An oldie but goodie: Kei deconstructs dichotomies

Reading round the web in search of wisdom on/by Kei Miller (for this review that Nicholas has surely contracted hitmen to squeeze out of me), I found this,

A description of the successful “page” or “sit-down” poet is, perhaps, someone who has typically published poems in a few major journals, who has a couple books published by a well-respected press, who preferably knows how to hob-nob with the best of them, and is invited to give readings by the National Poetry Society of America. In all likelihood he is, like most sit-down poets, a bitch, and probably, as a day job, holds a faculty position at some stuffy 500 year-old university. In other words – me.The “stage” or “stand-up” poet, on the other hand, has probably won a couple slams and is invited to give performances on BET. He is youngish—not yet thirty—and has funky hair. He would ideally like hip-hop and reggae and fit into that strange demographic America has invented to describe all things non-middle-class and non-white: in other words, he would be “urban.” He is completely social – gregarious even. If he went to university at all, he didn’t finish; he dropped out at the same time the university asked him to leave, and decided then he would become a poet, ranting against the system and all kinds of oppression. In other words – me.That these two descriptions should inhabit one body is perhaps the source of my schizophrenia, because typically I’ve learnt only to embrace the first. So consider this: although I almost never need to look at a book or a printed page to recite any of my poems, I have begun to take blank sheets of paper up with me to podiums, to shuffle through and glance down occasionally at their emptiness, all to give the illusion that I am reading – to remind the audience that I am not performing, or slamming, and that literature is coming, only inconveniently at that moment, from where I stand. Really, at my essence (I’m trying to declare) I am a sit-down poet.via Kei Miller: 91st Meridian V6 #2 International Writing Program, The University of Iowa.

Yeah. One day when I've dented my to-do list satisfactorily, I'll say something about it. But if not, or till then, this is worth some thought, if not a real hard read.

The Caribbean Review of Books • A bimonthly review of Caribbean literature, art, and culture

Big congratulations to Nicholas and company for this venture.I'll be checking back regularly!

A note to our readers: Welcome to the new website of The Caribbean Review of Books. From May 2004 to May 2009, the CRB published twenty-one quarterly print issues, featuring reviews of books of Caribbean interest, interviews with writers, original fiction and poems, essays on Caribbean art and culture, and artists’ portfolios. In May 2010, the CRB’s sixth anniversary, the magazine has been relaunched as an online publication, offering the same intelligent, incisive coverage of Caribbean literature, art, and culture.via The Caribbean Review of Books • A bimonthly review of Caribbean literature, art, and culture.

Interview - Antilles: the weblog of the CRB

I count Nicholas Laughlin as one of my cyberfriends, though I think we really met over the telephone during the last CARIFESTA (such arts festivals are always, truly, such a waste of time, are they not? They make no connections, advance no careers, clearly, and they are so much a waste of money that we prefer to spend our millions on, oh, Miss Universe. But I digress.) Since then we've been communicating and collaborating online, and he has been a champion of tongues of the ocean.Anyhow, Nicholas is the valiant editor of the Caribbean Review of Books, which he continues to publish in the face of opposition, failing finances, exhaustion, fed-upness, etc.In the spirit of massive support that he'd already established, he recently interviewed me about tongues. Go check it out.And then, if you like it, go subscribe to the Caribbean Review of Books.Antilles: the weblog of the CRB.

Many Antilles readers are familiar with tongues of the ocean, an online poetry journal based in the Bahamas, which was launched in February 2009. Edited by poet and playwright Nicolette Bethel, and focused on poetry from the Caribbean and its diasporas, tongues plans to publish three issues per year, with the contents of each issue appearing gradually week by week.Soon after the second issue of tongues — dated June 2009 — began appearing, Bethel answered some questions via email about the journal’s background, influences, and modus operandi.

Announcing tongues of the ocean

 tongues of the ocean is an online literary journal of Bahamian, Caribbean and related poetry. We’re an affiliate of the Bahamas International Literary Festival, but BILF isn’t responsible for what we decide to do (so don’t blame them!). We publish three times a year - in February, June, and October. We reserve the right to be picky about what we publish. For now we’re focussing on poems and poem-related material, but that could change. Interested in submitting? Read here for more details.Here’s some of the stuff we’ll be including in tongues:writers on writers - writers talk about the work of another writer. Like a review, only hotter. Bahamians & residents only, to begin with, but we’ll get friendlier as we go on. We’d like to start with a focus on Bahamian and Caribbean greats.bredren and sistren - section for Caribbean and Southern US writers, for West Africans - for our siblings and cousins in the diaspora, and for our spiritual kin around the world. We reserve the right.catch a fire - in every issue we’ll include a section inspired by word prompts, which we’ll post with the call for submissions.  For now, this is the only place we’ll accept fiction, and only flash fiction (for our purposes, fiction under 300 words). Prose poems are welcome. Transgress boundaries. Push.Editor-in-chief: Nicolette BethelSpoken Word: Nadine Thomas-Brown(Blurb taken from the "about us" page of the journal. Logo photograph by Eric Rose.)

The Role of the Writer in Society

On Thursday past, the organizers of the Bahamas International Literary Festival (BILF), a new-brand entity, so new it don't even have itself a webspace yet, held a literary forum that served as a precursor to the festival. Six Bahamian writers were invited to present on the topic The Role of the Writer in Society. I was privileged to be among them. The others were: Keith RussellObediah Michael SmithAlex MorleyIan Strachan... Who?  who'm I forgetting? Or can't I count? ... I don't think I can count ... there were only five of us!  Gah!Well, anyhow.  The evening was memorable for a couple of reasons.  The first was the size of the audience.  It filled almost the entire length of the upper floor of Chapter One Bookstore, much to my amazement.   Now I know it's entirely possible, even likely, that a good chunk of the attendees were students who had no choice in the matter, whose classes were meeting there, who might even have an assignment about the topic later on.  But that didn't stop the fact that there were, oh, maybe fifty or sixty people in attendance from making me hold the event in awe.  Writers in this country are not used to such interest.  At least I'm not.Just for posterity's sake, and because it might be of interest, and because I've been toying with the concept of podcasting for some time and thought this is on the way to creating one, below's an updated version of the presentation I gave.  It's not exactly the same because Thursday was a runaround day and I wasn't able to get all the quotations I wanted for the presentation, but it's 90% similar.  The comment box is on, for feedback's sake, if people are so inclined.[youtube=]So I'm not an purist when it comes to writing.  Art for art's sake, as Achebe said, being somewhat of a myth.  I don't necessarily believe that all art has to have a function, a purpose; the kind of art that does isn't really art, as it puts emotions and empathy second to function.  But on the other hand, as Ian Strachan, who spoke last, said of writing -- whatever you think about it, the act of writing is always a political act.  One needn't be a socialist (as Alex Morley is) for that to be true; you just need to write, and to share your writing with people beyond yourself.  In fact, each of us spoke about agency and writing and change and revolution of some kind.  Revelation, said one of us (don't remember which one -- if you're reading this, own it, Keith or Ian or Obie or Alex!) is revolution.  If you don't know my name, said Obie, channelling Baldwin, you don't know your own.  (Obie read an essay which meandered through various meditations about writers and society and kept coming back to just that -- if you don't know my name, you don't know your own.)  Write for change, said Alex.  Write to tell the truth.  Write to show ourselves ourselves. Write to make a difference, said Keith.  Write to tell the truth.We talked a lot about truth and difference and change among us, each of us in our own particular way.  So it's no coincidence that I'm going to post the next video here now.  Chris Abani talked about story and the power of telling a tale, the power of telling the truth, and somebody filmed him doing so.  Watch the video below to see what he said.  It's akin to what we said, only (forgive me, colleagues) better.

CARIFESTA: Report from Georgetown

Well, here we are in Georgetown.After our late (LATE) arrival on Sunday night Monday morning, when we were met at the hotel by our liaison officer, we slept through a lot of the morning and didn't get started until midday.  First things first:  we changed US dollars into Guyanese currency (exchange rate yesterday - Bank of Guyana buying at $195:$1), and then moved on out to the CARIFESTA Secretariat.  There we touched base with the people who've been working hard for the past several months, and tried to finalize our accreditation and the like.  ASIDE:  It's a very frustrating job, hosting this event, especially in a situation where people are worried about security and stuff like that, and at the same time dealing with Caribbean governments, all of which appear to operate in a similar inefficient fashion, providing final approvals at the nth hour, or (worse, as happened with Turks and Caicos) denying approvals at the very last minute.  It's especially frustrating when, appreciating all the above, one tries to assist host country by sending them the information they need in advance, only to find out that the people in one's department who were charged with the task took their sweet time in sending the package to the couriers, so that one arrives in person before the information has been received and opened.  And so Guyana had to prepare our accreditation at the last minute anyway.So anyway, on we went to the Secretariat to register and to get our information into the computer so that our participants can be accredited.  The army has taken a key role in the hosting of CARIFESTA, access to the venues is to be tightly controlled, and anyone who doesn't possess a ticket or an accreditation will not gain access.  We assisted in the accreditation process, too, and then we came on home. By tomorrow, we are told, we will have our passes in hand.Monday wasn't as productive as we'd hoped, thanks to the time we arrived.  But today was much better.  We dealt with our accommodation -- our contingent is 140 strong and we're spread out over three locations -- today.  Once again, we've got an issue with long-distance payments and our accountants' performance takes on a centrality that it might not otherwise.  Let's just say that some things don't have to be done at the very last minute, but that invariably when we deal with our governments, they are.  Nevertheless, Caribbean people are very good at dealing in good faith, and so we were warmly received by the people at the DDL Estate, where we've booked 6 houses for our contingent, and we were shown around the houses and the complex.  We were similarly warmly received by the people at Buddy's International Hotel as well; and tomorrow we'll go and deal with the apartment block that will house the rest of our people.We have also been dealing with scheduling and transportation issues.  Tomorrow we hope to lock those down and be ready to receive our contingent when they begin to arrive on Thursday.But fellow bureaucrats, take note:  the world's a whole lot bigger than the desk before us and the papers we slide across it.  There's no really good reason for us to make the big world suffer any more than it already does.  Let's try to see whether, just once, we can do things efficiently and well all by ourselves.


In one week's time, the Opening Ceremony of CARIFESTA X will be over.  We'll be in Guyana, the place CARIFESTA originated, celebrating the festival's return to its birthplace.  Guyana stepped in when we in The Bahamas relinquished our commitment to host, and, despite having had only one year to plan the festival in, took the plunge anyway.There's a lot of discussion in cyberspace about whether or not it'll be a success.  There's debate, particularly in the Guyanese global community, about whether it's even a good idea to "invite people to Guyana", given all the social and economic difficulties in the country.  There's criticism of the CARIFESTA Secretariat in Guyana, there's criticism of the organizers, and it's true that on some levels and in some ways the way in which CARIFESTA has always been conducted continues -- in particular the way in which the festival is promoted globally.  On the other hand, though, there's a current of excitement out there that indicates that there's a change in the way this festival is held and perceived.  The very fact that there's independent discussion about CARIFESTA, whether the discussion is critical or supportive, indicates that it's no longer the best-kept secret in the Caribbean -- last time, when I began to blog from Trinidad and Tobago, people I knew in the artistic cyber-world had never heard of the festival, which has been in existence since 1972.  This time, Guyanese from the diaspora all over the world are at least contemplating attending the festival!  This in itself is a step in the right direction.  And this time, too, the Bahamian delegation is going to CARIFESTA accompanied by observers, well-wishers and people who are paying their own way to get a chance to see what's happening on the ground, or just to have a slightly different kind of vacation.  We're going to be accompanied by officials from the Ministry of Tourism so they can get an idea of what the whole thing is about, and also by some other advisors who can get a sense of what it is we've committed to hosting in 2010.I have no idea what the Festival's going to be like, but the buzz is growing.  We'll need to ride it if we want CARIFESTA XI Bahamas 2010 to be a success.  I'll blog from there and keep people posted.


Geoffrey Philp reads a poem here, called "Red". It's about being in between.As Philp writes:

And while this poem does not adhere strictly to the form [the ghazal], it did allow me to play with the word "red," which at the start of the poem refers to a biracial person or "half-caste."


National Poetry Month

I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, and am posting (irregularly) the poems I'm writing daily.

But I wanted to note that Geoffrey Philp has been doing a daily update on Caribbean poets all month long. You can find it here.

Today's is particularly good: Anthony McNeill (Jamaica):Somebody is hanging:a logwood treeladen with blossomsin a deep wood.The body stirs leftin the wind ...

He was the Greatest of Us All

R.I.P., Aimé Césaire.Cesaire's best known works included the essay "Negro I am, Negro I Will Remain" and the poem "Notes From a Return to the Native Land."His works also resonated in Africa. Former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf said Cesaire led a noble fight against hate."I salute the memory of a man who dedicated his life to multiple wars waged on all battlefields for the political and cultural destiny of his racial brothers," Diouf said.Born June 26, 1913, in Basse-Pointe, Martinique, Cesaire moved to France for high school and university. He returned to Martinique during World War II and served as mayor from 1945 to 2001, except in 1983-84.Cesaire helped Martinique shed its colonial status in 1946 to become an overseas department. As the years passed, he remained firm in his views.

--from the Miami Herald

Edit: Geoffrey Philp has an excellent article, here.