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Posts tagged with: Brathwaite Kamau

Het Open Boek van Tolin Alexander, theatermaker

door Chandra van Binnendijk

Wat ligt er momenteel naast uw bed?

Gebroken wit van Astrid Roemer. Geen boek waarbij je achteroverleunt. Het is heel fragmentarisch, je moet wel scherp zijn om te weten welk personage aan het woord is. En The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman van Bruce Albert. Dat gaat over een sjamaan die door een wetenschapper wordt gevraagd naar de verhalen die nu van waarde zijn voor het in stand houden van onze wereld.

read on…

Kamau Brathwaite in Liviticus – like the Psalmist in Babylon; like the weeping prophet

a book review by John Robert Lee

ST. MARTIN, Caribbean (2017 )— Liviticus, published in 2017 by House of Nehesi Publishers, is a new collection that is at once a moving confessional poem, in which Kamau Brathwaite writes honestly, frankly, disturbingly on what he calls his “cultural lynching.” read on…

Critical Caribbean Symposium 2013: Kamau Brathwaite

Van 22-23 november is er op de Bahama’s een literaire conferentie waarbij het werk van Kamau Brathwaite centraal staat. Brathwaite wordt als volgt omschreven: “Since the early 1950s, Kamau Brathwaite has been one of the leading producers of Caribbean cultural and intellectual discourses. Not just an award winning poet, the richness of Brathwaite’s verse is paralleled only by the depth of his scholarly essays in literary criticism, cultural theory, and history. With groundbreaking works including Four Plays for Primary Schools (1964), Rights of Passage (1967), Black an Blues (1976), Roots (1993), The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820 (1971), History of the Voice: the Development of Nation Language in Anglophone Caribbean Poetry (1986)), Braithwaite’s place as a major contemporary poet, philosopher and original literary voice of the Caribbean has been well-established.”

Voor meer informatie klik hier

Where I See The Sun … I see harvest

by Fabian Ade Badejo 
Thirty-one years is a long time to wait for a new harvest of voices, but in many respects, Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in St. Martin – the second anthology of poetry to be published on the island within two generations, was quite worth the wait. Just as the first, Winds Above the Hills compiled and edited by Wycliffe Smith was linked to a major cultural event, the St. Maarten Festival of Arts and Culture (SMAFESTAC) held in 1982, this new anthology can be described as a commemorative publication to mark the 10th anniversary of the St. Martin Book Fair, never mind the fact that it came out in 2013 and was launched at the 11th edition of this important literary event. It is not within the purview of this review to compare the two anthologies, but suffice it to reiterate the pivotal role House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP) has been playing in the development of a St. Martin literary tradition, with dozens of published writers whose works may have never seen print.
Where I See The Sun … is therefore a welcome addition to that steadily increasing list of HNP publications – professional in their presentations, delightful in their content, and edifying in the maturing of the literary arts in St. Martin.
Where I see the sun … I see a rainbow, straddling the hills, arching through the sky, with feet firmly grounded in the Caribbean Sea. This collection of poems, culled from a publicized “Call for Poetry,” reflects the exciting ethnic, national, and racial demographics of the island. However, this is not a rainbow collection in the sense of a lack of collective identity. To the contrary, these are ALL St. Martin poets, singing St. Martin songs like a well-experienced choir. It is a credit to the editor of the volume, poet/essayist/historian and publisher, Lasana Sekou, that he deliberately selected these poets despite their varying backgrounds as true St. Martin voices, speaking to St. Martin issues of their choice. St. Martin is a melting pot and as I have argued in other places, it is perhaps the most Caribbean in this sense, of all the islands in the archipelago, certainly, the most charismatically Caribbean of them all. Here, place of birth and country of origin is meaningless when you embrace the land and its people. In other words, you don’t have to be born here to be considered a St. Martiner; you just have to fit in, blend in and make your own contribution to the life and progress of the people and you will become what is termed in local parlance: “born to be here.”
Nobody in this new collection exemplifies this “new arrivant” St. Martiner more than Mariela Xue, born in the Dominican Republic, brought to St. Martin at age 9, went to primary school here and returned to do high school in the country of her birth and then returning to St. Martin in 2002. Mariela, who is married to a Chinese, speaks for all those “born to be here” St. Martiners when she writes in “Over-qualified exile”:
“Am a daughter of the soil by proxy/an’ have achieved a great deal/impossible in my birthplace/Saint Martin, surrogate mother,/has given me more than I could imagine,/the opportunity to excel,/when the very people who open the door and held it/open are at times not of their own doing/denied this privilege.”
Mariela Xue is not really “a daughter of the soil by proxy” as she proclaims: she is a true daughter of the soil because in this soil, a “surrogate mother” is a mother, period. She is one of the few poets with five or more poems in this collection and certainly one of the new talents I expect to achieve a great deal more.
Where I see the sun … I hear voices, fresh like the dewdrop on a hibiscus leaf, coursing through the contours of memory deposited like aging salt in the Great Salt Pond. The sage, Kamau Brathwaite was right. Indeed, as he wrote in the blurb that opens this volume, “It’s a rare & sparkle event to have an anthology of (mainly) young poets – already into memories, their bright eyes searching the horizon for future and language.”
“My language is like the wind,” writes Georges Cocks in “Idiom, Creole.” “It strokes my soul as the clouds that it’s teasing,” he continues, ending the poem thus: “These chains of islands/Offshoots of magma/Recognise/Creole, the language of these paradise lands.”
But if Cocks, one of the few published poets in this collection, sees his language like the wind, taking flight “as the migrating bird from the mainland,” Kimasha P. Williams minces no words in making the link between the language she speaks – St. Martin English, a variety of English-based creole, as Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, former Minister of Education and a leading linguist, has already established – and her identity.
Williams declares in “These words in my mouth”: “These words in my mouth/I love them/ I ain’ care wah you gawh say/These words in my mouth/I love them/I talking like this everyday.//Don’ come tell me is broken English/When you can understand well/Fine! I gohn leave it outside the classroom/A’leas until they ring the bell.//These words in my mouth/I love them/These words in my mouth is me/Te’een matter how much I hide it/These words are my identity.”
Dr. Arrindell, the foremost proponent of recognizing the St. Martin English as a nation language, to use Brathwaite’s term, would surely be smiling on reading this.
Language, identity and culture are all intertwined, a tripod upon which rests the St. Martin Personality. Tamara Groeneveldt in “I know St. Martin’s Culture” rattles off a litany of cultural markers to knock out the colonial notion that St. Martin has no culture. “I don’t know about you, but I know about me/I am sick and tired of hearing that/St. Martin doesn’t have a culture./I know that if everybody knew what I eat,/Live and breathe on my island,/They would snatch it up like a vulture.”
And indeed, they do.
Groeneveldt is not alone in extolling those elements of St. Martin culture – its food, home remedies, dance, songs, economy, plants and other natural resources. She is in the company of Lysanne Charles (“Miss Grandmother”) who paints a folksy, lyrical and rootsy picture of a nurturing Caribbean grandma who took care of her as a child when she fell sick, and of Raymond Helligar (“Sin’ Martin Is We’z Own”) who writes: “So we claiming this land fo’ we and everything on it,/is we own/So every gawling, every pelican, is we own/Every rockstone in the gut, is we own.”
There are others too:  Terry Daniel, Glenda York, Patricia Chance-Duzant, Tadzio Bervoets, Lucinda “La Rich” Audain, Faizah Tabasamu, and Laura Richardson in a polished classical form, all speak glowingly about the land, its people and its culture.
The tone of their voices is unapologetic, unashamed, and unafraid to proclaim their identity as St. Martiners and to claim the island without regard to its dual colonial status. They sound at times like rappers – just being real – dealing with their own existential stuff, generally oblivious of where real political power actually resides.
This latter observation could be considered a drawback in the whole collection: that the poets – with one or two marked exceptions – seem in the main, unconcerned about the political developments and constitutional future of the island. There is no doubt that this does not reflect what, in recent years, has been the dominant issue among the people of the island as expressed constantly on radio call-in programs, TV talk shows, newspaper articles and online publications. In his introduction to the anthology, Sekou expresses a cultural Job-like concern about this point but it will not, and I don’t think he meant it to, stop the inevitable scrutiny.
Why does this group of poets sidestep the issue? In fairness to them, they are not the only ones: other artists, regardless of the art form they practice – music (especially kaiso), dance, theater, plastic arts, etc. – also seem to deliberately ignore political issues. For them, there is a clear separation between art and politics, never mind the political melee rampant around or during carnival, which has become the main course of calypsonians of all stripes. And even then, the lack of ideological commitment is glaring.
This is bothersome, especially in a collection of poems like Where I See the Sun that opens with “The Ponum Song,” a liberation song, with its accompanying dance, intoned by our enslaved ancestors, which one would have thought would set the tone for what to expect in the collection.
The St. Martin cultural and historical icons that Sekou has identified and popularized island-wide and beyond in his writings over the years, are clearly visible in a number of poems in the collection. However, one is still apt to ask: where is especially the political aspects of the “Sekou School” that I identified years ago in Salted Tongues? That school of poets, led by the revolutionary Lasana Sekou, whose hard-hitting poems seek a knockout punch against the colonial status of the island? For sure, they are there in name: Deborah Drisana Jack, Changa Hickinson, who says, perhaps rhetorically in “small change II”: “The nurse asked me,/Why are you so negative/about country in the kingdom/when your blood is B positive?” Then retorts: “When our rulers/are our leaders/there will be no/yard sale of government.”
I would add Faizah Tabasamu and even Mariela Xue as “new entrants” to the Sekou School, although their poems in this volume do not speak directly to the ideological directions of Sekou. Whatever the reason(s) may be, this is an omission that should be of concern to the progressives on the island.
Nevertheless, Where I See The Sun can also be considered a harvest of salt. Long before tourism, long before the advent of European adventurers, buccaneers and slavers, long, long before the West Indies Company that reaped millions in profits from our ponds, salt was king here. The Amerindians reputedly named the island “Soualiga” – land of salt. Tabasamu, in her poem of the same title, personifies her as “a woman with rockwall plaits in her hair/and white sand painted on her toes…./her lips are liquid red/and her fingers cannot hold a pen/they are brittle/from picking sour diamonds from the water/in her tub.”
Like Bervoets in his excellent prose poem, “The Great Salt Pond (3000 BC – 2012 AD): A Eulogy”, Tabasamu laments that “she isn’t who she used to be.” This is generally acknowledged on the island, not only by environmentalists like Bervoets, but also by a very large section of the population, resulting in HNP embarking on a popular signature drive to put a stop to the unnecessary filling of the Great Salt Pond, described appropriately by Sekou as the “cradle of the nation.” The resolution and signatures were later presented to the Parliament of St. Martin as well as to the relevant Ministers. Salt is the ingredient that brings out the good taste in this collection of poems. Salt, in not just a historic way, but as a metaphor for the sweetness and bitterness the island has known, is engraved in every St. Martiner’s DNA. Nobody captures this better than Dr. Jay B. Haviser in his poem “untitled”: “naked is the body and soul of the salt-picker,/salt surrounds them,/salt within the very flesh of their hearts…” These may be perhaps the most powerful three verses in the entire collection.
Drisana Deborah Jack is certainly among those who have elevated salt to the level of a national symbol. She writes in “the edges sing our songs”: “the footprints of the Caribs/etch the sides of the hills/marking their place/their present/our history/looked at you/saw women and salt/named you after both/one to soothe, one to suck/one to heal, one to season.”
Jack, a published and accomplished poet in her own right and a leading painter/multi-media artist, leads the choir in singing love songs, for what would a volume like this be like without love poems. In “the nest and other homes for the heart” Jack waxes lyrical: “someday love will find you/build a nest in your heart/with twigs of longing and bits of fabric/from clothes long worn.” Or in “tonight”: “I wait for you,/with supple skin/scented with hints of jasmine/and orchids…/warm…moist…open.” The subtleness of her erotic conjurations is a trademark of Jack’s poetry: she has a way of “killing you softly” with her pen.
Tabasamu’s love is also perfumed: it is “lavender, regal and true,” “lined with silver.” But while hers is a divine love, Tamara Groeneveldt takes up Jack’s subtle eroticism in “Sweetest thing I’ve Ever Known.” “Sweetest thing I’ve ever known/Still makes me smile although I’ve grown old/Sixty years later and it still sends the sweetest chills/Up and down my old bones./I may be gray but my fire never went cold.”
Hurrah for those whose libido remains intact even into their old age.
But young love is a learning process, as acclaimed musician and songbird, Mischu Laikah seems to suggest, whether she is trying to wriggle out of a controlling relationship (“New Beginning”) or simply trying to “Fall in Love Again.” Her poems, as could be expected, are written to be put to music.
There is a strong female presence in this volume, which is de facto representative of the cultural landscape of the island. Of the 25 poets in this anthology, 15 are women. Nothing to really worry about? What is certain is that this is approximately the ratio of female to male students in many of our classrooms. It is a topic for a different discussion.
As for Where I See The Sun, Drisana Jack ends her beautiful poem, “the edges sing our songs” with this one line: “the harvest will not be simple.” Sekou, I’m sure, knows that the harvest of voices in this anthology was not simple. But it was bountiful and opens the barn to brighter suns. 
Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in St. Martin, a new anthology of 25 poets and spoken word artists, edited by Lasana M. Sekou, at Van Dorp, Arnia’s, Shipwreck Shops, and 
 Fabian Ade Badejo is an author, journalist, and literary/culture critic.

St. Martin: ‘It’s a wrap’ and congrats to 14 HNP authors for a busy February

St. Martin (February 22, 2013)—February 2013 proved to be extra busy for authors published here by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). While in its 30th anniversary year, “HNP is happy to see what is for us an unprecedented crush of activities by at least 14 of our authors in just 28 days in the Caribbean, the USA, and Israel,” said HNP president Jacqueline Sample. Among the busy set of writers taking part in Black History Month celebrations and literary activities, in the shortest month of the year, were Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, Amiri Baraka, Dr. Jay B. Haviser, Fabian Adekunle Badejo, George Lamming, Marion Bethel, Joseph H. Lake, Jr., Drisana Deborah Jack, Daniella Jeffry, Robert Romney, Chiqui Vicioso, Kamau Brathwaite, Nidaa Khoury, and Lasana M. Sekou.
At Eurotast Symposium, organizers, panelists, and authors (L-R),standing, Dr. Temi Odumosu, Shujah Reiph, Fabian A. Badejo, Joseph H. Lake, Jr., Dr. Jay Haviser; seated, Daniella Jeffry, Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, Lasana M. Sekou, Clara Reyes. Photo © CLF.
 “I congratulate the writers for keeping busy, which causes a demand for their writings and their appearances in their community and in various parts of the world. I also thank the book reviewers and bloggers, and the organizers of activities who invited our writers as guests authors and keynote speakers at conferences, literary readings, school visits, library exhibits, and media appearances this month,” said Sample. Baraka and Arrindell were the busiest with numerous speaking engagements. At the EUROTAST Symposium (2/8/13), five out of the seven “First Voice” panelists and the conference’s St. Martin principal, were all authors published by the small press that has managed to produce books by leading authors from throughout Caribbean, the USA, and the Middle East.

Lasana Sekou’s English/Spanish book represents Caribbean Literature in Venezuela

Great Bay, St. Martin (November 21, 2011)—Representing what is new or canonical in Caribbean Literature is probably getting more difficult as the region’s national literatures continue to produce more writers within the various countries and territories. But independent Cuban scholar Emilio Jorge Rodríguez recently went to one of Venezuela’s prestigious universities to do just that.

“I was invited to give lectures during two weeks in October to the Master of Arts program on Ibero-American Literature, headed by Professor Arnaldo Valero at the Instituto de Investigaciones Literarias Gonzalo Picón Febres, of the Universidad de los Andes in Mérida, Venezuela,” said Rodríguez on Sunday. “As my last lecture in Mérida was about Lasana M. Sekou, they decided to launch Corazón de pelícano on October 14,” said Rodriguez.
And that is how the St. Martin book Pelican Heart – An Anthology of Poems by Lasana M. Sekou/ Corazón de pelícano – Antología poética de Lasana M. Sekou was launched as a contemporary example of Caribbean Literature at the University of the Andes (ULA).

In addition to the copies bought by students and other guests, review copies of the book were “presented to professors and researchers at ULA who would make use of it in the classroom and in their studies of Caribbean and Latin American literatures,” said Rodríguez. ULA is the second-oldest university in Venezuela, dating back to 1810; and ranks among “the top 30 research institutions in Latin America.” (
The ULA request for the Pelican Heart launch allowed Rodríguez to continue his introduction of the St. Martin author to Hispanic audiences. Rodríguez is the editor of Pelican Heart/Corazón de pelícano (HNP, 2010), in which all of the poems are translated into Spanish by Maria Teresa Ortega from the original English. The editor wrote the critical introduction to the 432-page book. There’s an extensive bibliography by the editor and the poet explaining a number of words, terms, symbols, names, dates, and language fragments in the poems.

At the ULA lectures Rodríguez focused critically on performance poetry and what he terms the “oraliture” of a region that has produced a stellar number of world-class authors, across its different language zones, in a short historical period, and in a relatively very small geographic space. Rodríguez included video clips of writers, poets, and storytellers he discussed as central to the graduate class theme: Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados), Linton Kwesi Johnson (UK), Mutabaruka (Jamaica), Paul Keens-Douglas (Trinidad & Tobago), Louise Bennett (Jamaica), Elis Juliana (Curacao), Mikey Smith (Jamaica), and Sekou (St. Martin).

The Pelican Heart collection, which Italian literary critic Dr. Sara Florian calls “an election” of Sekou’s poems from 1978 to 2010, has been previously launched with critical introductions in Barbados, Cuba, and Mexico. A book signing for Pelican Heart was held in St. Martin last February at the Jubilee Library as part of the Tribute to the Great Salt Pond concert by Sekou (poetry) and Nicole de Weever (dance).

Caribbean Writers Nominations

De OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature zal dit jaar voor het eerst worden uitgereikt tijdens het OCM Bocas Literatuurfestival in Port of Spain, Trinidad. De winnaar ontvangt een prijs van US $10.000,- Dit jaar zijn er tien schrijvers genomineerd, in de categorieën Poëzie, Romans en Non-fictie. In de categorie Poëzie zijn de volgende dichters genomineerd: Kamau Brathwaite met Elegguas, Kei Miller met A Light Song of Light en Nobelprijswinnaar Derek Walcott met White Egrets. Myriam Chancy (The Loneliness of Angels), Karen Lord (Redemption in Indigo), Rabindranath Maharaj (The Amazing Absorbing Boy) en Tiphanie Yanique’s (How to Escape a Leper Colony) zijn de genomineerde romanschrijvers. In de non-fictie categorie vinden we Andre Alexis (Beauty and Sadness), Edwidge Danticat (Create Dangerously) en Nobelprijswinnaar V.S. Naipaul (The Masque of Africa).

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