and informed with deep understanding. For an hour and more his
originality, intelligence, and obvious love of his subject held us
almost tranced at the cusp of our attention. I went away thinking to
myself that that performance multiplied would have made him one
of the very great teachers. It is sad now to think how much more he
might have achieved if he had allowed himself to be at his best more
of the time. I think he might have measured himself among the great
literary critics of the region, men like Ken Ramchand and Gordon
He was an astonishingly brave man. A few years ago, when his
strength had ebbed and his body become frail and worn, he said he
would do the demanding part of the Englishman Harry Trewe in
Walcott's play Pantomime, a play with just two actors. No one could
have believed that he would succeed in the attempt. It seemed a sort
of mad over- estimate of his remaining strength. But he carried off
the performance for all the run of the play with gallantry and the
theatrical flair which once had made him memorable in King Lear,
Hamlet, and Walcott's Franklin in the old Theatre Guild days. It
must have been pure courage that saw him through borne up, also,
no doubt, by his abiding reverence for Walcott's undyingwork. In his
last years he was in and out of hospital, very weak often, very sick
sometimes, but never once that I saw in a dull, ill humour and
certainly never complaining about life which held for him always to
the end the zest and promise that makes every passing hour matter.
Some of that tenacity in holding on to the richness of life must have
flowed from his wife, Marjorie, but the strength was in him too,
perhaps as deep down as his faith as a Catholic which he did not
speak much about (at least to me) but which was rock-steady
through all the bad, enfeebling days.
Bill had his hates as well as his loves. He harboured a special
loathing for the pretensions of political power. Those who lorded it

KYK # 43

over others, he felt, almost invariably had no good reason or right to
do so and the worst of them were the most likely to act the over-
mighty autocrat. In the heyday of party paramountcy, the manifes-
tations of which he utterly despised, he would quote to good effect
one of Karl Marx's better remarks:

"But the more these conscious illusions
of the ruling classes are shown to be
false and the less they satisfy common-
sense, the more dogmatically they are
asserted and the more deceitful
moralising and spiritual becomes the
language of established society".

Above all, when all is said and done, Bill Carr loved, respected, and
relished good writing he revelled in what was best in literature. His
knowledge of all the classics of Western literature was unsurpassed.
I learned so much about literature from him I cannot begin to list the
insights he carelessly bestowed on me in the course of conversations.
I thought I knew Walcott's work well until Birr Carr spoke to me
about the complexity and beauty of his art. He introduced me to the
innerworkings of many great writers. I thank him for that out of a full
heart. His favourite almost over all as an essayist was Matthew
Arnold whom he thought much underestimated. Over the years he
pointed out to me more times than I can remember parts of Arnold's
writing peculiarly appropriate to the happenings of our day. He
seemed to know Arnold's work by heart. He liked to quote Arnold's
words about literary criticism: I am bound by my own definition of
criticism: a disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that
is thought and known in the world. He thought anyone interested in
well-written, common-sensical, clear and clarifying prose should
read Arnold's essay Culture andAnarchy. The best writing, Bill Carr
said to me not long ago, is always more up-to-date than today.
When Bill died I looked up my Newman the great Cardinal John
Henry Newman, convert-scholar of the Catholic Church. Bill loved
the cardinal Newman was not only a man of the most unflinching
Catholic faith but also an absolute master of language. I found some
words from a sermon Newman once gave simple words but I write
them down now with feeling for Bill Carr who taught me so much
about what is worth our love and reverence in literature.

-5 -

KYK # 43

"May He support us all the day long,
till the shades lengthen, and the
evening comes, and the busy world
is hushed and the fever of life
is over, and our work is done! Then
in His mercy may He give us a safe
lodging, and a holy rest, and peace
at the last".

Adrian Thompson Explorer and Naturalist

Adrian Thompson never wrote for Kyk or for any other literary maga-
zine. But his life was filled with the presence of Guyana's forests, rivers,
mountains, savannas, wild-life, flowers, birds and all this land's great
inheritance of beauty and mystery and filled with the presence too of the
ancestral people who live at one with all of it. An appreciation of the man
and his work deserves a place in the pages of Kyk and we are pleased to
include in this issue pieces by Brigadier Joe Singh and David Ford on this
quintessential Guyanese.

Seamus Heaney

We give below an extract from an interview which Seamus Heaney
gave to the Economist.

What is your own apology~ for poetry? What is poetry good for?
To quote my friend Derek Mahon, they keep the colours new.
They rinse things...
What sort of things?
Well, first of all rinse the words, yes. But also perhaps rinse and
hang out again on the line values of freedom of spirit and play, but
also values which are fundamental to the culture, the myth values of
the culture ...You see, I think poetry's also domestic. It lives within
certain cultural borders. It can transcend them, it can broadcast
beyond them, but its first life is within its language borders and then
maybewithin a certain domain of that language... The kind of poetwho
founds and reconstitutes values is somebody like Yeats or Whitman -
these are public value-founders. Then you can put beside Whitman in

KYK # 43

19th-century America Emily Dickinson, who is a reconstitutor of an
inner metaphysic for human creatures...The poet is one the side of un-
deceiving the world. It means being vigilant in the public realm. But
you can go furtherstill and say that poetry tries tohelpyou to bea truer,
purer, wholer being, you know. This doesn't mean that each poem has
to be something like Eliot's Four Quartets... It can mean a haiku such
as Twilight
Farmer pointing the way
with a radish.. You suddenly see the world renewed.
The kinds of truth that art gives us many, many times are small
truths.. They don't have the resonance of an encyclical from the Pope
stating an eternal truth, but they partake of the quality of eternity.
There is a sort of timeless delight in them. And it's that timeless
delighting, the timeless rightness of a little thing or the resonant
rightness of a bigger thing that's what it can do. Let a blind up for a
You 'e talked about the public role ofpoetry, but you have also said
that poetry can't afford as it did in the 19th century to indulge in
exhortation anymore.
Yes. That is true, I was talking about the suspicion that Irish poets
in particular had had induced in them by the scoldings of Patrick Kava-
nagh against a national theme. And Kavanagh said: there's nothing as
damned as the important thing. But then there was also the caution
that came upon us in the late 1960s, early 1970s because of the
collusion between high national rhetoric and possibly low, dangerous
activities the IRA and so on... The appetite for uttering a big truth
shouldn't be altogether rebuked, you know. But how is it to be uttered?
That is the question.
To go back to the present collection, you seem to use bigger words
than you 've ever dared use before soul and spirit, for example. There is
one line in particular where the soul is hung out like a white...
...handkerchief, which, in a sense, goes back to the very beginnings
of religious instruction, to the school catechism, where the innocent
soul was a white handkerchief and then sin came along like a stain of
soot or a piece of tar and the soul had to be cleansed at confession. It
was pretty coarse stuff..l think that those primary images retain as
Wordsworth would have said a vivifying force, but they can also be
constricting in a subliminal way right throughout your life. And that
poem was a discovery of a delight in realising that eternal life is cred-
ible, you know...One associated it, first ofall, with a mystery, and itwas,
in the first world. The religious language was entirely radiant and

KYK # 43

mysterious but it was unquestioned. Then you come to the detached,
self-secularising period, and you say: eternal life? It's all language, you
know. There's no afterlife. There's no paved floor of heaven. The
seraphim aren't there.
And then, suddenly, you say: Well, wait! Eternal life can mean
utter reverence for life itself. And that's what there is. And our care in
a green age, so to speak, in an age that's conscious of the ravages that
have been done to the planet, the sacred value is actually eternal life.
So that language is perfectly proper. It can be used again. It can be
revived. It's not necessarily a mystifying language. It's a purifying lan-
guage. And I suppose that's what I would like to do...This was not an
ambition, but is a kind of apologia for using words like soul and spirit.
You want them to ... yes, to be available, to purify possibilities again.

Closed Shop

We reprint an extract from a Commentary by John Gross entitled The
Man of Letters in a Closed Shop taken from The Times Literary Supplement
of November 15th, 1991. It exactly expresses our sentiments.

Literary theory, in one form or another, is at least as old as
Plato so why all the fuss? In the first place, there is the sheer
unparalleled quantity of theory that has come rolling off the assem-
bly lines in recent years, the startling proliferation of doctrines,
vocabularies and interpretive strategies. You could spend half a
lifetime mastering what has already been written; then you would
have to start catching up all over again. Nor do I believe that there
is any real analogy here with the explosion of knowledge inside a
truly scientific subject. Above all, the growth of theory seems to be
an index of the ambitions of theory, of the determination of the
cuckoo to take over the nest.
The expansionist designs of theorists are nowhere more appar-
ent than in their terminology. To make sense (where possible) of
what they are saying, you have to submit to a new language, with a
dozen different dialects. You have to train yourself to see the world
in terms of metonymy and semioclasm, marginalization and aporia,
jouissance and difference, and misprision as a mode of partial recu-
peration. If you don't end up brooding over the materiality of the
signifier, you are liable to find yourself wandering between the
hegemonic and the agonistic, or trying to work our exactly what is

KYK # 43

meant I n 'y a pas de hors-texte.
Some of this jargon no doubt serves a justifiable purpose: every
discipline needs its specialized vocabulary. But, once again, you
wonder why there has to be so much of it; you can't in fact travel very
far in this particular territory without encountering unmistakable
specimens of deliberate obscurity, wild generalizations and high-
sounding guff.
To insist on the priority of theory over literature is bad enough.
It is as though no one were allowed to go to church without first
taking a degree in theology. But, in practice, the situation is even
worse, since a great deal of critical theory is devoted not so much to
illuminating literature as to undermining it, robbing it of its auton-
omy. In the kingdom of theory the author's role is reduced to that of
a meeting-point of external forces; the text itself is no longer the
privileged container of meaning; reading a poem or novel for its own
sake becomes a mere naive prologue to the serious business of
analysis. Everything is up for interpretive grabs.
A full account of critical theory, with all its subdivisions, would
be an enormous task, but I have no doubt myself that its deepest
appeal is political. In some cases this is obvious: in the campaigns
that have been waged to open up or abandon the canon of standard
authors. (Beware of Shakespeare too hegemonic) But even the
more rarefied varieties of theory generally carry an implicit political
message. By their very nature they presuppose that traditional
Western values are illusory; that re-definition is always better than
transmission; that the intellectual is "privileged" bybeing able to see
through the facades that deceive other people. In many respects
modern theory might have been invented (and in some respects
perhaps it was) in order to fill the gap left by the decline of classical
But it also offers more immediate satisfactions. The artist
whose work has been deconstructed or demystified has also been
demoted. The critic (the critic turned theorist, that is) need no
longer worry about playing a subordinate role. Better still, he can
persuade himself that he, too, is engaged in a form of artistic activity.
Readers new to critical theory must often be puzzled by its ex-
travagance and apparent playfulness. True, there are sober-minded
theorists too. But all those cute titles, bad puns and "ludic" conceits!
All those frisky parentheses and whimsical oblique strokes! The
rhetoric and the tone hardly seem those of an science, or
even a pseudo-science; and they are not meant to be. One recent

KYK # 43

commentator, Howard Felperin, spells out the position with com-
mendable candour in his book Beyond Dconstruion. Deconstruction,
he writes,

relinquishes any claim to status as science, but only to make an
equally ambitious or pretentious claim to status as literature.
Criticism has always made this claim implicitly, furtively, embar-
rassedly. Which of us would deny the prestige offidl literary status
to the essays of Sidney, Johnson, Shelley, Arnold or Eliot? Which
of us has not thought, secretly and wishfidly, his own essays their
equal? In deconstructive criticism that claim comes out ofhiding;
the writer inside the critic comes out of his closet.

Re-enter the critic as artist. The claim, or ambition, has always
seemed to me a dubious one except in a few rare instances, more
likely to produce delusions of grandeur than anythingelse. But I find
it hard to believe that Felperin is speaking purely for himself; at any
rate, I can't think of a better explanation for the immodesty which is
one of critical theory's most striking features.
The upgrading of the critic applies strictly to theorists: need-
less to say, it doesn't confer any benefits on the non-theorizing man
of letters. There is a very revealing passage in this connection in a
booklet published in 1989 by the American Council of Learned
Societies, Speakingfor the Humanities the work of no fewer than six
authors, all of them occupying influential positions at leading
universitics.(They include Peter Brooks of Yale and Jonathan Culler
of Cornell). Their main brief seems to have been to defend recent
developments in the teaching of the humanities against conserva-
tive critics such as William Bennett, who was US Secretary of
Education at the time, but in the course of developing their case they
also felt impelled to speak up for academic specialization in the
following terms:

It is precisely because the teachers of the
humanities take their subject seriously that they
become .specialists, allow themselves to be professionals rather than
amateurs belle-lettrists who
unselfconsciously sustain traditional hierarchies,
traditional social and cultural exclusions, assuming that their
audience is both universal and

- 10 -

KYK # 43

The arrogance (posing as openness) is breath-taking. In the
words of American critic Roger Kimball, who responded to the
report in the spirit it deserved, what we are being asked to accept is
that only your professional academic is canny enough to escape
bondage to naive and intellectually crippling assumptions about social
and cultural power. No mere Mencken or Orwell orAuden could do it,
you see, because, as amateurs and belle-lettrists, they were just too
unaware of 'traditional hierarchies' to tell us anything of much value.
I can't improve on that, but it is still worth asking why the
authors of Speakingfor the Humanities bothered to bring belle-
lettrists into the arguments in the first place. It is not as though
America were in danger of being overrun by old-style men of letters:
at a conservative estimate, ninety-nine percent of the literary criti-
cism now published in the Republic emanates from universities. No,
Professor Brooks, Professor Culler and their colleagues plainly find
something troublesome in the very notion of a man of letters, the
mere possibility of a serious critic operating outside the academic
fold. How else can one account for the element of blatant caricature
in their argument, with its suggestion that an Edmund Wilson shall
we say? was guilty of cultural exclusion that a Brooks or a Culler
manage to transcend? (Compare Wilson's essay on Flaubert with
Culler's books on the same subject, and judge for yourself which of
the two is more likely to reach out to readers at large).
At thevery least, the attitudes enshrined in SpeakingfortheHu-
manities hold out the threat of an academic closed shop. But there
is something in them that goes deeper than that, there is a hostility
not merely towards the freelance, but towards the free response. For
in spite of its apparent variety, a great deal of critical theory is
coercive, designed to enforce approved social and political attitudes
(roughly speaking, any attitude that rejects traditional hierarchies).
The belittling of the belle lettrist, the person who writes as he
pleases, is at bottom a demand for ideological conformity.
None of this is meant to imply that contemporary literary
theory doesn't offer intermittent insights. It does. But the price that
has to be paid for them is a hundred times too high, if they can only
be acquired at the cost of accepting everythingthat comes with them.
The body of theory that has accumulated over the past few years,
taken as a whole, seems to me a monstrous excresence, a vast
distraction, a paltry substitute for the experience of literature itself.
I believe that in time it will fade, but I am filled with a cold horror at
the thought of how much further it could spread before it does.

-11 -


Ralph Thompson

THE OTHER ISLAND (December 1991)

He stood in uniform at sunset
on the brink of bombed out Tokyo
watching a fishing boat cut from the river
into the bay, the fisherman standing
in the stern rolling a single oar
from side to side. Back home
it would have been a cotton tree canoe,
rowed blindly backward, towing an island.
This squint eyed craft, hull high,
looked where it was going, not
where it had been, the blade of the oar
unscrolling in Japanese the warning
of a wake which he could not decipher.
A wave of homesickness slopped into nausea.

When he showed the cable to his mother
she had crumpled it and cried:
"I will never see you again"
She took to bed but asthma had taught her
how to sleep with eyes half open,
pupils pulled up under the lids,
mouth half open too, still echoing
its oracle. In World War 1,
two days before the armistice,
a German gunner had stitched a row
of medals into her brother's chest,
their red ribbons trickling down.
The army sent his binoculars back
in a tiny coffin lined with silk.
She would not let him play with it.

Into thedoorof his room at the BOQ
was hinged a smaller door, a flap


through which Yasuko, his maid,
would peek, down on her knees,
careful not to ruffle his imperial
sleep. She always spied, it seemed,
when he was standing naked. Their eyes
would meet and she would giggle,
holding the sleeve of the kimono
over her mouth the same gesture
his mother used to hide her crooked teeth.

When he paid the fees for her
return to university
she alleged her love in English
less tenuous than his Japanese.
Their body language tested every
consonant and vowel, slurring
only when they talked of islands.
Fujisan, he claimed, was like Mount Fancy
looking from the gap toward Buff Bay,
its slopes as lovely and symmetrical.
Like her neighbour, old women
in Jamaica swept the yard
with tied-together branches, a green
broom that might sprout new leaves
if planted. Jealous islands! In revenge
one night, proving a talent for saving face,
she touched his cheek and whispered, "I think
that you are not completely black"

A southern colonel, veteran
of all bamboo battles, drawled:
"Never tell them you're returning Stateside.
Marriage is their one way ticket
to paradise. When you explain
that miscegenation is illegal
they take the law into their own hands,
so to speak, cut off your prick
with one of their Samurai razors,
so quick you hardly feel the swipe.
But there you are sitting upright
on the tatami, legs spread,

KYK # 43


Po tr ---- ---

blood pulsing from an interior pipe -
and where do you tie the tourniquet, boy,
around your waist?"

Bang on the door. "Telephone call
for you lieutenant". He ran down
the hall in jockey shorts to where
the receiver dangled against the wall.
It was a college girl friend calling
from New York. "I was sorry
to hear about your mother's passing.
I just got the news..." Crackle, Crackle,
The line went dead. A cable had been sent
but war had intercepted it.
Among so many deaths what
was notable about this one?

A severe attack of asthma,
an accidental overdose
of morphine? He remembered then
his first evening in Japan,
the dying sun, a solitary
fishing boat hauling into
Tokyo Bay, the message of its wake
wet with ambiguities.

- 14 -


KYK # 43

John Figueroa was awarded a gold medallionfor these poems by the
town of BROU.

The birds that sing
the birds that fly
are birds that live
and birds that die.

The men who build
the men who break
the simple arc

construct in stone
what men alone
of animals remark:

the straight assault
too simply makes
the point, and fades.

The twist constructs
the cloth that lasts.
The jaguar arc

efficient to a fault,
is animal;
direct, deadly and


Take a bit of well-baked, light, golden well knit, smooth grained corn
cake; place it in a silver plate, a plate deep and shaped like a stylised
fish, a flat, longish balanced fish; let the corn cake rest, and pour, not on
it but beside it, into the well shaped silver platter, rich but clear sauce,
the colour of yellow chartreuse, but with the slightest touch of rose in it,

- 15 -

KYK # 43


the very slightest touch of the rosy first light of day on a cool tropical
morning. The sauce must be rich, but not viscous; golden-rose; clear but
not thin. Slowly the corn cake will absorb it; the corn cake will remain
firm but its yellow pulp and brown rind will be completed, softened,
enriched by the absorbed liquid. So stands the church at Brou, built by
Margaret of Austria for Philibert le Beau, when between 11 in the
morning and early afternoon it takes to itself the firm, rich golden
sunlight, and absorbs it, softens it, enriches it, and with its carved fruits,
and oft repeated initials of P le B, makes the sunlight part of it, and in
so doing manages to suggest a slightly rosy sky, or the palest of rose


Choose golden, well-knit, smooth-grained corn cake,
Place it in a silver plate, shaped like a stylised fish,
Let the corn cake rest, and pour, not on but beside it,
a clear rich sauce.
the colour of yellow chartreuse,

Golden, rose clear, but not thin;
The brown rind is enriched
By this liquid
The yellow pulp completed.

So stands the church at Brou,
Built by Margaret of Austria for Philibert le Beau,
When between morning and fore-noon
It takes to itself the gold sunlight.
Absorbs it, softens, enriches it, and with
carven fruit,
And the often repeated initials
ofP leB, Ple B.
Makes sunlight a part of it:
Carved sky of dawn,
Palest of rose petals.

(with Derek Walcott)

- 16 -

KYK # 43


KYK # 43


In Memorial John Cunneen

Gray and rust

and gently pink against the blue
but no one stops
and no one stops
and no one stops to think of you

The light is fading
the virgins pass
the young are full of juice
like a slice of endless time
you face the fading sun
the cruel cross is marked on you
your windows pattern endlessly
the sorrow to something new
you stand so clean
you are not seen

And no one stops
and on one stops
and no one stops to think of you

The thighs that pass are firm
the faces dull
they cannot notice you
your whisper is so light
you are so still
you are so still

that no one stops to think of you

Just before night the light whitens
in different planes you stand
but no one slops

- 17 -



Three upright planes
where late but one
as light lessons improving sight

the geometry of your windows
of your looped facades
of your whole self
measures the earth
and sorrow's faith

you stand a well worked sign

and no one stops
and no one stops
and on one stops to think of you

Your endless geometry is sure and calm
built on a love-match that did
not seem to last

0 your quiet speaks across the roar
and stink of diesel engines
and faint aroma ofapertifs
it speaks it sings it soothes
for one building
in gray and rust

a hope

KYK # 43


KYK # 43 Poetry


The chestnut trunks arc dark
Their massive manes are green
And lightly float on dark
Breathing of music wind.

The while swans sail the pond
Before the music wind,
And arch white necks among
The waving chestnut trees.

The music wind billows,
The dark trunks toss green manes:
The swans have felt darkness
Weave slowly through the waves.

I am kneeling in
A night-fall church beyond
The rings of candle light
Which shake in music wind.

One by one acolytes
Arc candles leaving dark
The altar whose candles
One by one flicker out.

The night-fall church is night
Except for sanctuary lamp;
I taste the lamp and know
The song of music wind.

- 19 -

KYK # 43


PotyKY 4


(A Poem about a Savant, a Sister & a Person very grand at a
Function who must first look around the Room for someone
more important to talk to, and then relent.)

He was the Stapleton who matured
like cheese which reminds you of something else
into a Character the village loved
to offer to strangers as evidence

of a sophisticated palate. Old Stapleton
talked calmly of violence and death
unlike the preacher, to banish both as a daily fear
without condemning the island to something folksy.

He preserved the risk that he could do worse
if he tried, to confirm the family's dread
of savant as something others called strange
in whispers or with after-dinner relish.

Though for a sister, visiting,
how irksome this man without family
making death & violence a party piece, neighbours
she'd kept at bay by effort in a life

ministering to others! And here they are together
at a function, approached by a person very grand,
contrition on his face. And yes, women
are like wives to public men at times like these:

Old Stapleton tells the story of his sister's
daughter when young, helping to pull weeds
from the driveway, from the garden: why then
is she crying, the happy child? Those flowers
in an adult hand, though green, have done no harm,
and calling them names won't make it better.
This story of death & violence in the family
softens the sister and intrigues a person very grand.

- 20 -

KYK # 43


KYK #43 Poetry



Blackout is endemic to the land.
People have grown sixthsense
and sonic ways, like bats,
emerging out of the shadows
into the light of their own flesh.

But the car headlamps coming towards us
make it seem we're in some thirdworld movie,
throwing up potholes and houses exaggeratedly,
the fresh white painted and grey ramshackle
blending into snug relief.

And inside, the children are still hovering,
hopeful moths around The flickerless Box,
immune to the cloying stench of toilets
that can't be Ilushed. The children,
all waiting on electric-spell to come
and trigger a movie, the one featuring America,
played out endlessly in their heads.

While back outside, coconut vendors decapitate
the night, husky heads cutlassed off
in the medieval glow of bottle lamps.

And everywhere there are flittings
and things coming into being,
in a night where footfall is an act of faith -
A group of young girls huddled in a questionable
The sudden dim horizontal of an alleyway;
And the occasional generator-lit big house,
obscenely bright -
hurting the soft iris of darkness
in this worn-out movie, slow reeling

Under the endless cinema of the skies.

-21 -


KYK # 43




The death of beasts, heavy-shoulderd:
Beneath the ox-tail, shit bubbles and descends.
Peasant fare, smell of cake-stalls in the air.
At last he wakes, bolt-straight,
Eyes afire, from his complex sleep,
Throws off the embroidered heavy clothes,
Sets about the task, self-given:
Matches the multiplying suns,
The green glaze of leaves, the Plato cave,
The bears, the waterfall, the galleries of love.
He makes the single candle-stick
Golden, polished, perfect, sure,
Sets in it one perfect candle
And lights it to light the world.
Though the taper's frail
And the wind a-howl
Full of the hiss of serpents
Blows the flame flat
And the flame flutters, fails,
Nothing can be put out again,
Far darkness is illumined.
The candle-stick maker
Ah, his craft is needed.
Nothing ceases when he begins
The sift and seethe of endless time:
Light will last forever now
Radiance starts in every tumbled grave.

- 22 -

KYK # 43

KYK#43 Poetry


CAST OFFS (Monday. 1990-08-27)

Throne thrown
and burning:
Ruy Lopez' lasting
and cinders cloud;
yet poly ply programs2
later opening
below hiospheric
while trash tumbles
cast critical;'
who wasting when
wastes what,
waste world?

1. A f~l <'ml oIod'.hess Opelh'.mg
2. A chess cCwvputo
.. To include i tF onw-laC'er delle~('iw, and the (ireCnhrtis effect.
i. I'Phllxits cix .xcriist ihi v, 'entsi ~f n Cnff d pik's .g. uxsiing manthc,,, tical
language like (1). there result ahv a "i thrim arcanunm.

THE YAWN (Satnurlday 1991-02-23)

Far from Korea
they say of inside that
there they yawn
while appearing
quite plainly -
as otherwise:
eyes wide a-mirror
and Oh. they're wise! -
lips firmly together.

KYK # 43


Poetry KYK#43



I am still a unicorn. Only I know it.
Consigned to the ocean, I cower
in a man-cage while the great, white shark
tries to consume me.
Put here by my captors, I take photographs
of my fellow ocean creatures.

Once I owned my own brain
though I traversed Libyan desert sands,
a loaded camel ridden by the Arab prince
with his long robes.
Now I am a prisoner not of land
but of ocean, with only the promise
of mermaidom.

I will serenade you through the night
with harps, luring your ship of men
who, starved and lost, swoon when I sing.

I hope that you, captain, will take me
but you turn away blocking your cars
with wax. You will not listen.
My songs fade away in the wind.

O Captain
I am a captive unicorn!

KYK # 43


KYK#43 Poetr



Daddy, staggered swayed and stumbled
And sometimes slept in the yard
Or crawled like a dog up the front steps
And even dribbled on the floor
He repeated one idea a thousand times
While he turned the pages of his children's future

The final oration before he drifted off to sleep
Professed how much he loved his wife
And she, exasperated, would shout
Shut yuh mouth yuh damn drunk dankey.
I cannot remember the sound of his voice
when he was sober.


Auntie kept a vacant stool at her door
And made gossip
As sweet as kankies wrapped in plantain leaves
She shared strong coffee to her guests
Who belched out the latest
Which was passed on to the next arrivant
With warnings of confidence

Good kind hearted soul
She traded local news
For she never understood the radio
Nor could she tell the newsprint upside down
It did pay off
For when she died
She had the biggest turn out.

-25 -

KYK # 43


Poetry KYK#43








- 26 -

KYK # 43



RICE POT (1990)







(Althoughl KYK cannot transcribe Stanley's Calligraphic
handwriting, an attempt has been made to approximate
the capital letters he consistently used to style his poems.)

-27 -

KYK # 43


Poetry KYK #43



I am only an Osric
come to serve at a duel.
I ply my handkerchief with courtly style
and call a hit, a very palpable hit,
as if my function had some greater size.
Perhaps I overdo it, like a fag,
mincing with secrets quivering in my feathers.

Called to the ringside, my presence tolerated,
tragedy spews stray specks of spittle
on me. Yet to be an extra in that scene
fulfils some destiny a cruel hand
had penned for minor functionaries,
foolish but necessary. Later, before the
tumultuous applause cracks and dies
already I'm forgotten aisle by aisle.

But I will play it again. Strut again
to. be in company of such noble men,
suffer the wrath of leading members
of the cast for hogging for a minute
centre-stage. The wine giddies my head.
We play our parts, we Osrics of the world,
whenever patronage demands. We magnify
the sweep of bonnet, the elegance of bow,
to serve as footmen follies of the time.

-28 -


KYK # 43

KYK #43Phetry

ON READING OMEROS (For Derek Walcott)

The patio bent its hooked finger around us,
a tiled ell splitting our thoughts at its crux,
snapping the faith we had that a poet
at the helm of his craft could unfix
the blank stare aimed at scenes in his mirror.

Each slow lift of the head raised the question
whose ears turned, whose eyes locked on his vision,
who listened from here and heard and applauded
him lifting like Atlas the lives of these islands
from the flat monotone of the ocean.

Trawling lines we caught worlds that magician
created and found our little green places
drawn with strokes of his words on mapsof the globe.
An X-ray of pride suffused us. But faces
clouded with queries and quickly changed season.

Our sentences cried. Are aloof New York Times
reviewers blinded by stereotypes unravellers
of metaphors smelt from links of our chain?
Are they by proxy readers that strain at the seine
while the catch that is ours drifts without owners?

We sat and we wondered what suckles that power
to labour in wood and in stone without answer
that comes from the shape when its done. The far
away blur of the traffic responded. The work
is the host of the poet at peace in his yoke.

-29 -

KYK # 43


Poetry KYK#43


I remember Stephen with the sticking wince
of censored sorrow that has kept its sting
unlessened through the thirty years now since
a tightened grimace stretched beneath the grin
that lied and said he understood my going.
'It's just three years,' I said, 'and if you need..'

Another scrap, like those his world regaled
him with from birth. The cheek he turned had burned
with slaps, and all his simple dreams had failed
to even splutter with some heartening light.
I'd seen his anchor slip across the stones
he wanted it to catch on, tugged in fright.

Five years of school had taught him just to read
a tabloid and the bible's parables.
The pennies for his labour mocked his creed.
A woman wed him and he spoke of home,
but nothing changed. He found he lived alone.
The years I knew him sprouted pricking weeds.

They that extract no comfort from this world
just sink their heads like ships that disappear
without a ripple. The desperate wait
for miracles is drowned by death. I stare
across that sea where Stephen sank and know
he waited for a line I did not throw.


KYK # 43

KYK #43Poetry




Grasshopper flies in.
Fur flashes across my room.
Green salad for cat.

Christmas Worm

Swift, on host of feet,
black in armour, parcel gilt --
Careless, I crush him.


A triumphant slap.
Tangled legs, a spot of blood.
Yet, an itch remains.


Mrs. Smith-Poulter, descending the stairs
Of her elegant mansion, is free from all cares.
Enfolded in satins, bedizened with pearls,
She's quite scornful of dukes, and despises as churls
The invisible hirelings with dustpan and broom
Who may go through the house to sweep room after room
And receive from their mistress no word, not a nod,
Save the voice of complaint when the topmost stair-rod
Should reveal on its surface the tiniest speck:
Which is why it's now gone, to be polished below,
And the carpel is loose, and the tumble's not slow --
Dear, dear! Mrs. Smith-Pouller has broken her neck!

KYK # 43


PotyKY 4


"...the Reflection of a Negro much quoted by the Inhabitants...
The Devel was in the English-man, that he makes
eryvething work; he makes the Negro work, the Horse work, the
Ass work, the Wood work, the Water work, and the Winde work."
Anon., Great Newesfrom the Barbadoes (1676).

Stretched on wood the canvas strains
And makes the free-born wind a slave,
Toiling for the backra's gains.

Black men helpless lie in chains:
Salt waters now the ship's hull lave;
Stretched on wood the canvas strains.

Torn from their ancestral fans --
Prey to some man-stealing knave,
Toiling for the backra's gains --

Destined for a life of pains,
No rest awaits them till the grave.
Stretched on wood the canvas strains.

They must hoe the island's plains,
Weed and cut and torments brave,
Toiling for the backra's gains,

And feed the whirling mill with canes --
Can none them from this Moloch save?
Stretched on wood the canvas strains,
Toiling for the backra's gains.

-32 -


KYK # 43

KYK #43 Poetry



Pardna! see how this place tun?
you own-own eyesight fooling you!
na even know when tree in fulsome fruit
na able make head and tail a' the balckbird hooting...
Is why the cage-parrot screeching so much?
donkey-throat come parch
like deadish land in you backyard...
gal-picknee so hungry fo American visa...

O Gaad, like selfishness is a curse in ahwe blood!
Don't tell me
taja drum tune na sweet no more
cumfa and quch-quch
goin' out ah style,
calypsonian song tun mocking stock?
na tell me selfishness is all in ahwe bone?

O Gaad, you see how Sukdai daughta
prancing she behind clip clop, clip
cause she just come from Toronto?
high-heel shoe want bore thru the street,
as she big-talk so damn long
like coconul-walk dam

When you look you own face in the mirror
you sec yousclf a total stranger...
grey hair telling you plain and straight,
na trust you own friend
who planning to sleep with you good-minded wife...
Like selfishness is weed round you house-post?

You na see mumma and picknee
come like cat chasing one big fat rat,
hot-hot tar-road is fright in the eye
disgust is sheer wrinkle in the face?

-33 -


KYK # 43

KYK # 43

You so much right...
is every manjack tun selfish this time
hours in clock-hand just ticking away
and everything is a grass-lice pest in you way

is good you tun mad
like one-foot Langrooo
tearing you mouth with big-big laugh
til you whole bottom blow-up like balloon
cause in truth, you can't trust you own mind
this time...

Is everybody tun selfish
just as the fence in you yard.

- 34 -


KYK#43 Poetry



even when the drum of the sun
goes silent or jars
like the heart's.
Dance springs music,
a bequest of dance.

what is spun for
or from us here
is not silken.
Even when your bolt was finishing,
you were designing dreams,
silken dreams.
could strip you of them.

Granny, you tilled hearts
as though we have grounds
only for flowers,
though there were also spots of weeds
upon your heart and lot.

We are not enough
under the sway of sunlight.
How you swayed to the sun,
as though dance and laughter are dams
against the flood!
The dark flood is not dark
as its source,
the dark flood
with which all are swept away.
Under the eternal Sun
the dark flood must run

KYK # 43


Poetry KYK #43

That is what illumined
and brightened you.
Laughter towered from you
like a lighthouse.

Death is a fly
not to be too much
bothered with;
That was your version and text.
The Nazarene crushed the fly
when it stung him.
Death is a fly
caught in the web
of your laughter.

You fell dancing
as though music never falls,
raising a glass of sunlight
to your lips:


KYK # 43

KYK #43 Poetry



At first, we liked to describe them
as doves.
The white pigeons who came to live
at this house.
Appearing first as a circle with wings,
then some blessing pulling the circle in,
so that its centre became our house.
Now in these caves
a benediction of bird.
Their nervous hearts
in sync enough
with our rhythms
they enter into this house.
So sometimes in the middle
of doing some woman's thing
I look up to find us
in a new painting.
House in a rock
with wooden floors
a boy and white pigeons!

KYK # 43


Poetry KYK#43


Things are changing this side of the forest
the river is ostriching into the sand
leaving dense stones to mark its place.
The crayfish grow thick flattened shells
and imitate land turtles.

The bulrushes, wild-haired and long limbed
when asked if they will remain
to remind us that here passed a river,
shake their locks till they blur and shriek
"We're going to be palm trees in the King's garden".

Now nobody will sec their faces in this water mirror.
The ticki ticki will have no riverbottom
to shield them from the long lances of May rains.
But the worst fate of all will befall river Mumma.
She, stunning except for her scaly thighs and legs.

She who looked fine in the setting of the river,
will now have to land on her feet and learn walking,
a task requiring division of herself.
And when she walks like any ordinary woman,
she will have to sell her gold comb to buy unguents.

Unguents to smooth her scaly skin
in order to gain flat earth acceptance.
First the gold comb, then maybe herself,
the worst fate of all will befall the river Mumma
all because the river wanted out.

-38 -


KYK # 43

KYK # 43


These drawings are part of a continuing series being done
in response to the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, and
especially to W.B. Yeats' poetic interpretation of the same

-39 -


Brigadier Joseph G. Singh MSS

Botanist, Explorer, Gentleman, Friend

Those who have been in the primary jungles of Guyana and have seen
and listened to the falling of a giant mora tree, know only too well that
feeling of loss that something powerful, enduring and ancient, had finally
succumbed to age and the laws of nature.
Like that great mora tree, a giant of a man, Adrian Duncan-Thompson,
retired public servant, bontanist, explorer and Guyanese to the core, fell on
Wednesday, May 29, 1991 at age 78 and the sound of that fall reverberated
in the Kanukus, the Kamoas and the Pakaraimas.
Adrian was a dedicated public servant who attained the rank of Perma-
nent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and, during his years in the Minis-
try, he made full use of the access which he had, to the hinterland of
There he made his mark as a botanist, more particularly in the collec-
tion and identification of botanical species peculiar to the Amazon forests.
He enjoyed international prestige and worked closely with the Royal
Botanical Gardens at Kew; was a Fellow of the Linnean Society; Fellow of
the Royal Geographic Society; Fellow of the Royal Horticultural Society
and received the Ness Award in 1975 for botanical and other surveys in
His interest in orchids was legendary and he transferred this fixation to
his thriving farm at Timehri where, at one time, he had an inventory com-
prising every known orchid in Guyana.
He was also engaged in commercial landscaping and his handiwork can
be seen in many public places and private homes.
It was however as an explorer that his name became a household word
in Guyana when, in 1966, as leader of a mountaineering expedition, he and
his team climbed Mount Ayanganna, 7 800 feet high, and planted the
Golden Arrowhead on May 26,1966 -- Independence Day. Adrian was then
53 years old and those who have climbed in Guyana know that for him, that
Ayanganna climb was no mean feat.
Adrian's interest in the mountains started much earlier than Inde-
pendence. In 1963, with Adrian Cowell and a team from the University


KYK #43

College, Bangor, he made the first ascent of the 8 000 feet Mount Kuke-
naam located approximately 20 miles west of Roraima.

The Ayanganna climb in 1966 seemed to give Adrian his second wind
and for the next six years, he undertook and completed some memorable
feats. It ws during this period that I had the privilege ofworking closelywith
him and benefited from his infectious quest for adventure, his desire to
climb the proverbial mountain because "it is there", to experience the ex-
hilaration of success and to display that tenacity of purpose to continue in
spite of the odds.
In 1968, Thompson led the first cross-country expedition from the Ru-
pununi to the Brazilian Port cityof Manaus and therebystimulated the idea
of a road link between the coast lands of Guyana and North Eastern Brazil.
He collected and identified many species of flora and also made contact
with remote Amerindian tribes.
In 1969, he traversed the Kanuku Mountains between Moco Moco
Valley and Mountain Point, and encouraged me to climb Schomburgk's
Peak the same year, which I did with six soldiers and an Amerindian guide.
On the summit, we experienced the same wonder as Adrian had said we
would, in viewing the Harpy Eagle and the beautiful Cock of the Rock in
their habitat.
That same year Adrian accompanied our late Governor-General, Sir
David Rose on horseback from Good Hope in the North Rupununi
Savannahs, to Orinduik -- no easy task when one considers that they had to
traverse the Monkey Mountain escarpment.
In 1970, Thompson single-mindedly set his sights on Roraima and for
the next three years he excitedly sketched out his routes for reconnaissance
by air and on foot.
In 1971 he was retained as Scientific Adviser to the British Roraima
Expedition led by Adrian Warren and including British and Guyanese
army officers, accompanied by civilian resource persons from Guyana and
the UK.
The 1971 Expedition,duringJuly and September, pioneered the route
along the North Ridge of Roraima to 8500 feet but the 1 200 to the summit,
comprising over-hanging sandstone, proved difficult without technically-
qualified climbers and equipment.
In 1972 with Bev Clark and John Strectly, both Alpine and Himalayan
climbers, Thompson used the Adrian Warren route along the North Ridge
and made an attempt on the summit.
Sadly they only managed 400 feet on the cliff face before recognizing

-41 -


KYK # 43

that they needed more climbers and technical equipment. This expedition
had the support of the Mount Everest Foundation.
Undeterred by the disappointment of 1971, Thompson brought his
international influence to bear and managed to interest the BBC and other
scientific and exploration groups to support a 1973 Roraima expedition
comprising technically -proficient climbers and appropriate mountaineer-
ing equipment.
Meanwhile in 1972, he and John Streetly continued to re-connoitre the
foothills of Roraima across the Waruma and Paikwa Rivers hoping to find
a more direct route to the North Ridge of Roraima.
His persistence and optimism finally bore fruit on November 11, 1973.
The UK climbing team of Don Whillans (co-leader with Adrian) Hamish
Mac Innes, Joe Brown and Mo Anthoine succeeded in climbing for the first
time, the great Northern prow of Roraima -- an achievement of which
Adrian felt justifiably proud.
Having conquered the higher peaks in Guyana, Adrian turned his at-
tention to other scientific projects. In 1976, he interested me in a recon-
naisance of the Murawawe River along the Ekereku escarpment, where he
believed caves existed in the river's cliff face. His research indicated that
Amerindians fled to these caves centuries ago to escape Spanish Maraud-
ers who crossed over from Venezuela. Michael Atherley, who, like me,
came under Adrian's influence did confirm that such caves exist and more
follow up work was to be programmed by Adrian. However, as age slowed
his step, Adrian spent more time on his farm among his orchids, and
heliconias and bromeliads but his real joy ws in reminiscing of his experi-
ences in the high country; his respect for the loyalty of the Amerindians like
the Akawaio, Isaac Jerry MS; his hope that the younger Guyanese would
develop the love of adventure which he and his charming wife Phyllis
shared over the years.
It was no surprise when, years ago, as he recognized the debilitating
effects and deterioration of his memory as a result of Alzheimer's syn-
drome, he requested of Phyllis and me and actually put in writing, that if
he died in Guyana, he wanted "no fuss, pomp nor ceremony". He wished
to be buried in a simple grave on the Kato tableland facing Mount
Kowatipu or as the Patamona Indians call it -- Cow Mountain, after the
shape of summit, at 4 200 feet, as seen from Kato Village.

Adrian and Phyllis had, in earlier years, climbed this mountain and
Adrian had explored along the foothills and ridge lines leading from
Kowatipu Mountain North-Westerly along the Pakaraima range to Mount

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Ayanganna, Mount Wei-Assipu, Roraima and Kukenaam.
It was in this area, which he called nature's forum, that his adventurous
spirit found its release.
And so, on the peaceful afternoon of Saturday, June 1, 1991, on a
hillock 2 500 feet above sea level, South West of Kato Airstrip, in the
magnificent Kato tableland, the earthly remains of Adrian Duncan Thompson
were interred, facing Mount Kowatipu, in accordance with his wishes.
Along with Phyllis, his brother, sister, children and friends who had
travelled by air from Georgetown, were the Patamona villagers of Kato and
surrounding areas. Some of them like the Touchou Ronald Abraham, were
children and grandchildren of the great Patamona guides who had accom-
panied Adrian on his expeditions in the Pakaraimas.
Phyllis received the National Flag which Adrian had taken on allof his
expeditions since Independence Day 1966. This flag had draped his coffin
during the funeral service at St Andrew's Presbyterian Church; on its
journey from Georgetown via Ogle Airstrip; and in the Skyvan aircraft
winging over Kowatipu Mountain to Kato. Not many tears were shed at the
grave side and this was how Adrian would have wished it.
Instead, the Thompson family and the Patamonas exchanged pleasant-
ries, reminisced-about the man and his exploits, took photographs and
bade farewell.
As we descended the hillock, I looked at the flag flying at half staff on
the pole erected by the gravesite. The wind had picked up, the flag flapped
joyously and Kowatipu in the distance seemed closer reaching out through
the haze as if to welcome Adrian home to his beloved Pakaraimas.
As with every Mora tree that falls, other seedlings germinate, there is
re-birth and re-discovery.
The life of this great Guyanese was an inspiration to those of my
generation who knew him. His example and ideals must continue to
motivate as long as there are challenges and higher plateaus of human
endeavour to be attained.
...leave not the mystery unsolved, the marvel uncared for...

Farewell Adrian, Gentleman, Botanist, Explorer, Friend.

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KYK # 43

David Ford

(1913 to 1991)

The death of Adrian Thompson, on 29th May, 1991, in the seventy-
ninth year of his age, removed from our midst a quite unique kind of 20th
century Renaissance man. It would have called for several of us to attempt
to deal adequately with the Remembrances called for in his Funeral
Service. I shall here make bold to report on his life.
Adrian was born on 20th January, 1913, at Chiswick (not in my Lands
and Surveys Gazetteer), on the East Coast of Berbice, the eldest son of
Claud Gill Austin Thompson, a District Commissary, and his wife Magno-
lia. He attended the Berbice High School, founded and run by the Cana-
dian Presbyterian Church, in New Amsterdam, and the Jesuit run St.
Stanislaus College, in Georgetown. I remember him speaking of taking his
turn at reading for the Jesuit Fathers as they had their lunch at the
Brickdam Presbytery; the readingwas not exclusively devotional, and must,
I think, in some way, have affected the directions his life took.
Adrian's working life started, when he was eighteen, as a Sugar Estate
Overseer at Plantation Cornelia Ida on the West Coast Demerara. In
addition to the usual overseer's duties he was made responsible for the
Sugar Industry's Mosquito Control Programme at Cornelia Ida which
came under the overall direction of Harold W.B. Moore, F.R.E.S., who
wrote of him in 1938: "he has proved himself capable in every respect. It is
in fact a form of work for which he seems peculiarly fitted." During World
War II Adrian was responsible for hundreds of rubber trees at Cornelia Ida
and in 1942 was in charge of the Coagulating Station there, doing useful
work training the tappers and organising the work of rubber production
After over ten years of plantation work at C.I. Adrian was appointed,
as from 1st February, 1943, Overseer, Government Estates (Windsor
Forest, Hague and La Jalousie), West Demerara, the position being
redesignated Superintendent two years later. He was transferred to the
Vergenoegen Land Settlement on East Coast, Essequibo, from January
1947, and, after acting from April 1951 was appointed Land Settlement
Officer, Local Government Department, as from 1st July, 1952. Land Set-
tlement became, as from 1st July, 1954, a separate Department in which
Adrian was an Assistant Director until 31st December 1956. He was made

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KYK # 43

Deputy Director, under Mr. W.A. Macnie, as from 1st January, 1957. The
department was redesignated Land Development during 1959, by which
time work was underway on the development of the Black Bush Polder
Scheme on the Corentyne as well as on other large schemes in several parts
of the coastlands.
Despite his protests over the change in designation, Adrian was ap-
pointed Principal Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources
in April 1961 and, as from December 1964, was assigned the duties of
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Forests Lands and Mines. Effective from
1st January 1965, he was appointed Permanent Secretary, Ministry of
Agriculture and National Resources, in which position he remained until
he retired with effect from 1st April, 1968.
In addition to being Plantation Agriculturist, Land Developer, and, on
his own behalf, horticulturist and floriculturist, Adrian was also an ex-
plorer and mountaineer. At midnight on the 25th of May 1966, twenty five
years and four days before his death, with Isaac Jerry, his long- time
climbing companion, and a Guyana Defence Force team he raised the
Golden Arrowhead on the summit of Mount Ayanganna in the Pakaraimas,
the tallest mountain entirely in Guyana. Brigadier Joe Singh has ade-
quately covered Adrian's accomplishments as a mountaineer and organ-
iser of the eventually successful three year effort to climb Roraima without
leaving Guyanese territory (Sunday Chronicle 23rd June, 1991).
Adrian was long associated with the Georgetown Gardeners Club
until he resigned in July 1970. He played a leading part in the club's
activities, particularly in relation to flower shows and garden competitions,
and was responsible in large measure for kindling the interest of young
people in gardening and flower arranging.
Even during his demanding twenty five years in the public service
Adrian contrived to pursue many scientific predilections; he may be said to
have literally made himself a botanist/horticulturist. In this area he earned
the respect of professional scientists in Britain, Europe and the U.S.A. and
often became their Guyanese collaorator. Fellowship in the Linnean
Society; the Royal Geographical Society; and the Royal Horticultural
Society; Membership of the Royal National Rose Society, were among the
signs of recognition he received. At home he was awarded the Golden
Arrow of Achievement (A.A.) in 1973.
When he was eligible for four months leave in November 1959, Adrian
proposed that he spend it in the Upper Mazaruni area examining the
Kamarang Valley, thence proceeding towards the northern end of Ro-
raima, with a view to trying to find an ascent between Mt. Kukenaam and
Roraima; thence to Mts. Ayanganna and Wokomung in the Ireng/Takutu


KYK # 43

area, also "spending three weeks travelling across a section of the Kanuku
mountains". He reported in support of this proposal that during his leave
in the United Kingdom in 1957 he had had discussions with the Director,
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Dr. Taylor about these journeys and that the
latter had "expressed the view that they would be valuable and of much
interest". His request to use his passage entitlement to the United King-
dom towards the cost of local travel was at the time virtually unprecedented
but it was approved by the Officer Administering the Government after
having been blessed by the Minister and the Financial Secretary. The
followingyear, in May, hewas given a month's leave to complete part of this
proposed 1959 exercise which, through no fault of his, had not been
undertaken. His wife Phyllis accompanied him during this May 1960 trip to
the Rupununi.
In 1962 (or 1963) I had persuaded Adrian to take me on an interior
walk he was organising and had begun to prepare for its rigours. But we
were in the midst of the violent troubles of those times and the Governor,
Sir Ralph Grey, saw fit to rule that it would be inopportune for two senior
officers to be inaccessibly away from Georgetown and the trip had to be
called off. An opportune time never came.
From April 1968 Adrian was free to pursue his manifold interests as
he wished. He was able to get on with the development of Arawak Farm,
his 174 acre project on the Yarowkabra Creek at Timehri. There he
cultivated pineapples, plumrose, citrus and other local crops; introduced,
with a view to acclimatisation, such exotics as rambutans, calmonian
oranges, kumquats; continued work with orchids and noteworthily, devel-
oped heliconias in a wide variety. Some export of heliconias was done, but
since he declined to be used by several prospective partners an export
business was never established. His work on heliconias was more successful
at home and this species has become one of the staples used by our florists.
In July 1975 the Royal Horticultural Society awarded Adrian, in collabo-
ration with the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Lindley Silver Medal
for an exhibit of heliconias at its Summer Show.
In tandem with development work at Arawak Farm, Adrian carried on
a landscaping practice in Georgetown assisted by Phyllis. The best known
example of his work in this area is the roof garden of the Bank of Guyana,
at one time a popular venue for official receptions; but he also provided
similar services for embassies and private individuals and introduced office
landscaping to insurance companies, banks, etc.
In regard to this work there were the usual difficulties to be contended
with. His house on the farm was repeatedly burgled; there was praedial
larceny; worse, some of this was the work of employees whose duty it was

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KYK # 43

KYK # 43

to protect the property. I used to marvel at his determination to carry on
and at his enduring the law's delays and such other obstacles. But Adrian
was not a quitter; he never, 1 am sure, conceived of living anywhere other
than his lovely native land.
Well into the 1980's Adrian continued bringing to the notice of Dr.
Ptolemy Reid and his successors concerned with Agriculture in Govern-
ment, measures that he felt might be pursued to improve Guyana's
position in that area. One was the cultivation of the Babassu Palm, widely
grown in Brazil, which he believed could have provided all our needs for
edible oil and leave a surplus for export. Another was the establishment of
an Arboretum. His knowledge and his willingness to share it, no less than
the public offices that he held, led to membership of such bodies as various
Rice Boards, the Museum and Zoo Committee, the Botanic Gardens
Restoration Committee and the National Parks Commission among oth-
ers. On all of these he must, I am sure, have made valuable contributions.
As long ago as 1977 Adrian became associated with the Head of the
Botanical Department of the University of Utrecht, Holland, in the
collection of the flora of Guyana. This work which is continuing has since
developed into the compilation of the Flora of the Guianas (French
Guiana, Suriname and Guyana), involving in addition to the University
of Utrecht German, English, French and U.S. institutions as well as those
in the territories being studied.
To me Adrian was a personal friend of well over thirty years and a
mentor in his areas of expertise. Helpful, kind, humorous, always consid-
erate; compassionate when compassion was called for. But in addition to
memories, there is a more tangible memorial in my front yard a forest-
sized phyllocarpus tree which this year (1991) flowered satisfactorily for
the first time producing cascades of carmine flowers from its top to the
ground facing east as well as west. It made me happy that Adrian was able
to enjoy the sight of it.
Ironically, Adrian's last "walk" in Guyana was with me in October
1987 when we went up the Corentyne river on a trip to Orealla. After
several days upriver, in the charge of the late IvelawEmanuel Hartman, we
returned to Corriverton and while I was engaged visiting newly made
friends on the coast, Adrian held court at the Mahogany Hotel, being called
on by the Mayor of Corriverton and other local eminences. And then we
returned to Georgetown after a week, having done most of the travel
between Georgetown and Corriverton and back in the now departed Sanos
buses which provided excellently high seating for sight-seeing over their
rear-mounted engines.
Adrian is no more in his life. His body is at Kato Tableland where he
wished it to be. His soul is with his Maker. Farewell Friend till we meet



Sasenarine Persaud


I had just finished reading Singer's In My Father's Court and was
wondering about my father's when Uncle Sonny died. I had been unable to
go to the wake which was held in Clonbrook, eighteen miles from the city
but I was determined to attend his funeral as he was my mother's favourite
brother my mother's favourite half-brother and because I wanted to see
my Nana, my mother's father, to see the huge old house where long ago I
had had pleasant August vacations. I almost thought of it as my revisit to
my grandfather's court Singer's journey into Poland singing in my ears.
It was a wet day, a rainy day and I enjoyed the drive along the North East
Coast of South America, down into time. It was to be a journey into a time
I could never re-enter! Not the old Dutch plantations, or the newer British
ones as evidenced by the names of villages retained not the psyche of my
grandfather. But I was curious.
Uncle Sonny had left Guyana years ago for America. I must have been
about five, but I always remembered him and we heard from him regularly
until my mother died when I was about ten. In America he had divorced his
Dharm Paini, who went with him to America. He had married a 'white'
woman, who was a Roman Catholic, in a church just before my mother
died. Perhaps it was a good thing his wedding photographs and the news
that he had converted from Hinduism to Christianity arrived after my
mother's death. He was the only one of my mother's step-brothers who
until then had not converted and apart from the fact that he and my mother
were of the same age, this had had great influence on their closeness. I lost
track of him completely with my mother's death as I lost track too of my
Nana. My mother was the unifying force. When she was alive all our
relatives were constantly visiting our home and we theirs. We were all such
a huge happy family! Almost every August we spent time with my Nana, in
Clonbrook. I enjoyed all of these holidays in spite of the tensions at my
Nana's house, caused by my other two step-uncles who were younger than
my mother. These two step-uncles were Christians, were 'brothers' and
were at constant war with my Nana who though he was Hindu never
quarrelled with them for being Christian. I had got the impression that he
disapproved, especially when they took me to their church and open-air

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~ _~~ _~

crusades. If I were fascinated by the open-air Christian crusades, I was even
more fascinated when every night, just before dusk, my Nana would sit
down at the table and very reverently unwrap the red cotton cloth in which
he kept his Ramayan wrapped to protect it from dust. He would read in
Hindi sometimes silently, sometimes aloud in his deep melodious voice.
The poetry charmed me, awakened the poetry in me and then I had prom-
ised myself I would learn to read Hindi, that I would read the Ramayan,
which I felt by watching him and listening to him to be the greatest book in
the world. Little did I realize then that the Tulsidas Ramayan was indeed
the longest poem in the world 47,000 couplets, and certainly one of, if not
the greatest book of poetry in the world! But my Nana was my hero then by
being unruffled by the caustic, anti-Hindu remarks of my converted step-
But my mother died and my father remarried and I lost track of my
Nana and my step-uncles though from cousins I would occasionally hear of
them. I had not wanted to go back to Clonbrook until I had learnt the Hindi
and could converse with my Nana, so slowly I learnt Hindi in the city and
when I was finished I learned to my utter astonishment that my Nana had
converted to Christianity! I had not returned until Uncle Sonny's funeral.
The yard was jam-packed as I approached and on the mud and brick
road there were clusters of men cousins, uncles, relatives, strangers. I saw
my mother's eldest brother and went over to him.
"Hi Mamoo Mohan..."
"Hi Raju, you come alone?"
"Yes what, what's that..." I said turning towards the crowd around the
coffin as the chanting began.
"They're singing bhajans."
"But isn't he, wasn't he Christian?" I asked perplexed.
"Yes, but when he left he was Hindu, and he married here according to
Hindu rites before he left for America... Most of his cousins here, his
mother and his mother's relatives still see him as Hindu."
"What about, about...grandfather?" I asked hesitantly. It was difficult to
think, to call him Nana now that he too had converted.
"And the, the Christian brothers, my Christian step-uncles?" I could not
hide the contempt in my voice. Mamoo Mohan smiled.
"Oh, they will have their say too. When we leave here the body goes to the
Roman Catholic Church near the cemetery for service..."
"Has his wife come from America?" I asked.
"No. But she has sent a cable saying that she is expected next Monday. That
is too long..."
That was strange I thought. "Are they separated?" 1 asked. I felt comfort-

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KYK # 43

Fiction KYK # 43

able with Mamoo Mohan who had always taken an active interest in my
activities since my mother died and I knew that he was proud of my
scholastic reputation and ability both in the English and Hindi Languages.
"Sonny has had an interesting life. Yes they separated last year. Actu-
ally she left him you wouldn't believe it but shortly after he divorced his
second wife he had a car accident. Couldn't walk. She was a nurse and she
married him. For years she worked and supported him and help him mend.
And bam! After he strong enough for walk and wuk she lef he!"
"Any kids?"
"Yes a girl about four cute little girl. The mother and the girl were here
in January for almost a month I saw them when I was here. the child like
one a we children running barefoot all about the place..." In the back-
ground I heard a Pandit reading from the Bhagavat Gita, but my interest in
Uncle Sonny was greater...
"How long he came back?"
"Oh sometime in November last year. He had tuberculosis. He brought
back everything with him that Jaguar there is he own." The silver-grey
Jaguar was a beauty. "But he used to drink too much since he come back,"
continued Mamoo Mohan somewhat sadly, "he come back hey fo die. He
couldn't bear he wife leffing he. A day when we drinking he say that even
if he didn't love she, he had to fall in love with her look at the sacrifice -
to marry a cripple and mind him, and nurse him back to good health then
leave him after years... White people strange!" Mamoo Mohan said, evi-
dently moved.
The Pandit had finished his short sermon and following the coffin, the
crowd headed for the Roman Catholic Church thence to the cemetery.
Mamoo Mohan and I waited until the crowd was ahead of us and we too
followed, slowly picking our way around puddles. The overcast had cleared
slightly and we were glad. The May-June rains had come and saved us from
a drought, but had fallen so heavily when they came that there were floods
in some areas. The mud and brick road from the church to the cemetery was
impassable for vehicles.
Limping slowly ahead of us I saw a familiar figure.
"Isn't that Nana?" I asked my Mamoo. He shook his head in the affirma-
tive. As weapproached him I slowed. Mamoo Mohan did not pause, did not
utter a word to Nana, his own father, but walked on. I suppose Mamoo was
right there was no fool like an old fool. To live Hinduism all his life and
to convert in his old age! I was angry too, but in a cold, hurtful way.
"Ram Ram Nana!" I greeted him deliberately, Hindu fashion as he had
taught me twenty-five years ago. He looked at me puzzled for sometime.
Perhaps he did not recognize me he was seventy-eight or seventy-nine

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KYK #43

"Hi, he said.
"You don't recognize me!" I said. He looked at me as he limped. After a
while he said, "Yes you a city bai. You one a Meena son." "Yes. I'm Raju."
I knew he did not really know me but seeing me with Mamoo Mohan he had
deduced, quite logically, that Meena was my mother, and I one of his
grandsons but perhaps my facial features had not changed.
"By the way Nana do you still have your Ramayan?" I asked knowing that
he had given it away.
"No. I gave it to a man in Trinidad," he said in his strong voice and
gesticulated vaguely with his free right hand. In his left hand there was a
walking stick. Despite his slight stoop and contraction of his bones due to
old age I noted that he was taller than me.
"Oh!" I tried to sound surprised. "What a pity!" I need one in Hindi, I can
read the Hindi fairly competently you know..." I felt disgusted with myself.
I couldn't needle him anymore and I couldn't stand being with him. I
walked away without another word. Mamoo Mohan was standing under a
huge neem tree outside the small, dilapidated church. I joined him. I knew
that he would not go into the church. We both had great contempt for
"Indian Christianity". No doubt, were the funeral that of a non-Indian ac-
quaintance or friend, like myself, he would have entered the Christian
church, would even have sung the hymns but to condescend to enter the
Christian church for the funeral service of an East Indian was repulsive. I
thought as I saw my grandfather approach the church, that he looked
forlorn. He was alone. Maybe it served him right, I thought. Had he not
converted he would have been a respected old man and the walk from his
house to the church would not have been so desolate and lonely.
Before I realized it, a small group of cousins and uncles gathered
around us. No doubt I felt, perhaps Hindu chauvinists, perhaps like myself.
There was an excited babble. A huge family, we met mostly at weddings and
at deaths. I looked up into the huge neem tree under which we all stood -
and I remembered long ago my Nana had planted one in his yard. Under
this neem he had planted hisJhandeep uja flags. Under his neem he offered
Dhaar in the early mornings and when he went out we clambered all over
his sacred neem, swinging from limb to limb. It was there in hisyard still and
I am sure the kiskadees, the blue sakies and the thrushes still sang the
sweetest songs...
"A hear he does wash fish in heaari now! "oneof my cousins said, her voice
clear and sharp. My grandfather was passing, turning into the church
compound. "Maybe you could excuse Uncle Sonny," she said, "after all he
married two white women and live in America for over twenty five years...

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Fiction KYK # 43

But he..."
"He gave away his Ramayan and I really need one," I added.
"How's your Hindi, Raju?" she asked.
"Bahut achee hai," I said, adding, "Simply fascinating. The amount of
words we use which have come from Hindi which our ancestors brought
from India is staggering. Neem. This very tree we're standing under is an
example. Takerotie. Take saykay, untranslatable when we cook rotie, take
sanaay, when we eat with out fingers, again untranslatable, again correct
Hindi. There are hundreds of words which we use in everyday speech and
dozens of grammatical structures which have crept into our daily usage
which we feel are creole, that is, from the European-slave mixture, but
which have come from the Hindi or Urdu. Words like jamoon, baigan,
curry, daal, rice, taari, lota, chupchaal... You should all learn the language
-"fantastic!" Therewas silenceand everyonewas lookingand listening. The
service in the church was over people were coming out.
The rain burst then. Everyone scattered. I raced for the shop across the
road. I knew then that I would not go to the burial ground and I knew that
I would not go back not even for myNana's funeral. Unlike Singer's pride
in his father's court, and his grandfather I could feel no pride in my
grandfather but here was a lesson. Driving back to the city past the Chateau
Margot chimney on the left and the Atlantic on the right in the heavy rain
Bellowsprang to my mind, Bellow's To Jerusalem and Back- and I let it rest
at that!

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KYK # 43 Fiction

Rooplall Monar


"Is time enough we run we own affairs you hear", the crowd would say,
hands waving upon seeing an unkempt man streaking naked in the Geor-
getown pavements, shouting: "The British dogs. Heh!"
And don't talk how the crowd clamouring to him like bees attracted to a
hive. "You damn bloody well right, comrade. Is more than time we run we
own affairs..."
Is a month before Voting Day in Guyana, 1964. The country was grip
in a tense mood like a strained rope. Anxiety and anticipation filtering in
the air like charcoal embers while, day-by-day, the crowd coming incense
just as when you raise ants-nest.
Yes! would sure definitely be a crucial election, people saying, recov-
ering from the 62-63 race riots which'd cause plenty murder, raping,
looting and arson between the major races living in the country who
ancestors come from different countries in the Old World. Some say down
behind God back.
Now, the country come a real headache to England which been ruling
she straight-out for over a hundred and fifty years after the Spanish, the
French and the Dutch try to make she a decent colony in the South
American mainland, which was real home to the Buck people, beginning
from centuries gone back.
This time the British Parliament done see long time how them Guia-
nese political leaders squabbling among themselfjust like a pack of dogs,
fighting over a piece of bone. "Independence. Independence!"
But the British Colonial Secretary say the only way out of this whole
mess is Proportional Representation. "That's the only bloody solution,"
the British Prime Minister say, stroking he fat face, and bellowing he he...
So after negotiations and counter-negotiations they say, between the
Colonial Secretary and the Guianese political leaders, they all agree to
knock one head and accept the P.R. system, the newspapers say.
So which political Party at the election under this particular system,
command a majority of the seats, would henceforth duly he call-upon to
form the next Government, and usher the country into Independence as
soon as the reigning Queen in England hand-over the Independence-

document to the current Guianese Prime Minister, the B.B.C. say.
"Boy! that going to be a day! Is like salvation to heaven," them P.P.P.
boys talkone dark night under Samuel house, bubbling with happiness, the
kerosene lamp flickering. "Come we own master. Eh! we could walk in any
blasted Guv'ment office and demand we right. Is everything going to
belong to we, you hear? And all eye-pass done."
"And we don't have to pay tax. And police dare not charge we like
now," Stinkman talk, wishing to God the blasted day come fast. Me have a
score to settle with them policeman and some chaps in them big office in
Town, Stinkman tell herself. Stinkman always had a grudge against them
chaps working in big, posh offices. See, Stinkman can't read and write too
proper, but he smart like fly, them boys say.
"And we could walk in them store and pick up anything that fancy we
eye cause all belong to ahwe," Stinkman add, smacking he tongue. Aha!
people have to respect me that time. Think all skin-teeth is laugh nuh! Just
wait and see.
"Damn right!" them other boys say, chuckling, hoping to get posh
office jobs soon as they own Party, the P.P.P., which bound to win the
election, take the country into Independence. Is what Abdul Hamid, the
Party representative, been tell them boys.
"Cast your vote for the cup comrade! Put we in Guv'ment. And when
we kick out them white people, is people like yuh all have to run them
offices..." Abdul Hamid words does give them boys new life. Them boys
could walk in tiger mouth self, while most of them growing a Castro-like
beard, calling theyself Marxist...
True! soon as Abdul Hamid left the night when he done wind-up the
meeting, them boys start pick and choose which office job going to suit
them better. Is like picking and choosing fish in the Market, the final choice
left in the buyers' hand. And which office job them boys choose, the Party
in Guv'ment, once the country come independent, have to ensure them
boys get the very job. If not, them boys have the sole right, as guarantee by
the Constitution, to put a next Guv'ment in office. Abdul Hamid said that
"Remember, the first rights of an independent Nation lies in the
peoples' hands," them politicians does say, loud and clear. "We in Guv'ment
would beyour humbleservants. Whateveryou decideweshall have to abide
by sole right of the Constitution..."
True! soon as them boys hear them swashbuckling statements they
already feel they own the whole country, coast to coast. Yes! they could
walk in the air. Kill any British soldier they spot walking in the streets,
marching like Lord God. Big job in store for them! Eh-eh, they could

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KYK # 43

trample they whole country if they so please cause it belong to them, and
the future of the Nation now dangling in they hands like see- saw...illiterates
turning literates overnight, and is every man with a pen and pencil in they
shirt pockets. They come they own boss. And ifyou hear the sweet-tongue-
ism in they big mouth. Communism. Capitalism, Socialism... backwardism.
Besides, is the whole majority of the people living on the Guiana
coastland sharing the same sentiment: the country going to belong to them
where they navel-string bury. With airs and antics, they could pick and
choose, and make fuss too. Is any job they want. The Guv'ment in Office
bound to carry out they demands by rights of the Constitution. Eh-eh!
think is fun when crab start to march, a old man say, seeing the whole thing
like rigmarole game.
Is like promising manna from heaven, some bigshot people saying.
This time, them poor people unable to divine truth from real falsehood.
Them politician word is bounden law. And because them poor people can't
read and write too proper they couldn't pick-out the real truth from the
B.B.C. station all the way in London, or in the newspapers in Georgetown,
which people say does only print half-truth.
"Is like goat leading goat," one Headteacher say by the street-corner.
"Think independence is like the garden you planting in you backyard?
Eh-ch! is then we going to see the real brimstone and fire. Heh! Think to
run country is playting..."
They say, if them boys been only hear what the Headteacher say they
would eat he out raw-raw someway they eating roast pig. They would call
him British stooge as them politicians does label such people. And is plenty
people in the country acting like the Headteacher who dearly love the
Queen and English culture, dressing up ninety-nine with three-piece suit
in this sunhot weather.
Them politicians does blare they voice in Bourda Green and say
people like those want to de-stabilize the country. "They want to take we
hack to the days of slavery, comrade..." And is a love to see how them
politicians swinging them poor people head day and night. Left to right. Is
like in a Roman arena, the crowd with the speaker all the way once the
speaker playing on they sentiment. "Massa day done, comrade..."
But this election fever was more hot and scorching in Buxton, Annan-
dale, and Lusignan areas, some people say. Is like a bubbling pot rest on
fireside. Is everybody walking the streets with an assured air, flexing they
muscles at anyone who dare to slander the Party they pledge they blood for.
"Weed out the traitors. They like leech...British stooge..."
This time, chaps like Kaatool, Bana, and Stinkman, planning election

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KYK # 43

KYK #43

strategy day and night for the Annandale-Lusignan areas. Abdul Hamid
self invest them with special power: to recruit other activists in the
campaign; run a house-to-house survey, and show old people how to mark
the star against the Cup.
And is a month before Voting Day, and them chaps have to sweat they
behind day and night to ensure this Abdul Hamid is elected in Parliament.
Is Hamid self you know, have to give them chaps the big office in Town. And
when Hamid bark in Parliament no man move, them boys say, stroking they
heard by the street-corner.
"Idon't mince matters comrade," Abdul Hamid does tell them people,
standing on the rickety platform by the street-head, he eye fiery and he
teeth gnashing as if he chewing rockstone. "When we, the Guv'ment take
this country to independence, all the traitors have to get out. Run. You, the
people, have to choose your own destiny. We shall become your humble
servants, bound to to your bidding..."
In such rapturous moments them people in Annandale and Lusignan
does want lift-off Hamid out the speaker's platform, place he on they
shoulder, and crown he like a king. This time Hamid does feel like one
Prime Minister. The British and American people should see this, Hamid
does tell herself. Yes! should see how them Guianese people want to govern
they own affairs. Want fashion they own destiny...
And you talking about crowd! Eh-eh! is the whole district turning out,
daddy, mumma and picknee. And if any man in the crowd tell Hamid he eye
black like tar, or he fooling the damn people with big words, God be with
him. The said-name culprit ain't get skin to take cut-ass from them mad
P.Y.O. boys who believe them in Che or Castro. "You eye pass we
candidate?" During that time, Hamid is like God in front them people.
Think is fun when he done swing them head, just like children swinging on
a see-saw. "Massa day done long time, comrade.."
But is quite different and more riotous whenever Maxin Pollard, the
P.N.C. representative, come in the areas to address meeting. If two jee-
pload policemen with gun and helmet didn't accompany Maxin, them
people been done strangle he the same way Crabbe does strangle people
fowl in they fowl-pen. Choke them by they neck. True! is sheer hatred you
seeing in people face, burning Maxin with the eye.
And you know, some peopledoes turn-up at Maxin meeting just to boo
him, mock at him. "Yankee stooge, Yankee stooge..."
This time Kaatool and Stinkman done give them hooligan boys two-
three turn-eggs. So soon as the crowd settle down but they inside boiling
with fury, and Maxin come well-absorb in he address, blashai, one turn-egg
hit poor Maxin straight on he head and buss-open, the white and yellow

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KYK # 43 Fiction

running down, thick thick like ice cream. And you talking about stink! Eh-
eh! it worst than dog dung in the street. And you talking about laugh.
In turn, poor Maxin just take out he handkerchief and wipe he head and
face while the crowd heckling he he he corking they nose from such a
deadman smell. Then is more turn-eggs firing straight at Maxin body
blashai blashai while Mr Stink take over the damn place, and them children
want vomit..
Heh! Poor Maxin tell herself, all this rass-pass in the political game,
then cut-short the bloody meeting, fearing for he own life..Ifweren't for the
policemen, me telling you, them hooligan boys been mount the platform
and smash Maxin head bash bash. "You selling out we right..."
Is just like a meeting held in the area three weeks back. Yes! the U.F.
representative make a sour mistake and arrive to address a meeting,
smiling and swaggering. Is a portuguese man you know. This time, the
crowd turn-up in droves, and the guy believe, so help me God, he would get
a damn good hearing. Aha! some votes in the bargain, he tell heself, eyeing
the crowd, done prepare how to swing them poor people head with big
But soon after he mount the platform and say a few words of welcome,
voice sweetish like honey, the crowd wade- in, full-butt. Boy! if you see
turn-eggs smashing at he. You would believe all to God is bachannal break
out while the damn place reeking as if dog dung infest all the streets. You
talk about vomit! Eh-eh, some people believe was a pasture of animal
carcasses, while the poor guy had to run for he life. This time cuss-words
gushing out people mouth like water from standpipe.
"You stooge yuh..." If them policemen didn't fire two bullets in
the air bladam bladam, the U.F. guy might have been a dead man already.
The crowd was real maddish, me tell you.
All the while Kaatool, Stinkman and Bana, was in the thick of things
as the maddish crowd at hand-reach to do anything Bana or this Stinkman
say. Think is fun when Hamid been done swing them people head? Left to
right! And onceyou can't read andwrite too properly, and you can't useyou
commonsense, them politicians in the country swinging you head like see-
saw, some educated people say. And Hamid was expert in the art. "Is how
long he going to fool them poor people?" the Headteacher been say.
Well, it coming to three weeks now before Voting Day. People in the
areas walking the streets as if they foot get wings. Is all smiles and greetings
in they face. "Want run we own affairs." They quite confident that the
P.P.P. would emerge victorious in the election. "Walk away cool cool with
the votes," one man say, smiling. And from then after, things going to
change overnight. After all, this they own-own country, not England. Them

-57 -

children would get better jobs, they believe, kissing the earth lovingly.
And the moment any kiss-me-ass overseer and rasshole driver play the
piss-ass with them sugar workers, them sugar workers have the power to
exercise they due rights. Yes! Throw the bloody overseer and driver aside
so simple without no squeeze, just like when you brush-off dust from you
hand. "The final choice rest in the workers' hand," Hamid been tell them
people. "Workers' power is peoples' power, comrade..."
"But we still gat some traitors in the place you know," Stinkman talk
one night. Was at a meeting taking-place under Samuel house. Them boys
been discussing political strategy the way Hamid been outline it to them,
"I know that," Bana talk. He was the secretary for the area group. He
come important overnight since assuming the position a year ago, playing
big-ass the moment the overseer and driver play the ass with them sugar
workers in Lusignan Estate.
"Down tool boys," Bana would say in a biggittee way, and the sugar
workers ready to follow Bana even if is in the dragon mouth self. "Bana
seeing after we rights," they saying, and is everything going back piece-
piece to the P.P.P. Office in Town, comrade. The same overseer and driver
name going to be in the red list, Bana would say.
And Bana don't mince matters, people does say. Whenever he bark
like Stallion the manager bound to listen. Them boys say Bana words get
steel. "He could make a good politician, you know."
Due to the forthcoming election, the sugar workers does somehow get
the upper edge in one-two industrial disputes, and the overseer and driver
does watch Bana with dagger in they mouth. "Politics messing up this
whole country," them overseer does say, confused, while they playing lawn
tennis in the smooth, grassy Compound. "Run you own affairs! Bah! Look
at Ghana, Kenya? Politics is no game..."
"Think this Bana down here," them people does talk with spit in they
mouth. "He is the next Abdul Hamid. Mark me words. God don't give, He
does send...
Hch! Don't talk how this Bana inside does bubble like water in trench
as soon as he hear such remarks. Never mind me can't read and write too
proper, but me going to show them overseer and manager me is who, Bana
does tell herself night- night, wishing on his knee the P.P.P. win the coming
election. Hamid been say Bana would become the Party field organizer, in-
charge of East Demerara electoral district. And that is a big position, you
know. Talking about bribes and women! Eh-eh, whenever Bana see herself
in that position, riding the big German-made motor cycle on the road, he
does want to leave he wife and come bachelor, but he wife is a fire-pot. The

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KYK # 43

woman mouth hot like pepper, people does say. And this Bana too frighten
she mouth. But boy! Bana praying for that day to reach! German motor
cycle! Women! Chach! ever sorry me married. Me foot tie-down...
"You know the traitors?" Bana ask Stinkman, scratching- scratching
the exercise book with a pencil. Is Bana technique to impress them boys
knowing they can't read so catholic.
"Is what to do Bana?" Kaatool ask. "You na know Sugrim and he hole
family going to vote U.F.? And what about Sripal and Jackson?
"Eh-eh, them is dead P.N.C. stooge..."
"Is how we could win them over?" Bana ask, scratching the exercise
book strong with the pencil as though he making notes. Them boys was
damn impress, me telling you. Bana recording everything. But Sugrim is a
hard nut to crack. Sugrim does always tell people he ain't want no blasted
Communist take over the country. Take over he religion. "Take away me
God," Sugrim does say, and stew he teeth. "He Shree Ram..."
And not one damn soul could tell this Sugrim who to vote for. He is he
own big man. And the moment you eye-pass Sugrim, call he a bare-face
U.F. stooge, he ain't arguing too much, he going straight to the Police
Station, saying them P.Y.O. hooligan victimising he.
And is over a year now Bana and Stinkman get Sugrim in they mind like
a weight on they shoulder. They claim Sugrim betraying the people. "He is
a traitor, comrade." They plan to fix up Sugrim well and proper after the
election. "We going to run he out the area," Bana say. "One apple spoil the
whole barrel, you know."
But now the matter stand crucial. Indeed Sugrim could pull away votes
from the P.P.P. Sugrim tongue sweet likesugar, Bana thinking. Is likewhen
Solo tackling Susan. Them words could cut thru rockstone. Them boys say
Solo far better than Romeo, them big words breezing through he mouth
like water through koker.
Is the same with this Sugrim. And seeing he does sell cow-milk and
chicken he get the advantage to sweet-talk people who going to he place.
"Think me want communism take over me business? Me independence?"
Sugrim does ask them people, winking he eye, trying to read they mind.
"Never!" them people does answer forthwith, bit confused. Commu-
nism. Communism. Is different form what Abdul Hamid been tell them.
"Every means of production will be in the hands of the people..."
Some people couldn't make head or tail of Communism but they
believe in this God-sent Abdul Hamid. He would never fool them. Still
Sugrim words does get them people pondering. Communism...And Bana
and Stinkman deeply aware of Sugrim growing influence among the


KYK # 43

Sugrim tongue get honey, they say. Bana and Stinkman never tell
Hamid about Sugrim. But by hooks or crooks they have to shut this Sugrim
mouth once and for all, seeing is three weeks before the election, and the
Party cannot afford to lose a single vote in the area. "Not a single vote
comrade," Hamid been say.
"Me know what me going to do," Stinkman talk with confidence,
brisking. This kiss-me-ass Sugrim. Take away vote...
"Count me in," Kaatool say and shrug he shoulder, then belch, feeling
dogish hungry.
So while this Bana winding-up the meeting, Stinkman, a broad-built
young man in his early twenties, unemployed so far, done envision clear as
daylight how Sugrim going to bawl for murder tomorrow night. He he he!
And Sugrim wife and high-faluting daughter going to run out the house
too. Sugrim daughter, Sandra, who believe all them young boys in the area
is not-a-rass, not-working millionaire nuh! is she first man, first thing, have
to run out the house, Stinkman say. He he he...Then he see one particular,
joking incident in his mind...
Was a Sunday around ten in the dark night. The area already dead in
sleeping, heavy clouds up in the sky. Stinkman, Kaatool, and Cock-eye,
done anchor by the trench- dam, close to Tamkeen house. This time small
rockstone done lodge in they pocket. "We going make he fart he skin,"
Stinkman whisper, giggling, peering his eyes.
"You mean shit he skin," Kaatool whisper back, grinning like Fore-
man donkey, he mouth all smelling with cigarette. Kaatool fine and thin-
bone, you know, but he beady-eye always sparkle with mischief. And talk
about food! Them boys say Kaatool belly na get bottom. "That man could
eat a hole cow." And Kaatool does meow like cat whenever he thiefing
people fowl in rainfall night.
"And this Kaatool eating so much food and he can't get fat," them old
people does say. "Suppose is jumbie eating the food, or Kaatool belly get
worms? He should drink castor oil."
"And is wonder how Kaatool going to work in the big office when the
Party win the election?"
"Is a hell of a thing when he have to sign them big-big document."
"The party going to educate you," Hamid been tell them boys, sweet-
sweet. So it make little difference whether this Kaatool could read or write
but the office job in he way. Just let the Party win the election.
Now Stinkman, Kaatool, and Cock-eye fortify they position on the
dark trench-dam, aiming at Tamkeen house, eyes turning cat-like. This
time Tamkeen house real quiet inside and dark. "Look like the family
sleeping," Stinkman whisper, cursing Tamkeen in he mind...Yes! Tamkeen


KYK # 43

is a fencesitter. Everybody know he is like goatshit.
This Tamkeen does rear cow and sell cowdung years now. He wife does
sell provision in the market. Tamkeen damn independent, people say.
Tamkeen never show his face at any political meeting held in the area. He
keeping altogether by himself, but punctually at six sharp every evening he
attending Masjid. In the eyes of Bana and Stinkman, Tamkeen is damn
bloody selfish. "Living like leech on the people. Can't trust he. He is a
downgrade capitalist."
Come worse whenever Tamkeen does refuse point blank to give
contribution to the area Party group. "Me ain't get a cent to give any kiss-
me-ass group," Tamkeen does tell Bana and Stinkman, armed with a
pitchfork. Is during when Bana, Stinkman and Kaatool does move house-
to-house soliciting contribution, one dollar, two dollar, for the group. Is on
bright Sundays while juke-box blaring in the area, and drunk men bussing-
up bottle in the streets, calling each other, "yuh damn crab-dog..."
And may God be with him who dare refuse to contribute. True! Quick
time Bana would tell them people that so and so is P.N.C., and U.F. stooge.
"Watch them with double-eye, comrade." And once you live in the area
which is diehard P.P.P. it doesn't pay to offend the Party group. Any dark
night you house-top could be stoned, or you fowl missing in you fowlpen,
or you daughter name come a whore in people mouth.
"This Kaatool could skin you like goat, you hear. Never pay to make
bad with he and Stinkman," people does talk, fright showing in they eye,
lips twitching.
But this Tamkeen daringly different. He telling you plain and straight
in you face that he ain't get time for no kiss-me-ass Party. "Politicians just
fooling the people, you hear. They all hungry fo power..."
Poor Bana and Stinkman does feel they get a slap blai in they face when
they hear this selfish dog Tamkeen talk that. Is like Tamkeen reducing
them to mere dust, they say.
Make itworsewhen Tamkeen say: "them piss-in-tail crabdogwho ain't
know a, b, and c, telling you, who to vote for, eh! is real eye-pass. Think
politics is tiefing you fowl? Make pass at you daughter?"
"If me Stinkman ain't teach Tamkeen and he big bubby wife one
lesson, change me name," Stinkman does promise Basna, hatred showing
all in he face as if he ready to chew- up Tamkeen raw-raw just how he eating
Now himself, Kaatool, and Cock-eye is about to teach Tamkeen this
lesson. So Stinkman squat on the trench-dam, rockstone in he right hand,
grinding he teeth. Then he aim, and swing he right hand and let-go with
force BLADAM. The rockstone hit Tamkeen house-top like bullet, and


KYK # 43

shake-up the whole zinc.
Kaatool and Cock-eye in action now.
Is like two more bullet explode, shaking up the whole street like
hurricane passing through. This time Tamkeen wife bawling for murder,
murder: "O Gaad, they killing me in me own house..." beating she chest dab
dab dab as though she get heart failure.
Meantime Tamkeen done rush out the house with a paling stave in he
hand, cursing "damn mumma so and so! Me Tamkeen going to smash they
balls. They playing man, nuh? Me know is who."
Stinkman, Kaatool, and Cock-eye disappear long time by the time
Tamkeen rush out he yard, heading for the Trench-dam. Them chaps take
the third street, running, and head for the big dam, laughing he he he as if
is a big joke. Bana would pelt down a laugh. "Good fo he ass, good! Think
we is cockroach P.P.P.?" Bana would say, belly rolling.
"That serve he rass right," Kaatool say now, eye still flitting with
mischief, stomach growling as if he hungry, then he belch.
Don't tell me you hungry so fast man," Stinkman say.
"Eh-eh! is what you think me living for," Kaatool say, belching. Then
he sit-down on a wooden stand by the street-head, night still dark and
silent. Only dogs barking and donkey braying. "We show Tamkeen who is
the power man."
Back by the Trench-dam, Tamkeen in real ravenous passion, cursing
theentire neighbourhood as if them too ought to be blamed. And if you
hear themcurse!Eh-eh,yougoing to believe Tamkeen born with
themwordsinhemouth,or he don't scrub he tongue with
blacksage,somepeoplewould say. Is daddy, and mumma and
pickneeallrollinonc..."Me going to smash they balls like
mincemeat,"Tamkeenbellow like thunder, spitting as if he scorntheground.
"This time you have enemy right in you backyard," he wife saying,
trembling in the front verandah. "Can't trust you own shadow. Like people
throwaway God behind they back."
Tamkeen been suspect truly is Stinkman and Kaatool throw the
missiles at the house-top, but he can't tell Stinkman and Kaatool straight
in they face about it. He didn't see them chaps with he own two eye, and no
eye-witness was present, he argue. But he plan to extract murderous
revenge sometime in the future. "Wait and see. Give cow long rope! Ha!"
In the meantime, he playing it cool cool like cucumber, hardly sleeping in
the night, cutlass by he bed-head. Them piss-in- tail crabdog bound to fall
in me hand some day, Tamkeen tell herself. Think God blind like goat. And
is then me going to trap them like bird. Ha! Mash them ass good and

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KYK # 43

proper. May Allah forgive me...
"He won't vote P.P.P. but we learn he ass one lesson," Stinkman been
tell Bana the next morning.
Bana shake he head, killing himself with laugh, belly rolling like barrel.
Just let me get this Organizing job. Is war to play.
Now this Sugrim.
And Stinkman all-set to deal with Sugrim well and proper. A thorn in
the flesh, this Sugrim. Is true thing, he could pull away votes. Can't happen,
Stinkman say one rainy night. And the Party people might blame himself
and Bana, and all too bad, he office job in jeopardy. Can't happen! Each
vote count comrade...
The Thursday night was dark and heavy. Is only crickets and beetles
humming gr gr gr in people front yards and backyards, among flowers and
trees. By now, some dogs done curl-up under bottom-houses, snarling
when-ever a donkey walk the streets, shaking off mosquito and fly off he
skin. Almost everybody in bed now, some cluster-up, some snoring like
when you blowing whistle. True! was real pitch-darkness and sheer silence
in the neighbourhood as if the place self tired after a hard day's work.
Stinkman and Kaatool squat in the fine street, close-by to Sugrim wooden
fence, eye straight in Sugrim house. This time mosquito and ants want kill
them with bite, and they dare not slap the mosquito and ants, else Sugrim
could wake-up, and the whole mission would absolutely flop. So Stinkman
and Kaatool enduring all the sting, crouching like soldiers in ambush,
scratching they skin with vengeance as if cow-itch fall on it.
Meanwhile, two good-size redbrick clasp in they palm, fingers already
baiting it so as to get a perfect aim. But first thing, Stinkman survey the
street first like a perfect thief, eyes sharp in all darkness. Then he whisper:
Stinkman and Kaatool redbrick rebound on Sugrim rooftop one after
the other. It sound like thunder, rattling the whole zinc. Sugrim wife and
children want get crazy.
"O Gawd," they bawling for murder murder...
"Good fo you ass!" Kaatool whisper, attempting to let-go another
redbrick at Sugrim housetop while Stinkman squat low in the street,
looking at the rigmarole, planning how he going to give Bana the joke
tomorrow morning. He he he ...
This time the place so bloody dark you couldn't even see a horse self
in the street don't matter how you strain you eye.
Now, Katool raise hcself and aim, then he swing he right hand
forcefully for the kill, cursing Sugrim damn stinking in he mind. Fence-


KYK # 43

KYK # 43

"Me see you, Kaatool! Me see you," Sugrim voice thunder out quick-
quick thru the window, then a torchlight flash straight at Kaatool CLICKS.
Kaatool freeze. Shocked. He couldn't able move. He feel he body like
"Yes Kaatool! Is you and the police going to talk," Sugrim say,
shouting for the neighbours: "Rambarose. Lettie. Ahyuh see down right
"Run!" Stinkman say and tug at Kaatool. Kaatool shake he body as if
he come out from a trance. Then is speed to kill with he and Stinkman thru
the side street, blowing as if they running race. By the time Sugrim rush out
he yard and flash the torchlight Clicks thru the street, Stinkman and
Kaatool vanish as if they turn spirit.
"Me know the next scamp is Stinkman," Sugrim say with hurt, flashing
the torchlight as if he expect to see a third scamp hiding in the drain. "Me
Meanwhile them neighbours prattling like parrot in thestreet: "Is who
de kiss-me-ass wretch brick Sugrim house?"
"And Sugrim such a quiet man. He don't touch a fly self..."
"Me eye catch them," Sugrim saying in seething anger., "And tomor-
row morning me going to the police. This is kiss-me-ass advantage. Politics
turning people like devil. They don't have respect anymore..."
"You damn right," them neighbour women say top-top. They suspect
is Stinkman and Kaatool do the job but they dare not call name. Stinkman
and Kaatool could easily victimise them, too. God! Politics killing you self
respect, they seem to say, so confused.
Eh-eh! the next morning was like a mini-riot break out in the area.
True to God! Was about ten o' clock and the weather was warm and cozy,
the streets busy like hell. Ajcepload of helmeted policemen with gun strap
to they waist, already roaming the area, eye sharp like hawk, looking for
Stinkman and Kaatool. Sugrim sit-down in the jeep, eye red like fire- ass,
hurt showing in he face. They like take advantage nuh!
This time, them policemen was gruff, grunting like pig. And soon as
they spot a youth walking in the street, they nab at him quicktime, acting
like big bullies, demanding forthwith to know the whereabouts of this
Stinkman and Kaatool.
"They playing bad man nuh," the sergeant shout. "I going to show
them what is communism. Bad man nuh!"
And if you happen to grow a beard, is too had for you. Chu chu chu. If
them policemen only spot you is trouble in store for you. They would
believe all to God you area Communist. Marxist. Quicklime they slapping

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KYK #43

you blai blai, and shout: "Get lost!"
And everywhere thejeep driving slow-slow, a small crowd following, eyeing
at Sugrim as if they want to eat this Sugrim raw-raw. And if you hear they
mouth. Them woman teeth grinding gruu gruu like brick rubbing on
rockstone. It could chase lion, some people been say.
This time Bana and Cock-eye done vanish out the district. If they get
caught, they know damn well them policemen going to smash they ass.
Twitch they balls. Baton they behind. "You is a bad man nuh!" And Cock-
eye behind is sheer bones, while this Bana belly round like barrel and soft
like sponge. He damn well know he get sumptuous flesh to take-in police
baton blap blap blap...
So after Bana and Cock-eye envision the whole police brutality, they
mind flash straight at they own balls. "Think me want policeman batter-up
me balls like them boys own in Brickdam jail," Cock-eye think, swallowing
he spit.
"And you think me want people call me anti-man?" Bana talk. "Is
better me dead if me boy dead. A man without he manhood is no man at
So within minutes Bana and Cock-eye disappear. Them is marked
P.P.P. suspect. Is they the one who leading the people in the communist
way, them policemen does say whenever they hear reports about political
wrangling in the area. "Think they is Marx..."
This time, the crowd following the jeep as it moving from street to
street, loaded with policemen, armed. Then at a sudden, the crowd attempt
a rush at the jeep in sheer haste. The driver panic and draw brakes, and as
the crowd attempt to jump-in the jeep, Sugrim fart seeing he body split in
two half, trembling.
Them policemen had to bodyguard Sugrim all the way home, eyes set
in murderous intention.
This time the sergeant fury unleash. He hungry to clap eye on Bana,
Stinkman, Kaatool, and Cock-eye. "They playing badjohn nuh." And the
bloody people know the whereabouts of these communist hooligans, but
they lip stitch with needle and thread. "But me have to show them where
barley growing..."
Is sheer ungrateful people living in this Scheme, Sugrim tell he wife
later. They only talking with you top-top but they get dagger in they mind
for you. "Politics put ting devil in people mind. Not like long time," Sugrim
And from the day after, people in the area start spitting hackuu as if
cold settle in they throat soon as they walk- past in front Sugrim house.
Meanwhile Sugrim and he family shame to show out they face in the street.

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Fiction KYK # 43

True to God! they even afraid to talk too loud in they own own house which
Sugrim built with loan from the Estate paying it back piece- piece. But look
me dilemma now God, Sugrim say later in the night. Like me tie meselfwith
me own rope...
This timejeepload of policemen driving thru the area, street by street,
eye sharp like razor. They could sense trouble in the air, gnashing they
teeth. If they only spot Bana, Stinkman, and Cock-eye, god be with them
chaps behind. Is brutal kick-up and blows on they fat ass. "They playing bad
man nuh."
But them chaps come monkey smart. During the day they hibernating,
surfacing only in the nights just like escaped prisoner, smashing Sugrim
and Tamkeen with they mouth. "Think we done with he? We going smash
them like mosquito."
Meanwhile, Voting Day approach, and was real sour in the area. There
was no Bana and company to guide them people. Policemen still on the
lookout for them, you know.
As regards to Sugrim them people say he and he wife eating-up they
self in the house, direly afraid to show-out they face on Voting Day. This
time, Tamkeen ain't care one ass who voting or not. He in he house, still
mad at Stinkman and Kaatool. "Give cow long rope, ha!"
"If the P.P.P. Party win dis election tink Sugrim and Tamkeen could
live in peace?" some diehard P.P.P. women say early in the morning,
swearing sheer vengeance.
But they always say, never count the chicken before it hatch, and is the
self-same thing happen. The P.P.P. fail to command a majority of the votes
cast under the P.R. system, so they couldn't form a Guv'ment.
Bana and Stinkman want drop dead. Kaatool and Cock-eye hope fall
down like big-big drop rainfall in trench. They get pissing drunk with bush
rum, cussing, "Fraud fraud. England make we a jackass."
"They take we fo a ride," the P.P.P. supporters in the area saying,
mouth droop like turn-starapple. In vengeance they turn at Sugrim and
Tamkeen, grinding the teeth. Bana tell the people Sugrim blight the Party.
"He get black tongue," Bana pounded, thinking of the Organizing
work and the bagful of women. Now them driver and overseer might eye-
pass me. Shit. Politics is a mess-up game.
"Is better me start sell provision," Bana say one night, a week later.
"Me going still be independent, but Sugrim and Tamkeen is dead man.
Me going to blight them back."
"Ever hear lil piss-in-tail boy could do party wuk?" Tamkcen tell he
wife one midday. "Praise be to Allah Rain don't fall at one man door, you

Anthony Kellman

Extract from THE CORAL ROOMS
(Peepal Tree Press, 1992.)

Percy had always known that this passage through the cave was in part
about proving himself, discovering whether he had the faith to stand on his
own two feet, faith to endure in the shadow of death. He had seen visions
in the light thrown by his helmet lamp in the cave. What was inside him?
Could he find illumination there? There was only one way to find out.
He turned off his helmet light and fumbled on the ridge, through the
layering darkness, his hands his only guides. True death, he thought, must
be like this: complete obliteration, the black of nothing. Save for the bumpy
touch of the dark earth under his feet and the icywall-faces under his hands,
he would have had the living experience of death. But the stillness here, the
compulsion to listen and see inside, was beautiful, and he felt welling up
inside him, an intensified compassion for the Amerindian and the slave, a
compassion which the darkness forced him to see, to hold and be held by,
an inescapable self, true as sunlight, pure as cave springs. It was as if he was
moulting a restrictive skin, shedding scales from his eyes. Now hewasseeing
more clearly (in this pitch dark) than ever before in his entire life, as if he
was growing new antennae of sensitivity, new antennae of freedom.
He suddenly doubled over, retching, gouts of vomit rushing from his
mouth. He didn't feel nauseous, so why this vomiting? The retching wasn't
even painful. His body had become some curious duct releasing the waste
his soul's island had accumulated ever since its independence from Great
Britain in the sixties when the dead hand of neo-colonialism had moved
swiftly throughout the region burying the hopeful spirit of self-determina-
tion under a dunghill of enormous greed poxed with arrogance and pride.
His sacrificial body contained all the fat black-bellied heads of corpora-
tions, political animals, newspaper publishers, lawyers, all scrambling for
a piece of the earth to plant a flag in the name of the king of the I. The I was
lord and master. Coups. Drug trafficking. Child pornography. Socialist
jargon. All leading to one end: the I and the I and the I.
The fluids washed over the ridge and he heard leaves and bark flutter
away into the highest holes of the cave, shame and guilt dripping from their
wings. His light still turned off, hewalked away from the ridge. Mud. Knee-
deep. He knew where he was. He gauged the clogged distance and then

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KYK # 43

proceeded with his arms outstretched. They eventually reached a wall. A
high wall. Yes. Beyond this would be the dream. He clambered up the
twelve-foot face relying only on touch, the curve of the rock the cleft of the
rock the ruk and the tuk and the pour of the rock the lure of the rock and
the voice of the stone calling him, clapping his ankle bones.
He entered into the dark of the dream and heard again its stream
laughter. The black was not black. He had been here on the inward journey,
so he could see the glitter of stalactite and stalagmite, the cascading hairs
of each waterfall, the petroglyphic crystal wonder, the towering rock silos,
the scintillating conical formations. Black had to do with the color of one's
skin, perhaps, but not with ignorance, not unenlightenment. Outside,
where he lived, was sheeted with every light and echo of light, but it was out
there that he had been most blind. His new antennae sensed the pure
element he was in and his hands coiled outward to scoop up the water of
darkness and splash it all over his invisible body. He felt like crying and
laughing, all at once. The tiger of darkness had attacked him, tearing away
every last residue of pride, bringing him finally to his knees so that he could
receive the total quality and dimension of blackness, blackness which was
brighter than any sun or moon.
He felt for the low passage and bored through it and out into the five-
foot deep amniotic pool. Then he climbed up the six- foot dip of stone and
slid down the eight-foot drop into cool water, waist-high at first. Then the
bottom seemed to be swiped away. No bottom any more. Hands up! Touch
a roof! Where am 1? Where am I? He swam back onto the rocks. He pulled
himself out the water, hands searching for clues. This face of stone was the
same one he clutched when he came half- drowning out of the deep waters.
Ah! He knew for sure where he was and now he knew what the difference
was. It was in the water level. It had dropped. That was why there was a large
air-space in the roof of the passage. The water would now be about sixty-
eight feet deep. He wouldn't have to dive through this time. He was spent
and very hungry. Yet, through his weary consciousness, he could hear the
leavening drum taps of freedom, and sensing the nearness of the end of his
beginning, he wasn't at all surprised to find Materia swimming there.
Maieria, Materia? Yes, Mr. Percy. Where are you now? Right here
beside you. IWhat are you doing? Selling clothes. Whatever happened to us?
Who knows, Mr. Percy. Who knows?
He couldn't escape her. He had inhabited and had been inhabited by
her stream laughter. She was an essential thread in the cave's mystery, a
part of all the illuminating blackness seeping into him. She was inside him
and therefore knew his actions before he acted, heard his utterance before
he spoke. The cave knew its geography centuries before he had laid feet

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KYK # 43

KYK # 43

here and, in what wisdom, obtained her true cunning and triumph. How
could he have been so dumb to think that she would not have known about
his little secret with Bassie? He had thought of no one but himself in his
quest for power and control. He had allowed Materia to be completely
herself, it was true. Yet, even this "gift", he now became aware, was a web
meant to endear himself to her even more firmly, nothing more than
another selfish act designed to bring him pleasure. When equal submission
existed in relationships, dichotomies vanished and people just were. It was
a simple as that.
He thought of how he had submitted to Cane Arrow and to the cave
and, as he swam through the deep waters (as the water of darkness
continued seeping into him) he saw her on the day before she had left for
her father's. He had been sorry to see her go. Glad to see her go. His
exclusive mania would throw ugly stains on her garments. It was pointless
to think that she could soften stone. She had fled with coalescing looks of
love, fear, worry, dread. He had felt a twinge of sorrow for her as he sat in
the house in stony silence. Her rhythm had been established in rigid
sequence ever since they had got married. She revolved around her work
and social life. It was a steady unchanging rhythm of which she savored
every living second. And now: specters of shame, scandal, pressure, expla-
nations. It would have been hard on any woman to have her river of
certainties clogged by the bleakest decision a husband could ever make,
and the mutation that had befallen him, in which nothing outward had
changed on him yet he was completely different, had forced her to flee.
Each desperate stroke he now made was to free both of them from
guilt. And the leaves and bark of that guilt clapped their wings inside the
passage, and the guilt fell on him and then dripped off him. Time, the
healer. Time, the healer, stream softly until I end my journey; drip gently
until I sing again; flow slowly and lead us to the rock, lead us to the rock that
is higher than us.
He knew he was nearing the end of the passage now for he could
actually see the water haloed with a brownish light. Heclapped-clapped his
way out on to the rocks and into the heart of a sun. Someone was inside the
sun, eating it with dark barks of hands.


KYK # 43


-70 -


Stewart Brown


I'm asked to provide a summary of the talk I gave to the Academy's
Gregynog Conference on New Literatures In English back in May. That
shouldn't be too much of a task, except that I didn't actually write that talk,
I worked rather loosely from a few notes made to help me remember things
in the right order! And then, when I got to the guts of the piece, I played
recordings of various poets reading their own work, interspersed with a few
illuminating comments like, this is a super poem, just to maintain the
illusion that I'd earned my fee...
The talk was called Voiceprints: Caribbean Poetry Now, a cunning
conflation of the titles of two of the anthologies of Caribbean poetry that
I've edited in the last decade or so and was intended to share my own sense
of good fortune at discovering the riches of Caribbean poetry in English.
But in order to explain that sense of good fortune I had somehow to give
the poems to the audience who, I guessed, wouldn't have read or,
importantly, heard much Caribbean poetry. So I gave out (probably
illegal) photocopies of poems and made a (probably illegal) tape of the
various poets reading those poems, cut together from assorted public and
private recordings. As usual I vastly over-estimated how much material we
could get through in an hour or so, so that although there were thirteen
poems/poets on the handout/tape we only got around to reading/listening
to five or six. I chose those poets/poems because they seemed to me to
provide both an appetising taster of contemporary Caribbean poetry and
they demonstrated the range of concerns, styles and voices which char-
acterise that body of work. This mini- anthology offered as good a way in
to Caribbean poetry and the discussion of the issues that are raised by
thinkingabout both what the poems say and how they sayit as well as how
we read them as I could construct.
For the record, and for those who weren't there, (to whom, I suppose,
this piece is directed) the poems on the handout that we set out to look at,
listen to, contextualise and discuss were as follows; (the sources of the
poems and recordings are given,with a reference to an accessible anthology
if possible. The anthologies' details are provided at the end of the list).

1. Derek Walcott, Ruins of a Great House, in Collected Poems,(Faber)
& Caribbean Poetry Now.
2. Louise Bennet, Colonisation in Reverse in Selected Poems (Heine-
mann) and Hinterland. Recording from her cassette Yes M'Dear (Is-
3. Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Timbuctu, from Masks (Oxford) & The
Arrivants (Oxford). Recording from British Council Literature Re-
cordings: An Interview with Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
4. Martin Carter, Black Friday 1961 in Collected Poems (Demerara
Pubs., Guyana) and Voiceprint.
5. David Dabydeen, Coolie Mother from Coolie Oddysey (Hansib),
recording on Bluefoot Cassettes (National Sound Archieve).
6. Ian McDonald, God's Work, in Mercy Ward (Peterloo) and Voice
7. Michael Smith, Mi C yaaan Believe It in It A Come (New Beacon)
and Caribbean Poetry Now, recording from his record It A Come.
8. Lorna Goodison, For My Mother, in Tamarind Season (Institute of
Jamaica Pubs.) and Caribbean Poetry Now. Recording off the BBC
Schools Radio cassette, Some Caribbean Writers.
9. Grace Nichols, Sugar Cane, from i is a long memoried woman.
(Karnak House), recording on the National Sound Archive's
Contemporary Literature on Tape 1: Grace Nichols & Samuel
10. Jane King, Fellow Traveller, in Confluence: Nine St. Lucian Poets,
(The Source, Castries).
11. Edward Baugh, Nigger Sweat in A Tale From The Rain Forest
(Sandberry Press, Jamaica) and Voiceprint.
12. John Agard, Stereotype in Mangoes and Bullets (Pluto), recording
from An Evening of International Poetry: Black Book Fair 1982
13. Mervyn Morris, Valley Prince, from The Pond (New Beacon) and
Voiceprint. Recording from Poets of the West Indies (Caedmon)

Caribbean Poetry Now, ed. Stewart Brown, Hodder & Stoughton, 1986
(New edition 1992)

Voiceprint: Caribbean oral andrelatedpoetries, eds, Stewart Brown, Mervyn
Morris and Gordon Rohlehr. Longman 1989

Hinterland, ed. E.A. Markham, Bloodaxe 1988

West Indian Poetry, ed. Ken Ramchand and Cecil Gray, Longman, 1988
(Revised edition).

The Penguin Book of Caribbean Poetry eds. Stewart Brown and Ian McDonald,
Heineman, 1991 (in press).

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KYK # 43

Part of the reason why we didn't get through more than half the poems
on the list was that I felt obliged to preface the demonstration of my disc-
jockey's button-pressing talents with a preamble through the story of my
own involvement with West Indian poetryand a defense of my own practice
as an anthologist, on the way alerting my audience to some of the issues
around the consumption of these poems.
I got into Caribbean poetry as a consequence of finding myself, more-
or less by chance, a teacher in a secondary school in Jamaica, back in the
early 70s. I knew absolutely nothing about West Indian literature, and
finding these new writers Walcott, Brathwaite, Louise Bennett...all the
names on that list above finding them writing so vividly, so vigorously,
about a life I was discovering at the same time as I was discovering their
poetry, was really exciting. Not that it was so easy to get hold of Caribbean
poetry then, especially in a rural market-town on the north coast of the
island. The public library was stocked with sun-foxed, brittle-leaved slim
volumes by Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot, hardly read, but no anthologies
of Caribbean poetry. (To be fair to them there were hardly any at that time
that they could have stocked.) The school library, such as it was the World
Bank built all these concrete shells of schools but put nothing inside them
- did provide a way in though; John Figueroa's Caribbean Voices, a
selection from poems and poets represented in the long running BBC
literature programme and Anne Walmsley's anthology The Sun's Eye,
which included fascinating auto biographical notes provided by the au-
thorsAI vividly remember reading Walcott for the first time, and thinking
that he, at least -on the evidence of his poem lamentingA City's Death by
Fire had read his Dylan Thomas.
The next step, and a piece of cultural arrogance I'm rather appalled by
now, was to write to as many of these poets as I could discover addresses for
announcing that I intended to start up a little Caribbean magazine and
begging contributions in the form of new writing and subscriptions. The
magazine, NOW, was a scruffy sub Second Aeon production-duplicated
through the night in the back room of the local betting shop, trimmed on
the school metalwork guillotine, and distributed more or less at random.
NOWwas taken vastly more seriously than it deserved; positively reviewed
in the national papers and on radio, partly financed, though they didn't
know it, by Harvard University, who were persuaded to take out a 'lifetime'
subscription, even though I knew the magazine could hardly survive more
than half dozen issues. More significantly, though,a numberof important
figures in Caribbean poetry actually sent us material Brathwaite, Dennis
Scott, Harold Telemaque, Wayne Brown, Phillip Sherlock, Gloria Escof-
fery, Neville Dawes, Anthony McNeill...And the magazine allowed me an


KYK # 43

entree to their world, it was intoxicating.
Teaching English in the secondary school, though, I hardly came
across West Indies poetry, certainly not at exam level, and this gap between
the study of serious literature (ie, the English canon) and the literature of
the life people the school kids were living was what prompted me to try
and make an anthology that would serve both as an upper- school text in
the Caribbean and spread the word, share the good fortune that I'd had in
finding that new poetry with potential readers in the UK. But it was ten
years between my leaving Jamaica and the appearance of Caribbean Poetry
Now. The reasons for the delay are too complicated to go into here but the
key to the book's appearance, finally, was the establishment of the Carib-
bean Examinations Council to gradually replace the British GCE boards
and their tropical papers. At the same time there was a growing interest in
the UK in Caribbean culture, partly generated by the success of figures like
Walcott and Brathwaite but more to do with reggae and Rastafarian style.
In the meanwhile I'd been getting myself "Doctored" and so become aca-
demically respectable enough to be trusted to edit such a book. All the
same though my approach to Caribbean literature continued/continues to
be that ofthe enthusiastic amateur rather than the academic. The would be
fellow-poet rather than the authoritative editor.
But such special pleadingdoesn't allow me to duck the critical, cultural
and theoretical issues which hedge the production of anthologies like
Caribbean Poetry Now and, later, Voiceprint and the collection of stories
Caribbean New Wave, and, presently, The Ileinemann Book of Caribbean
Poetry. A lot of these issues are familiar in the context of debates about
Anglo-Welsh literature, beginning of course with language. What lan-
guage/s should a West Indian poetry be written in, the standard English
that hardly anyone there (or here!) speaks, or versions of dialect, creole,
nation language even the terminology is fraught which also has social and
political overtones and demand forms that inevitably challenge received
notions of poetic craft etc.
How far do you, as anthologist with the power/responsibility to 'rep-
resent' good' 'writing'to a generation of students in a situation where there
aren't vast numbers of books/alternative presentations, in effect to con-
struct a counter canon how far do you try and represent and so to some
extent legitimise thewhole language continuum? And howdoes that need
for linguistic balance square with the need to represent a fari range of
voices in terms of gender, race, nationality, generation, religion, political
views? And the issues of language meld into questions of form and worth
in terms of the orality/literary struggle that is a vital element of West Indies
culture; are Mikey Smith's dub texis for performance poems? Is a Bob

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KYK # 43

KYK # 43 Articles

Marley lyric a poem? Do we misrepresent Louise Bennett either by calling
her a poet or by consigning her work to some special oral category? Should
we have a poem by each of them at the expense of three more poems by
Derek Walcott, unquestionably one of the great poets of our time but
whose language, ideas of form and craft, cultural references, and associa-
tions with a nation of high culture will perhaps exclude or alienate the
readers we are trying reach? And alongside those problematic are ques-
tions of cultural traditions, culturaldirections, attitudes to history, issues of
self definition and national allegiance, etc, etc. All those questions are
raised in the making of an anthology, and heightened by the tension/
contradiction that the anthologist is a foreign, white, male academic who
inevitably makes his selection, in the end, on the basis of his own cultural
conditioning. And the anthologist's power, really, is the power to exclude.
I tend not to push too hard at that paradox, most readers/reviewers
assume that Stewart Brown is a Jamaican and thecultural imposition thing
doesn't come up at all. But maybe that's worse. Pragmatically I tell myself
that in terms of engaging with the poetry, I've immersed myself in it over
the years in a way that few others West Indians or not have been able to
(it's still easier to get hold of books produced in Tunapuna or Castries in
Birmingham or Cardiff or even Sennybridge than it is in Bridgetown,
Barbados or Brownstown, Jamaica); that I've worked and travelled in the
region and that so longas I'm alert to the cultural/theoretical/critical issues
outlined above, and West Indian readers think I've done a good job, then
"No Problem". (In fact the only published concern over the implications
of the racial identity of the anthologists of Caribbean literature that I've
seen has been in a thoughtful essay on canon formation by another white,
British anthologiser, Ann Walmsley.) But still it would make more sense
for these anthologies to be made by West Indians rather than a Brown of
the wrong colour. But, to (misquote) my all time favourite West Indian
poem, Mervyn Morris's Valley Princefhe world don't go so. Part of the
reason I'm able/asked to make these anthologies is that I'm on seat as it
were in the place where the books are published. Heinemann, Longman,
Hodder & Stoughton between them dominate Caribbean publishing,
especially in literature/education, and its easier to work with/through
someone to hand as it were than keep trying to make telephone contact
with Kingston. Perhaps, too, there is an element of race in it most of the
publishers in the multi-nationals are white middle class British people,
who are, maybe, at ease dealing with someone like me in ways they perhaps
can't with (real) West Indians in Britain who might do the editorial jobs
I've done although I'm sure they wouldn't recognize that as a reason for
the decisions they make. And I'm, obviously, not innocent in such transac-

-75 -

tions. And the Publishing Houses themselves represent the other pres-
sures that bear on the anthologist, for no matter how enlightened individ-
ual publishers might be, the over-riding motive for book production as far
as the companies are concerned is profit. So pressures of cost, of scale, of
imprint tradition, of taste, of expertise (for example, despite accepting the
intellectual/educational -even thesales argument for producing a cassette
to accompany these anthologies none of the publishers I've worked with
have been able to overcome the logistical difficulties of making and distrib-
uting such a tape) all these bear on the book that is finally produced and on
the freedom of the anthologist. It's certainly not a simple process of just
picking a bunch of one's favourite poems.
That said though, most of the poems I've listed above as a route into
West Indian poetrywould be in my personalideal anthology of poems from

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KYK # 43

Sir Shridath Ramphal


20APRIL 1991

I thank our President, Sir William Dugale, for exceedingly kind
words. To be here is an honour: but honour at these427th anniversary cele-
brations of the birth of William Shakespeare is truly due to him alone.
Indeed, I would find the task of proposing the toast to his immortal
memory almost too daunting were I not conscious that we are as one in this
act of collective homage. And we ourselves are but the present expression
of an absent throng across the world united in appreciation of the genius
of Shakespeare. The Ambassadors and High Commissioners among us
represent their countries; but all who have come from overseas as well as
Britain, dignitaries, scholars and enthusiasts alike, are representative of
the many thousands of visitors of all nationalities drawn here by his magic
every year.
And these proceedings are in keeping with Shakespeare's own
society, which was one of much ceremony as well as simplicity. It was
already a very international society. I doubt if he would have found
anythingsurprising in a citizen of Guyana speaking in his honour. After all,
Guiana was part of his world picture, and England its or so at least,
Shakespeare's contemporary, Chapman, claimed:

"Guiana, whose rich seat are mines of gold,
Whose forehead knocks against the roof of stars,
Stands on her tiptoes, atf]iir England looking..."

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KYK # 43

Nor would the creator of Othello have baulked at this tribute from
one of another race. True, my being an honorary Warwickshire man, as
Chancellor of its University, might have given him pause. But then, even
Shakespeare could not have foreseen the extent to which he has made us
all, wherever we come from, belong to his world.
Nor is this ex post facto rhetoric. In distant Guiana, Shakespeare
was very much part of my own upbringing introduced to us, for our (then)
Junior and Senior Cambridge and London Higher School Certificates by
teachers who declaimed him with Caribbean eloquence as part of an oral
tradition. I was hooked; and in my turn was responsible for one of the first
joint productions between the leading boys' and girls' secondary schools in
my country (for all I know, the first in the South American continent) of A
Midsummer Night's Dream.
I confess, unlikely though it may look, that there stands before you
a Demetrius a Demetrius pursued, incredibly, by a love-besotted Helena,
through a wood near Athens modelled no doubt on a wood near Stratford
- a long way from the savannahs, cane fields and rain forests of Guyana.
When I came later to London as a student, a pilgrimage to the real
landscape of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon was obligatory and to
the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. I was there in 1948 as a student in
student's standing room, for Robert Helpmann's Hamlet and Clair Bloom's
Ophelia, and, again, in 1950 for that remarkable Company including Leon
Quartermaine, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Alan Badel and Anthony
Quayle that did KingLear and Measurefor Measure, Julius Caesar and Much
Ado about Nothing.
This is not a unique odyssey. It is typical of the revelation of
Shakespeare across the globe especially, but not only, in the countries of
the English-speaking world. The fifty Commonwealth countries, located in
every continent and ocean, share a many-sided heritage in education,
democracy, commerce, the law and much else; and because they commu-
nicate in the common language of English, they also share in the glories of
English literature, with Shakespeare at its heart. It has, of course, many
other languages in Africa, India orwherever,so it has many literature, and
they too are its pride; but no one writing in English can fail to be touched
and enriched by Shakespeare. In that sense, the Commonwealth's great
writers, whether Nigeria's Wole Soyinka or India's R K Natayan or the
Caribbean's Derek Walcott are Shakespeare's children although Wal-
cott's prize-winning Omeros claims an even earlier ancestry in Homer.
But a prophet can be without honour in his own country. Two
months ago some British teachers complained that in the new syllabuses
Shakespeare had become an optional extra. Springing to his defense, The


KYK # 43

Independent newspaper rightly scorned the very idea that the essential truth
about William Shakespeare is that he was a white, middle-aged, middle class
male who died almost 400 years ago and whose plays are shot though with
negative racial and sexual stereotypes. We must all join The Independent on
the barricades in defense of the Bard. This is not a Shakespeare the world
It would not be too much to claim that Shakespeare is woven deep
into the story of the English-speaking world and particularly the Com-
monwealth story. There is, of course, a Canadian Stratford in Ontario. The
Indian sub-continent has also come under Shakespeare's spell; and not
only through the delightful itinerant performances of the Kendall family
recorded in the film Shakespeare Wallah.
From the start, Shakespeare travelled with the English language to
the farthest outposts throughout the world and was performed every-
where. David Holloway's entertaining bookPlayingtheEmpire tells us that
in the goldfields of Australia in the 1860s diggers sometimes showed their
appreciation of free performances of Shakespeare by throwing gold nug-
gets on to the stage and that on one occasion Macbeth was produced on
top of a billiards table.
But language is no impassable frontier. Shakespeare is infinitely
translatable into other languages, other social settings, other arts. Sea-
soned theatre-goers recall a Zulu Macheth brought to London twenty
years ago by the late Peter Daubeny. Macbeth has been transmuted into an
epic Japanese film, Kurosawa's The Throne of Blood not far from grand
opera, which Macbeth actually became in the hands of Verdi. An equally
operatic Lady Macbeth has taken her dagger to the Soviet Union and
reappeared in modern guise, to Shostakovich's score, as Lady Macbeth of
I was born free as Caesar; so were you: Casius asserts for all who rage
under dominion. In all ages, Shakespeare stands for thought and freedom,
and so is suspect to autocracies, like Iran under the Shah, where Hamlet
could not be played because it showed the killing of a king. Kings are
mortal, Shakespeare is not. Tyranny recognizes itself for ever in the mirror
(it holds) up to nature, and fears its own reflection. Not long before the
Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia -when once again the time (was) out
ofjoint, with all theatre critical of the government banned the country's
best actors retreated into the Living-Room Theatre of Prague, in what was
literally a domestic living- room. When Macbeth was put on, the secret
police outside the door found these assassinations in high places deeply
subversive and wanted to know who the author was. Vaclav Havel and his
colleagues could be arrested. But, Shakespeare was out of reach. In today's

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surge to democracy around the world, Shakespeare remains with the tide
of history.
Part of the worldwide appeal of Shakespeare is surely that we can all
find ourselves in his pages. He reflects all walks and conditions of life
because, in comedy, history and tragedy, he reflects and illumines the
human condition. There is a Shakespeare for every type and profession.
For the hard-handed men, the joiners, tinkers and tailors; for soldiers and
lawyers; for lovers and lunatics; for counsellors and kings; for those of great
estate brought tragically low. As The Merchant of Venice somewhat equivo-
cally reminds us, there is a Shakespeare for the bankers even for the Bank
of England, on whose twenty-pound note Shakespeare's portrait has been
circulating since 1970 throughout Britain soon, also, to be replaced.
Shakespeare teaches mercy to the judges and many lessons to us all.
Central among them is a respect for humanity, for life itself respect
preserved forever in his language. It is life in all its variety that, after four
centuries, springs at us with undiminished freshness out of Shakespeare's
plays. In All's Well that Ends Well, he reminds us, through the voice of the
first Lord Dumaine that the web of our life is a mingled yarn. Our virtues
would be proud four faults whipped them not; and our crimes would despair,
if they were not cherished by our virtues. The great tragedies show that
Shakespeare does not shrink from depicting the grimmest realities and the
cruellest fates life can hold. Yet he does so in languagewhich itself suggests
the existence of a nobler, betterworld. In the tragedies, compassion may be
absent on stage, but it is engendered by the playwrights' genius where it
counts most in the hearts of the audience.
Four hundred and twenty-seven years after his birth, Shakespeare
speaks particularly to the whole modern world. The totality of his work
enshrines the qualities essential to our human society if we are to survive
and live together in security and prosperity; especially those qualities of
conciliation, harmony and understanding. His message of the interde-
pendence of all human kind -and especially with nature is a very modern
one. In Shakespeare, harmony or discord in man and nature run parallel;
all created nature is organically related. One touch of nature, says Ulysses
in Troilus and Cressida, makes the whole world kin, It could be our text for
saving a planet still in search of its oneness.
It is the depth of the humanity in Shakespeare that makes him im-
mortal, and will always prevent him from becoming, anywhere, an optional
extra,. As his contemporary Ben Jonson put it: he was not of an age but for
all time. And we may add: for all the world.
Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the toast to:
'The Immortal Memory of William Shakespeare'.

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KYK # 43


by Frank Birbalsingh


FB You were born in Guyana in 1926and came to London in 1950. You
studied for the bar but did not practise law. Instead you became a school
teacher. With your background of teaching in London schools,what do you
think of E R Braithwaite's To Sir With Love?

RH I don't really like to comment on the books of other writers.

FB Whereas the experiences of a black school-teacher are accurately
recorded in To Sir With Love, I would have thought that the book's attitudes
to racial discrimination were unrealistic.

RH It was a book with some good features. Although 1 have lived here
in England longer than I have lived in Guyana, I am not keen on writing
about my experiences here, because I am still an immigrant. My conscious-
ness was formed in Guyana. I feel that in writing about this country I would
becxpendingencrgy thatcould be betterspent in contributing toGuyanese

FB It is interesting how all that Guyanese experience or knowledge
which you brought from 1950 and stored up for twenty odd years suddenly
finds expression in fiction. Afterall,your first bookdid not appear until you
were forty-eight years old. It is not like Dickens who lived in London and
wrote about life in London. Areyou aware of any special difficulties or ad-
vantages in writing with a Proustian sense of recall?

RH It may seem strange that I remember all these things, but it is not
only a question of remembering them because they occurred years ago: it is
the power of evocation, of things remembered from long ago, from
childhood, which have a strange mesmeric power. People think that most
of my books are about the 1920's and 30's. In fact this isn't so. The trilogy
From The Heat Of The Day (1979), One Generation (1981), Genetha (1981)

was really one book. A Man Come Home (1974) was set in the 60's. The
Murderer and Kwaku were set in the 70's I have started a new novel which
is set in the 80's. So you can see my attachment is with Guyana; it is not
necessarily with a long remembered past. I am prepared to writeabout lack
of experience here. Indeed I have; but not in fiction. To me fiction has
somethingveryspecial about it; and I must write about the place that I love.
I have never professed to like England.

FB How different might your writing have been, had you remained in

RH Guyana, like Switzerland, is a very small country, and these two
countries have one thing in common: they produce immigrants. One third
of the Swiss live abroad for the same reason that drives so many Guyanese
abroad, namely their consciousness is highly developed, and they are
unable to engage this consciousness in a country with a very small popula-
tion that is, in effect, parochial in its view.
I think it is not an accident for instance, that the Swiss have
produced someof the most remarkable psychologists Piaget, Carl Gustav
Jung. Their consciousness is so highly developed that something has to
give: they either go abroad or create violently, that is, at a high degree.

FB Why should small countries like Guyana and Switzerland have
people with a more highly developed consciousness than people in larger
countries, like France or Germany?

RH That is an historical question which I would not venture to answer.
I can suggest lines of thought that might lead to an answer. For instance,
Guyana hasa particular historyof the Caribbeanwith someveryodd things
that are crucial in Guyanese minds. One is the presence of a great forest
that covers most of the country. Another is the fact that our experience of
death was remarkable from the time we went to the Caribbean as slaves (in
the seventeenth century) up to 1947 when malaria was eradicated. To have
death all around us must have had an effect. It has had an effect on the
Mexicans, for instance, one that is more demonstrable. They are more
preoccupied with skeletons and myths in their celebrations. Now this is
only a suggestion hut there is no doubt that Guyanese have a highly
developed consciousness. You only have to look at the works of Wilson
Harris or Edgar Mittelholzer to see that they are very interested in inner
states of mind.

KYK # 43


FB More so than other Caribbean writers?

RH It appears so.

FB Quite often people talk about the West Indies or Caribbean collec-
tively, and there are certainly common factors of Caribbean experience
such as slavery and the sugar industry, even the same kind of population.
In the case of the English-speaking territories there is the same language,
and similar institutions of law, government and culture. When you talk
about Guyana do you separate it from the West Indies in any way? How
similar and how different is Guyana from the rest of the West Indies?
You've mentioned the interior the vast hinterland of the Amazon forest.
Does the presence of this large forest encourage a kind of interior self-
examination which is lacking in the writing of people from the islands?

RH I prefer to say this self-examination is particular to the Guyanese
experience. After all, there is no immense forest which covers two-thirds of
the country in any part of the Caribbean. When I was coming to England
by ship in 1950,1 met some Martiniquanson board,who were going to fight
for the French in the Vietnam war. At that time my French was sketchy; but
there was a manifest identity between the Martiniquans and me. No one
can define culture. You can speak of certain aspects of culture such as
language or religion, but not one of them is crucial. There was a certain
identity of psychology between the Martiniquans and me. Therefore there
is a cultural identity throughout the Caribbean including Guyana, al-
though geographically Guyana isn't in the Caribbean at all.
Jamaica has a particular experience. So does Trinidad. Each island
has a particular experience. It is like two people in a family. They belong to
the same family, but they may be quite different in certain ways.

FB Most writers start publishing before the age of forty- eight. There
are famous exceptions. I believe Conrad started quite late in his flrties,
no doubt for special reasons the time he spent at sea, or the effort it took
him to master English. Why did you start late?

RH I had been writing short stories and poetry since my early twenties,
and I did publish some pieces in Guyana, and with the BBC. But writing in
a big way only began at the age of forty, as a result of a deliberate decision
that I had to sit down and discipline myselfand write something long. I was
so alarmed that I had done nothing in life that I simply decided that I should
do what I always thought I could do. I am a hedonist. I love pleasure, and

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KYK # 43

I was having a great deal of fun.

FB One of the classic English writers, John Milton, set out at an early
age to write a great poem. He read, and studied, travelled, and prepared
with great deliberation for many years. The result eventually was Paradise
Lost. What I understand from you is that at the age of forty you suddenly
decided to write long fiction. There was no similar sense of commitment or
vocation perhaps?

RH My life was so full that I didn't have the time to sit and write
something big. I did exactly what Milton did; only later. When I was young
there was no question of choosing to write, rather than enjoy myself.

FB Is the creation of fiction therefore a hardship in the sense that it
prevents you from enjoying yourself.

RH No, it is a great pleasure too. There is a scale of pleasures, and I
didn't want to grow old and then look back and say I never had fun. To me
it is essential that one should enjoy oneself. Some people get married very
young when they have not sowed their wild oats and it causes trouble.

FB Did you have difficulty getting your work published?

RH Yes. When I first submitted the trilogy as one long novel, it was not
accepted. Then, I wrote a shorter novel, A Man Come Home, which was

FB Between 1978 and 1984 you produced six novels: an exceptionally
fast rate of publication.

RH People say that I am a prolific writer, but I am not. It is simply that
the trilogy had already been written before The Murderer [19781 was pub-
lished. When The Murderer won the Guardian prize, publication became
relatively easy, though they still wouldn't publish the trilogy as one book.

RH It was 220,(XX) words long. Of the six books I have written, two are
very long the trilogy, and The Shadow Bride (1988).

FB You still think about the trilogy as one book?

RH It is one book. I wrote it as one book. But Longmans claimed they

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could not publish a novel of that length by an unknown writer. At the time,
they were mainly educational publishers.

FB Why did you not seek out other publishers?

RH The reason for publishing my first book, A Man Come Home, with
them is that I used to go to Aubrey Williams' place every Saturday, and met
someone there who was an editor at Longmans. When she heard that I was
writing a novel she asked to do it. That is how I became published. I knew
nothing about publishers or agents.

FB Then you moved to Alison and Busby.

RH. Yes. Being educational publishers, Longmans sent people to sell
their books in schools, whereas the so called trade publishers sent people
to bookshops. It was a different thing altogether. Longmans weren't keen
on publishing original work, and I wasn't keen on remaining with a pub-
lisher whose main outlets were schools.

FB You remained with Alison and Busby until they went out of busi-
ness. Now you arc with Collins. Have you experienced any discrimination
or prejudice from publishers on account of your race or type of writing?

RH I do not say there isn't prejudice against my type ofwriting. All I am
saying is that things have gone smoothly for me. I think the reason is that
I won the Guardian fiction prize in 1978. Therefore it was worthwhile for
the publishing establishment in this country to publish my work. I know
exactly the problems that black writers have. There are a lot of good
manuscripts by such writers that cannot find a publisher. There is an
excellent little press called The Peepal Tree Press. They have done what you
would expect Caribbean publishers to have done before. They have pub-
lished books which won Guyana Literature prizes. I think these books are
very important.

FB Would it not be better for all such books to be published in Guyana
or the Caribbean.

RH I made this point in my speech accepting the Guyana Literature
prize for The Shadow Bride last December (1989). 1 said I looked forward
to the time when I could publish successfully and lucratively in Guyana, but
there is a problem in sales and earnings. Still, I am prepared to publish in

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Guyana from time to time without being remunerated. I did a play, Inez
Combray, which was sent in for a drama competition in Guyana. I didn't
send it in for payment, but it won the competition and earned one hundred
pounds that was very useful at the time. So although I have duty to publish
in Guyana, from time to time, without remuneration, when it comes to
publishing my work generally, I have to live.

FB You mention other literary genres like criticism and plays, but I
assume you prefer to write fiction.

RH No, I prefer to write plays.

FB Yet you have been far more productive in fiction.

RH Yes, because I cannot write at arm's length for a theatre. I have to
be with the theatre. I didn't even see Inez Combray performed, which I find
a bit distressing. My fiction contains a lot of dialogue. I function as a
dramatist. I have never been keen on writing fiction.

FB I agree that one of the distinguishing features of your fiction is
dialogue which is dramatic and authentic.

RH That exemplifies my theory that an individual is not separate. The
individual is partof the collection ofexperiences, part of the opportunities
that are there. Since I am not in Guyana, I find it difficult to write for a
theatre that is thousands of miles away. But I am a dramatist, so I have to
give up drama per se to write for a theatre here. In other words, I write
drama through fiction that is going to be read here and everywhere,
whereas if I wrote a play it would be performed here only, and that would
not please me.

FB You feel quite strongly that your best audience is a Guyancse one?

RH Yes. Not that I am particularly encouraged by Guyanese audiences.
Nor is there a mass of Guyanese asking to write for them. It is simply that
through birth, I am attached by the umbilical cord to Guyana. I appreciated
receiving the Guyana Literature prize.

FB Yet the prize is not a necessary sign of Guyanese reading your

KYK # 43

RH 1 agree. But the day after I was awarded the prize, I was recognized
in the street in Georgetown. Here, one is a cypher. English people are
cyphers here. This is a society of alienation. Very often you don't even know
your neighbours. I come from a different society. The fact that a Guyanese
could hail me and say Ihave seen yourpicture in thepaper. Congrats!, pleases
me no end. Even if an Englishman were to do that -and I am recognized
here occasionally it wouldn't please me the same as someone walking
down High Street in Georgetown. That was thrilling. One belongs to one's
people. People like V S Naipaul deny it. Yet the very violence of his denial
is an indication that he belongs.

FB Dcrck Walcott writes plays, very successfully, and he does it from a

RH Yes, but he had long experience of the theatre in Trinidad. Perhaps
if I had written plays in Guyana, I might have continued to write them here.
I know that if I went back to Guyana I would start writing plays at once. I
wouldn't write novels. I might write short stories.

FB As you know, Caryl Phillips grew up in England, hut he has built a
house in St Kitts, his birthplace, and spends a few months there each year.
Have you any plans to go back to Guyana? Do you have relatives there?

RH Yes, I have a lot of relations, nieces, nephews and so on. I go back
every two years. It is not simply to see the development of the country and
observe changes such as concrete built houses etc. I could go back and live
there tomorrow if I didn't have a family here.

FB People have said that your early books about yard society are very
realistic. I think these books could be usefully compared with the writing
of Roger Mais, especially his first three novels which are about the slums
of Jamaica, giving a powerful depiction of the raw conditions in which the
poorest Jamaicans live. I think Mais had a strong Christian conscience. He
was also politically active, and was a member of Norman Manley's People!"
National Party.
In A Man Come Home (1974) Bird has a mysterious connection with
fairnmaids. At least that is the story we are told. Now "fairmaids" are
creatures of folklore, legend, or superstition, but you blend their activities
with the raw, concrete actuality ofa writer like Mais. Doesn't folklore or
legend detract from the reality?


KYK # 43

RH 1 think it is for the reader to judge. He is the critic. It is not for me
to say.

FB But you do have this interest in folklore?

RH Yes, folklore isa partof life. It is only in industrial societies that that
part of life is negated. I come from a society where, when people disappear,
it is believed that they will come back, after they have spent some time
under theater, with the water people. I cannot see anything contradictory
or puzzling there. In A Man Come Home, by the way, I didn't say that Bird
was connected with fairmaids. That was his explanation. I see that as
something very enriching. But I refuse to judge my own books. I will not
defend them either. I will defend what I have said in polemical writing, not

FB Surely this is playing with words. As a creative writer, whether you
do it consciously or sub-consciously, there must be a selective process im-
pelling you to express your thoughts in one way rather than another?

RH The process is one thing; the work is another. Fiction is art and can
only be judged through an emotional reaction to it. Take someone like
Dostoevsky: he detested Jews, and shared in the general Russian hatred of
them. That's something to be deplored. If I were asked to write a critique
of Dostoevsky's work, I would deplore the fact that he hated Jews. I would
also say that he is the greatest European novelist, in my opinion. Look at
the contributions made to criticism in Europe since the 16th century.
Sigmund Freud made contributions; there has also been socialist realism,
Marxism and so on. Look what Freud says about why Hamlet didn't want
to kill his father. I don't believe that at all.
But some of the psychological criticism Freud makes is illuminat-
ing. You can see that criticism changes or develops. But the basic way of
judging art never does. That is because there is only one way to judge art -
through one's emotional reaction. A critical faculty may he employed in
creating a work of art but you have to arrive at the right blend for it to be
justifiably regarded as a work of art.

FB Of course, you have written many such works. You have been
praised among other things, for the fact that your language expresses
character exactly. Those of us who know the West Indies are able to
recognize familiar landscapes, speech patterns, psychological postures and
social situations in your books. Iwonderif there is a sourccof philosophical

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KYK # 43

influence of these aspects of your work. Mittelholzer, for example, had
strong views about politics, psychology, philosophy, religion, sex and other
matters which derived from his reading and early domestic influence. Do
you see yourself as continuing in Mittelholzer's tradition? What is your
relationship to Mittelholzer?

RH None. Whatever relationship there is, stems from the fact that we
have the same roots. I first read a book of Mittelholzer's only about four
years ago. For that matter, I have never read a book of Naipaul's either. I
am doing my best to get hold of Mittelholzer's The Life and Death ofSylvia.

FB Your Genetha is similar to Mittelholzer's Sylvia.

RH I once went into a bookshop and took up a book of Naipaul's. I
looked at the first few lines which read Ihave a Portuguese aunt, an Indian
aunt, a Negro aunt or something like that. When I came home I had to take
out the same sentence, practically word for word, from the book I was
writing at the time.

FB Was it a conscious decision not to read Naipaul or Mittelholzer?

RH No. I am not a reader. The first time I did any reading, apart from
school texts, was shortly before I left Guyana, when Martin Carter and I
became interested in Marxism and got hold of a book called A Treasury of
Russian Literature. What it had to do with Marxism I don't know, but it had
some beautiful things including three short stories by Tolstoy. I was also
impressed by selections from Dostoevsky. So when I came to write I knew
very little about literature. After I published my first book, I was so thrilled
by the experience of publication that I decided to read, and I read Dos-
toevsky in particular The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment.
The important thing was that I was writing about a very small environment
in the Caribbean. I wanted to read Caribbean Literature, but I thought -
and the experience I had with the Naipaul sentence confirmed this -
Trinidad had an Indian population and a black population; I was writing
about the environment; I didn't want to be influenced in any way. It was a
part of the whole experience of not being a reader. To this day I am not a

FB But you read French authors for your degree.

RH Yes, I have comprehensiveview of French literature which doesn't

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KYK # 43

seem to have had any great influence on me.

FB I would wish to question that. What about the realism of Balzac, or
the psychology of Stendhal?

RH Everything I read must have contributed I suppose; this is true. But
therearecertain very primitive things in theorganization of mywork. Look
at the trilogy. If I had to re-write it, the structure would be better, I think.
Look atA Man Come Home; it has a chaotic structure. Yes I've read French
novelists whose structure was equally bad, and the French produced some
of the best shaped novels. So there may have been some influence from the
But in considering influences, I immediately think of a man who
wrote for The Daily Argosy in Guyana. His pen name was Uncle Stapie, and
he wrote comic pieces. He would say, for instance, I am not talking about a
gentleman who lives in a house in Charlotte Street. or I am not saying it is
between Regent Street and Church Street. I was very young, but I found those
pieces very amusing and imitated them in school. I also think of the local
barber shop, where I heard many stories and anecdotes. I do not think that
the novel is a suitable art form for Guyana. The novel emerged in Europe
in the 17th century and belongs to a commercial society. I may be wrong,
but I feel that drama and theshort story are more suitable for us. So thevery
fact that I am writing in a highly sophisticated form must mean that I got
something from the books I had read in my studies. I remember something
called Le Roman de Renard which was an excellent contribution to trickster
literature. I was very impressed by it. I suppose when I disclaimed literary
influences, I meant that Iwas not influenced by books that I read of my own

FB Doris Lessing has said that the great nineteenth century Russian
novels reminded her of the African societies she was writing about in her
early books.

RH That is absolutely true. When I read a description by Dostoevsky of
what we would call a rum shop, it could be in Georgetown, Guyana. In one
page Dostoevsky would evoke St Petersburg in such a powerful manner
thatyou feel you are there. Lessing is right about Russianwriters generally.
Take Leskov's Lady MacBeth ofMiensk. Iwish a Guyanese had written that.
I am not saying it is Guyanese literature, but it is the Guyanese experience
- the old man married to a young woman, the young woman having a lover,
the unreal side of the cap that looks like a person.

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KYK # 43

Another thing is that Guyanese who write tend to be sophisticated,
and that often leaves gaps in the experiences that they report. You must go
to the countryside where people put aromaticvinegarover the door to keep
old higue away. That is everyday life in Guyana. Writers from Georgetown
don't know that.

FB Is Guyanese urban experience therefore less authentic?

RH No, it is authentic because it is the urban experience. But it leaves
out a large area of Guyanese life. It is in the urban parts of a country that
culture dies. The countryside is the guardian of culture. You only have to
look at pictures of cities all over the world and see how similar they are.

FB What has nineteenth century Russia got in common with Third
World societies in Africa and the Caribbean? Is it mainly the feudalistic
woes of hierarchy and colonialism?

RH It is not simply hierarchy. The experience is connived at by every-
body in Guyana, including servants who come to visit you and go through
the back door.

FB We agree about our Caribbean background of repression, force,
cunning, and an environment that has evolved out ofslavery, indentureand
their legacy of fragmentation. Which literary form do you think is best able
to capture and reproduce this whole experience? You mention drama as
your preferred form and you mention the suitabilityof the short story. You
also regard the structure of A Man Come Home as chaotic. If I may say so,
I find much of your fiction not chaotic, but loosely structured open ended.
Lamming acknowledges the influence of an oral tradition in his own work.
His great novel In the Castle of my Skin is very loose- jointed in structure.

RH 1 am going to read In the Castle of my Skin I have only recently
retired, and I have the time. Not only that, but now that I have a large body
of fiction behind me, I can afford to say that I am not going to be influenced
by what I read. Before there was a danger of being swamped.

FB But what about the form and the shortness of the form? The oral
tradition consists of folk tales, sententious sayings, anecdotes and remarks
and comments, all incorporated in rather a loose, episodic form. You've
already mentioned the Uncle Stapie pieces in The Daily Argosy, and the
barber shop anecdotes. Did you pick up any material like that?


KYK # 43

RH I went to work in Pouderoyen first, in the countryside, over the
Demerara river from Georgetown, and Iworked there for two very produc-
tive years in the sense of what it taught me. I came into contact with the
Indian community and the Crosbie courts where I probably got most of my
material about Indian Life. The courts were conducted by Mr Omar to
whom I dedicated one of my books. There was comedy and tragedy. There
were people whose dowry hadn't been paid, and others who came to
complain that someone's goat had butted down their fence.

FB Lamming writes almost entirely of Afro-Caribbean experience
which is his own, and Naipaul of Indo- Caribbean subject. By and large this
pattern holds true for most West Indian novelists. Mittelholzer who comes
from your own background, which is coloured, urban and middleclass,
deals mainly with people from that group except in Corentyne Thunder
which deals with Indian peasants on a sugar plantation. I was amazed in
The Shadow Bride, by the genuine insider's knowledge of ordinary details
of Indian life in Guyana. I come from that life and can vouch for the
accuracy of those details.

RH That thrills me. That is not cerebral. That can only come from
someone who has this experience from the inside first. My best friend was
an East Indian, George Narayan, whose mother had a cookshop in Lom-
bard Street, in Georgetown. To get into it you had to go through a long
corridor. Nobody knew the cook shop existed except the beggars who ate
there. The food was dirt cheap. George's great-grandfather was always
there, like a fixture, or pillar in the middle of the cookshop where the
beggars had their benches. He sat there with his hookah and sanskrit texts.
That was all that man ever did. So I saw three generations of George's
family, as I grew up with him, and this was another powerful experience of
the Indian community. Perhaps it was enough to write six novels. But I
never embark on a project until I am fairly well prepared.

FB There is much detailed description or commentary in The Shadow
Bride of Indian philosophy, theology, music, food, clothes and everything
else. Such detail can only come from preparation. It is the result of study,
reflection and assimilation over a period of time.

RH But if you study and reflect on what you do not have, it will not work.
You must have that nucleus of real, lived experience, and it must have
occurred at a vital time in your life. For me at least. When people talk of
my authenticity, it is largely because I refuse to do something on material

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KYK # 43

with which I am not thoroughly familiar. I don't mean familiar in just
knowing about it. I mean familiar in another way. For instance, I am
thoroughly familiar with Engish society in oneway, but I am not thoroughly
familiar in another way. That is why I won't write fiction about it.

FB Again, the contrast is between a purely cerebral approach, and one
that incorporates both cerebral and emotional elements. Taking into
account our history of fragmentation and separation, of white slave mas-
ters and black salves, of racial persecution, oppression, resistance and all
that, how were you able to reach a broad Guyanese point of view by
embracing aspects of social experience generally regarded as alien or
hostile to your own?

RH I think it comes largely from the fact of my friendship with George
Narayan. Although I shouldn't say so, I despise creole middle-class expe-
rience, which is so negative that it is almost unbelievable. I have a feeling
that there was a reaction in the sense that I could welcome the experience
with George more readily. This is also related to the fact that my father was
dead. If my father had been alive, coming from the section of Guyanese
society that I did, I might not have been as free to move about. Certainly,
I would not have been able to go home to our servants. I would have been
taught more easily a class prejudice which would have thwarted what you
might call a natural desire to mix. My mother really could not control it.
The remarks she madewere typical of people from her group. But she loved
George; he had the run of our house.

FB At the beginning of their careers Lamming, Naipaul, Mittelholzer
and Selvon wrote for a foreign audience, and had to explain local West
Indian terms or anglicize them. There was a perceptible gap between their
subject and their audience. But you use terms like cocobeh, jamoon, senna,
sensehfowl, guinea hen, camoodie etc. naturally. There is not the same gap
between the experience you are relating and the audience you are relating
it to. You do not have to translate.

RH I am not writing for an English audience. That is why I find it so
simple to do. My bread comes from the English audience, but I am not
writing for them. I am writing for a Guyanese or Caribbean audience.

FB Could you tell me the sequence of events after Longmans published
your first novel,A Man Come Home, in 1974? What exactly happened when
the Armstrong trilogy was not accepted as one book'?


KYK # 43

RH A review came out in The Times calling A Man Come Home a
masterpiece. At the same time Longmans to whom I had submitted The
Murderer sent me a telegram saying, Wonderful review. We will publish The
Murderer. It was a bad period in publishing however: Penguin was sacking
people, and Longmans then withdrew The Murderer, offering me compen-
sation. Following that, I hawked The Murderer around for over two years.
Ther man at Longmans had wanted to publish, and to strengthen his case,
had sent the manuscript to outside readers who wrote extraordinary things
about the book. Armed with those two readers' reports Iwent to Alison and
Busby who published straight away. And when The Murderer won the
Guardian fiction prize I became a publishable novelist because publishers
knew they could sell my work.

FB But you were still not accepted by a mainstream British publisher.

RH That's right. The Longmans book was a one-off thing.

FB You had to rely on a radical publisher connected with feminist or
black resistance and the political left.

RH Yes. I didn't want to leave Alison and Busby. I saw myself probably
falling into a situation like T S Eliot who made Faber. Alison and Busby
valued my work and since they were a small publishing house, I got to know
them well. But by then Collins had been publishing my books in paperback
under their imprint Flamingo, which they described as their flagship
imprint. So that when I submitted new work theywere willing to publish in

FB I believe that Selvon and Mittelholzer and the earlier writers
wanted very much to write the kind of books you are writing, mentioning
camoodie and cocobeh naturally, without explanation, but history was
against them. The time was not ripe for that type of writing. At the same
time, perhaps you could not write as you are doing now, if they had not
written as they did, before you.

RH You are quite right. In fact, isn't that why Naipaul said that he began
to write about his experiences in England?

FB Naipaul is a special case. He has become embittered by his West
Indian experience, but is an unmistakable product of it. However, I think
you described A Man Come Home as an anthem for the living and the dead.

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KYK # 43

Why an anthem? Who are the living and the dead?

RH I never explain my fiction. You must forgive me. If you were asking
me about my lectures or essays, I would discuss them, but when it comes to
explaining my fiction, it must either stand or fall. You may criticise it as
much as you like, but don't ask me to say anything about it.

FB You evidently like the word Guyana, and although you try to link it
with the larger Caribbean, it seems to me that you are solidly Guyanese.

RH I am intensely Guyanese. But we belong both to a local and a wider
culture. An Englishman comes from England and a wider European
culture. A Frenchman is first French, but also European. I am Guyanese
and I write for Guyanese. But if anyone suggests that I am writing for them,
I don't mind. If I look at a photograph of somewhere in St Kitts, it does
something for me. If I look at a place in Central America or Brazil, it also
does something or me. In the United States of America it does not. There
is a continental connection with the Caribbean and Latin America.

FB Is the connection wholly geographical, or partly cultural and his-

RH There is a mysterious connection with geography, and part of it is
also psychological.

FB You mentioned a Marxist interest earlier. A lot of people, especially
artists from the Third World, former colonies, have strong political convic-
tions which are expressed in theirwritings. I mentioned Mais, but there are
other West Indians who wrote about the poor living conditions of our
people with a political motive, that is to say, to show the wicked effects of
oppression with a view to remedying them. Marxism was felt to be a great
antidote to poverty in the anti-colonial struggle during the middle decades
of this century. What happened to the Marxist interest that you and Martin
Carter had?

RH You see it in The Shadow Bride. One of the main points about the
book is that however much he tried, or however big the hospital he set up
from his own funds, Dr Singh would have done very little, because the
problem is a political one.

FB In that case, what do you think about the recent history of events in

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KYK # 43

Guyana with the effective emasculation, for over twenty-five years, of
Cheddi Jagan, our most widely known Marxist politician? How did the
present situation of chaos, hardship and impoverishment come about in

RH There are two things to be said. One is that it is part of the whole
Third World experience. Then it is a question of borrowing a lot of money
when it was cheap. You can't pay it back because you either did not have
the expertise or you were riddled with corruption. The money was frittered
away, and there is not much for it. Actually there is a great deal to show in
Guyana in some ways: roads and a bridge across the Demerara which we
had been trying to build for donkey's years. There are nurseries, at least in
Georgetown, which are far more impressive than nurseries here. Women,
if you notice, were the last people to abandon Burnham because, in many
ways, there were things done for them. Having said that, we suffer from the
Third World sickness of imperial domination. You cannot have a one-
party system without massive corruption, because party members have
special privileges. The one-party system leads not only to corruption, but
to inefficiency. In the short term, the one-party system may be capable of
doing things that others cannot do, but as a permanent arrangement over
about ten years or more it is disastrous.

FB What do you see for the future of Guyana?

RH There is a great danger that a number of the so- called Third World
Countries I don't like the term will become colonies again. Some of them
are already becoming or asking to become colonies.

FB Who will be the new imperial masters?

RH The people with the money. Europe and the USA have the money.
The irony will be that Europe and America will actually be called in to solve
the problems in these countries when the problems have arisen, in the first
place, because of the actions of Europe and America.

FB What implications will this have for race relations in the world? In
the old nineteenth century world of Empire, whites governed blacks. The
blacks rejected racial discrimination and colonial oppression and over-
threw white rule. Are blacks really likely to ask to be ruled again by the

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KYK # 43

RH That is the double irony of the situation. Having left us with an
administration that was geared to their own imperial interests, and having
left us without substantial industries, Europe and America then lent us
money so that we now find ourselves permanently in debt to them. The only
way out of it is for us all to get together en masse and refuse to play ball.

FB You have the example of China which has carried on independently
of the great imperial powers.

RH China is different. It has more than one billion people. China cannot
be beaten in war because of the logistics of attacking her. If you notice, the
countries that have successfully become communist have had large popu-
lations and all the resources. The other countries which became commu-
nist were protected by these countries. In other words, if you don't have
massive resources, the imperial powers are going to throttle you. They
attacked Russia physically and tried to strangle it economically, but Russia
had all the possible resources and a very big population.

FB For all that, there are some good signs in the world today, signs of
change in South Africa, for instance.

RH That is the tail end of colonial domination. It is a good sign to that
extent. In any case, one should not be too sanguine about South Africa.

FB Your view of the world is a bleak one: that the old imperialistic
structure of domination still persists, although nowadays in the form of
multinational corporations rather than imperial governments. In other
words, the basic structure of oppression remains the same.

RH It is not bleak; it is a realistic view. You must always have hope
because it is essential to keep you afloat; but you have to be realistic. If you
are either optimistic or pessimistic you are going to make mistakes. You
want a cool had to stand back and see what is going on.

FB Is that what you do in your writing?

RH It is realism in a different sense. In fiction you are not solving
problems: you are giving a view of theworld as people see it. In otherwords,
you act as a mediator, by saying this is the world in which we live. As a
polemicist I can suggest solutions to actual problems. I love that. I think
some of my best writing has been a work of that kind, for example, the

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KYK # 43

Miltelholzer Lectures, that I gave in Guyana.

FB In art, however, you are rendering experience as objectively as you

RH If a dictator brings tragedy and starvation to his people, and a
democracy does exactly the same, the experience is the same for the people
who suffer. Politics is part of human experience. A fiction writer should
bring in everything. In The Shadow Bride I made it perfectly plain that one
might admire Dr Singh; but there is another statement about him being
admired because he does nothing: he changes nothing. Mother Theresa
got a Nobel prize for doing great work among poor people in India. There
is a lady called Sister Michelle, a Philippino who does exactly that. She
believes so much in the eradication of poverty, that she gave her enormous
estate to the poor and helped them to run it. Yet we don't hear about her.
We hear about Mother Theresa who is obviously a very fine person; but her
action changes absolutely nothing. The onlywaywe can change things is by
political action. Sister Michelle gave her property to the poor and tried to
impart the education and expertise to enable them to run the estate.

FB But isn't Sister Michelle's action just as pointless in as much as itwill
bring satisfaction to only a few people? Mother Theresa also brought
satisfaction to some poor people in the streets of Calcutta.

RH The difference between Mother Theresa and Sister Michelle is that
Sister Michelle created an economic organisation, admittedly on a scale
that only an individual can achieve. People like Dr Singh may have brought
limited happiness to a few people. The thing is not merely to bring benefit
to people, but to create a system where their children and children's
children will continue to benefit. You need a model for everybody to see.
This is, qualitatively, a different achievement from Mother Theresa or Dr
Singh's. Mother Theresa is being kind; but she doesn't change the situ-
ation. What Sister Michelle has done is to offer a model for changing the

FB What we need are a lot of Sister Michelles in the world today.

RH Of course, that is not possible.

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KYK # 43

Full Text


\ -\ -1----r I -1-"7 --... ---Bim Vol. 19 No. 73 Editor John Wickham Kyk -41 -Editor Ian McDonald -June 1990 t


KYK 41 (Joint Issue with BIM)Edited by Ian McDonald June 1990 TABLE OF CONTENTS Across the Editors' Desk 1989 Guyana Prize Address Poetry Mother Jackson Murders the Moon chant two Tension Rain god and the cat; Tasting Sugarcake Walking at 4 a.m. History Lesson The Misses Norman A Prophet in His Time Hungry Children's Song Parish Registers Waterfalls mrs maniver Pegasus Two Drawings by Stanley Greaves Fiction New York Nineteen Eighty nine Pork Eater Article The Poetry of Frank Collymore Reviews Shanti by Arnold Itwaru Between the Dash and the Comma and Demerary Telepathy by Sasenarine Persaud In Memoriam AJS 3 Rex Nettleford 18 Gloria Escoffery 27 Arnold Itwaru 28 Vibart Ian Duncan 28 Mahadai Das 29 Ralph Thompson 30 Ian McDonald 32 Cecil Gray 33 Sasenarine Persaud 34 Desrey Fox 36 John: Gilmore 36 Anthony Kellman 37 Marc Matthews 38 Brian Chan 40 26,41 McDonald Dash 42 RooplaU Monar 44 A.J Seymour 55 Stephanos Stephanides 64 Karen Swenson 68 71 Wilson Harris; Eusi Kwayana; Ian McDonald; Sr Mary Noel Menezes; Cleveland Hamilton; Robert and Alyrna Moore; Stewart Brown.


FRIENDS OF KYK-OVER-AL-No. 41 A great many individuals and organisations have contributed to the success of Kyk-Over-Al since it was relaunched in December 1 984. We owe a very special debt of appreciation to the following for their support of issue No. 41. Their vigorous assistance, so readily offered, in strengthening an important part of the cultural tradition of Guyana and the West Indies deserves the thanks of the whole community. Guyana National Trading Corporation Shell Antilles & Guianas Limited Gafsons Industries Limited C. Czamikow, Inc., (New York) Bank of Nova Scotia Hand-in-Hand Insurance Company Ltd Guyana & Trinidad Mutual Insurance Company Dennis Beepat Bauxite Industrial Development Company Limited The cost of printing and distributing a literary magazine is very heavy Please help us to strengthen Kyk-Over-AI by sending your subscriptions to: IAN McDONALD, c/o GUYSUCO, 22, Church Street, Georgetown, Guyana. In the UK please apply to: F.H. THOMASSON, 9, Webster Close, Maidenhead, Berk shire, SL6 4NJ. Subscriptions per issue (including postage) G$100 EC$15 UK US$7 The Editor would welcome the submission of poems, short stories, articles and reviews to consider for publication. Publication of course cannot be guaranteed and because of expense it will not be possible to r eturn manuscripts. Submissions may be accompa nied by illustrations and photographs of authors suitable for black-and-whi te reproduction. Copyright )1990 No reproduct i on by any means, except for short extracts for review purposes, may be made without the permission of the Edi tor ISSN 1012-5094. Layout and Typesetting of Kyk-Over-AI by Demerara Publishe r s Limited 2


ACROSS THE EDITOR'S DESK There at the Creation A joint issue of Kyk-Over-AI and BIM has never before been published and is therefore something of a landmark in West Indian literary history. Kyk Over-AI, founded by A.J. Seymour in 1945, and BIM, founded by Frank Collymore in 1942, were crucial in making clear the importance of literature and culture in the life of the emerging region Kykand BIMprovidedoutiets for,and encouragement to, young Caribbean writers. They emphasised that there was a West Indian dimension to cultural life throughout the region Together Seymour and Collymore, with their two flagships, were a two -man cultural task force at a vital and formative stage of our history. Colonial countries were getting ready to be independent nations and fresh and freedom-focussed themes were being substituted for themes which were routine and subservi ently second-hand. In that time Kyk and Bim were of enormous importance in giving a cultural lead, in fashioning a new way of looking at ourselves and being proud. As time went on, and talent flourished, and new literary heroes emerged, no doubt their role became less seminally important and even, in some eyes, no longer very relevant. Bu t let us never forget tha t they were there a t the crea tion Seymour and Collymore, Kyk-Over-AI and Bim. AJS-In Memoriam It is unutterably sad that AJS died before this joint issue, which he had so much looked forward to seeing, could be published. We mourn AJSprofoundly. He was a lovely poet and many of his poems will never be forgotten in the West Indies. He loved his God with a love that passeth most men's understanding and this made him an immensely gentle, strong, good and peaceful man. I never heard him sayan even half-cruel word. He was passionate in the good thingsin his love of family, love of books love of poetry, love of his native land. Three days before he died, on Christmas Day, 1989, Kyk 40 was put in AJS's hands. It stayed there on the bedside table with his Bible. Before he died he requested that we do all in our power to continue the magazine, this child of his heart, spark of his spirit, and we will try to carry out what was as near a command as AJS ever came near to issuing. But we know as we continue that he can never be replaced as Editor and guiding spirit. Every proof-read line will remind us of him AJS had promised to write a Foreword for this joint Kyk-Bim issue and he told me he had started to make some notes for it and, in particular, to jot down some memories of Frank Collymore Sadly, these notes have not come to light. However, AJS had also mentioned as a possibility that his 1981 article on the Poetry of Frank Collymore might be used in the joint issue and the inclusion of that article has seemed to us entirely appropriate. 3


The Mainstream In a vast new biography of William Faulkner by Frederick Karl I came across something Faulkner said that stuck in my mind: I discovered that my own little postage stamp of na tive soil was worth writing about and that I would never live long enough to exhaust it. Those who live and write in lands which are remote from metropolitan literary power bases, and let that depress tM.em, might remember those words. In literature nowhere is a backwater, everywhere is mainstream. The Act of Writing A correspondent has sent me the following extract from an article by V.5. Naipaul in The Listener of 23rd May, 1968: ... the actual words, the neatness that comes out in the words, is arrived at after a lot of hard work. Writing is also a discovery and the discovery occurs at the moment of writing ... The incu bation actually occurs subconsciously in the first year of doing nothing, of playing, of writing rubbish, writing 20,000 words and then throwing them away as I did for my last novel (The Mimic Men). I think there are few people who feel so worthless and so useless as the novelist who'll spend weeks, several months, trying to write something and nothing is happening. I really go down sometimes feeling that I don't deserve my meals, you know. The terrible thing is that one day I know tha t I'll spend a couple of years and there'll be nothing at the end to show. But that's the sick period. The actual writing, when it's going well, when you know what you are doing, that is very good, that is very nice. How Poetry Is Achieved In the last chapter of Seamus Heaney's The Government of the Tongue (Faber and Faber, 1988) there is a long and fascinating analysis of what Heaney calls the three degrees of poetic achievement. He reads a famous passage of Wordsworth as a parable of these three poetic steps. The passage in question is the one where Wordsworth writes about his young self whistling through his fingers to arouse the owls so that they would then call back to him; but it especially evokes certain moments when he would be imposed upon by the power of the whole natural universe: 4


There was a Boy; ye knew him well, ye cliffs And islands of Winander!-many a time, At evening, when the earliest stars began To move along the edges of the hills, Rising or setting, would he stand alone Beneath the trees, or by the glimmering lake; And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands Pressed closely palm to palm and to his mouth Uplifted, he, as through an instrument, Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls, That they might answer him.-And they would shout Across the watery vale, and shout again, Responsive to his call,-with quivering peals, And long halloos, and screams, and echoes loud Redoubled and redoubled; concourse wild, Of jocund din! And, when there came a pause Of silence such as baffled his best skill: Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise Has carried far into his heart the voice Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene Would enter unawares into his mind With all its solemn imagery, its rocks, Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received Into the bosom of the steady lake The first task of the poet is to learn how to entwine his or her hands so that the whistle comes out right. This may seem a minimal achievement, yet those of you who have a memory of attempting to get it right will also remember the satisfaction and justification implicit in that primary sounding forth of one's presence. People who learned to whistle on their thumbs, to trumpet and tu-whit, tu-whoo in the back seats of classrooms and the back seats of buses, would then be happy to perform this feat for its own sake, repetitively, self-forgetfully and tirelessly. It was an original act of making, the equivalent in the oral/ aural sphere of mud-pies in the tactile/ plastic sphere and, as has been well observed, one of the chief pleasures of life is when I show you the mud-pies I have made and you show me the mud-pies you have made. In this trope, the little magazine can be understood as an echo of owl whistles or a gallery of mud-pie life, and many a poetic career begins and ends with poems which do no more than cry ou tin innocent primary glee, 'Listen, I can do it! Look how well it turned out! And I can do it again! See?' 5


Heaney goes on to consider the second level of poetic attainment which is implicit in Wordsworth's narrative: When the vale fills with the actual cries of owls responding to the boy's art, we have an image of the classically empowered poet, the one who has got beyond scale-practising, the one who, as Wordsworth says in his Preface, rejoices in the spirit of life that is in him and is delighted to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the universe. This represents the poetry of relation, of ripple-and-wave effect upon audience; at this point, the poet's art has found ways by which distinctively personal subjects and emotional necessi ties can be made a common possession of the reader's. This, at its most prim, is a matter of the old 'what oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed' kind of thing. At its most enriching, it operates by virtue of skeins of language coming together as a dream-web which nets psyche to psyche in order to effect what Frost called 'a clarification', 'a momentary stay against confu sion'. Finally, Heaney examines the third kind of poetry suggested by Wordsworth's passage: The third kind of poetry I find suggested there is that in which the poem's absolute business is an unconceding pursuit of poetic insight and poetic knowledge. We have passed the first stage where poetic making was itself an end and an anxiety; and we have come through the second stage of social relation and emotional persuasion, where the owl-cry of the poems stimulates the answering owl-dream in the audience and 'strikes ... as a remembrance'. In terms of the Wordsworth story, we have arrived at the point where the boy cannot make any noise with his hands: ... And, when there came a pause Of silence such as baffled his best skiil : Then, sometimes, in that silence, while he hung Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise Has carried far into his heart the voice Of mountain-torrents; or the visible scene Would enter unawares into his mind With all its solemn imagery, its rocks, Its woods, and that uncertain heaven received Into the bosom of the steady lake. Here the boy-call him the poet-has his skill mocked; skill is no use any more; but in the baulked silence there occurs 6


something more wonderful than owl-calls. As he stands open like and eye or an ear, he becomes imprinted with all the melodies and hieroglyphs of the world; the workings of the active universe, to use another phrase from The Prelude, are echoed far inside him. This part of the story, then, suggests that degree of imaginative access where we feel the poem as a gift arising or descending beyond the poet's control, where direct contact is established with the image-cellar, the dream-bank, the word-hoard, the truth-cave-whatever place a poem like Yeats' 'Long-Legged Fly' emerges from. Heaney ends the chapter, and his serious and lovely book, by calling attention to Wordsworth's well-known formulation, in his 1802 Preface to Lyrical Ballads, of the way poetic knowledge gets expressed. Wordsworth's account is the finest I know of the problematic relation between artistic excellence and truth, between Ariel and Pro spero, between poetry as impulse and poetry as criti cism of life. The following quotation includes a perhaps over familiar sentence, and may show some syntactical strain, but it covers a lot of the essential ground: Not that I mean to say, that I always began to write with a distinct purpose formally conceived; but I believe that my habits of meditation have so formed my feelings, as that my description of such objects excite those feelings, will be found to carry along with them a purpose. If in this opinion I am mistaken, I can have little right to the name of a poet. For all good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: but though this is true, poems to which any value can be attached, were never produced on any variety of subjects but by a man, who being possessed of more than usual organic sensibility, had also thought long and deeply. For our continued influxes of feeling are modified and directed by our thoughts, which are indeed the representatives of all our past feelings; and, as by contemplating the relation of these general representatives to each other we discover what is really important to men, so by the repetition and continuance of this act, our feelings will be connected with important subjects, till at length, if we be originally possessed of much sensibility, such habits of mind will be produced, that, by obeying blindly and mechanically the impulses of those habits, we shall describe objects, and utter sentiments, of such a nature and in such con nection with each other, that the understanding of the 7


being to whom we address ourselves, if he be in a healthful state of association, must necessarily be in some degree enlightened, and his affections amelio rated. Essentially, Wordsworth declares that what counts is the qual ity, intensity and breadth of the poet's concerns between the moments of writing, the gravity and purity of the mind's appetites and applications between moments of inspiration. This is what determines the ultimate human value of the act of poetry. That act remains free, self-governing, self-seeking, but the worth of the booty it brings back from its raid upon the inarticulate will depend upon the emotional capacity, intellec tual resource and general civilization which the articulate poet maintains between the raids. The Artist as Rebel The following is an extract from a piece by H.L. Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun of April 7, 1924: lilt is almost as safe to assume that an artist of any dignity is against his country, i.e against the environment in which God hath placed him, as it is to assume tha this coun try is against the artist. The special quality which makes an artist of him might almost be defined, indeed, as an extraordinary capacity for irritation, a pathological sensitiveness to environmental pricks and stings. He differs from the rest of us mainly because he reacts sharply and in an uncommon manner to phenomena which leave the rest of us unmoved, or, at most, merely annoy us vaguely. He is, in brief, a more delicate fellow than we are, and hence less fi tted to prosper and en joy himself under the conditions of life which he and we must face alike. Therefore, he takes to artistic endeavor, which is at once a criticism of life and an attempt to escape from life So much for the theory of it. The more the facts are studied, the more they bear it ou t. In those fields of art at all events which concern themsel ves wi th ideas as well as with sensations it is almost impossible to find any trace of an artist who was not actively hostile to his environment, and thus an indifferent patriot. From Dante to Tolstoi and from Shakespeare to Mark Twain the story is ever the same. Names suggest themselves instantly: Goethe, Heine, Shelley, Byron, Thackeray, Balzac, Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, Dostoevski, Caryle, Moliere, Pope-all bitter critics of their time and nation, most of trem piously hated by the contemporary 100 percenters, some of them actually fugitives from rage and reprisal. Dante pu t all of the pa triotic Italians of his day into Hell, and showed them boiling, roasting and writhing on hooks. Cervantes drew such a devastating 8


picture of the Spain that he lived in that it ruined the Spaniards. Shakespeare made his heroes foreigners and his clowns Englishmen. Goethe was in favour of Napoleon. Rabelais, a citizen of Christendom rather than of France, raised a cackle against it that Christendom is still trying in vain to suppress. Swift, having finished the Irish and then the English, proceeded to finish the whole human race. The exceptions are few and far between, and not many of them will bear examination. So far as I know, the only eminent writer in English history who was also a 100 percent Englishman, absolutely beyond suspicion, was Samuel Johnson ..... But was Johnson actually an artist? If he was, then a comet playeds a musician. He employed the materials of one of the arts, to wit, words, but his use of them was hortatory, not artistic. Johnson was the first Rotarian: living today, he would be a United States Senator, or a university president. He left such wounds upon English prose that it was a century recovering from them". The Poetry of Tennis Of all sports cricket in particular has attracted excellent writers. Wisden is to carry an obituary of Samuel Beckett, the only Nobel Prize winner to have played first-class cricket. In Beyond a Boundary CL.R. James wrote a classic not only of the game of cricket but of West Indian history and literature. As Ken Ramchand wrote at the time of CL.R.' s death, no West Indian who has not read Beyond the Boundary can consider himself educated. If any book deserved, demanded, to be a textbook in the schools that book is one. Tennis is not so commonly associated with poetry. However, in a short piece which appeared at Wimbledon time last year the Economist made the connection. Although tennis-mania may seem to drive out all higher thoughts, it is not so. Tennis and poetry are natural partners. In "Henry V" the Dauphin mocks Henry's claim to French terri tory with a gift of tennis balls, prompting the young king's vow "to playa set shall strike his father's crown/Into the hazard". John Webster's angst-ridden "The Duchess of Malfi" depicts men as "the stars' tennis-balls struck and bandied which way' they please". More cheerily, made the sport synonymous with the carefree days of middle-class youth epitomised by the rapture of holding a "strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!". Certain American poets have found in tennis a parallel to the act of writing itself. In a famous dismissal of the claims of modernism, Robert Frost declared: "I'd as soon write free verse as play tennis without a net". Just as well he never played his bohemian compatriot, Ezra Pound, whose commitment to free verse may well have been reflected in his manic style ("like an 9


inebriated kangaroo") on court. Younger poets also combined a passion for ground strokes with a quest for metre and symbol. Theodore Roethke was a university tennis coach. Randall Jarrell took as much pride in his tournament victories as he did in his published works. Like poetry, tennis demands a degree of discipline, concentra tion and imagination that engenders a kind of self-discovery After a particularly satisfying match, Jarrell mused on the pure pleasure of doing "what one should, beyond one's expecta tions". In both tennis and poetry, the individual meets a challenge-an opponent on the one hand, shifting thoughts and emotions on the other-within the boundaries of a form. This is why Frost wanted the net to stay up: without the form there was no achievement. For him the poet was "a man of prowess, just like an athlete", and the aim of writing, in a word, was "scoring. You've got to score" Such correspondences work both ways. Any tennis player soon learns that most of the game, maddeningly, is in the mind. Beyond the necessary technique there is, just as in poetry, the mysterious matter of inspiration. In the wonderful state of being "loose", when concentration and confidence are one and the game seems to play itself, the player makes shots he did not know he could, justasa poet in full flow may, asone putit, "find out things you didn't know you knew". Certain professionals of the modern game represent definite poetic types. The Swedes, for instance, are natural bards of the North; telling long winter's tales slowly and carefully By contrast, John McEnroe is clearly the poete maudit, cursed with a vision of perfection that he is fated to pursue at any cost and savaging anyone who interferes Miroslav Mecir is the gifted eccentric, somewhat preoccupied, capable of brilliant images and unexpected turns of phrase. Poets, however, do their perfonning alone, subject only later to the verdicts of line-judges. It is possible for the experience of winning to remain purely personal and satisfying in itself; and any poetic champion would be happy if one of his works received as much as a first-round loser at Wimbledon. The Emperor's New Clothes Over the years I have watched in astonishment as theorists of literary criticism have, first, relegated text to the status of corpse fit only for cold dissection, then dismissed authors as irrelevant or "dead", and finally, elevated criticism itself to literature's throne-seat because those pretenders, text and 10


author, have after all been slain. All this is not some kind of hoax. Big men are actually taking such views seriously. When some child points and in wonder notes the emperor's nakedness a hand is clapped across the offending mouth: ''You cannot be expected to understand", the solemn heads shake in unison. A gentle plea for common sense comes from Frank Kermode in his book An Appetite for Poetry (Collins, London, 1989). In this book he notes that the profession of literary cri tic has been reduced to farce. There are now more cri tics alive than there have previously been in the world of history and the great majority of them seem positively to loathe literature. In America the mighty Modem Languages Association is cprrently dominated by ideologists who deny the possibility of literature; as many as 10,000 academic critics turn up at its conferences. "It is very peculiar", Kermode muses. "It is a subject in which many of them don't believe. In any case, I don't believe there are 10,000 talented people teaching literature who actually have any feeling for literature". When Kermode began as a professional critic, F.R. Leavis and the New Critics were competing with a less organized group who believed in historical context. Life was simple. Then, in the Sixties, the industry exploded. Structuralism was followed by post-structuralism and deconstruction, which in tum spawned further bizarre elaborations. "It is always easier," Kermode points out, "to learn a method than to read a poem". It is now commonplace for books of literary criticism to discuss only other critics and their ideologies. Questioned on this by a doubting public, their authors respond that criticism is the literature of our time. The new ideologies are rapidly taking over the academies everywhere and are distancing literary studies ever further from the act of reading for pleasure. To the ideologists the idea that some texts are literature and others are not is simply bourgeois condi tioning, an imposition upon students which represents a kind of colonialism. Kermode summarizes the conflict by his own reaction on first reading Philip Larkin's "Unfinished Poem": "I was totally persuaded that I had read a great poem that I had not previously known. There are experiences like that when you know something is happening because of something in the poem, and not because of something in yourself. The theorists' answer to that is that you are no more than a crossing point of all kinds of class prejudice and this poem happens to comply with these. If you read it to an uneducated black woman in Mississippi she wouldn't think it was a great poem. The only reason I did is because of the institutional rigidity behind me. That argument has to be overthrown if anything recognizable as literature is to survive". The force that could achieve that overthrow is fairly obvious. It is, very simply, contained in Hector's words in T!oilus and Cressida: "Tis mad idolatry to make the service greater than the god". The new ideologists so clearly place the service above the God. By reinstating some idea of value-the privacy and the pleasure of the book-literature can perhaps be saved from the day-as-dust, unutterably boring theorists of the grimly contending abstract modem schools. 11


Shana Yardan We are sad to note the death of Shana Yardan in New York at the distressing l y young age of 46. She was one of the best of the younger generation of Guyanese poets coming after Martin Carter. She wrote lovely poems, col lected in her book This Listening of Eyes (1976). The following tribute of Dr. Joyce Jonas, lecturerin English atthe University of Guyana, first appeared in the Chronicle newspaper of November 12th, 1989. "A long time ago I had stood on the edges of the wind and listened to the silence in the heart of a stone. In that violent quiet my other self was born." Shana Yardan. I can see you now, Shana, your fingers busy kneading the dough, as you teach me to make roti! Your face is alive with shared thoughts that leave me puffing behind as you leap daringly from one mind-stretching idea to the next. I never did learn the art of making roti, but you taught me many other things that afternoon-about friendship and faith, yes, and about poetry. Then, years later, there you were in that cramped apartment in Queen's. I tried hard not to register shock at the way your brown plumpness had shrunk and shrivelled to wrinkled black. "It's the medica tion", you shrugged. And there was your frustration-your tangible frustration at the loss of vision that kept you from your beloved books. Yet still your thoughts were "leaping the mountains, bounding the hills", and your love for life, for beauty, for God-even for me-pouring forth, defying the pain. Yes, and a l ways despite the illness, your wonderful voice-that rich, warm cushion of sound holding the heart in its luxuriant caress. "Shana died", they told me. "Since last Thursday". The words seared across my Friday morning: Friday mourn ing Later I took out your poetry, since that and a few scattered memories are all that remain to us. I suppose they will still use your "Ea r th is Brown" in schools, and generations will listen in as you converse with your dhoti-clad grandfather. They'll share your compassionate invocation of "the smell of cow-dung at foreday morning ... the security of mud between ... toes ... the sensual pouring of paddy ... through fingers". They'll trace with you the old man's fervent faith, and his grief over sons with their "city faces ... purchasing identity in Tiger Bay", "Seeking a tomorrow in today's unreality" Guided by you they'll hear "bamboos to Hannuman" singing like a "sitar in the wind". 12


For your grandfather's generation knew its grief So, too, did yours. In those "desperate days", those "scarecrow days" of scarcities, you wrote angrily of the "continuum of despair", of "docile queues" at shops, and of a mother's tired feet. "Oh there are motions enough", you wrote. "Late sittings of Parlia ment, / Commissions, Trade Teams. / Yesterday's papers that only age the world, / and numerous huIlabaloos at the Park. / Yet the days guard nothing". Brickdam "aflame with flamboyant frangipani", you saw as a mocking backdrop to the woeful picture of our suffering and privation. For yours was a world of flowers, not politics; you sought answers in God, not in ideologies. Flowers fill your poetry, Shana: flowers and love. Tell me, who is the one you speak to? Is he man-or God? "So this is love", you wri te o "This listening of eyes, this waiting of hands / For what is beyond seeing or touching". Surely earthly lover merges with Heavenly Bride groom here: Your name is the curve in the hoIlow of my mouth Your sigh is a choir in harmony Your eyes are the light from behind a grey sky Filtering through aeons to rest upon me. How fiercely you guarded the inner self, that separateness of your person: "Tread softly through the garden of my life", you warn. "Touch not nor break the buds that fragrance lend / But graft them to that other self of mine / Which is you". Yes, Shana, you loved. You cared for people and life and beauty and God. When they gave you a paltry three months more to live, you defiantly held tight the thin thread of hope. For three precarious years you shut ears and eyes to the monstrous sha pe crouched in the comer of your life and told us that "The just shall LIVE by faith". Yet despite your awesome faith, even you had to "come to terms with that violent meta morphosis called death". Was it so violent after all? I think not, you know. I suspect, Shana, that your '1istening eyes" eagerly caught the first foot faIls of your Lover, and that on the November day when the sky grew strangely grey for us, it was filled with radiant light for you And, for you, the frangipani bloomed again. Guyanese poet Shana Yardan was born in Mahaicony on April 10, 1943, and died on November 2,1989 after a prolonged struggle with cancer. She was buried in the U.S.A. on November 6 Educated at St John the Baptist School in Bartica, St Ambrose School and St Joseph's 13


High School in Georgetown, Shana began writing poetry in the late '60's. Her single volume of poetry, This Listening of Eyes, was published in 1976. Shana worked with the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation during the late 70's and also attended the University of Guyana. Her literary and academic careers were cut short by her illness, but her radiant spirit remained unfettered to the end. Necessary Reading It is absolutely necessary for anyone interested in West Indian literature to get and read the following books and journals. Voiceprint (edited by Gordon Rohlehr, Mervyn Morris and Stewart Brown, Longman, 1989) This joins the Penguin Anthology of Caribbean Verse in English (edited by Paula Burnett, London, 1986) as one of the essential compilations of West Indian poetry It also has a full and fascinating Introduction by Gordon Rohlehr which alone makes the book worth its weight in whatever gold the publishers are asking for it. Not only should this be an essential written and oral text for West Indian schools bu t it should be on the shel ves of anyone interested in West Indian writing. The Peepal Tree Press. This astonishing little press in Yorkshire, run by Jeremy Poynting, keeps publishing poetry and fiction of immense interest and in beautiful format. Titles published by PTP so far include: Koker (poems), Backdam People (collection of short stories) and, published in conjunction with Demerara Publishers, J anjhat(first novel) by Rooplall Monar, a new and exciting figure in writing from the region. Timepiece (first novel) and The Last English Plantation (novel) by Janice Shinebourne Islands Lovelier than a Vision (poems) by Cyril Dabydeen. The Crucifixion (novel) by Ismith Khan. El Dorado West One (colleCtion of one act plays) by Sam Selvon. Shanti (novel) by Arnold Itwaru. Thief With Leaf (poems) by Brian Chan. Years of Fighting Exile (poems) by Milton Williams. Web of October-Rereading Martin Carter by Rupert Roopnaraine Bones (poems) by Mahadai Das. Dear Death (first novel) and Demerary Telepathy (poems) by Sasenarine' Persaud, another Indo-Caribbean writer likely to emerge as a leading regional author on the 1990s Crown Point and Other Poems by Velma Pollard. Among future publications PTP will be bringing out the Collected Poems of E M Roach. Eric Roach is one of the most important poetic voices of the Caribbean and the publication of his collected poems for the first time will be a West Indian literary landmark. 14


The address of the Peepal Tree Press is: 53 Grove Farm Crescent, Leeds LS16 6BZ, Yorkshire, England Journals Again one remarks the number and quality of the journals now appearing in the West Indies Following are the latest issues we have received of some of these magazines. Banja, No.4 April, 1989-National Cultural Foundation, Barbados. Jamaica Journal, Volume 21, No.3, August-October, 1988-Institute of Jamaica. New Voices, No 34, November, 1989, Trinidad (edited by Anson Gonsalez) Sargasso, No.6, 1989 University of Puerto Rico The Caribbean Writer, Volume 3, 1989-CaribbeanResearchlnstituteofthe University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix. Journal of Wes tInd ian Literature, Volume 3, No.2, September, 1989-UWI, Barbados. Carib 5, 1989-West Indies Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies, UWI, Jamaica. Archaeology and Anthropology, No.6 0, 2), 1989 (An Arawak-English Dictionary}-Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology, Guyana. Those who wish to become and remain knowledgeable about the latest developments in West Indian culture and literature need to make a much greater effort to exchange amongst themselves journals such as these It has always seemed to me that the Caricom Secretariat might playa leading role in facilitating such exchanges. 1989 Guyana Prize for Literature Awards in the Guyana Prize for Literature, first established in 1987, were again made in 1989. The Prize has attracted grea t interest. In 1989 a total of forty five entries in the categories of Poetry, Fiction and Drama were received. Winners of award were as follows: Guyana Prize for Poetry-Martin Carter for Selected Poems. Guyana Prize for Fiction-Roy Heath for The Shadow Bride. Prize for First Book of Poems-Brian Chan for Thief With Leaf. The judges awarded no prizes for Drama or First Book of Fiction since they felt that there were no entries in these categories that matched the standards established for Prize awards We are pleased to print in this issue the fine address delivered by Dr. Rex Nettleford at the 1989 Guyana Prize Awards Ceremony at the National Cultural Centre on 18th December, 1989. 15


Contributors to this issue STEW ART BROWN-Lecturer at Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham; has taught in Jamaica and Nigeria; editor of anthology Car ibbean Poetry Now and joint editor Voiceprint; author of collections of poems Zinder and Lugard's Bridge; currently editing a critical work on Derek Walcott. BRIAN CHAN---Guyanese poet who now lives in Canada; his book of poems Thief with Leaf (Peepal Tree Press, 19'89) won the 1989 Guyana Prize for First Book oJ Poems. MAHADAI DAS-Young Guyanese poet of great promise; MA (Philosophy) University of Chicago; recovering from serious illness; her latest collec tion of poems, Bones, was published in 1989 by the Peepal Tree Press. McDONALD DASH---Guyanese journalist and editor for many years; poet; playwright and producer; now lives in New York. I VmART IAN DUNCAN---Guyanese performance poet and story teller. GLORIA ESCOFFERY -Distinguished Jamaican painter; outstanding art critic for Jamaica Journal; poet. DESREY FOX-Born in the Akawaio village of Waramadon; member of the Amerindian Research Unit at the University of Guyana JOHN GILMORE-Historian and writer; editor of Banja, a magazine of Bar badian life, history and culture. CECIL GRAY-Noted Trin i dadian writer, editor and lecturer; now lives in Canada. STANLEY GREAVES-Dist i nguished Guyanese painter, teacher and writer on Art; poet; now lives in Barbados. CLEVELAND HAMILTON---Guyanese barrister and editor of the Guyana Bar Association Journal; radio commentator; poet. WILSON HARRIS---Guyanese-born novelist and critic; fiction includes The Guyana Quartet (4 novels re-issued in 1985), Tumatumari (1963), The Sleepers of Roraima (1970), Black Marsden (1972), Companions of the Day and Night (1975), Carnival (1985), The Infinite Rehearsal (1987), and The Four Banks of the River of Space (forthcoming Autumn 1990). ARNOLD ITW ARU..--Guyanese-born writer and teacher; currently a Professor of Sociology at York University, Canada; author of books of poems Shat tered Songs and Entombed Survivals; in 1989 the Peepal Tree Press published his first novel Shanti. 16


ANTHONY KELLMAN-Barbados poet and short story writer; his collections of poems include: The Black Madonna and Other Poems (1975), In Depths of Burning Light (1982) The Broken Sun (1984); currently teaches Creative Writing and Literature at Augusta College, Georgia, U.S.A.: Peepal Tree Press is to publish a full-length collection of his poems, Watercourse, this year. EUSI KWA Y ANA-Distinguished Guyanese social, political and literary critic; a leader in the independence movement of the 1950's; Member of Parlia ment. MARC MA TTHEWS-Guyanese poet, story teller and actor; winner of the 1987 Guyana Prize for first book of poems; lives in London. SISTER MARY NOEL MENEZES, RS.M.-Distinguished historian; author of many books particularly on the Amerindians and Portuguese in Guyana; Professor of History, University of Guyana. ROBERT & AL YMA MOORE-Dr. Robert Moore was Professor of History, University of Guyana, and subsequently Guyana's High Commissioner to Canada; he and his wife AI yma now live in Ottawa where he works for CIDA; eminent lecturer on third world development themes. ROOPLALL MONAR-Guyanese poet, short story writer and novelist; Peepal Tree Press has published a collection of short stories, Backdam People, a volume of poems, Koker, and a first novel Janjhat; a further collection of stories, High House and Radio, is due to be published in 1990. REX NETTLEFORD-Distinguished Caribbean scholar; Artistic Director of the Jamaican Dance Company; Pro-Vice Chancellor for International Rela tions, University of the West Indies, Jamaica. SASENARlNE PERSAUD-Guyanese novelist, short story writer, poet; re cently published by Peepal Tree Press. Lives in Canada. STEPHANOS STEPHANIDES-Native of Cyprus; 1978-1985, Senior Lecturer in English in the University of Guyana; currently works in Washington; his prize-winning translation from Portuguese to English of the nine teenth century work British Guiana by Adelino Neves e Mello, is soon to be published by Demerara Publishers. KAREN SWENSON-Professor of Literature, City College, New York; author of An Attic of Ideas (1974) and, most recently, A Sense of Direction (1989). RALPH THOMPSON-Jamaican businessman, poet and critic. 17


Address to the Presentation Ceremony for The Guyana Prize Awards Georgetown, December 18, 1989 COMMUNICATING WITH OURSELVES: THE CARIBBEAN ARTIST AND HIS SOCIETY by Rex N ettleford Leon Botstein, the young President of Bard College in New York recently wrote the following : ... no one in America writes except from necessity. Our ease of movement and access to the telephone have made most of our exchanges not written but rather oral, distance notwithstand ing. Good news is brought in person or by voice; bad news in writing. We tell someone we love them and we write the proverbial 'Dear John' letter Bills, warnings, eviction notices and refusals come in writing ... The relatives we wish not to see are those to w hom we wri teo In this world, it is li ttle wonder tha t no American child sees any need to become literate And yet the need to become literate remains a sine qua non of place and purpose in the modern world. The computer revolution will not obliterate in one fell swoop the consequences of Gutenberg. Those of us who proudly use, and disingenuously abuse, the myth of the 'oral tradition' will not escape the tenacity of the scribal imperative Writing is not antonym to speaking. Both will continue hand in hand for a long time to come since societies like ours in the Caribbean cannot afford the neglect of any of the skills and modalities of communication with ourselves and with the rest of the world if we are to find form and purpose in sharing the human condition. That is why I am so struck by the importance given these Awards by the Republic of Guyana not, I would imagine, in the spirit of State interventionism which many who are writers would hold suspect but rather in the deeper understanding of the centrality of the creative process, on which writers draw, to the shaping of a society and the building of a nation. That the University is so organically involved in the promotion and custodial nurturinp; of these Awards is also important. For I would imagine that the institution sees its role not in terms of offering yet another assembly line from which to roll off certified products who though trained may be lacking in wisdom, but more in ensuring that the generation and development of knowledge are informed by all roads to cognition including the ones which run through the creative imagination. 18


The country is well served by its own legacy of creative artists, not least among them the likes of Edgar Mittelholzer, Martin Carter, Wilson Harris, Jan Carew, and A. J. Seymour and his Kyk-over-al publication which is as legendary as the Kaieteur Falls. I would like to think that Guyana is also as well served by the Caribbean inheritance of struggle and survival through the exercise of the creative imagination. I recently had reason to recall that one or two Commonwealth Caribbean founding fathers (in the political sense) understood the centrality of the artist to the self-government ideal and sought to appropriate the work of artists without denying to artistic action its own inner logic and consistency. Even in post revolutionary Cuba where the ethos of the new dispensation reputedly gave to the artist everything 'within the revolution' while denying him all outside of it, the artist has managed to flourish independently, sometimes with more traces of 'bourgeois' culture than the guardians of the revolution would care to admit. Such is the power of art and the invincibility of the creative imagination! In the English-speaking Caribbean, the independence of the artist has gone hand in hand with notions of democratic freedoms. So Norman Manley of Jamaica had in his political credo a central place for the unfettered exercise of the creative imagination, the sort of process in which artists are involved. He saw nation building itself not only as an act of intelligence but also as the work of an artist giving form to substance and grappling with the reality of human experience to take everyday existence to higher levels of civilised expression (the nation, democracy, civilization) He even declared (informally) George Campbell the poet of Jamaica's self government 'revolution', as Nicolas Guillen was to become for Cuba's transfor mation. But the nature of the creative arts does not always depend for its flourishing on such patronage. The common people whose music, dance, theatre and oral literature rank them among the greatest of creative artists in the region, are able to continue in their myriad acts of creativity under all sorts of adverse condi tions. More than that, they provide individual talents with a vital source of energy, thus giving to the region groups of creative artists in a wide range of artistic activi ty that has served to promise the Caribbean (or individual parts of it) greater cultural certitude, a sense of social form and of national purpose. Foremost among such artists have been the writers-literate, healthily schizophrenic, insightful, and truly among the first to explain formally the Caribbean to itself, whether in the printed poem, novel or short story. George Lamming, a virtual dean of the corps, made early claims for the primacy of the writer as main animateur, philosopher and guide to West Indian civilization. The creative musician, choreographer, painter, sculptor were to follow in the writer's wake some of them helped not a little by the improved technologies of communication, especially the electronic media and recording industry as well as the aeroplane facilitating travel of artists and artworks within the Caribbean to Caribbean Festivals of Art (Carifestas) which began in this very Guyana in 1972 and outside the region on private commercial or government-to-govern-19


ment cultural exchange tours. The notion that all art is mediated by social reality is nota monopoly of the Marxist intellectual tradition which is understandably presented as an option in the region's earnest search for sol u tions. Ra ther, it is borne ou t by the facts of the Caribbean literary creative impulse. And this is so whether the declared aim of this or that writer is to be a writer rather than a Caribbean writer or to belong primarily to a 'tradition of the writer's craft; a tradition that overrides ethnic and social distinctions'. The truth is that none of these wri ters has been able to ignore the real-life issues of history (Caribbean history), race, colonialism, the planta tion, neo-colonialism, social change, identity (national and cultural), linguistic loyalty or Europe's imposed standards of life and the awesome hold such standards have even on artists who are rebelling. Nor can they ignore Africa-in the-Americas, the crucible in which much of what is artistically and culturally Caribbean was forged over four centuries of creolisation. Add to this the mandatory and growing sensitivity to that common ground-the essential unity of Man-<:hallenging us to sanity as a result of the dynamic existential encounters between India, Africa, Europe and China on Amerindian soil. Somehow it is not always understood that Mother Europe needs fewer carbon copies of Shakespeare, Moliere, Conrad, or Marlowe; of Brahms, Beethoven or Mahler; of Picasso, Van Gogh or Renoir; of Petipa, Balanchine or Bournonville. She would rather settle for the original impulse of foreign artists encouraged to enrich her soil. Walcott and Naipaul are of in terest to the North Atlantic precisely because they are not only good writers but writers with something unique to say about the human condition. And where they come' from and how they were socialised and bred just ha ppen to give tha t something a special pitch and tone of importance and relevance to a North Atlantic world, itself in search of new pa tterns and new designs for its continuing existence. The pretence thatitis otherwise is part of the self-parody of Caribbean artists playing others instead of being themselves. Novels, poems, short stories, literary criticism, and plays are indeed laced with 'Caribbean' pre-occupations even if notions of the 'writer's tradition', of 'mainstream literature', or the 'humanist tradit i on' are considered the more desirable (and respectable) ends of artistic transcending, presumably, the insularity of regions or the provincialism of race and ethnic considerations. What a closer look at Caribbean artistic creation serving cultural identity may indeed demonstrate is that the so-called 'writer's tradition', 'mainstream litera ture' and the 'humanist tradition' are all likely to be the richer for the textured and specific contributions by Caribbean artistic infusions. The names of George Lamming, Wilson Harris, Jean Rhys, John Hearne, Derek Walcott and V. S. Naipaul-all creatures of the colonial Caribbean-ha ve gained fairly widespread recognition in the North Atlantic. But studies of serious world literature would be the poorer without the names of Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Victor Reid, Martin Carter, Andrew Salkey and Samuel Selvon, to name a few. The vigour of the creolised indigenous Caribbean languages must in any case determine their own cri teria of judgement for artistic 20


excellence and universal verities; and so the lyrics of the calypsonians and reggae artists (Marley's 'Redemption Song', Jimmy Cliff's 'Many Rivers to Cross' do address universal verities in poetry), the verse of Louise Bennett, as well as the utterances oflatter-day Jamaican dub poets to whom writing down is secondary to oral-rendering, all challenge the arbiters of Caribbean artistic legitimacy to new perceptions of reality in the region. Many of the world's great artists 'steal' as a matter of course from the past if for no other reason than the past offers mankind many of the greatest that is tried and tested in the profession of art. But even in this, many a Caribbean artist has a problem. For the past from whick they choose to steal does not often include their own Caribbean past either in its intensely creoljsed (native-born, native-bred) sense or in respect of that part of the past which spells Africa. On the other hand, that part which spells Europe, from the ancient Mediterranean to 19th century England and its extension into Anglo-Saxon contemporary United States, all have ready and willing imitators And latecomers India, China and Lebanon are yet to be acknowledged in any deep cultural sense-what wi th the conflict between the earlier arrivants to the Caribbean yet to be resolved. It may well be remembered that at least one major Caribbean artist has volunteered a justification for the neglect on the basis that there is no Caribbean history, since history is about achievement and achievement has to do with creating. So having created nothing the region has achieved nothing. In effect, the place is in the long run incapable of deyelopment, cultural identity or any meaningful growth. V. S. Naipaul's 'castrated metaphor, to use Lamming's deliciously wicked phrase, need not be seen as anything more than a rhetorical excess spat out at a society that admittedly denies too many of its citizens a sense of place and purpose. Naipaul, for all his frustrations, is nonetheless a 'creation' of that very society, and a brilliant one at that. The myths he articulates persist, however, in pockets of cynicism and cultural perversity. Happily it is being exploded by the active creative power and brilliance of not only writers but also painters, sculptors, dancers and musicians all over the region. The creators of the Cuban son, mambo and rhumba, the devastatingly observant calypsonians ofTrinidad and the Eastern Caribbean, the Rastafarian inspired reggae composers from urban ghettos of Kingston have all 'stolen' from the past-their own past. They draw naturally on the wealth of that past ancestral certitude and wisdom to create for the modern Caribbean still in search of itself. They entertain no inhibiting doubts about the pedigree of their own history reshaped in the Caribbean and formed before the severance of forefa thers from far-off homelands. And though they are conscious of the brutality of suffering in that history, they are no less aware of the achievement in terms of creative acts by their forebears-in-exile, whether in the devising of new tongues to communicate with each other, in shaping the right music, movement patterns and belief-systems into ordered rituals of worship, or in the creation of opera tional frameworks for daily living despite every well planned effort to keep the majority population barely ahead of the beast. Without being academic histo rian or sociologist of history, the Caribbean's popular artist, like some of his 21


prestigious writer-colleagues, effectively uses the facts of history, in all their essence, both to interpret modern Caribbean society and to inform con tempo raryCaribbean life. A past without achievement could not have done any of this, unless of course such acts of the creative imagination and intellect as described are not seen as genuine acts of achievement. The evidence, indeed, demonstrates that the Caribbean with its record of creative acts can help to determine a mainstream culture rather than be expected merely to enter one that is predetermined by the cultural norms forged and recorded (i.e. in written or notated form) over centuries in the nations that conquered, colonised and conditioned subject peoples like those who inhabit the Caribbean. In overcoming the consequences of such conditioning, as a function of cultural identity or self-definition, the artists from among such peoples need to speak to each other within the region rather than continue to communicate through a connexion hooked up in London, Madrid, Paris or of late New York. If a Lamming once had to discover himself in London and an Ai me Cesaire needed Paris to see the light, it has long become critical to examine and take seriously the discoveries on homeground. Derek Walcott (for all his latter-day New England encounters) and, to a certain extent, Edward Kamau Brathwaite represent something of the new breed, as do Maryse Conde of Guadeloupe and Edouard Glissant of Martinique. And the return home (phys i cally and mentally) of Lamming and others is important to the grasp of the import of the issue of identity through artistic creation and cultural action. The Alejo Carpentiers and Nicolas Guillens stand out as homegrown icons not only for post-revolutionary Cuba but for an emerging culturally coherent Caribbean as well. The popular artists of the ilk of The Migh ty Sparrow and Michael Rudder of Trinidad or of Jimmy Cliff and the late Bob Marley of Jamaica have had no problems being homegrown Caribbean artists, secure as they have been in the knowledge that the wider world beyond the North Atlantic does provide profitable and appreciative markets for their work. They were, all three, 'heroes' at home before they were recognised abroad-in direct contrast to most of the earlier Caribbean writers who sought legitimacy and recognition, if not identity, from the metropolitan centres in the North The increased cultural awareness among Anglophone Caribbean people following on the transfer of imperial power to the region has facilitated greater access to legitimacy and recognition at home on criteria rooted in Caribbean reality. And from this, 'schools' of painters, sculptors, choreographers, playwrights, and poets as well as creative intellectuals have benefitted not a little since the late 1950s. The remarkable impact of Caribbean artist-musicians on the wider world with seemingly minimal concessions to the cultural dictates of the Establish ment prejudices of Western civilization throws into sharp relief questions about the market for, and the nature of, Caribbean writing. Could it be that writing as an art carries with it greater burdens of alienation than do other artforms? Publishing and printing facilities are admi ttedly either still rare or expensive in the region. Yet more exist now than before and in any case the difficulties of 22


publishing abroad while writing from homebase have been largely overcome. The question of 'the market' cannot however be ignored. Who does the Caribbean writer really write for? Does he write for the Caribbean readership still growing but yet to offer that critical mass which brings profits? Is he addressing the more affluent North American suburban class or their intelli gentsia now in the throes of discovering a Walcott and a Naipaul? Does he write for the British literati with a long tradition of playing patron to sibling talents from the outposts of Empire? And what of the new governing elites of the developing world, many of whom are admittedly blase before they are civil ised? Better still, does the Caribbean writer write for the proverbial homogeni sed world devoid of class, ethnic, or cultural particularities? Or does he write for himself? Many of the performing artists, because their art needs an immediate audience, do sing, dance and act for their own people first and for others secondarily. Can th e literary arts, then, be regarded as the most appropriate for people who have been brought up in a strongly oral tradition again st which has been counterpoised the scribal writ as part of a colonial conditioning? Richard Dwy e r writing in Caribbean Review (Fall, 1982) felt no fear of contradiction when he wrote that 'all of them [meaning Caribbean writers] know that to want to writeatall is to claim citizenship in a world elsewhere'. But is this true, fair or reasona ble in the con temporary world of the Caribbean which has conceded the necessity of Gutenberg and is even now in fear of the penetrative power of the aural and visual fare offered by the electronic media through television video and radio? The choreographer, the music composer, the painter, the sculptor are all constantly bombarded with reminders of the superiority of European classical dance-theatre, of Beethoven s 'un surpassable' symphonies, of the rightness of perspective and use of colour in a Titian or a Rembrandt, and of the perfection of Greek statuary. These artists are no less vulnerable than the writer threatened with being an alien in his own Caribbean homeland Even the 'rootsy' popular artists must come to terms with a Michael Jackson or a Lionel Richie, to name just two of the 'pop' influences of the 1980s that have demonstrated the all-pervasive power of American satellite transmis sion. The Caribbean is now challenged to fall back on the inner reserves of its own historical experience and cultural dynamic in order to exist on its own terms, which is partly what cultural identity is about. The experience is indeed instructive in such fields as music, dance, painting and sculpture as well as in many of the artistic expressions associated with religious rituals, masquerade and Carnival. A great many, if not most, of the artists in these fields have been drawn largely from the unlettered commonfolk-the people from below who are traditionally marginalised and denigrated. AT\d not even the educated writer-exiles have been able to escape the reality of Caribbean roots long after the fertiliser from the metropole has drenched their soil. All of this says something about (a) the arts (their role and function), (b) other cultural indices (such as religion, kinship patterns), 23


(c) value-systems at work in the society, (d) identity (personal and collective), (e) attitudes to political authority, (f) the nature of economic activity, and (g) the interaction between all these elements in Caribbean life. The subject of creative writing is the concern of all in our region, therefore For so much that we have come to understand about ourselves is to be found in the drama, fiction and poetry of the Caribbean. So many of our thinkers and activists have indeed found ideal, fonn and purpose through the act of creative writing. For, like all other c r eative arts, creative writing can itself be a fonn of action on the road to both social integration and pe r sonal liberation. This is not to deprive the arts of their innate authority. But the Caribbean in the process of becoming cannot afford the luxury of the balkanisation of consciousness. Western Europe, a so-called developed civilisation, is even now trying to put back together in a holistic way all of the knowledge that underpins the reality of the human cond i tion The best among our novelists, poets and playwrights understand this very well. That i s why they are important agents of change, growth and development both for Guyana and the rest of the region no less than are technocrats, miners, professionals, fanners, fores t ers, businessmen and the like. Yet we are still to acknowledge fully the centrality of the artist qua artist to Caribbean development in particular and gener a lly to the snaping of new societies in their quest for new designs for socialliving-a quest which follows on the shifts of bases of power from colonialism to independence, from the orderly and predictable world of imperial domination to the post-colonial order threatening disintegration and disorder. As I have said before, if the study of the Rastafarian movement is considered proper for a Social Science Faculty as part of the received intellectual concerns about cargo cults, redemption ethic andthe like, it is no less appropriate for the self-same Faculty to engage in serious content analysis of the lyrics of a Bob Marley as guide to a fuller grasp of ghetto values, urban concerns and pre-occupations among the marginalised poor. Social commentary by the calypsonians of the society's reaction to national policies, capitalism gone mad, political authority, or the self-importance of the native inheritors of the colon i al power is a form of action-expressed through art-that addresses problems of self-definition and give critical clues about a people's perception of themse lves. That perception of self has long been the substance of our poetry, drama and fiction. That "self" has long stretched beyond the geographical confines of a Guyana or a Trinidad, a B a rbados, a St Lucia or a Jamaica to 'diasporas' in metropolitan climes which have tested the grit and stamina of our people, fortified their faith, and forg e d their self-confidence. All this has been the stuff of the products of our people's creative imagination these past fifty or so years. We must not lose that initiative on our journey into t he next century For all these can in turn infonn public and often do so no less appropriately 24


than the decisions arbitrarily taken for the people by political directorates and their planning advisers or the answers cleverly crafted by infonnants in re sponse to cleverly crafted survey questionnaires of field researchers. Such scientific devices are useful and necessary in a modem state But the other devices usually associated with artistic discovery are no less so. The investm ent in the creative imagination must therefore go hand in hand with that which is proving increasingly vital for science and technology. I am reassured in the thought that the national significance accorded tonight's event is a signal of this country's appreciation of its obligation to its own future and to that of all of us who call this region home I thank you! 25


/; 26


GLORIA ESCOFFERY MOTHER JACKSON MURDERS THE MOON Mother Jackson sees the moon coming at her and slams the door of her shack so hard the tin louvers shudder with eagerness to let the moon in. If she should cry for help the dog would skin his teeth at her, the cat would hoist his tail and pin the moonlit sky to the gutter; the neighbours would maybe douse her in chicken's blood and hang her skin to dry on the packy tree. Mother Jackson swallows her bile and sprinkles oil from the kitchen bitch on her ragged mattress. Then she lights a fires tick and waits for the moon to come in and take her. 27


ARNOLD ITWARU CHANT TWO i offer you my breath at your feet potions from the burning face of an ancient sun i offer you me awash in bitter rain beyond the plots of yield and hunger an equatorial need ginger nutmeg pepper ri pe-breasted mango soursop coconut sugar cane--see how they breathe in my blood beating in the beating of our touch breathe in me your body my body our body breathe in me breathe in me VIBART IAN DUNCAN TENSION RAIN Blood pressure raise in rage of vexation from pain in the brain: Passion flaming fire fever into hot rhythm: Blade blood drinking in the dark pressure drop brap! in the strength of this darkness, in de flame of dis release from tension. 28


MAHADAIDAS GOD AND THE CAT UNDER THE TUB Man, in his diligence, made a tub of wood, then of zinc. Having made things, he was overjoyed with himself. He dumped the cask to woman who cried, 'I am the washerwoman with tub and scrubboard No prince came my way. No knight. An empty armour'. She hung clothes on a line of rope, then put the bakee Upside down on concrete outside the cottage Later in afternoon, I discovered cat under the washing dish. All I could view of her was her right front and her left back paws. God, like such a cat, hides from man through his creation. He rests and reveals only a paw or two to man through handicraft. TASTING SUGARCAKE The woman upstairs bake demo All de schoolchildren down Mcdoom side water dey mouth fo it. One budget dalla it cast. She bakes it wid de white suga the administrators obtain cheap from Mexico. (Lord knows what is happening when a country who produce brown suga for all de world can't even give he hown people molasses-rich suga!) So we all enjoy Miss Eunice suga-cake It fat an' brown with de grate coconut. She does sit down pon top the bottom step of Teacher Wendy house where she does live, an' bake them. Every afternoon. 29


RALPH THOMPSON WALKING AT 4 A.M. At the Pegasus hotel I walk (too old for jogging) in the dark, the track picked out with cannon balls enamelled white, half buried, looping like a strand of imitation pearls around the pool, cornering the sculpture of a whitewashed rock, levelling through a row of palms wainscoated white, bending beside a backless concrete bench stretched tau t as a tomb under a lignum vitae tree whose silhouette in this inverted moonslimed kingdom is a skull spiked on a bark blotched neck. At St. Elizabeth red woman moon, arms folded across her breast, full of bile, glares like a jealous wife at the hotel suspicious of infidelities. Street lamps outside the chain-link fence bloom like agapanthus lilies and from this confluence of light the shadows spring-my body breaking at the ankles, testing the height of hedges, sidling the trunks of trees, scissoring the lawn with stilts. Cowled stalker, mad monk at matins. I cloud a wave across the pool, walking on water No one takes title to this ancestral path by adverse procession. Once soiled with uncontaminated raw black earth, bearing a jungle on its back, before invented epochs, before the fripperies oftennis courts and cannon balls it held its ground against all trespass30


the grassquit's minuet, the scorpion's roil, footprint of Arawak and slave. Abiding all degrees of friction my compulsive marching does not blister it and shadows only stain its ancient hide. A cloud covers the moon's cracked grin and yellow teeth. In the demi-dark the shadow of a tall limb feathered with leaves, dihedral wing, undulates against the slabbed high wall of the hotel-how many mornings have I shared its flight, spectral bird in perpetual migration. Suddenly someone speaks my name, softly but unmistakably. A shadow cow led like me invades the track, for a moment mingling lip to lip with mine, then fades to a retreating back. "200 meters to a Guinness"-just reward for the lurching verses of a poet panting to his heart's alarming S.O.S. The giant phantom wing flaps faster seeking sanctuary. The freshening breeze bullies a serviette hiding from last night's poolside party, swirls it like a kite until it slams against the chain-link fence where it hangs, back impaled high upon the wire, a white flag of surrender fluttering in the kingdom of the shadows 31


HISTORY LESSON "Ghost" we called him: He walked in quiet shoes. He was so ram-rod straight Seemed always to be holding back: Part of his reserve, his distance From us that preserved respect. The love came with the teaching. We read books they set for us, His look was one of slight disdain. "Be sceptical of hallowed texts: Before you learn, convince yourselves". He made the dust of history glow. He read us the Periclean speech: The Greeks were marvellously few But down the darkened centuries They gave light to all the world. Our scattered nation too was small Yet to be noble was not beyond our reach. He traced the steps of Hannibal, Of all men in history most magnificent, Driving the great, grey, betowered beasts Through avalanches of blinding ice and snow, "I don't know how to make this live. Imagine thrusting through the Northern Range When wild forest stood without a path; That might be as mad a task, But how will you feel the bitter cold?" The dexterous beauty of his blackboard writing Fascinated us: it was a mystery: The care to practise such strict art. Why spend love on this To be expunged before an hour was out? We, his scholars, asked him this one day. Of all his lessons I remember best-The silence of the "Ghost", we knew so well, And then the deliberate, unfading words: "There are creatures that live half a day. Princes of the world, do you not think They also strive to perfect their lives?" 32


CECIL GRAY THE M ISSES NORMAN The Misses Norman lived on Marine Square just as you tum from Broadway at the comer where now a granite bank shines like new coins; two short white matrons that I remember like Lord's Prayers on a rosary that joins a knotted childhood to their acts of care To my young mind it seemed a threatening place You pierced the wooden gate through its small door and stepped i nto a dimness armed with plants, cringed up the half-gloom to the upper floor and called good morning nervous in your pants. But there you spoke with goodness face to face. With thanks now rising in me like a lake an image flashes fresh as yesterday: a slippered sister in Edwardian dress shuffling to hear each stanza of distress, bribing the waiting teeth of reefs away. It is a bonding that time cannot break. The lif eguards of this heaving world are rare, the sinking swimmers thick as August rain. But one whose feet touch e d safety when that pair of spinsters anchored themselves to pain that was not theirs attempts a line of praise in words like them, as faithful and as plain. 33


SASENARINE PERSAUD A PROPHET IN HIS TIME (Neville Robinson) "Go forth into the world ... he would begin the silence staring at a sole Cyclist or pedestrian Or a gorilla policeman Aping a farmer (burnham had just issued another Commandment from his Orwellian cinema-Each soldier a citizen, Each citizen a farmer). The five of us would stare at each Other somewhat laughingly And catch a glimpse of Atlantic Waves create fountains on the sea-wall. Swallows dived into our souls Birds floated into the grass of the Next door YMCA cricket field for Seeds ... "You see Chaucer in his way Began a written English poetic tradi tion:" restarting as suddenly as he had stopped, The indelibly moist North-East Trades Offering the seed-flower-grass-sea Scent to noses And especially the bending thighs Of grass to eyes. ''You have to ... He would catch another glimpse And stop, at times Putting on The Cloth and sharing Wine with us. 34


In the meantime we blundered on Blind like January while May climbed up.into the pear tree And Damyan "Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng ... /I His laughter left us as baffled as his Sometimes reference The sometimes laughter Once a woman came mid-lesson To make him mortal But the scars around his neck Only became legend. We left blinded Gloucester on the cliffs. "You may bring your poems ... Chaucer ... /I Lear died before our eyes And we left for the world. Once or twice we visited-It was John or William street Where they found him-poisoned By himself-We knew alright-though a bit too late It was the poison of poetic genius Gone with a stare, a look, And neap tide laughter ... 35


DESREY FOX (trans.) HUNGRY CHILD REN'S SONG Akawaio Nya eewekko amai liwangbee nya eejii Nya eewekko amai liwangbee nya eejii Nya matamo amai Ikwangbee nya eejii Nya matamo amai liwangbee nya eejii Aikninggau ya amai Eewangbee nya eejii liyeewekko amai liyeewekko amai JOHN GILMORE PARISH REGISTERS English Feed us mummy We are hungry Feed us mummy We are hungry We are dying mummy We are hungry We love you mummy We are hungry On the floor of the bell-chamber's cupboard pasteboard, calf and paper worms and roaches still defy. Morocco labels, tooled in gold, gleam like wedding rings in duppy dust. Heaps of paper blotched and mottled as the freckled features of an overseer, list so many n a mes: Susan, here baptized, "Child of Apprenticed Labourer" her role in life predestined. John and Martha, joined in wedlock, Field-hands both, of Such-and-Such Estate Peter the fisherman, died in the almshouse. No other monument have these whose labour built our land, but yet.the doors are shut upon their muted voices whilst in the church below their posterity, serge-suited, sit in mahogany pews and worship an alien God. 36


ANTIIONY KELLMAN WATERFALLS Here at Papilotte, the rainforest retreat, the hugging hills are peopled with myths Shocks of green are punctuated by animated honks of fat friendly geese. A peacock's palace fans three sculptured dragons to the waterfalls' minuets, ruk-a-tuk and humming cataracts: a cleansing which finds irrigational core in the sulphurous falls of Trafalgar, the animal with the healing hoof that can sprawl you out and pelt you onto the city's roof like a piece of timber "It 'tweel keel you", a manchild of eleven said knotting a sheep's leash in the rain, his brown eyes as knowing as the goat's we saw squatting on a fern-wrapped hillside In this heartland, most children spring from the lily valleys, their schoolhouse, a hilltop Montgomery where my primary lessons were gained. The girls gliding the hill by Miss Browne's shop giggled at the world in navy blue starch-stiff uniforms, skipping and dancing behind each stranger with the lively curiosity of their age .... and now two boys advance toward me, steeped in conquistadorial morality. They fly with contoured skill to fetch, as a native gift, five yellow cocoa pods and to further impress me suck the pitch of their ripened catch and push-up their mannish chests that open my wallet at last. In Roseau, rust oozes from the hinged sores of almost every building. Everywhere, the tattered look of soldiers limping into makeshift barracks. Houses are built to find graves at nature's hands and those who come after David cannot understand these older faces of drooping ferns clutching the historic topsoil. 37


MARC MATTHEWS MRSMANIVER mother scalasticer sister surperior of queen's town she was a giver she gave up her wedding gown gave up washing dishes gave up her wishes her reading glasses her staying at home started jus' walking around deciphering psalms she was a giver giving praises singing psalms praying for guyana from seawall through georgetown she wasa giver 38


gave up today wrongs for a tomorrow gave up hoping that better today would come gave up but tomorrow she was a gave up future gave up giver her clothes gave up among a task her bathroom force ah to wash in main's who took what street gutter she gave opposite left her to ra ve tower with nothing witnessed by left to taxi drivers mrs maniver mother scalasticer give gave up forever gave up but silence shamed them now left to laughter mrsmaniver but she'd long she was a given up caring one way or giver other given up all finally gave to up get her tongue her gave everything but wandering around in disguises up her from seawall desire through to right georgetown 39


BRIAN CHAN PEGASUS Standing on the shore I am Iamno mo r e than the evening waves that invent my ears, than the wind that is the silence of my voice, than the sea that comes in the sand (denying it its temptation to turn into the desert or into another rock of salt), sand absorbing sea's power, draining its pain, filtering its filth. Standing on the shore I am all that and no more. Flying beyond the coast, I am all that and the morning cloud that climbs from behind the wide edge of the world to tame anq shame and shadow and so sculpt the lazy wisdom of the sea into a scaled knowledge of itself, of its restless bed, of its yawning green tongues, of its walking fruits of unpeeled acid and sugar, of their naked roofs like scabs of baked blood that through surrender, temper and become the persistent indifferent lord and servants, the patient parent and sons of light itself no less. 40


IJ M (t) A-M It1J {;(vv!n4 A I 41


NEW YORK NINETY EIGHTY NINE by McDonald Dash It .... is suchan extraord i narysocio-geometaphysical configuration that they had to name it twice, thusly-New York, New York. It is everybody's kind of town and an absolute state of mind. It is Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan which is an island. And then there's Long Island City which is not in Long Island and Lefrak City which is no city at all, and Long Island which is in Queens, but not spiritually There are all the islands in the streams of the East and Hudson rivers and in the angry AtIantic,-Rikers which is a penal colony, and Randall's where they play cricket betimes, Liberty, Governor's, Roosevelt, and Ellis where CLR James was incarcerated in the fifties before being deported. It is a tie-dye of seven and one half million survivors with seven and a half million fantasies and an equal number of nightmares. Lots of tim e s the night mares are realised, more often than the disney-dreams anyway. It is known as the Big Apple To the cognoscenti as the Big Rotting Apple. Think of it what you will, and caB it what you wish, it is still everybody's kind of town and then some New York isa city of neurotics and pizza huts; L ena Home; Park Avenue; Mike Tyson roaming in the early dawn; Bloomingdale's and Baryshnikov ; cocaine, crack addicts, crackpots, stretch limousines and yeBow taxi monsters on the one-way freeways of Manhattan during the lunch hours; C e ntral Park; Harlem on hot summer nigh ts; verbal acrobatics at the Appollo ; Cab Calloway and the Aqueduct racetrack, the home l ess and the hapless and tho s e without hope who are also the homeless and the hapless; Waldbaum supermarkets, Boesky, Milken and other Wall Street banditti; the vulgarity of mega millionaire Donald Trump and the viciousness of rampaging youth gangs; trigger-happy cops and gun-toting public school kids; million (multO-dollar lotteries; the trash television of Morton Downie, jnr. and Geraldo; Chinatown, Koreatown, Viet namtown, Sikhtown, Pakistantown, Little India in Jackson Heights; Little Haiti on Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway; Nostrand Avenue and Little Port a Spain; Barbadosi n-the-suburbs; C o rentyne-in-Jamaica; Japanese-owne d office com plexes, that in a Hammerstein refrain "reach way up to the sky". It is the alpha and omega of good taste and bad t aste. And then there is the state of unconsciousness. Bu t New York is Raghu spaghetti sauce, salad bars sechuan bars, gourmet foodcen ters, Chinese kitchens, Jamaican pa tties and jerk pork, kosher mea ts and Italian cheeses; puertorican mom-and -pop delis; Bojangles fried chicken, a billion daily cups of coffee and Madison Square Garden; La Guardia and JFK; Forest Hills and the WestSide Tennis Club; the vast public library at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street which is the street of porn, pee-pers, p imps, assorted molls and 42


trolls; Greenwich Village, SoHo and the South Street Seaport, the New York Mets, a black commissioner of police with a white shadow, the South African musical Sarafina which is so moving and telling that it bleeds real smoke and bullets at the Cort theater on 48th; Carnegie Hall; Frankie and Sammy and Liza; the Museum of Modem Art (MOMA), the Whitney, and graffiti showplaces; Clavin Klein, AIDS and the attendant discriminatory practices at some of the city's hospitals; the huge shortage of nursing help; orthodox Jewry; seven dollars-a-seat movie shows on Third A venue. The Statue of Liberty Bridges across rivers. Trees that still grow in Brooklyn. Nathan's still famous Coney Island hotdogs Macy s The Mafia Murder. Haagen-Daaz ice cream in yuppie flavours With all this you are entitled to a free medium serving of french fries. Or two pieces of Kentucky Fried. Or a Big Mac or a Burger King. Or a Wendy with sliced tomato. And the topp i ng? You get the ubiquitous Ed Koch. Hizzoner. Mayor Marvelous. Mayor Monstrous. The onl y man who could speak out of the five sides of his moutn at the same time and still say zilch, nihil, nada. Ees no beeg teeng He is the consummate political animal; an empty barrel. The Bachelor of Gracie Mansion. Koch is several things to several people-.,..drcus Clown, high wire artist, racist, cronyist, astute, devious, supposedly gay, intelligent most cer tainly, honest and venal glittering and gloomy, sad and secretive, devouring and demonstrative He is a grumbling, grouchy, garrulous garbagecan of a man who has old nostrums for new and radical problems But with his rotundity and friar-tuck head, he is New York with all its illnesses, idiosyncracies, and joggers. You cannot only New York. You can taste it and smell it, and sometimes you want to make love to it. That's what it does to you. Sometimes. Everybody's kind of town, man. 43


PORK EATER by Rooplall Monar Crabbe really feel he would a piss his pants this bright Saturday midday when Jamila father was chasing him with an hackia stick, shouting in the street, ''Yuh Hindu dog yuh! Yuh playing like at me daughta. And yuh not even own de shirt and pants on yuh skin .... Crabbe foot was quick, quick more than lightning, scooting thru the fine street which get big-big hole, and donkey shit, while he blowing he ha he ha as though his heart about to fall-out his body, cursing damn stinkingin his mind .... is how the blasty man see when me throw a talk at Jamila? Is how? Me know that man is a murderer .... As Crabbe hit the fine street, blacksage bush and carrion-crow bush growing by the edge, he believe he safe, so he slack his pace, turning back slow slow but he want drop dead. Dead as a doornail. His eye open big-big, glistening like marble when he see Jamila father close-up to his heels, growling, "tink me want any Hindu dog touch me daughta?" dangling the deadly hackia like the sword of Damocles. God! Crabbe see his body spli t-open in two like a dry coconu t wi th one lash from a cutlass, knowing fully well how much people done taste Jamila father hackia stick. And me just start wear long pants, and pissing fraff, Crabbe tell himself, and pickup a sudden speed thru the fine street, cursing the very moment his heart fall for this Jamila. "De next time me see yuh round me yard is murderation," Jamila father shouting, threatening, slowing his pace, and feeling his heart going bap bap bap just like a water-pump when it drawing water out a koker. Them young boy eye get fire, Jamila father tell himself, sitting down in the fine street where black ants and cap-cap showing no mercy for them dead dog and cat which people does throw in the street, hawking and spitting, the smell want to kill you whenever the breeze blowing. But look how trouble does come to yuh doorstep, eh? Jamila father talk, feeling his heart-beat going down slow-slow like water draining out a swamp field. They always say girl children is trouble. Never know why Allah had to give me wife one girl child? Soon as you own daughta jump-in fourteen year, you have to watch she with two-eye. Tink me want shame come in me house? Hindu boy play like at me Jamila? Never. Hindu people is pork-eater, and they mind bad like nasty trench water. Them is infidel. Never know why Allah couldn't bum them out.... Now Jamila father shake his head, rubbing-rubbing the hackia stick lovingly, then watch thru the fine street which end by a dutty dam that lead straight to the seabeach, and swear on his dead daddy name, if me ever hear any pork-eater Hindu boy playing fresh at me Jamila, me murder he for a song. Then he get up, feeling his bones crackling like dry bamboo joints in a hot 44


merciless sun, and head for his home, walking slow-slow, fearing the back-pain he get for years which does give him shivers in the night, believing his own death lurking by the doorstep like a shadow. And the blasted doctor only giving me ointment, ointment.... Can't be lie. Is them bottom-house Christian church causing all this confusion in them young people head. True! Me want to know if this Jesus Christ going to give them young people salvation? Eh? Is damn-well eye-pass on the muslim religion, Jamila father whisper when he about to tum into his yard. Is since this country get Independence all this confusion come. Heh! One people, one nation, one destiny ... is how Muslim;md Hindu could be one people? How blackman and whiteman could be one people, eh? People not fall-down from tree-top you know They come from somewhere as me daddy say, like mango from the mango tree. And is you duty to keep-up you religion, you custom. Is the only thing that make you a people. Eh! look how everybody coming scatter like birds when you throw a rockstone at them? People not even value theyself this time. They running from here to there, not even upkeeping they religion in the right way. Is how you could be one people when this country have blackman, Chineseman, Putagee man, coolie man? Is the damn Independence thing, and the Christian bottom-house causing all this corruption ... you don't know in which direction you going. Where the wind really blowing from. Is important, me commonsense tell me, that you hold-on tight-tight on you religion if you want walk in the road with you head showing high high ... Now, soon as Jamila father walk-in the house, and curse, "Hindu dog," Jamila start tremble like leaf in the kitchen, seeing them blows she father might rain-down on she skin (which is fairish and smooth like marble) blaming she, as if she been tell Crabbe to throw a talk at she. Mind you, she know she is not a duncify goat ever since she left primary school a year now after she father tell she: "is time to learn sewing and get married. Muslim girl children don need eddication." Is damn true! she monkey-smart for she age-group-fourteen years oldand she could buy and sell them girls she age-group with deep commonsense. And she know, from the time she bubby start come out like plum, and she hips getting broadish, that boys going to give she a second-look, blowing a whistle and saying as if they eye want to pop-out, "gosh, this girl round likeplumrose .... Is not me fault if boys like me, she does tell she self every time she done bathe in the evening and anchor in front the bedroom mirror, powdering she skin exact like a mother powdering a baby skin. Afterwards she would size-up she hips, then touch-touch she nipple, feeling real saying again is not she fault if boys like she. Then as a usual habit, the evening tUf!1ing into night, and you hearing pots and pans scrambling in the neighbourhood kitchens, dogs barking in the street while them children playing games, and a group of women talking names, squatting by a front bridge with the moon rising, looking like one copper coin, Jamila would switch-on the bed room light, regaling in the bed, then go through them Filmfare and Screen magazines which she does hide under the bed 45


mattress during the day. She know damn-well if she father eye, which reddish and spiteful as if the whole world against him, onl y drop on them magaz i ne that, is licks to pease on she and she mother, who she father always say does keep company with Hindu women, and not Muslim women which is she own-own people especially in this time where "people putting religion in they back door. Hanging they mouth where the soup leaking while them politicians telling you one people, one nation, one destiny, when is six to seven people living in de country .... Yes! Jamila know she father damn straight like house-post bout he religion, going to the masjid punctual every evening, rain or sun, insisting to she own self and brother Nazir that they family is upright Muslims, blood "pure like creek water, and is Allah's will, that such things should be never mind yuh all don live in Pakistan or Arabia .... And Jamila acquainted with she father mood which does raise sudden like a big wave in the ocean especially when he hear, and see for himself too, that this time young people believe they live in Town where all the badness going-on, and you character come like the street you walking upon where lovers kissing by a tree-corner, a woman cussing down another woman, beggarman sleeping on cardboard, children walking hungry belly, drunkmen pissisng by the pave ment.. .. Yes! she know she father always ensure that before she and she brother go to bed in the night, they must say the namaz, and must always know wh ichgenie is the guardian spirit. Must observe the prophet birt hday, and dress like true muslim-born whenever they attending another muslim religious work. "Is not what yuh have in dis world. Eh-eh! is the way yuh conduct yuhself. And when yuh walk a road people must know yuh character clean like white cotton," she father does tell Nazir soon as them boys come call at he to play softball cricket in the pasture on rainy Sundays. "And going to cin ema is disease It corrupting yuh thinking. Make yuh a tool, not a human being." Jamila father does suck his teeth and talk sometime, watching the street from inside his front verandah, wishing all cinema burndown like in '63 race riots where the races been murdering each other because of politics So Jamila know she can't make she father see them Filmfare and Screen magazines at all, else is murderation in the house while she mother have to lock she fat self i n the next bedroom, dare not opening she mouth as she heart going abap abap, and she belly turning inside like rocks tone grazing concrete. Never know why me father tum like a beast, Jamila does tell she self morning, noon and night, trying hard not to let them young boys like Crabbe and Saucepan and Basil throw sweet-talk at she when she out the house in the street, else is sheer murder ation for true, and she father might get bruk-neck after the magistrate done sentence him to death. "Jamila, you not seeing you daddy not thinking right anymore," she mother does tell she under the house evening time after she father gone to masjid. "Like the man lost something ever since the imam join politics, and he 46


daughter friending with one minister. Yes! You daddy say the whole committee member in masjid is top-top mussulman who trading the faith fo money, and position. True-true, me think is this kind a attitude turn you father mind into a rockstone. He believe the imam betraying the religion .... Butwhytakeout he passion atme,Jamiladoes tell she self, seeing in broad daylight how them other muslim girls she age-group laughing and talking openly with boys dressing the way they feel, going to the cinema when they mind feel like it and eating any damn thing they tongue fancy: pork, beef, mutton, chicken .... "This is modern times, eh," Jamila friends them does talk. Like me coming me father eye-pass, Jamila ask she self one night during which time Crabbe start playing like at she. And it all happen in a funny way months back one early midweek night by the street. She was coming home from the shop with a loaf of bread in she hand, and out of nowhere, Crabbe clasp she by she back, when she about to walkpass the fine street where it darkish, and he hug she tight tight, whispering in she ears, "me love you bad-bad girl Jamila Then Crabbe let-go she, and vanish likea spirit. She been just quit schooling, and she bubby start com ing out. Tha t nigh t J amila could n' t sleep good even though the rai n fallia ter which send them stray dog and cat indoors Yes! she turning and twisting in bed like she get stinging-nettle, wondering if she turning into a big woman. Is from then, she start take interest in she looks, borrowing them Filmfare and Screen magazines from she friends them who does imagine truly them is one of them female filmstars, doing-up they face with sweet-smelling powder and lipstick trying to see theyself on the cinema screen And you dare not tell Jamila girl friends them about such things as going to the temple or masjid, wearing ornhni, and you must greet you elders in such ways: "Ram Ram," or "assalam-ul-kum," showing deep respect. Eh-eh, straightway like a fine, straight bridge, them girls would pout they lips, put they hands on they waist which curve-in, and say, "tink we uncivilize? This is different time. Hindu and muslim is one people, and we have to tink ahead. Be in the style .... Then, them girls would swing-round, dress-bottom swaying like open umbrella, winking they eye like sakiwinkee, and say, "we not living in India or Pakistan. We live in a modem country where people speaking English, you hear." And you talking bout dressing? Eh, them girls more flashy than torchlight, high-heel shoes pointed like needles, lips more reddish than blood while the Avon perfume want stifle you nose. And them girls conversation does revolve round the latest in fashion, bout film stars, which man living with which woman in the village, who throwaway belly for who, which girl playing nice as if she foot don't touch de ground girl; and about boys in the viJIagewho playingbigman as ifhe "crotch getting heavy He want wife .... This time, them girls can't spell A to bullfoot properly, but whenever they 47


talking to strangers, winking-winking they eye, you going to believe all to God they been to College. True! the English word in they mou th more crispy than salt biscuit: "I has a beautiful dress You looks good .... All the while, Jamila does feel left-out as if she pen-up like a sheep. And she dare not mingle-mingle too much with she friends, dress-up, or even get antics like them. True! she father eye like hawk whenever he is home, and Jamila friends them dare not mingle-mingle in she yard while she father loo ks turning spiteful. ''Yuh is a straight muslim child. Me don want yuh to mix-mix with them young gii-ls who tink they get wings ... Bad name quick to come at yuh doorstep. Me want walk with me head high in the street.. .. Jamila does suck she teeth quiet-qu iet whenever she father throw them words in she face which done swell-up like a dead fish belly. Sometimes Jamila does want to know what is so special bout she, cursing this muslim thing, wishing to God she was a Hindu girl like she friends them. Then, in she lonely moments, relaxing in the hammock under the house, breeze blowing real sweetish from the seaside, ruffling t hem leaves and flowers in people front yards, she does see what a selfish and domineering father she has. Is anything upsetting the man. "Birthnight party But is what me hearing? Any decent muslim girl going to birthnight party?" Them words still etch in Jamila mind like carvings on a rockstone when she father been rant and rave that Sunday afternoon, the foam dribbling on his lips, while she mother take cover under the bed in the bedroom, trembling, seeing the slap she would get Blai from she husband if she only say, words sweetish like honey "is what wrong with birthnight party, man? Is she own friends them invite she .... Me father like a real pig, Jamila does tell she self, seeing how she pen-up like a bird in a cage, couldn't even give she mouth some liberty self whenever them Christian clap-hand people walking around the village, asking for dona tion, saying, "hallelujah, the Lord's my shepherd .... "The Lord's my shepherd! Bah! Muhamad is de last and greatest o f prophet," she fa ther does tell them Christian people, mou th frame in real hatred, ordering Jamila to close the front gate forthwith. "Tink me have money to give Christian people .... "If me don have strong faith, me drop down and dead," Jamila mother does tell she self one-two in the kitchen, calling on Allah, the all merciful, to change she husband dogish attitude. "Is how long me going to live like this?" She know damn-well a muslim suppose to serve she husband dutifully, because according to the Koran book, a woman is lower than a man in status. But is not so one time, she does tell she self in bed whenever she eye drop to sleep. If you talk too hard, this man want to slap you Blai. If you want to go a roadside this man turning like gorilla If you want to attend one Hindu people wedding, this man telling you, "them Hindu people does eat pork," o God Allah! i s where you hiding? Was during this time Crabbe start throwing tackle at Jamila, telling she in 48


words sweet like honey how she face round like the moon in the sky, lips soft as sponge, the eyes real inviting as nectar to them bees .. Eh-eh, don't talk how Jamila does feel nice as though she want to walk in the clouds every time Crabbe walk-past in front she house, spot she in she front verandah and dish out them words like water out a standpipe Yes! she does feel real big-womanish after Crabbe gone his way, and she dash into the big bedroom, smiling a trench-water smile, examining she face in the mirror which she know smooth like carpet, then fingle-fingle she bubby which does get a bit hard ish, telling she mind, she really turning a big woman for true; and is not she faul t whenever them boys throwing a tackle a t she. Is why me father must swell-up l i ke crapau? And Crabbe was more persistent in his demand than all them young boys his age-group-seventeen, eighteenish, who does throw a tackle at Jamila, watching first though like cat if Jamila father under the house, polishing his hackia stick, or throwing a curse at them fowls if his reddish eye only catch them digging-up the flower plants, growing in the front yard. Well! it so happen then tha t Jamila come accustom to hearing them sweet sweet words rolling out Crabbe mouth. True! Sometimes she does feel like fish out of water if a day or two pass, and this Crabbe didn't walk-past, and throw out them sweetish words which does soothe she inside real nice like oil rubbing on baby skin, though she know damn-well, Crabbe is a Hindu boy learning motor-mechanic, and she is a muslim girl, and marriage between the two of them could never take place in this village where inter-marriage between the two religions is a taboo. Yet, Crabbe does make she day wonderful in that penup life she dogish father get she inside .. God! me even can't watch out the window too long, Jamila does say, the tears heavy in she heart; turning Filmfare and Screen magazines with passion, wishing she was a bird so she could flyaway far far .. But this Saturday midday poor Crabbe believe Jamila father aim was to spIit-open his head in two like coconut with his hackia stick which some people say Jamila father been wash with deadman water. "If dat man only lash yuh with dat stick, coh-coh beh sore buss-out yuh skin, and no docta could cure it," people does talk about Jamila father hackia stick, trying they best not to vex Jamila father who would run quick time for the hackia soon as peopl e raise his nerves just like what Crabbe did just now. True! after Crabbe tum-in the fine street, sit-down between the carrion crow bush and blacksage bush, knowing Jamila father can't find he, blowing like racehorse, Bull words hit his eardrums like bullet: "You better keep away from Jamila daddy. That man have real Arab blood in he. And you know them Arab quick fo murder? Rememba the hackia stick?" But me spirit proper take Jamila, Crabbe talk, cussing-up them black ants which murdering his skin while he peeping thru from inside the bush to see if Jamila father vanish into thin air as he does wish day and night, praying too, that Jamila father get paralysis. God! is how long he going to pen-up Jamila like that? He don't know she is a big girl. .. 49


And true to God! don't matter how hard Crabbe try to blank out Jamila out his mind, trying to see them other girls like Kunti, Zorina, Champa, who get exact size and shape like Jamila, the tactics never come thru. This Jamila like one real spirit. She does haunt he day and night, and whenever Kunti or Champa come in his mind, Jamila does enter like one fairy, looking so charming that in comparison, Kunti and Champa does look like real old maid, black, uglyish and squingy like quash in dry weather. And if Crabbe only empty his true feelings to Bull and Pox, quick time them boys going to say, "Crabbe, like you getting typee fo the woman," laughing he he he .. "they have plenty fiihes in the ocean you know. And watch the hackia .... This time, Bull and Pox throwing a tackle like wildfire all about the place never mind them girls, who swaying they behind like it get spring, sputtering some nasty curses at them, saying, "woman don't want man who only get shirt and pants, you hear." Bu t Bull and Pox, and them boys, know the tackling-game rough like ri ver water, and soon as you slide; you fall like bush hog blashai! They know this time young girls mouth hot like pepper, dressing flashy like gold in you teeth-plate, and sputtering English as though they pass College, but luck does blow good wind at them boys in-between. They does manage to squeeze-thru a feel-up, or a kiss-up from Kunti or Zorina, dark everung time by the street-junction, by a front bridge, or under a tree, growing by the edge of the drain. And don't talk how them chaps does feel ruce whenever they assert they manhood in such a way. Eh-eh! you going to believe all to God, they turn big man overnight, willing they moustache to grow, talking with a drawl, cigarette stick between they lip. "Boy! when me knock the kiss at Kunti lip, me feel me in Heaven self .... But Crabbe is not so big manrush. His voice soft like velvet, and he always get a frightenish look, and he would disappear quick time whenever fight breakway in the street, paling stave and bruk-bottle firing wild, blood dripping like water from roof top while them woman screaming for murder ... Now, it come a time when Crabbe couldn't even pass a day without seeing Jamila face, else he crack-up like dry bamboo, getting all kind of bad dreams in the night. But he couldn't disclose his true feelings to Bull and Pox cause quick time them boys going to say, flit have plenty fishes in the ocean you hear!" "And be careful! Sometime the girl must be throw one spell at you. And remember the hackia stick. ... And Crabbe need some advice badly. True! is how he could get at Jamila without she father not knowing a damn thing? And he was certain like day that follow night, that Jamila feelings did come-in for him never mind of this Hindumuslim thing she father believe in, like leech on a dog skin. Me have to get Jamila, Crabbe said one night during which time Throat son hang himself to dea th with a rope, after he ca tch his fat, darkskin wife wi th a man on top she belly by the seabeach one Sunday evening, people say, crying bitter tears, beating they chest. "Ow me Gaad! Throat son was an angeL." 50


"Them nowadays woman eye get fire ... Crabbe was going to Throat son wakenight when he tell himself, me have to get Jamila, thinking which biggish boy going to advice him in the proper way so he could tackle Jamila smart like cat without she father knowing a damn thing. Ah! to hell with he hackia stick. Couple days later, Crabbe jump at Billy who he know does tell them boys how to throw a tackle at girls. Yes! Crabbe know this Billy tongue sweet like honey, and rumour had it that Billy friending with somebody wife who does give him money. You see, Billy don't work. People say he get sweet-skin, and he dressing and walking like a millionaire son. But they ain't know Billy get one ambition. He want to go to America where he hear the Yankee dollar flowing in the street like water, and white women is two fo three cent. Some nights, this Billy does imagine seeing himself in America, walking in Times Square and Central Park, playing big-ass at them. villagers who he know living in New York. Is them alone could live in America? And whenever Billy mother saying to him, "but Billy, is why yuh nuh get one job, married and settle-down ... Eh-eh! Billy does act like when you raise-up antsnest. His eyes does pop out, and his face tum reddish. "Tink a job coul d pay you now when rice selling fo thirty dolla a gallon, kerosene fo twenty-two dolla a gallon, flour fo eight dolla a pound, eh? Is why you tink everybody going to America and Canada? Is fo betterment sake, you hear. And by hooks or crooks, me have to get over there .... Billy old mother who bones does rattle when she walking, does suck she teeth, then slump in the hammock every time Billy declare his intention. o Gad Bhagawan! is what America and Canada have? Once you make up you mind fo work hard, you bound to get by in life. God is not blind like goat. .. Billy mother does tell she self one-two time, wishing dearly one big wave floodup America and Canada. Is then, them sweet-skin people going to tie they belly and work hard. True! Never know why this country come so wrong-sided? 0 Bhagawan! me just want Billy get married, then me could be in me grave in peace .... Crabbe know Billy get one rep as though he study women too bad. Is Billy self does tell them growing-up boys how to sweet-talk girls, how to kiss them on they ears, how to exhale wind behind they back, how to stroke-stroke they hair just like when you stroking a cat skin; and how to tongue-kiss them, "rolling you tongue first on they lip, you hear .... And Crabbe know some of them growing-up boys who wearing long pants, did get thru smooth and easy with them hot-mouth girls, who in the longrun, did end-up eloping with some of them boys, though at first, some of them boys had to endure them girls' mooma mouth. "Tink woman want man who nuh get future?" "De next time me catch you by me front bridge, is one broadside you getting. Yuh could work to mind wife, eh?" So Crabbe deadsure he is on safe ground. He have to get Jamila, and Billy 51


is the only man who know the tactics "Write a love-note man," Billy tell Crabbe by t he street-corner, a bi t further away from the group of bigger boys, sitting on t he parapet where grass lice tearing you skin. Crabbe swallow his spittle, feeling the dryness in his throat. Love-note! I s who going to take it to Jamila? He wait until one-two people done walk-past, and explain the dilemma to Billy. Ah! Billy spin-round like bucktop, and smack his tongue chu chu chu as though he feel too sorry for Crabbe "Is small matte r man. Get a small boy to drop the note to the girl, and you problem done. Then she going to reply back to you, and bam, the love-business start. ... Is true-true thing! Crabbe shake his head. This man Billy know everything bout tackling You only have to use you commonsense Good! Crabbe smile now and say, "me going to do exactly what you say." "And don' t worry bout the Hindu-muslim ting. Nowadays young people nuh care who is Hindu or Muslim," Billy say, then he join them boys who talking about Canada and America, and the U.s dollars. ''Yuh nuh hear Deochand get two car, and Pran get a posh house?" "And imagine Paul was de biggest lazy man. They say de man get a lot a money in de bank, and a white woman .... "0 Boy, New York!" But is the love-note tha t really cause a murderation between Jamila father and Crabbe father one bright Sunday evening while them children was playing hopscotch and skipping in the street, and them shirt-tail small boys poking fun at a donkey by a drain which braying and bucking. Boy! that was a scene to talk about. Jamila fat her look as if fire burning his skin. He turn real reddish, and like a cross-dog, he swaying his hackia stick like stickfighter in the street, in front Crabbe father house, shouting, "come out yuh Hindu dog. Yuh planning to bring shame in me doorstep? Love-note! Yuh good fo-nothing son writing lov enote to me daughta. Me is a true-born Muslim. Tink me want any Hindu bad blood poison me family? If yuh son crotch getting heavy, yuh better cut it out. And if yuh want me take jail, keep yuh son away from me daughta, yuh hear! And come out if yuh is a man .... This time, J amila fa ther done lock -u p J amila and she mother in the house, after giving Jamila one stinging slap, shouting, "yuh want Hindu man, nuh? Me going to clip yuh wings like bird." Then he tum to his wife who short and fattish, screaming on top she voice, and le t-g o a broadside on she behind with the garden cutlass, shouting, ''If yuh was proper Muslim woman this eye-pass could never going to happen. Is how yuh tink me going to raise me head i n masjid?" Soon after, Jamila father mad-blood raise-up. He sputtering stinking curses as he fumbling for his hackia under the house, heart palpitating. When he walk out his yard, he shout his wife name, and say if he only catch she in the street, he going to murder she .... Meanwhile, the street come clear like daylight within a minute after them 52


children and them one-two women, spot JamHa father trotting thru, raising the hackia stick like a warrior about to charge. True to God! them children and woman scramble for they yard, shuddering with frigh t just like rats seeing a cat. "0 Gad Allah! that man mad-blood raise. Is somebody he want to kill," them women say, rushing into they house after closing the door, lock and key. "He have the hackia stick. ... And you would think Jamila father own the bloody street, parading like Lord God in Heaven. All the while, Crabbe father, who small and fine like stick, working his mouth in his house while his wife clu tch he by his waist, saying, "you not see that fullahman mad! God shoulda never give he one daughta. And he have the hackia stick. ... "But dis is downright rass-pass, woman," Crabbe father quarrelling but like he dread to show his face in his front verandah. He too, know about the hackia stick and the deadman water while Crabbe done disappear out the house thru the backdoor, cursing Billy all the curse he know. And not one neighbour self going out to make peace. Everybody know Jamila father hasty like jackass and stubborn like mule, and ignorant like Mactool, knowing fully well about the hackia that could send you to you grave with just one lash Bladai! And if you hear the boast-an-brag words flying out Jamila father mouth ... me is true born mussulman. Me blood run straight to Mecca. And pork-eater is infidel, de lowest of all nation .... When Jamila father realise that Crabbe father would not come out his house, he stamp his foot in passion, wave the hackia stick, and say, "fell yuh son me going to get charge fo murder." Then he walk away, cursing his daughter. ''Yuh want Hindu man .... Later that night, Crabbe get a proper cut-rass from his father promising him on his knees, that he going never again play-like at a Muslim girl. "Yuh crotch getting heavy nuh," his father say, firing the bamboo rod all across his back. "Rememba, we is Hindu people, eh!" Two days later, mouth open and story jump out. It was all Crabbe stupidity. When he give shirt-tail Rueben the love-note to hand Jamila, he didn't insist on his knee to Rueben and say, "see to it that Jamila get this note from you." Never. Rueben say Crabbe tell he to drop the note at Jamila house. That was how the note drop into Jamila father hand. Yes! Jamila father was weeding the front yard that afternoon when Rueben call out for Jamila. So come Jamila father accosted Rueben and get the note. Eh-eh! don't talk how them boys laughing at Crabbe stupidity after Rueben explain the story Crabbe does feel like hiding, seeing how he is a mocking stock. One midmorning he was going to throw himself in the sea soon after the news fly in his ears, that Jamila gone to spend a couple months by she aunt in Enmore village. She father force she to go, people say, with a cutlass over Jamila head. 53


Is true thing! Crabbe been really want to throw himself in the sea that midmorning, or get-out the village for a longtime, good thing Billy and himself happen to cross path as though God self intervene on his behalf Chu chu chu ... Billy smack his tongue. ''You stupid. Just find out in which street Jamila auntie live, and take wa l k one-two weekends. Eh-eh! you is a big man. You wearing long pants, and you handling money. And if you really want Jamila, you bound to get she ... Crabbe shade his head, walking away from the seadam, smiling. Me have to get Jamila, he swear, feeling strength seeping in his body, and deep-deep courage in his face Yes! Me could get a job, and mind she ... send she to learn sewing. True! And to hell with the Hindu-muslim thing Love far above that. Yes! me going all out for Jamila .... 54


THE POETRY OF FRANK A. COLL YMORE by A.J. Seymour (June, 1981) I've recently read again the century of poems that Frank Collymore published in three books in the 1940's-Thirty Poems (1944), Beneath the Casuarinas (1945), and Flotsam (1948), and I'm not sure tha t the cri tics ha ve done full justice to the poetry he has produced. There are reasons for this, of course. Colly was a greatly respected teacher at Combermere College in Barbados for fifty years and he sought out and encouraged many well-known and .influential writers. He must have been generous in assessments and a very good teacher. He was editor of BIM in its most formative years and so helped to introduce to Caribbean readers the majority of our best known writers. He established lines of personal correspondence with people in many parts of the world, symbolising unfailing courtesy and sympathetically answering their questions, and setting out the main areas of all the region's writing. One issue of Savacou, the magazine edited by Ed ward Brathwaite, was devoted on his 80th birthday to A Tribute to Frank Collymore. In the book A Companion to West Indian Literature compiled by Michael Hughes, Colly's poetry is described as "minor, but with self-assurance and stability". This last assessment claims that the poems are "often celebrations of Collymore's deep affection for the sea and marine landscapes, the native West Indian's permanent vista". So like an evergreen tree his urbane and likeable personality and his influence and personal authority over more than 30 years in the Caribbean entitled him to affection and respect and from these two positions, the poetry is perhaps not carefully read and regarded as traditional and a collector's piece. Edward Baugh for example makes the point "and we won't find in these poems (The Selected Poems 1959) any pre-occupation with the theme of West Indianism or with the peculiarities and problems of West Indian history ... or national feeling or sociological interest". As the West Indies passes on its way through these decades of the 70' sand 80's and poises itself for the 90's and the post 2000 era and as these pre occupations with history and sociology and politics and economics which overlay the major literary issues are satisfied more and more, it will be the distinctively human aspects of life which will continue to command the atten tion of critics and pleasure-loving readers, and it is likely that discerning persons will have to go back and re-evaluate the established body of the selfperceptions of many West Indian wri ters which they inheri t. These new readers will have to organise the tradition that is being set out in this period of search for cultural identity.and will place in a new regional poetical order the body of its poetry, judging the items as dateless and/ or undated by non-poetic consid erations. And to my mind, in this new perspective many of Colly's poems will last for a very long time. The Collymore poems were nearly all written in the 1940's, when he was in his fifties. Thinking about this and reflecting on the possible reasons for this 55


sudden and brief flowering of poetic expression, I recall that in that decade Colly must have enjoyed the intellectual and artistic companionship of his compatriot and fellow poet H.A. Vaughan and two other men who happened to be living and working in Barbados. One was Bryan King, British Council Representative and Senior Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and the other was Howard Hayden, Director of Education, whose encouragement, assistance and criticism Colly singles out for special thanks in the book Beneath the Casuarinas. I never met Howard Hayden, but I met Bryan King in Cambridge in 1946 and was greatly impressed by his easy and urbane conversation which encouraged others to give deeply of themselves. He was himself from St. Kitts, he said, and had enjoyed his years as British Council Representative in Barbados in the 1940's. From what H.A. Vaughan tells me about the penetrating personality of Howard Hayden, it must have been a remarkable conjunction of personalities, when those four minds discussed literature, philosophy and cultural issues in an island forum and one of the valuable results will have been the poetry which Frank Collymore produced. Of course, as a teacher for decades, Colly must have had his mind full of the great themes of literature in the English language and his familiarity would express itself in ready and apt quotation, linking authors and poems in illuminating manner practised over the years. I would think, also, that at his age of 50 many doubts would have been laid to rest wi thin his psyche and he would have placed many of the issues of life into a final order of priorities, relating to his life, his reading, his native island of Barbados, and his friends. So as the doors of his creativity swung open, and he realised that the long pent-up fountains of his poetry were asserting themselves, he would have experienced a great pleasure as his pen revealed to his own startled mind its treasures during these years. The poems may have come fairly complete and full-panoplied from his mind and I daresay that many of them may have been sparsely revised, if at all, as he listened eagerly for their brothers and sisters to follow. It would be part of his personality, also, if rather shyly he showed some of them to a few chosen friends and if he seemed reluctant to have them see the light of day in print. First of all, Collymore will be remembered as the poet of the Sea, and I set out below my favourite poem: Hymn to the Sea Like all who live on small islands I must always be remembering the sea Being always cognizant of her presence; viewing Her thro apertures in the foliage; hearing When the wind is from the south, her music, and smelling The warm rankness of her; tasting And feeling her kisses on bright sun-bathed days, I must always be remembering the sea. 56


Always, always, the encircling sea Eternal: lazy-lapping, criss-crossed with stillness Or windruffed, aglitter with gold; and the surf Waist-high for children, or horses for Titans. Her lullaby, her singing, her moaning; on sand, On shingle, on breakwater, and on rock; By sunlight, starlight, moonlight, darkness, I must always be remembering the sea. Go down to the sea upon this random day By metalled road, by sand way, by rockpath And come to her. Upon the polished jetsam, Shell and stone and weed, and salt-fruit Torn from the underwater continents, cast Your garments and despondencies; re-enter Her embracing womb: a return, a completion. I must always be remembering the sea Life came from the sea, and once a goddess arose Full-grown from the salt deep; love Flows from the sea, a flood; and the food Of islanders is reaped from the sea's harvest; Not only life and sustenance; visions too, Are born of the sea: the patterning of her rhythm Finds echoes within the musing mind I must always be remembering the sea Symbol of fruitfulness, symbol of barrenness Mother and destroyer, the calm and the storm, Life and desire and dreams and death Are born of the sea; this swarming land Her creation, her signature set upon the salt ooze To blossom into life; and the red hibiscus And the red roofs burn more brightly against her blue. I must always be remembering the sea. I've set out the poem in it entirely because I consider "Hymn to the Sea" to be one of the con temporary classics in Caribbean poetry. It is a classic because more than any other poem it captures the special reverential feeling of the surrounding sea for an islander There is a joy in remembering the sea. The first stanza of the Hymn obediently describes the human sense of sight, smelling, hearing and tasting in action on the sea as so many gateways of pleasure In the second stanza, "always", the adverb, introduces the physical dimension of inescapably encountering the sea in its glorious apperceptions. In one line, the 57


poet moves over the spectrum of sight from sunlight to darkness. Many memo rable images of the sea are here-the surf "horses for Titans or waist-high for children", "lazy lapping or windruffed, aglitter with gold", (We could respell the word "wind-roughed", if we wished) It is in the third stanza that we are invited to remove from our objective viewpoint and become involved physi cally in the sea. We come upon the sea by many paths ; we meet the sea's treasure trove, the goods lost by shipwreck or thrown overboard and found floating in the sea, and the poet adds things "torn from the underwater continents". As he brings these up to full consciousness, he reverses the action of expressing them from the deep, and invites the reader to re-enter the sea's embracing womb in "a return, a completion". The full value of "return" comes in the fourth stanza. Since life came from the sea, in the drama of Darwinian evolution, re entry is a means of casting "our despondencies" within the womb. This fourth stanza is a recall of the interdisciplinary stud y of aesthetics and economics. "The Sea's Harvest" is the food of islanders. But the poet touches upon "visions born of the sea" such as the ten-year voyage of Ulysses back to Penelope, or like Keats' fine line of "eternal whisperings around desolate shores". The poet also finds echoes of the rhythm's pattern in his musing mind, and we may look at some of these echoes later on. In the fifth stanza we are reminded of the dual nature of the sea-mother and destroyer, calm and storm, fruitfulness and barrenness. The poet SUm marises the argument with the lines: Life and desire and dreams and death Are born of the sea. Then the thought rises in an inspired vein with the memory that Barbados is a marl-creation, "its swarming land is a veritable creation of the sea" ... "her signature set on the salt ooze to blossom into life". So the last two stanzas have moved away from the physical into the mentally important concepts, but the end of the fifth stanza returns to the physical image of contrast between the red roofs of houses and the red hibiscus as 'burning more brightly against the blue of the sea". The reader will notice how the refrain "I must always be remembering the sea" holds the stanzas together and unifies the poem. Where does the poet remember the sea? where best? while still in the island? or when absent from Barbados? I asked myself. Does this reverential and hymnary approach apply only to Barbados, with its special trick of white reflecting marl and rejoicing in a light which other islands may lack? Maybe Grenada qualifies, perhaps Saint Lucia, but what of the other islands? So there is a multiplicity of underlying unitary correspondences in this poem, some sensuous, some philosophical, some carefully structured, some casually descriptive in the dense gravity of the stanzas. We leave the senses and point to the memory and the spirit in an illumination of imagery. The rhythm 58


is polyphonous with the varying complexity of the verse paragraphs completed by the refrain of remembering One attractive feature of the poem is the way in which the first and other stanzas the end of a line introduces the new thought for the next line, luring the attention on and so stitching the whole together. As the poem progresses, it assumes more and more the aspect of unified verse paragraphs with dense and direct statements. The fourth stanza particularly is a nest of insights and a fine informed reaction to nature. Flotsam, the second book of poems, represents an extraordinary stride forward on the quality of the first collection, with gains in range, weight and authority, but it is especially remarkable for the many references to the sea as a theme in addition to the "Hymn to the Sea". "Schooner", for example, speaks from a standpoint of being in a ship at sea at night and with runaway water under the stars. We see how the ship's prow "drips with the kiss of the wave". The poet selects the cigarette's glow to light the helmsman's face, "old as stone", but this soon shrinks into nothingness. And the voyage becomes a "Fugue of forgetting, while stars rush silently in swooping curves, and the night is hooped around the sea's endlessness" . The sail's saga is told in slow syllables ... moments glide from darkness into darkness ... no meaning here but the song of the sails ... "And across the waters strides the wind to lay its reckless head upon the bosom of night" So "Schooner" shares with "Hymn to the Sea" the basis of Colly's marine insights. In another poem we learn that "words are the poem / the incalculable flotsam / that which bore them vanished beneath / the hurrying drift of time ... peer below the restless surface discerning / tangled among the seaweed and obscured / A shape that might have been a man?" Studded among the poems we come upon so many images which the sea has begotten upon the poet's memory, e.g. "the seal of the salt kiss is set already upon the gimcrack bungalows on the hiIlside"-"upon you falls the sound of the sea"-"the long deliberate curve of the bay"-"naked girls still breastless, mahogany and ebony, run shouting and laughing, their bodies etched in sun bright darkness along the glittering sand". I want to pause here since this image of the young pre-nubile girls is a very powerful one as they run along the beach against the sun. "On your ear beats the long murmur of the wave, else silence""the beck and sway of underwater forests thro the deep archways of tides""salvaged from all the surging flotsam of the years". In the book Thirty Poems, we can trace here and there the similarity of Colly's preoccupation with the sea. For example in "Treasure Trove", he catches the sight of the evening sun-"Late afternoon and along / the beach from the ba th returning / we must shield our dazzled eyes / from the sun's last burning / Farewell". But suddenly a wandering sunray is caught by the ravelled weed and "10, a miracle is wrought". 59


The mass glows, each tiny Petal with gold is crowned; Burning fringed with light Buried treasure foundWe pause, breathless And gaze. In the poem ''Return'', there are glimpses of images which will be seen more fully developed in "Hymn to the Sea';. In the first stanza, the poet affinns ''We too shall come down to the Sea", past the gay gardens, past the lichened pathway, down to the sands where "the shattered bones of leviathan are strewn with coral splinters". The second stanza has the same opening line but the poet lays emphasis here on his hearing "the ancient memory ... persistent, the song of the sea-shell". In the third stanza, he speaks of the return to "her dark embrace, back to our mother, the sea / the crowding sea, vomiting her living and her dead". "Farewell to the Islands" notes, I believe, the two islands that his wife Ellice knew and loved-her native Dominica (with "woods and hills, and little rivers hurrying down the hills") ,and Barbados, the island o f her marriage, with "coral beaches, and about them curled, the maker and the mother of islands, the Sea". And, very finely, Colly tells h i s wife of the things "fo r ming the little island that is herself". In "Beneath the Casuarinas" there are other attractive sea-images. For example in "Sea plunge" the poet describes something one often sees-the "unharnessed plunge caressed / by lunging tide along sunride" / (notice the internal music) "of leaping flecks and foam / and little flanks slide smooth / beneath whirling bubble-wreath / lost in coolness glide / and curl slow swirling soothe / there under clear sea-glass / until all too soon surfaced, soon rippling / back to blue air and stippled sunlight". This is a lovely sustained description of the under-water swimmer, moving smoothly along from the plunge and coming up for air. In another poem, "Because I have turned my Back" Filled with regret and lost hope, the poet writes "My heart turns traitor, spurns / these hands, these eyes; yearns / to go back / drift with the long sweep of the wave / into the deep" In another place debating what he should write a poem about, the poet meditates and having rejected the theme of trees and roots, he thinks of the sea-And of the sea: seaspray and salt wind, Seaweed and salt smell, and always Foam-fringe and wave thrust, the sea-sound Weaving endless pattern, holding Behind the tapestry of sound, the silence. I've selected what appears to me the major refe r ences to the poetry of the sea that we find in the pages of Frank Collymore To my mind, this is the unforgettable Colly, the poet of the sea, and I can find no one challenging his claim to this title. 60


Because Frank Collymore was well read, there are many moments in his poems which evoke parallels in the reader's mind. Colly is always generous, always self-effacing but often ironic, and at times the images and ideas in his poems make me feel he shares the same sophistica ted sensibili ty we describe as Jane Austen's, in the record of the manners and snobbery of a section of society. In another vein, I find myself thinking of Chaucer Colly has a tendency towards self-mockery together with a subtle analysis of motives and a sympathy with others, and sometimes he reveals a refined and civilised manner, which recalls the image of the mind of the aristocrat Barbadian gentleman, playing with images which leaves a well-mannered residue of wise impressions. We feel sure that behind them all is a hierarchy of values we associate with the ethos of Old Barbados. This is especially true of poems with a faint but distinct story-line and I remember Colly enjoyed acting and had some skill in that field. I am speaking here of a distilled essence, almost intangible, hovering over the page. The signature of the poet is found upon all his work, but it is inevitable that we will come upon the echoes of poets who have shaped him. For example, "who took love gaily", has the feeling of A.E. Housman. In "Terminus" we see the influence ofW .H. Auden as the lines show-"we have shunned the love that was offered us / We have scorned the proffered prospectus / Of heavenly bliss, we have missed the bus / We have come to the end of the road. We are purged of desire and selfishness / We have tasted the ashes of loveliness / We are filled with the weight of emptiness / We have come to the end of the road". There is a poem the opening of which captivates me because of its philosophical impact, and the nature of the artist: To each his lonely symbol: when the soul Ravished by its own experience is swept into the vortex, there upon the shoal Is left some broken thing, token inept. .. Of joy or sorrow, In the poem "Folly of Vows", all the more impressive for being rhymed, we come upon a series of Dantesque images that are exquisitely non-West Indian bu t universal. The poem refers to--" a rabble hobbling by / with twisted hip and crooked eye" / / ... All of them are mauled and lame / And bear the marks of sin and shame". This rabble tells the poet, ''Weare the vows, the vows you broke" -to speak the truth as promised his mother, to support in need as given to his friend, and to love none but her. So they pass the poet, in their vast deformities, bent and broken, tottering with slobbering lips, visages twitching with pain, and the last one laughing shrieks, "you are breaking me now / when you vow ne'er again will you make a vow". The impact of this poem is heightened by the objective short story line in the structure. Colly in his poems, sometimes displays a shrewd sense of woman's character. In one poem particularly, "Quartette", there are four women talking together about one man who has just died, and the meaning his life has been for 61


them. One is his wife whom he had cast aside; the second was his mistress, but he could never be faithful to her. The third he had promised marriage but he had left her. The fourth woman had given him her love "That was all. I am glad". The first three women tum round on her when she says these words, "who are you woman to speak thus"? and they berate her and spurn her talk of memories "What are memories? they are shadows". The wife and the mistress are thinking of the future ... of "the long years-the creeping loneliness of age". The third woman says "he has betrayed us". But the fourth in a moving passage tells them "you mistake love's meaning". ... this man was the way / to that bright garden whose living memory / Lightens my life. I have no more to say". Readers will possibly re-read this poem to be sure they agree with what is the intention of the poet, and not all will do so. We are reminded that Colly is also a writer of short-stories, and actor in plays, and that each of the four feminine characters is clearly etched in the few lines spoken in the poem. The use of rhyme heightens the effect of the individual poem. Certainly the poem is worthy of close study, and I find myself asking" Are these Barbadian women characters, or universal types"? Like many other poets, Colly pays a special tribute to his father and his mother. "In Thankfulness", one of the early poems, recalls a moment, when to the poet, sitting in the dusk, lulled by a fragment of a poem and reminded by a secret suddenly a vision comes of his father smiling, of his mother and of a dear dead friend, . "The album of the past lies open, and in this moment is that other life renewed". The poet, overwhelmed by "this sweet visitation from the far-forgotten embalmed past, ... mocking the chains of time", is moved to ask for pardon for "the churliness of resentment", and is grateful for the precious gift of bliss, a benediction, too, too undeserved". In the third book of poems, Colly has a double-page spread, two poems facing one another "Birthday" to his mother and "Obituary" to his father. He compares birth and death, his birth fifty years before and the death of his father. "Birthday" expresses a bouquet of tenderness and thanks. "You had borne a son; proud of your achievement; for then you were nearly as old as I am now", he says. The poem speaks of the profusion of the mother's love over the years unreturned by the thoughtless boy, seeking other toys than those your dear affection might provide". Then the poem passes on to later years, when the son had grown up, and the mother had become herself "like a little care-free child" and she lay in her son s arms, "oblivious of his presence ... your life had come full circle, and in the growing circle of the moon you found a joy and happiness that moved your thoughts to laughter while mine in old regrets and tears were drowned". And as he holds his aged mother in his arms, caught up "in the growing circle of the moon", the poet says "I thank you for your birthday gift, my life: your love entire". "Obituary" depicts his father as a proper Barbadian gentleman, Custom's Officer, courteous, always with his p i pe in his mouth, Church-going, frock coated, top-hatted, cigar on Sundays, playing music by ear, sympathetic to a 62


cockroach fighting death in th sink-removing it with care and setting it at liberty, "Never take away what you can't give back, son". The poem goes on to detail his father's qualities-"no good at gamesnever losing his faith in the essential goodness of people ... May he rest in peace, this gentle gentleman". As one reads the poem slowly, one realises that Colly the poet inherits many of his father's gentle ways. Colly was fond of music, and his poem ''Music at night", printed on the page like a stairway is a favourite; I remember also the image of the "echoing forests of Sibelius" in "By Lamplight". "Homage to Beauty" will bear much careful re-reading, as indeed will many other poems he has written on themes of love, religion, death, children, violence on the newsreel, lizards and the timeless moments of significance caught in his poetry. I will however look at some of the poems Colly has written on Barbados. The poem "Hazy Days" is a capital picture of the island in its best dress of "Childhood's Idle Dreams". In "Dream Fabric", with its 128 lines, a verse essay sometimes prosy, and prosaic, the poet answers the critic "perhaps you will say I have nothing of importance to occupy my mind" by stressing the dreamlike powers in beauty, love, truth, to be found in the "lumberrooms of life" but argues that this is the way to achieve indi vid uali ty. This is an expanded version, at a lower poetic level of idea and image, of Shakespeare's passage, We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. There is a poem "The Land" of seven stanzas in Beneath the Casu!ll'inas in which the poet evokes the spirit of Barbados. This could be a nation poem in one sense, for school boys to study about themselves. The island is linked with the clay of A tlantis and crowned wi th coral filigree, an unlikely soli tary sister of the Caribbees". One stanza describes the villages and churches and post-card views; another describes the hibiscus and sly mongoose, the donkey cart and Cadillac "which have nodding acquaintance", a third touches on the union between Africa and Britain wi'th "experimental union and unpredictable mix ture", another talks about sea-eggs, flying fish, rum and silver beaches, hatred and love "much like any other land". The last stanza emphasises "this land, this flyspeck limned in pale green and mottled white upon the everlasting blue, possesses her own beauty .... yields her womb's increase, individual, independent; my land". Colly will say"Each poem a creation, a continuation of that which burns within the soul of man Not to be broken by the tide of death And persisting, exulting, the symbol of beauty apprehended, held Within warm arms with lovingness For one eternal moment on the shifting crest". 63


REVIEW SHANTlbyARNOLDITWARU Peepal Tree Press, U.K. by Stephanos Stephanides In the last few years we have seen in print a series of works from Guyanese writers with a rural East Indian background. While the cultural expression of these communities enjoys great vitality, for reasons of tradition it has only recently found its expression in literary form. Among these new works, Shanti, by Arnold Itwaru, no doubt will prove to be a significant contribution to Guyanese and West Indian literature. Before Shanti, Itwaru, who teaches sociology at York University, Toronto, had pub lished two volumes of poetry and a book of essays on social theory. Perhaps it is the combination of the poet and sociologist that gives Itwaru's first novel artistic maturity and social insight. Itwaru's arresting narrative carefully intertwines the inner life of his char acters with their social reality. In his depiction of the complex relationship between inner and outer life, the symbolic and referential aspects of language almost always go hand in hand in the narrative, giving it a poetic quality and intensity. However, unlike many novels that are called "poetic," the events of the tale are never lost sight of, nor are the symbols and metaphors removed from the environment and culture where the story is set. Itwaru probes and explores the constrictions and pressures of a particular social reali ty and community, and. the human being's plight within it. He points to the dangers, means of escape, and possibilities of spiritual resistance and growth. In Itwaru' s artistic quest, the physical environment is both representational and symbolic in that its meaning is intrinsic to its significance in a person's inner life, and at the same time is identifiable with a specific landscape and environment. His style brings to gether naturalistic and symbolic modes of realism. This is evinced in the opening passage when we see the protagonist, Shanti, in her new home in a northern industrial country (perhaps Canada), where she has emigrated to escape the oppression and poverty of her community in Guyana: In the villages of her life doors were closed when no one was at home, when someone died, and at night. Wooden, open to the sun, the wind, the neighbours, friends, relatives-even the mosquitoes and sand flies when they were in season-life inside embraced life ou tside. Bu t here this side of her long flight from all she had loved and hated, here doors were always closed, always wall to wall of unfamiliarities. (pp 5 and 6) This ambivalent beginning is not resolved in the unfolding of Shanti's story, as the rest of the novel tells us of her life in retrospect and leads to the final sentence" And Shanti"?, which in turn leads us back to the beginning. This cyclical structure, however, does not mean a closed reality. The non-resolution 64


is an indication that the end of the novelistic quest (that of the heroine) has not been reached by the flight to an improved material reality. Nonetheless, the need to escape from the material hardship of her legacy has also been significant. Shanti recalls her mother's words: ''You mus learn, me daughta. Learn. Dis nah life fi yuh. Dis nah life, me tell yuh". But beyond this escape, there is a struggle for integrity and dignity. In his novel, Itwaru pays homage to this tremulous struggle within the vicissitudes of a harsh reality. This is conveyed partly by the unfolding of the events of the story itself and partly by beautiful descriptive passages such as the following that contain naturalistic details of everyday life with exactness of sensorial perception, and a symbolism that has religious connotations arising from within the life of the community described: Ba thing here was a precarious ri tual of balancing on the crude unsteady board beneath her while she washed surrounded by the stench of effluvium, cleaning herself with the buckets of water she had drawn from the roadside standpipe half a mile away, washing once, often twice daily, in defiance of that which seemed to insist on uncleaning her, on undoing the very meaning of her self-cleansing. (p. 41) While the novel is primarily a celebration of the spiri t of Shanti, who even though oppressed, impoverished, and humiliated, is never totally crushed and degraded by her social reality, it also points to the dangers and injustices of those social constraints that give rise to deep-seated social and racial tensions and hatreds leading to rape, murder, and suicide, and which are described with macabre and gruesome realism These destructive energies are primarily embodied in three negative social and racial stereotypes: the overpowering white overseer, Booker; the mean-spirited and miserly banya, the East Indian shopkeeper Kissoon; and the bullying and sycophantic Black policeman Reid. Perhaps it is the macabre elements (and the intensity of style) that has led some readers to compare Itwaru's writing to that of the Trinidadian Sonny Ladoo. There is however an essential difference of vision. Ladoo describes a closed reality that arouses horror, pity, and despair. It has elements of the surreal, the absurd, and touches of black humor that degrade rather than dignify. On the other hand, Itwaru's novel (albeit a modem novel in its conception of language and strw::ture) embraces a more classical view of human reality. Destructive en ergies are countered by protest, lament, and most important, compassion. Shanti's struggle for integrity is dramatized in her conflict with the anglicized (and also sycophantic) East Indian headmaster, who personifies the imposition of foreign values. This sharply satirized figure bullies the commu nity with the colonial and Christian values he has adopted (the setting of the nov-el seems to be near the end of the colonial period). The headmaster, as a representative of the educational system, is Shanti's means of development and escape from her poverty. He becomes her patron but then rejects her (despite her success in the teacher's exam) because of her independent and "uncooperative" 65


attitude, and expresses his contempt for her and her people: "this madness which kept them in their mud hu ts and hovels, this ancestral evil they reenacted in their barbaric Kali Mai Pujah" (p.88). It is interesting that in Itwaru's novel, the woman and not the man is depicted as being the resilient force in the community's struggle for integrity and the vital center for the community's identity. {Apart from Shanti we find positive portrayals of female characters in Rosa, the East Indian woman in the rice-cutting gang, and Gertrude, the Black friend ofShanti' smother}. Latchman, Shanti's husband to be, becomes subservient to foreign values for the sake of social and professional success. Nonetheless, after betraying Shanti, he later shows his commitment to her and thus is redeemed through her. While analyzing the male/female relationship for its parabolic significance, it is interesting to compare it to Harris's "East Indian novel," The Far Journey of Oudin. Here Oudin, through his compassion, saves Beti from Ram . Beti plays a passive role, even though she has special significance in that she devours the contract (which she does not understand) and thus the negative legacy repre sented in the Oudin-Ram relationship. One of Harris's concerns is to create a form of fiction embodying the possibility of change within the communi ty. Thus he also undermines the closed reality of an earlier form of fiction that serves to reinforce the negative legacy of that community For example, the change in Ram undermines the st e reotype of the "miserly coolie" Ramgolall in Mittelholzer's Corentyne Thunder, and Oudin' s commitment to Beti vindicates Geoffrey's betrayal ofKattrie However, even though Harris's novel has linguis tic, symbolic, and socio-political allusions that place it in a particular time and environment (a Guyanese East Indian rural community during the 1950's), the sensibility and inner life of the community never comes alive. Harris's novel grows more out of the parabolic significance that he has conceived rather than a closeness to the community he describes. This is not to underestimate Harris's achievement. Itwaru is a great admirer of Harris and he has learned from him. There are some echoes of Harris's prose style in Itwaru and, more importan t, we find a similar dialectic between crea tive and destructive forces tha t is a hallmark of Harris's oeuvre. But Itwaru has a visceral understanding of the community he depicts that is lacking in Harris While Harris's novel is an important transitional novel in that it points the way to a new kind of fiction that may serve as an integrating force in the life of a fragmented community, Itwaru's is far more effective as a retriever vehicle for the creative and vital energies of th i s particular community, because his work is more purifying in the honesty and directness with which he deals with his subject matter. It is perhaps because of this visceral understanding that Itwaru has chosen a female protagonist. While in western eyes the Indian woman is often seen as passive, within a Hindu community the woman {particularly in her role as mother} is the sanctuary and protector of all that is sacred and intimate to oneself ltwaru was brought up a Lutheran but, having grown up in Canje, he participated in and experienced the vitality of Hindu popular and religious culture. Shanti's strength, her intimacy with her inner self, is sometimes ex-66


pressed through Hindu rituals and symbols as was previously observed in the bathing scene. Another notable example is a description of one dark Diwali night. Shanti does not understand the relevance of Ram's kingdom to the peopie in her village but her feelings respond to the internal meaning of the ritual. There is a note of protest in Shanti's thoughts, yet here is also family intimacy and arousal of joy, which (like many other parts of the novel) is evoked with intense lyricism: It was preposterous that Ram was god here where her father and mother worked from dawn to the dusk of their day wi thou t his aid or presence. (p. 82) This night of illumined undarkening, cooled in the breezes of a sea oceaned in the tides of another moment of mother and daughter and father ritualized in cleansingsin the soiled toiling of their existence. The mother began to hum the melody and text of an old and mysterious mantra whose ununderstood presence brought in the child an arousal of joy. The chamaylee filled the moment in its odorous nocturne of dewy fragrance and the mango tree murmured in the tremor of deeya light this dark Diwali night. (p. 82) We find the same ambivalence when Itwaru examines issues of identity. It is an ambivalence tha t arises from the very human tension between an attempt to find dignity and feelings of shame in a social reality where human sensibilities have been demeaned. Cultural and social identification center the individual in his community. Failure to identify leads to ineffectiveness. Let us examine the following two passages: Shanti did not know India. But this was of little consequence. Their ancestors were born in India. Civilizations and dim cen turies had intervened since then, but they were nonetheless Indian They held on to this, for in it there was at least some dignity. But forShanti named after and within the OM, indivis ible syllable of the self in tranquillity, the speech of peace, Shanti, peace, daughter of peace-there was shame. Shame wore her in the tattered dresses of her childhood-(p. 6) Shanti did not dream of India. She wished she were invisible. It seemed the only way. It was easier to be alone, not looked at, not seen, hidden. Shanti did not dream of India. (p. 7) The end of the novelistic quest (and Shanti's quest as is implied in her name) is the human quest for union with the self in tranquillity. Itwaru's recounting of the quest reveals deep compassion for the pain and a voice of protest for the injustice. 67


REVIEW BETWEEN THE DASH AND THE COMMA and DEMERARY TELEPATHY by Sasenarine Persaud by Karen Swenson The wire between the positive oflove and the negative of racism is the tightrope that Sasenarine Persaud walks in his poetry. To continue the metaphor, the pole he uses to balance between these extremes in his books, Between the Dash and the Comma and Demerary Telepathy, is composed of the cultures he has allegiances to-the East Indian, South American and Canadian. Although at times Persaud uses the pole to beat the reader, at least as often his composite of allegiances informs and enriches the lyricism of his work as in a stanza from "The End of Summer II" : Today everything i s still As the Yogi in Samadhi Still and full as the realized soul Of the Buddha stand maples Yellowing on slopes on fringes Of statues green willows Weeping on KAMDEO'S brow A little punctuation would help the reader appreciate more fully the fine rhythmic flow of this passage with its lovely hesitations, like caught breaths, caused by the repetitions of "still" and "on" and the liquid spill of 1 sounds. Mixed i n with a strong ancestral sense of Indian heritage is a frequent physical longing for the Southern r eaches of the continen t : Tons of milky sand Rising up hills-swaying down Valleys of untouched timberAcres and ac r es of fertile ra i nforest with their overwhelming plentitude. The cold of Canada is perceived as both beautiful and violent, a reflection of an unfriendly culture, indifferent to, sometimes hostile in its reaction to the writer: Airport inspectors sullen stares And wintry immi gration queries Canada is white in its snow but also in its racist attitudes which whether in Canada, England Sou t h Africa or the U.S. are the focus of many of the poems in both books Poems of protest inevitably start with several strikes against them since they are apt to sound either hectoring or lecturing. While the ideas in such poems as "Sir (Shri) Naipaul", "Ode to Palestin e", "The New Ruler" or "The Award Ceremony" are acceptable to anyone except the most ardent right 68


winger who is unlikely to read these books, often the poems deteriorate into lists: When it is not fashionable to hear "Unaggressi ve Asians"Jews, "whites" and NegroesBellow, Singer, Brodsky Sakharov, Achebe, Ceasaire-Tutuor: Hoyte always a backer of Burnham Green more racist than Botha Corbin a Rapist of Indian Importers' daughters .... Neither litany communicates the emotions Persaud is trying to unleash, and the poems turn into a newspaper column with the life expectancy of a daily tabloid, since in twenty years few but historians are likely to recognize these names, while the horror and inhumanity of racism will still be with us. The names focus us on the people rather than the evil. One personal incident is worth a thousand headlines. "Look 0 Stranger! (Letter to Toronto)" is much more appealing and grabs the reader emotionally more than the poems referred to above just because it is full of chip-on-the-shoulder personal rage: The hang I care! I haven't come to steal your land I haven't come to hide my dignity in flurries Or disgust i n dead legality! I come to learn to love Your pornographic world And smoke-filled strip joint of paid pretense Clean streets and cold air. I come to take sound autumnal manners To my shattered slavery I will forget teenagers tongueing On sofas in college comers .... These are swaggerlingly fiesty lines and while one may not be sure of the meaning of certain phrases-"disgust in dead legality!" or "autumnal man ners" --one feels the presence of a real human rather than an official recorder. The reader receives a series of precise snap shots instead of vague events and can sympathise with another's cultural reaction to the contrast between the "clean streets" and the teenagers' public kissing The second focus of these two books is love and it is here that Persaud reaches into his cultural mixed bag and comes up with some of his more beautiful images. Here, as an example, is "In the Garden" in its entirety: 69


Dearest, I've not killed Ravan So we cannot go home. Has Hanuman deserted me, And Lanka smokes in my head? A satellite who would be A star before its energy s Burned up in illusion, Records Lumbering Canadian seagulls bombing the ground Around rundown h i ghrises For refuse of poesy ... Forgive me dearest, for having found Ravan so late. How he laughs at me And how my fingers shake, How unsteady my aim! How many heads Has he! And is it the one That bears my face ... ? The weaving of the Ramayana into and around the Canadian urban landscape achieves easily what Persaud's political poetry strains for, Le. a powerful sense of the disparity between the writer and his environment and achieves it without any sense of bombast. The las t lines are truly humble and courageous in their recognition that the self is in the enemy and the enemy is in the self. I n Demerary Telepathy there is a series of poems called "Visit" which revisits a luxuriant rural landscape filled with echoes of East Indian customs. These poems project a sense of peace, of belonging to the land and its creatures in such a way that men and women belong easily to each other: From this remote country-house Relatives, friends, guests and I See two unmarried smiles melt into Each other and illuminate The night As the women head back from time With dancing lamps We all see Fingers of our lost flame of innocence. As is the case in other poems, I am not sure of the meaning of "the women head back from time" but the two smiles melting into one, the "dancing lamps" turning into the "flame of innocence" are highly emotionally charged images which allow a reader from whatever culture entrance into the universal expe riences of love and regret. 70


In :Memoriam ftJS 1914-1989 71




MEMOIR by Wilson Harris A.J. Seymour was a man of deep convictions. This may not have been obvious at first sight because of his urbanity and effortless scholarship. Books consti tuted a series of essential milestones in his life and his private library in Georgetown-which I had the pleasure of visiting on one or two occasions-may well have been the finest to be assembled by anyone in Guyana. Books were for him I believe a treasury of magic and caveat that bore some parallel I think to the lost initiations that some so-called savage tribes instituted as guide-lines into maturity. He admired Alfred North Whitehead from whom he drew it seems the philosophic principle of "persuasion" and adapted this as an initiation into cultural politics. At any rate that was my impression. We spoke of this a long time ago; in the late 19405 I think it was. The conversation drifts back now like a body in a state of dispersal: a cloud, so to speak, cloud-politics, cloud-parliament, cloud church. (A well-known poem of his was entitled CLOUDS OVER GUIANA). The fact is that "persuasion" in its philosophic cement-I hope I am doing justice to the distant echoes of his thought then so long ago-may; well be the articulate gesture of manifestoes and propaganda, ideologies and causes that are presented and advocated by various parties. On the face of it this is obvious but the dangers of "persuasion" in their bearing on authoritarian pressures to conform to a political or intellectual or religious theory tend to be overlooked. Equally the subtlety of "persuasion" as a mathematic of virtue, as a dispassionate concern with the truth, as a necessity to promote a tested understanding of the truth, remains obscure. "Persuasion" in its dangers and in its inevitability-in the senses in which we have been using the word-may require an instinct in the scholar or poet or scientist in testing varieties of precipitation from legacies of tradition. In my view Seymour possessed that instinct ina remarkable degree. It may have sustained him I think when he was under pressure or in times of adversity within the variable cultural and economic frames of the region when he needed to keep a cool head and sensitive mind. I remember albeit vaguely attempting to argue wi th him that "dialogue" however unwelcome it was to a society that was beginning to take its cue from convinced ideologies-was a threshold beyond the cement of embattled creeds into a dimension of the imagination that could re-interpret or transform-in some real degree-the oscillation within a pendulum that swung from authori tarian pressure, on one hand, to protestations on behalf of the good life on the other. Something of the sort anyway came into our conversation. My recollection is that I raised the difficult reality of "dialogue" because of a series of poems I had been writing during a long stay in the Cuyuni River 73


(one of the most fascinating and dangerous rivers in the Guianas) which I had abandoned in favour of a kind of epic. This too had been cast aside I remember feeling it had not however been wasted when I came upon-in a bookshop in Church Street-some essays by Martin Buber. Buberian "dialogue" encompassed the silent eloquence of a "stone" because of its peculiar "address" in a peculiar landscape. This concept was native to me as someone in a state of immersion in the unpredictable water sheds, riverscapes, landscapes of Guyana, in maps, topographies, contours, rocks etc etc. This was something to which Seymou r responded His fa ther had been a land surveyor. But at the time when he and I spoke I had a long way to go to translate elusive figures in their peculiar "address" into a correlation or association of imageries within a field of experience tha t begins to til t, to move, to change, to dislodge its and one's pre-possessions into unexpected relation ships and global angles of vision ... Needless to say it is not my intention to pursue this and I mention it only because in the late 1940s I was at a disadvantage in speaking of a field or a map or horiwns etc. etc. of "dialogue". Seymour was in a far stronger posi tion than I. He seemed to have rio qualms about a tradition of "persuasion". He was closer to the popular mood Except that, in his advocacy (say) of the idea of a West Indian Federation, he was never an absolutist. Indeed he drew upon innate resources of tolerance. That blend of "persuasion" and "tolerance" was to make him increasingly vulnerable as the years passed and subject to unpleasant abuse or denigration of his achievement by so-called radicals. I witnessed this myself on one or two occasions but have no desire to elaborate. Suffice it to say that one. should be aware of such currents in the body politic. Itissoeasy to impose glossy eulogies on the dead and to bury the truth as much as the man or the woman. Was it a losing battle that he fought? He would, I am sure, say No. Nevertheless his hopes for a West Indian Federation were to be dashed. It is obvious that the goal of Federation signified to him much more than a political objective. It was for him I think a gateway into a far-flung regional imagination that would respect individual territories but breach parochial or provincial cliques. We need to perceive the strengths and weaknesses of Kyk-over-AI within such an arena of conflicting interests. It comes as no surprise perhaps that Kyk-over-AI ceased and closed its literary doors when Federation became a mirage. We need however to hazard some guesses as to the complex circumstances within and beyond what I have already said that bore on the demise of Kyk over-AI. As Federation receded the newly Independent States of the Caribbean began to emerge (Guyana on the South American continent became independ ent in the middle 1960s) Such status or sovereignty evoked enthusiasm and euphoria except that the shadow of mirage or malaise, in the receding tide of Federation, may have been still pertinent as a caveat of illusory power. In what degree, one may ask, did Independence for many small or poorly inhabited large territories in the modem world, become a signal of the decomposition of real power, real decision, as old Empires dissolved? Empires sustain, however 74


perversely or drastically, the scope for real power, they are practised in habits of cultural decision for better or worse. When they go their former estates (now apparently independent) require extraordinary insight and genius in the crea tion of new associations and collaborations within the flux of continental and island destinies. New literary journals in the Caribbean need I think to under stand this in giving a medium to the life of complex imagination or else they will become pawns-perhaps unwitting pawns-of nihilistic sophistication and cliche or platitude. I doubt whether any Caribbean journal in the 1960s would have possessed the rare nerve or opportunity to seek (0 illumine links between Independence so-called and the decomposition of real power. Itis a paradox that such a tension between age-old sovereignty and the decomposition of cultural decision could have been uplifted I believe into the quantum seed of an extraordinary break through into the cross-cuI tural fabric of a ci vilisa tion (especially when one bears in mind the so-called 'melting-pot' of the Central and South Americas). But it was not to be. The euphoriJl of the late 1950s/1960s decade led to rigidities and violence and a constriction of horizons. I never resumed with Seymour the thread of the discussion we had had in the late 1940s. Not even in 1959 when a week or so before my leaving British Guiana (as it then was) he turned up unexpectedly to wish me bon voyage. I had moved to the outskirts of Georgetown. There he was ... picking his way along the uneven, badly-surfaced road that approached the sparsely-furnished bam of a house I temporarily occupied ... There he was ... His thick glasses glinted in the sun as he looked up. Greeting, farewell, fused into one moment. The last time I saw him was in December 1987. I was in Georgetown for a few days Perhaps he had achieved the sublimation of premises he entertained as a young man. Perhaps something more than su blima tion pure and simple. An equation perhaps between involuntary darkness and unconscious light. Sun's in my blood. A line from one of his early poems. Had he proven in himself, tested in himself, the light of "persuasion" that may blind when it becomes a weapon in the hand of others? I wanted to ask but did not. I ask now. For it is relevant to the pendulum of humanity and to the echoing voices of the past. Echoes of a tormented, however apparently sanguine, theatre of conscience that runs through all territories and philosophies of Imagination in the lived life. 75


TRIBUTE by Eusi Kwayana Dr Arthur J. Seymour, father of modern Guyanese literature, began a long sleep on December 25,1989, when his eyelids shut out the life and nature which he loved. His chief mourner at home is the widow and his co-worker, Mrs Elma Seymour Cradled in an underrated and quietly defiant Georgetown middle class, which by then had chosen the Church as its social compass, Seymour went deeper and chose Jesus, its notional founder. The early infuences on his development as a poet seem to be English poetry and then poetry in the same language from various places. Later, with political events in his own country achieving more than customary size, the pulse of the nation as an aspiring communi ty infl uenced him Amerindian, African, Indian, he sang the ways of them with more or less familiarity. All of this had to be strained and refined by his r eligious conscience In one of his books is a poem, "For my sons and daughters". These lines from that poem are prophetic. When death has knocked at my door What can a poet hand down? -The insights of his vision. Death has knocked at his door. He hands down a rich legacy (First published in OPEN WORD, January 8, 1990) 76


A DEATH AT CHRISTMAS-LAST MEMORIES OF AJS by Ian McDonald At lunchtime on December 18, AJS phoned to ask me if I would be very kind and pass for him that afternoon to take him to the 1989 Guyana Prize Awards Ceremony at the Cultural Centre. The old man was always courteous. He took no favour asked for granted I said of course I would be delighted. The Guyana Prize Awards Ceremony was exactly the sort of event which he had been inspiring, encouraging, assisting, contributing to, sponsoring, god fathering, and often single-handedly creating for his people for over 50 years. His distinction was solid and lasting as a greenheart tree. Growing and alive, it was beautiful. Even cut down it would last as long as forever ever lasts. At the Cultural Centre I went on the platform with AJS and we sat next to each other wai ting for the President to arrive and the Awards Ceremony to start. I told him the latest issue of Kyk Over-AI, No 40, badly delayed at the printers, was about to come out at last. He leaned over and pressed my arm. "That is wonderful. Ah, Ian, Kyk, what a time that was!" Forty-four years before, in 1945, he brought out Kyk No.1 and for the next 16 years virtually alone he regularly edited and sometimes almost entirely wrote one of the two most important literary magazines in the West Indies, thus incalculably ministering to the region's cultural life, the region's artistic self-confidence, and even the region's political development. The President was a little late. Before he arrived AJS turned again to me and asked a strange, sad question: "Ian, do you think people still feel I serve any purpose"? He was serious and intent. I was silent, what else could I be? Is this what the old age of our great men comes to, that it can ask such a sad and terrible question? Are we to blame, who come after? I searched despera tel y for some sort of reply: "Arthur, you represent all that is the best in our lives". The words were wholly inadequate, but he seemed satisfied. "Thank you. I am glad". He had that deep courtesy, the carefulness not to hurt others During the Awards Ceremony AJS sat stately, intent on the proceedings Rex Nettleford gave his address: Seymour and Nettleford, matching stars in the West Indian firmament. Al Creighton gave the judges' report: excellence must rule. David Dewar, accompanied by the Police Force Band, sang "Salute to Guyana" and AJS leaned over and whispered "Lovely, lovely" The President presented the awards. Bu t as time went by I thought AJS began to look a little agitated. He looked through me once or twice as if watching something far, far away. When Martin Carter, a Prizewinner, came read his great poem "Returning" AJS leaned forward, concentrating, then turned towards me: 77


"That is Martin Carter. I publish him in Kyk. He is the finest young poet". At the end of the Awards Ceremony AJS looked worried As the President got up to leave AJS turned to me and said he had lost his purse. I said I did not think he had brought a purse. "I have lost my purse" I asked him what was in the purse. "A few poems". On the stage for a while I helped him look for the lost purse of poems but we did not find it. I went with h i m up the aisle towards the exit, holding his arm. His steps were slow. His face was serious. A gallant old gentleman, smart in his dark suit and well-tied bow-tie, he went slowly out of the Centre he had graced one last time In the car outside I offered to take him home, he looked so tired, but he wanted very strongly to go to the supper the Vice-Chancellor was giving in honour of the Guyana Prizewinners I should have taken him home On the way to the supper, in the car, I think now I know exactly when the killing stroke hit him. We were talking about Jacqueline de Weever, his much-loved niece in New York, and I had asked him what she was doing now. He began to reply, "She is teaching ....... and lost the thread suddenly and never again found it. I did not press him He was tired and to be forgetful was his privilege. We shared the silence At the Vice-Chancellor's he had to be helped very slowly up the steep stairs. It brings tears to my eyes to think how alone and puzzled and afraid he must have been at that dinner. People tried politely to keep him company, brought him drinks of red sorrel, helped him to food, talked to him.comfort ingly. Some instinct, an ingrained bravery of spirit, kept him going. But his mind was awry, his eyes were lost. By the end of the evening he was in a state of collapse, his left leg crumpling, and three of us had to lift him down the stairs and carry him to the car. He is heavy, I thought. It was a dark night but the stars were piercing bright and it flashed in my mind to think how many lovely nights he had seen in his time and what poems he had made of them. All his life he had praised beauty Martin and Phyllis Carter came in the car with me to see him home. At 23 North Road, Martin-thank God for his burly strength-and I got AJS out of the car and to the door, which Elma anxiously opened for us, and up the stairs to.the living room where we laid him down on a couch. He looked at us but his eyes were lost. Elma loosened his bow-tie and gently took off his jacket and his black shone shoes and comforted him, that it would be all right. After a while we left. Elma thanked us for looking after AJS and bringing him home safe. Seymours are courteous, proud people. As we went down the stairs she was talking quietly to him, comforting him, telling him it would be all right. After all she had cared for him for 52 years. Later I heard she hurt her shoulder lifting him. How could she have got him to his bed that night? She trusted God's strength in her. AJS was taken by ambulance to the Medical Arts Wednesday evening. The following day I visited him, bringing a copy of Kyk-Over-AI No. 40 which Gordon Forte had just brought for me from the Maranatha Press. AJS lay sleeping. I went up and called his name and he slowly and with hard effort 78


opened his eyes. "Arthur, it is Ian here" He nodded but could not speak. I showed him the new Kyk with one of Stephanie Correia's beautiful Paintings inscribed on the cover. I told him it was a beautiful issue. He could be proud of it. I made myself think he tried to smile. He closed his eyes again and gave a weary sigh. I sat a while and thought about him and his great life. John Updike had written "What a good use of life, to have created one beautiful book". And AJS had created scores of beautiful books. When I left I said "Goodbye Arthur" but he did not respond. I carried the copy of Kyk with me to give to Elma. He had told me long ago that he always gave the first copy of anything he published to her. The last time I visited there was no recognition. I sat by his bed and called his name but there was nothing. He slept, his breathing laboured, his head wet with perspiration, an old, good man going to his death. I sat by him and held his hand for a long time. Sometimes there was life in his fingers and I looked to see if he would wake but hedid not wake. I sat holding his hand with my memories of him until it was dark and I felt it was time to go. At first he had been like a father to me and later I had been like a son to him. I closed my eyes and dreamed and said a confused prayer. The best of his poetry would live forever. He must have known that. He was so many good things but most of all a poet. "Name Poem", "Over Guiana, Clouds", "Sun is a Shapely Fire", "The Legend of Kaieteur", "For Christopher Columbus", "There Runs a Dream", "Tomorrow Belongs to the People", "I Heard a Rooster Call". Though he dies, they are imperishable. But then, sitting with him for the last time, hand in his hand'for his comfort and for mine, as the dark came outside, it was none of these great poems that came to me. On his 75th birthday, in a small gathering of family and friends, he had read a new poem to us lucid as sunlight, refreshing as the wind pouring through the windows of his Bourda home: Bless Father God, I pray, The gift of my birthday, This milestone-I alive At age of seventy-five. Bless, Holy Spirit, bless With Thine own holiness AIl that I do and say As from Thy will today And Jesus Christ, Thy Son, Mayall His Grace be done. The clear, low voice of the great old man, the old poet, saying the simple, clear, shining lines had brought silence in the room then. Now, half-dreaming, hand in hand, beside the old man who could not any longer speak his clear and shining lines, I sensed the greatness of his spirit come near enough to touch and move me one last time as the greater silence gathered like a welcoming. 79


THE LEGEND OF ARTHUR JAMES SEYMOUR by Mary Noel Menezes, RSM My dear Elma and family, relatives and friends of AJ. Whatever position or office we hold, we are all here today as friends of AJ. This afternoon itis my great privilege to pay tribute to my dear friend ,AJbut to pay a tribute to the most distinguished son of Guyana, "a most complete literary man", a legend eve n in his own time, fs to attempt an undertaking too vast for mere words. How can I hope to capture the indescribable wealth of his varied and immense outpouring of literary works the largesse of his poetry? I can only revert to his own prophetic words in "Death of a Poet": He was a nation's angel Pointing the sword across. the dessert.... He contrived jewels Out of the ore of the language To become Beloved attributes And justify the people ... He shaped the people's visions Eternally within themselves ... For over 50 years-he was "a poetical child of the 1930s"-Arthur James Seymour has been shaping the vision of our people and those of the Caribbean. He has fashioned images of love, longing, birth, life, death, resurrection, time, sleep, memory, beauty, innocence, vision, justice, pain and suffering, of laugh ter and of ecstasy; he has illuminated the simple, everyday happenings of life; he has spoken, among so many other things, of shirtjacs and mangoes, of callalloo and wings Under his pen, history has come alive-we listen to the roar of the Mighty Kaieteur, we hear music in "the breathe of names"; we catch glimpses of rivers flowing out to sea, and "clouds over Guiana"; we feel his love for the people of Guyana "who hold history in their hands". In so many of his poems his love for Guyana is poured out. It is a great sadness really that our children have not been exposed to this poetry and caught the fire of his love What is closest to a man's heart must be expressed meaningfully. An artiste expresses his feelings in painting, sculptur oe, dance, and poetry, to name but a few of the endless list of creativity. Even a cursory glance at the vast collection of AI's poetry will make one conscious of the fact that his love for God, bolstered by his love for people, ran like a shining thread throughout his works. He never forgot from whom his genius came; his was an unfailing gratitude to God, for o 80


.. His great gift of words That shape to the occasion. as he voiced in the words of "Psalm" Through this gift he continuously discovered God's love, was in harmo nious touch with His Creator, and "through images of grace sought to learn His face". True, he showed God's face in many guises in his poetry, but he showed the more intimate and passionate side to his beloved wife, Elma, with whom he shared one mind, one heart, and one soul, and also to his cherished sons and daughters and to all whose lives he touched so memorably. I recall that over the years my con versa tions wi th AJ on w ha tever subject, be it li tera ture, art, history, religion, family life, were mini-meditations which always left me stimulated and inspired. For over 50 years AI, a dedicated and sincere Christian, a man of deep fai th, preached the good news to thousands of people in many parts of the country. A few years ago, together with Elma, he travelled as a pilgrim to the Holy Land which (may I quote his words) "led me to want to make a greater witness to the Lord through the gift of poetry He has given me". One of the results of that pilgrimage was that gem of a poem: "I heard a Rooster Calli Through gold Jerusalem". In an article on "AJ' s Religious Thought", Dr. Robert Moore rightly called AJ both a prophet and a poet, indicating that "the prophet is a person with a concentrated power of history in his being". This is an apt description of AJ for the true heart of our history throbs through his poetry and for this he can be hailed as prophet. As prophet, he has decried the ills of our generation, the violence, the lawlessness, the insolence of youth, the "callous erosion of our private rights" and insisted in his poem "Task": There must be words to feed the hungry spirit To shine the mirror of a living faith To bless the anguished mind awake at midnight To soothe the old and set the children singing Make laughing lovers dream under the sky What a legacy he has left us! Thus we rightly mourn the passing of this prophetic, brilliant, and above all, caring and lovable gentleman. With him a cultural era has ended and we are the poorer for it. But, my friends, on this feast ofSt. Thomas A. Becket, may I refer to his sermon on Christmas morning, 1170, as given us by T.5. Eliot in Murder in the Cathedral-"we can rejoice and mourn a t once for the same reason". Yes, let our tears flow and cleanse the wound of sorrow but, above all, let us rejoice for the gift of God to us and to this country-the gift of Arthur James Seymour. How pri vileged we are to ha ve been the recipients of such a wealth of creativi ty. How privileged I personally feel to have known him and to have been touched by his gentleness and his courtesy, as much as by his poetry! I would like to attribute these words of George Bernard Shaw to Arthur James Seymour: 81


Life is no brief candle to me It is a sort of splendid torch Which I have got hold of for the moment And I want to make it bum as brightly as possible Before handing it on to future generations AI's life and poetry were indeed splendid torches which he litin the hearts of thousands. The greatest service, the greatest honour, the greatest memorial we can do and give to AJ is to pass on that torch to future generations of Guyanes e. A loving God welcomed AJ home on Christmas, His Son's birthday, where he is hearing the Christmas song now in God's sight. We may be sure that AJ has lost no time composing a poem, a poem of praise for the occasion, which must far outstr i p in beauty and ecstasy his "Song of Christmas" written in the 1970s, and his Christmas Poem of only a few weeks ago. So how can we not REJOICE and CELEBRATE this most glorious time when, in the words of Isaiah, "he has gone out in joy and will be led forth in peace". (Eulogy at the Funeral Service for Arthur James Seymour) 82


II A GOLDEN LEAF HAS FALLEN" by Cleveland Hamilton Death moves with its majestic sway and sweeps us to the deep and underground . A year ago about the same time it was that titan of the Guyana and Common wealth Caribbean Bar and Judiciary, Joseph Oscar Fitzclarence Haynes, whose memory the Guyana Bar Association has just honoured with a special issue of its Review. Now it's the high priest of Guyanese and Commonwealth Caribbean literature, Arthur James Seymour. The deaths of the two giants, born within eighteen months of each other, occurred almost exactly a year apart. The golden leaves of autumn have been falling. For some five and a half decades Arthur Seymour was the star that lit up the firmament of poetry in this country, and was the distinguished professional. A civil servant by occupation, he rose to the heights, firstly, in his own British Guiana, latterly Guyana, and then in the Caribbean. His career straddled and encompassed the colonial regime and regimen and even broadened ou t into the forma tive years of independence. The books in which he chronicled the gist and highlights of his experiences as a public servant at home an abroad, written in a style of elegance and selectivity, make a distinctive contribution to the history and literature of Guyana and the West Indies for all time. One regrets the absence even in an area of chronic pathological limitations of all soits of similar efforts by men and women who had risen as Seymour did in his field of public performance. Of course, Seymour was blessed with both the talent and the inclination. Bu t whatever he did, earning a living, wherever he did it, it was his poetry that was both obsessi ve and possessi ve With all of his achievements in the arena of public service, it was as a poet and literary critic that he was best and most popularly known. He was a professional both ways, an artist of ambidextrous proportions. His first collection of poems, Verse, was published in 1937 when he was a civil servant of twenty three. "Caligula" with its exotic, Roman flavour stood out-"Slow I strolled home ITo where my towering palace frowns on Rome"-the poetic capacity was evident, but in more ways than one there was a certain tentativeness about the collection. In the succeeding years, despite the constraints, there were more collections written with greater certitude and originality and, more importantly, distinctly indigenous. Seymour ultimately became the grand master of the Guyanese connexion, the finest singer of the Guyanese song He immortalised Kaieteur and Kamakusa and Kyk-over-al. His "Legend of Kaieteur", translated into music by another Guyanese virtuoso, Philip Pilgrim, who predeceased Seymour by forty-fi ve years, was wri tten in his late twenties. 83


There were surprises for me when I first met him in the midddle years of the Second World War What did I expect a real live poet to look like? A poet in the office of the Commissioner of Income Tax? He was soft, shy, patient, the epitome of modesty as he proferred a poetic opinion and generously offered advice. ''Your poetry must be your own". With his intense and unwavering religiosity he shared his savvy to the extent that it could be shared, wi th all those who sought and thought, rightly or otherwise, that they could profit by his benevolence, bounty and skill. Many of us benefitted by the inspiration even as we may have lacked the talent. Others with real aptitude burgeoned into practitioners of consequence and thanked Gamaliel for stimulating the muse. Latterly, Seymour became editor, lecturer, critic, a driving force and authority on Guyanese and Caribbean literature, predictably. He simply un folded and effloresced in a graduation that was energetic, systematic and inspired. He was not a revolutionary poet in the accepted sense in the melee of turbulence in Guyanese politics, but the patriotism and nationalistic fervour inhere without shibboleths or rhetoric in the eloquent implications of "Tomor row belongs to the People" The literary landscape will look stranger for the absence of this silk cotton tree which, according to legend, has treasures buried under it. Seymour himself became a legend in his lifetime by hard work and the spontaneous outflow of his natural gifts. A talented husband of a talented wife, the father of talented children, he might have written for us at this time in his own words-We revel in the memories we recall And bless the life that sparked off all this action And rescued us from years pedestrian ... (First heard on Guyana Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday, 2nd January, 1990) 84


LETTER TO ELMA by Robert and Alyma Moore Something has gone out of Guyana and that something the best Guyana had to offer. For in himself he symbolised the dignified, gracious, generous spirited, spacious and deeply visionary side of our Country's personality-the features that made observers wonder how so difficult an environment pro duced such wonders of the spirit. When we remember him we think of the line of that beautiful hyrrm: "Brightest and best of the sons of the morning". He woke us all up to the call of a New Day; he taught us to feel the old giants of two or three centuries ago in our blood; and he gave us a sense of mystery and radiance that came from his incandescent Christian faith. Alyrna and I first read Arthur at the end of the 1940s when we were still teenagers and our eyes were opened to the beauty around us, the majesty and grandeur that we previously looked at every day but did not behold. And he, more than anyone else, made us aware of the presence of another and more enduring world not just in the worship of the faithful in church, mosque or temple, but in the long, dark rivers, the tall branching trees, the sweep of the savannahs, and the crimson glory of the sun-sets. We remember his fortitude: the grace with which he bore the injustice done to himself and his principled refusal to see it done to others. One grew in stature when one talked to Arthur and one felt the force of that perspicacious prayer: Lord, give us the courage to change what can be changed; the patience to bear what cannot be changed; and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other. We shall miss his voice, his boyish laughter, his gentle teasing. But we have his poetry to ligh t us on our way and keep our vision of an unfaded world fresh and compelling. We thank God that we lived in the era of Arthur. We thank God, too, for you who gave so much to Arthur that he might give of his magnitude to us. 85


A CONVERSATION WITH A.J. SEYMOUR Stewart Brown Of course I had admired A.J. Seymour's poetry and known his status in West Indian letters for as long as I'd known anything about Caribbean literature at all. And so many people spoke of him almost reverentially that when I actually came to meet him at his home in Georgetown in May, 1988, I was somewhat in awe of the great man. But he put me at my ease very quickly, with what others confirmed to be his characteristic wit and generosity of spirit, and we spent what was, for me at least, a memorable afternoon just talking around shared interests as if we were old friends I wanted him to read the poems of his that are included in the Voiceprint anthology for a projected tape-book edition, and after he'd done that I asked if I could leave the recorder on and do a formal interview. He agreed but what ensued was really a continuation of our earlier conversation and I think the extract below catches something of Arthur Seymour' s style. Even in the informality and ease of such an occasion he was teaching-I had to go and look up "gravamen"! To situate this conversation in another context, the tape recorder catches, amid the noise of traffic outside and the clattering of tea-cups, Arthur's clearly much beloved wife Elma on the telephone to the Electricity Company, berating some poor official for the fact that there had only been power in the house for one hour in the last 48, and, though this was hardly his fault, bemoaning the water supply problems and other 'facts of life' in late 80s Georgetown. AJS smiled through the tirade; his life had been spent, it seemed, working around such 10cal difficulties'. It was a real privilege and inspiration to meet him. AJS: You know, first of all I've got to give you a disability Last year my son, Guy, said, "Daddy, come and letme put you on a table in Atlanta, Georgia and let my Doctor friends look at you". And this happened and the Dr. friends told me, "Arthur Seymour, you have an unacceptably high level of sugar in your blood because you're a diabetic and this sugar destroys brain cells so you're likely to forget and to continue to forget and sometimes whole areas will not be available .. I warn you about this in advance .... SB: You must be delighted to see Kyk-over-al revived and coming out regularly again? AJS: Indeed, but I'm very happy to tell you-since you know lan-that I wrote him a letter-a letter which is for Mortality really-saying, "Please know that, since I am 74 and you are much younger, Kyk-over-al will belong to you and whoever you have as your co-editor as time goes by-so under stand this as of now, its something we're all working on together, i ts some thing that's above us and beyond us and really it belongs to the nation". 86


SB: And I understand you've been working on an edition of your Collected Poems, recently? AJS: Yes, well, because there was never much money I was always doing things like this, [picks up one of his pamphlets] when I did this particular one but fortunately they [Demerara Publishers, who are bringing out the Collected Poems] have been able to work out-with the works which have been edited and the works that have dates on, the order of things [Picks up another small collection, Love Song] All my life I have been wri ting love songs so I pu tthem all together in this Ii ttle book. . [Continues to sort through the piles] .. all sorts of little things, but my frail imagina tion has always been particularly stimulated by religious sentiment and this comes out in so many ways SB: There's sometimes a Biblical 'cast' to the language and rhythms of your poetry too ... AJS: Yes, but one learns to protect oneself and one's hearers from too much of this I was preaching on Sunday morning, my sermon was on Jesus as the Hope of the World Well all sorts of theologians have commented on this, William Barclay particularly-I have a library of Barclay's comments on the Bible and all my life I have been going through this I have something h e re that you 'll be interested in. [Searches through other pamphlets] Here is What is God Saying to Carib bean Man in his Poetry, now this was 1981 and this is a lecture, [r e ads] a talk by distinguish e d Guyanese poet and m e thodist local pre ach e r A .J. Seymour ... One of th e highl i ghts of a series o f a ctiv it ies m a r k ing t h e 1 9 8 1 S yn od .. H e re i s whe r e the r e ligion and the po e try com e toge th e r and I'm alw a y s conscious of th e m not b e ing far, one from the other. SB: In the Introduction to our anthology Voiceprint Gordon Rohlehr writes about the influence of pulpit oration on a particular kind of voice in Car ibbean poetry I wonder how the fact that you obviously 'perform' on a Sunday to deliver your sermons, how that carries over into the way you 'perform' your poems. AJS: It does, it must affect ... And remember too that, Philipine---my motherover the years she taught me, every day to speak to the Lord So personal prayerisa matter of the natural fundamentalsofmy life you see. Take this particular talk, in this I note that Wilson Harris deals with religious symbolism in at least five of the fourteen poems of his cycle 'The Sun', and I talk like this ... [reads] "E.M. Roach, in his powerful poem 'I Am the Archipelago' sets out his understanding of West Indian religion . and M .G. Smith has also written a poem, 'Testament' which runs to 400 lines of mystical meditation in which philosophy and poetry are both mixed in a hymn to God ... and the key thought runs as follows, "to be is to be a ware of the Lord . that sort of thing 87


SB: I remember reading a Humanist pamphlet in which the author said that every night before he went to bed, instead of saying a prayer, he would read a poem. That seems to tie in with what you're saying, that there's a connection between poetry and prayer ... AJS: Yes, of course the spiritual 'gravamen' and the creative imagination are tremendously linked, in many, many ways. One hesitates to push this too far, but so many of my friends who are poets and so many of my friends who are preachers mix the two, you know, the two types of meditation. Let me tell you the story behind my poem, 'I Heard a Rooster Call'. Some years ago my wife Elma turned to me and she said, ''You know, Arthur, I want to be a pilgrim in the Holy Land". My response was as usual, I said, ''You know Elma you're ahead of me ... I haven't thought of this yet but if you are going I will have to corne too, if only to make sure that you come back horne. I have to make sure that nothing disturbs you when you are there." And so we get in touch with our daughter who lives in New York and works for the U.N. and she was able to fix a group of 21 peoplecoloured-from just outside the New York area, going to the Holy Land for about ten days. The money was, well this was before devaluation so it was possible for us to join ... So we took a p l ane and flew to New York and stayed the night with her, and the next day we joined the group and we found ourselves in a plane going to the Holy Land. We stayed in a hotel, The Ambassador Hotel on the Mount of Olives. That was a lovely address you know, you could send a postcard from the p lace! On the second or third day they said, ''We want to take you to show you the place where Peter denied Jesus" ... Well, "this is where the policeman sat and this is where the servan t girl passed and this is where Peter was sitting ... We heard this as we lo oked and as we were leaving I heard a cock crow in the distance, and I said to myself 'Is this specially laid on "for the occasion or is it just coincidental?' Probably i t was merely coincidental, but there it was. And after hearing that we went horne and had dinner and things like that. That night, at three o'clock in the morning; I was conscious that somebody was wanting to use me to create a. poem about this occurrence, but if I turned on the light, of course, my wife would awaken. So I took something that I walk with most of the time, a piece of paper in a board, and I walkeq in to the toilet to see wha t would corne. And this is what carne; [recites, without a text] I heard a rooster call In gold Jerusalem It ran throughout the world To wake all sleeping men. King David heard that call In old Jerusalem The Queen of Sheba heard 88


Who lay with Solomon Once Peter heard that call And twice it broke his heart So when I heard that call My heart within me stirred So much was in that call Come from that ancient bird And over centuries My heart within me stirred I heard the call of bird Recall the word of God To sing throughout the world And wake all sleeping men So when a rooster calls My heart will say Amen It rings throughou t the world To wake all sleeping men. Well I realised that the poem had come to an end and I got back into bed and slept a little. And when Elma awoke in the morning I shared the poem with her because it is my realisation that if she like anything I've written other people are likely to like it too, bu t if her first reaction is not very good I might have to go and have another look at the material. She said, "I like it", so when we went downstairs from the bedroom to the breakfast room I shared it wi th everyone there. I wasn't prepared for their response Their response was, "We like it", and not only, "We likeit"but, "Wewantacopy in your handwriting, Arthur Seymour", and they made me write it out fifteen times. This is a little much but they said they liked it, and if this is a measure of their liking then I must pay the price. But it turns out to be one of the few Seymour poems that I do know ... and this, of course, is very good. As I say, I never found out for certain whether what I heard was coincidental and just ordinary or whether it was specially laid on, but I doubt it. And that particular poem has given me tremendous pleasure in many ways; I've found myself in a train, I've found myself in a plane, in a bus . all sorts of places and I'm talking, I say, "Let me tell you a story" because of the tedium of waiting-and I tell the story. I try to keep to the facts and not to let it over-amplify itself-which of easily happens-and the way in which people accept it, and the way in which they have reacted is something that gives me tremendous pleasure. As I say I realise now it is not Arthur Seymour's words really, it's somebody else's, this fellow who wanted to get me to write the poem at 3 o'clock in the morning. He has something to do with it. 89