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Posts tagged with: Agard John

De Cultuur Top Vijf van 2023 (4)

Het eind van het volle jaar 2023 zit er bijna op. Caraïbisch Uitzicht vroeg alle mensen die betrokken zijn bij de site van de Werkgroep Caraïbische Letteren om hun top-vijf van culturele evenementen die zij het afgelopen jaar hebben bijgewoond of de beste boeken die zij lazen. Vandaag de vierde aflevering door Joke Gerritsen.

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Caribbean Roots

Black British and Caribbean Poets Read Their Own Work
Caribbean Roots brings together recordings of ten Black British and Caribbean poets. The selections represent a range of experiences, emotions, styles, and influences, and they reflect both the culture of the Caribbean and life in Britain. The featured poets include Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze, David Dabydeen, James Berry, John Agard, Amryl Johnson, E. A. Markham, Michael Smith, and Benjamin Zephaniah, all reading their own work in a mixture of studio recordings and electrifying live performances. This two-disc set will be essential for anyone interested in black writing and poetry in performance in Britain today.

Guyanese poet, John Agard awarded Queen’s Gold Medal For Poetry 2012

Buckingham Palace announced today  that John Agard is to be awarded The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry 2012. The Medal is awarded for excellence in poetry, and will be presented to Agard by The Queen in 2013.

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In the tradition of “Empire Writing Back to the Centre”: John Agard’s Half-caste and Other Poems

by Charmaine Valere

John Agard’s poems fit in the tradition of (pardon the lil book-learning) post-colonial literature –Empire Writing Back to the Centre (as Salman Rushdie termed it).

“Half-caste” pokes fun at the term, and in poking fun, the speaker exposes the less than substantive use of the term in describing a person of mixed race. In the poem, the speaker reclaims his wholeness by writing back, reverting the language that sought to make him half. He does so in written form, as well as in spoken form.

As in “Half-caste,” the speaker in “Checking out me history” seeks to reclaim a part of him that was denied or hidden. He writes back at those who taught him to disregard his own history and throughout the poem gives tribute to the “Empire’s” true heroes.

Through his use of language, he raises those heroes, and others omitted from the history he was taught – Toussaint, Nanny, Mary Seacole, Carib people, Arawak people – above the ones he was taught to admire, and he does so by using language that rises off the page itself.

The narratives he tells of the Empire’s heroes – Toussaint, Nanny, and Seacole – tell their stories of triumph and also give them personalities in a language that is anti-Standard / colloquial, and Standard. It is the language of a defiant, once-Empire: Toussaint “lick back”; Nanny de maroon was a “see-far,” “fire-woman”; Mary Secole said “no” to the British, and “brave the Russian snow.”

Agard’s poems are exemplary pieces on reclaiming and reveling in a language of one’s own. I will read and re-read this collection and continue to enjoy it for a very long time. Then, I will pass it on to my sons for their enjoyment (hopefully).

Final note: Agard’s use of empowering language seems effortless, but that effortlessness may have come at the end of a long struggle. Some evidence of the once-Empire’s awkward continuing struggle with the language of identity is in this Living Guyana post. In the post, the writer categorizes two supposedly antagonistic (towards each other) major groups of Guyanese people as “Indo” and “Afro.” Although I can, I don’t think it’s my place to argue against the use of “Indo.” But, “Indo-Guyanese” is certainly not as demeaning as the term “Afro-Guyanese.” I continue to voice my disapproval of the term “Afro” to categorize a group of people of varying hues and hairstyles. It is derogatory and ignorant. Maybe when we learn to respect difference and empower ourselves with language… Yeah, I dare to be optimistic.

[from The Signifyin’ Woman]

John Agard – Half Caste

Excuse me
standing on one leg
I’m half-caste

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when picasso
mix red an green
is a half-caste canvas/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean when light an shadow
mix in de sky
is a half-caste weather/
well in dat case
england weather
nearly always half-caste
in fact some o dem cloud
half-caste till dem overcast
so spiteful dem dont want de sun pass
ah rass/
explain yuself
wha yu mean
when yu say half-caste
yu mean tchaikovsky
sit down at dah piano
an mix a black key
wid a white key
is a half-caste symphony/

Explain yuself
wha yu mean
Ah listening to yu wid de keen
half of mih ear
Ah lookin at yu wid de keen
half of mih eye
and when I’m introduced to yu
I’m sure you’ll
why I offer yu half-a-hand
an when I sleep at night
I close half-a-eye
consequently when I dream
I dream half-a-dream
an when moon begin to glow
I half-caste human being
cast half-a-shadow
but yu must come back tomorrow
wid de whole of yu eye
an de whole of yu ear
an de whole of yu mind

an I will tell yu
de other half
of my story

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