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Martyring our saints

Posted: June 26th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Column | 4 Comments »

Verna St Rose-Greaves wasn’t the biggest loser in Friday’s Cabinet reshuffle; we were. Fired from the post of Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development, Verna’s only sin was that she was too committed to serving this country according to her conscience, by seeking to protect our women and children. Instead of being lauded for this, Verna was thrown under the bus by the PP government. Given the choice between the Christian/conservative vote and the smooth introduction of the Gender Policy Verna championed, the PP government chose the votes, going against what its leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar had seemed to stand for before she became Prime Minister.

I say without apology that this makes Verna a political martyr to the cowardice of the PP government and its failure to stand for what it seemed to believe in before it formed the government. There are those who feel Verna was fired because of the Cheryl Miller episode. In March Millar was taken from her desk in Verna’s ministry and committed to the mental hospital against Miller’s will. It’s possible this is what led to Verna’s firing. However, it’s more likely that the government saw too many protests against the Gender Policy, and the imaginary LGBT marriage lobby. (Surely it’s imaginary, since most LGBT organisations in the country haven’t said a peep about gay marriage, and have only asked for equal human rights for LGBT folk.) Verna, being Verna, stood up for what she believed in and presented a Gender Policy that wouldn’t embarrass her as a longstanding women’s activist. Would that the PP government had the same courage.

I am not Verna St Rose-Greaves’ friend, but I have interviewed her many times in my capacity as a reporter. She was always a straightforward, blunt advocate for the people she served as a social worker; and she was passionate and well informed about women’s and children’s rights and the wrongs done to them. In fact, Verna was the go-to interview on any such topic, because she was one of a very few public servants who would risk defying the public servant ban on talking to the media. She might have looked mad to play “warner woman”, complete with bell, during the Summit of the Americas in 2009 in Port-of-Spain, but I agreed with her choice to protest the then-government’s holding of an expensive international summit and spending millions of dollars to spruce up the parts of the country the delegates would see while our women and children were being murdered and suffering egregious poverty. Jada Loutoo reported in the Newsday at the time, “After leaving her post on Wrightson Road, St Rose-Greaves […] walked down to the fountain at the Summit Village on the Port-of-Spain Waterfront promenade, where she was accosted by security officers who took away her bell […] and called for backup.”

Now it’s 2012 and once again Verna’s bell has been taken away. She has been whisked out of government back into the shadows where her cries for justice and equality will be easier to ignore. She told the Guardian in an interview published Sunday, “I was offered an ambassadorial position in Costa Rica, which I chose not to take because I didn’t come into government to go to Costa Rica… The one thing that I am sure of, my voice will not be silenced. Death will have to silence me.”

As Ataklan sang, “I’d rather be a shadow in the dark than a big fool in spotlight.”

 

 

Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was once a politician. I told him I felt politicians were the lowest of the low, opportunists who had only entered the field for what power and wealth they could gain. I cited the infamous declaration by Desmond Cartey—“All ah we thief”—as proof that in this country people enter politics to line their pockets and the pockets of their friends and families. My friend corrected me: far from being the slimiest occupation, politics was among the highest callings an individual could follow. Being a politician was an opportunity for service to one’s country and one’s fellow man, he said. What could be nobler than that?

But the take-away lesson of Verna’s firing is that conscience and integrity have no place in T&T politics. When you enter the government, leave your conscience at home. Verna’s firing is a loss for the country because it spells out in bold, clear letters to service-minded individuals, “Don’t go into politics.”

This column appears in today’s Trinidad Guardian.


Speaking up about child sexual abuse

Posted: June 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Column | 2 Comments »

I haven’t posted here for some months, being more active on my Facebook profile page–which is now public and accepts subscribers, by the way–and my Facebook author page, which you’ll find links to on this blog. I’ve also started back my column in the Trinidad Guardian, and it runs every Tuesday.

Anyway, the reason I’m here posting this today is that my column in today’s Trinidad Guardian was supposed to be formatted in a certain way and it isn’t. The lack of formatting makes it incredibly difficult to read and I am sure it will make no sense whatsoever to whoever reads it there. That’s why I’m here, to repost the column with the correct formatting. I also want to share it far and wide because it’s about child sexual abuse and we can never say too much on that topic.

 

Break the silence

[Trigger warning: This column contains descriptions of child sexual abuse.]

 

Most of the alleged sexual abuse victims of US football coach and father figure Jerry Sandusky remained silent during and after the abuse. Most victims of child sexual abuse do.

Jerry Sandusky (creative commons)

Unlike Alleged Victim Nine in the Sandusky trial, many of the victims of child sexual abuse never scream for help. Instead, you might hear:

Go away. Nothing’s wrong. Leave me alone. I hate you. I want to kiss you there. I want to sit in your lap and play with your body. I want to show you something. I want to see yours. I hate everything. My belly hurts. My head hurts. I can’t sleep. I have a rash that I scratch till it bleeds. Nothing’s wrong. Go away.

This case, now being tried in the Philadelphia courts, is sickening. Eight men have testified that Sandusky, while a top coach at the powerful Pennsylvania State University football team, handpicked boys as young as eight to be his special friends. They claim he identified troubled boys from a youth charity he founded, the Second Mile, and seduced them with affection and attention, showered them with gifts and took them on extraordinary outings. Some of them testified to a Grand Jury in December last year that he made them feel like part of his family, and that he told them he loved them. To any child, these are powerful inducements. Would every child take this poisoned candy? No. But some would.

We in Trinidad and Tobago might imagine the Sandusky story is some alien thing, and that this could never happen here. We would be very wrong. There is child sexual abuse happening in this country at this very moment. Somewhere not far from you there is a boy or girl being seduced by someone he or she trusts, seduced with cake and money and weed and PS3’s, and love, or the facsimile of it. This seeming love is the thing that draws child victims in and shuts them up. Because the one who is seducing them seems to care, sometimes more than their own parents and siblings. These monsters will give hugs and back rubs and listening ears. They will know just what a child wants and give it unstintingly. And then they will take what they want.

It’s only fair. I gave you this. You give me that.

Why do children stay silent about sexual abuse? Why don’t more of them scream and run away to report it to the police or a parent, a teacher or a pastor? Apart from the fact that in many cases it is these very authority figures who are themselves the abusers, victims often feel an overwhelming sense of love for the abuser, and feel complicit in the abuse.

You knew it was wrong, but you did it anyway. You let it happen. If you tell, everyone will think it’s your fault. And what would happen to your special friend, the one person who treats you like you’re precious? He or she would get in trouble. Do you want to be the one who tears apart the family? Do you want him or her to lose his or her job over you? Shame on you.

 Perhaps the most shocking thing about the Sandusky trial is not the men’s stories of being sexually fondled and raped as ten- and twelve-year-old boys, but that so many adults actually saw it with their own eyes, yet did nothing. It is not the victims’ silence that is the most horrifying part, but the silence of their community. The Grand Jury testimony gives stories of people who walked in on Sandusky lying on top of boys, showering with them, having oral sex with them, raping them. Some reported what they had seen to a superior, and those superiors did not do what the law mandated: report it to the police, investigate and take measures to protect the boys who may have been molested. (In one case, a mother did report it to the police, who subsequently dropped the investigation.)

If a child you know says a respected adult is making him or her uncomfortable, what is your first impulse? Is it to ask questions, or to brush the child aside? Do you listen to the silence, or compound it with your own? Whatever the outcome of the Sandusky trial let us take one thing away from the horrendous story: Break the Silence.

For more information about the UWI St Augustine IGDS campaign Break the Silence, go to: http://sta.uwi.edu/igds/breakthesilence/index.asp


Saving the life that is my own

Posted: October 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Last week I picked up the Alice Walker collection of essays In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens and reread the very first essay, “Saving the life that is your own: The importance of models in the artist’s life”. I’ve read this essay before, many times, in fact, over the years since I first got the book back when my teenager was a little baby. The essay’s theme, that artists need to have templates to follow in order to live their lives, is one that I have always believed in. The templates are knowledge of the very existence of other artists like them. The timing of my rereading of the essay proved prescient, as this weekend I was fortunate to meet a woman writer whom I have admired for years, Nalo Hopkinson.

 

Nalo Hopkinson. Photo from http://nalohopkinson.com/

 

A brilliant writer, Nalo is one of the few Caribbean sci-fi/fantasy writers who have been internationally published. Her first books Brown Girl in the Ring and Midnight Robber are bonafide sci-fi classics. She writes brave feminist fiction; it is outstanding not simply because of its themes and Caribbean characters of colour (and the fact that in speculative fiction black writers are few and far between) but also because she’s a fine writer with a gift for lush, descriptive writing.

I treasured the time I spent listening to her and in the writing workshop she gave at the 30th WI Literature Conference, which took place at UWI, St Augustine, this weekend. Here is a writer who more or less forged her way in the publishing world without compromising her vision or her voice. This is a model I would be happy to emulate.


On the late Pat Bishop

Posted: September 6th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

 

 

 

 

 

Pat Bishop. Photo from: The Trinidad and Tobago Web directory

Pat Bishop’s passing leaves a hole in us. Not just the Trinidad and Tobago visual arts community, of which she was a significant part as a painter, or Despers, the venerable steelband with which she worked, or the Lydians, the magnificent choir which she directed from 1987 until her death on August 20, 2011. The work she did and the direction she articulated for our national and cultural identity is irreplaceable. It sounds trite but the lady was really a national treasure and we are the poorer for her passing.

At the memorial for her on August 28 at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, I cried and cried. Not just in sympathy for my friends who are members of the Lydians but for myself that I didn’t have the courage while she lived to spend more time with her instead of holding up that silly veil of some kind of separation between journalist and subject—after all, I had in the past been called upon and could conceivably be called upon again to cover her work or canvass her views on something, anything. What contact I had had with her was professional, not personal, and I always left our interviews with a feeling that I had only glimpsed her creative genius and her understanding of us as Trinidadians.

Consider this unpublished statement she made in a 2007 interview I did with her for Caribbean Beat on her work as director of the Carnival Institute: “If we are not to get to Darfur it is important that we collect and show the various public art processes and what they say about ourselves.” As we enter the third week of the State of Emergency in Trinidad and Tobago don’t those words seem prophetic?

And this, from the same interview: “I have all sorts of fantasies. I have in my head a flock of robot corbeaux—they will have beak caps and radar—and an encounter between the King Douen and Spongebob.

“The only way our children are going to find their place in the sun is to know who they are and to get on to the information superhighway. If I did my cartoons of Mama D’glo combing her hair, Yugioh would fall in love with her. They would know they are part of the world and not just someone that must say ‘Yes, master’ to Miami and survive on barrels from that part of the world.”

I was disappointed, to say the least, at the remarks made by Bhoe Tewarie at the memorial. Dr Tewarie, in his capacity as Minister of Planning, Economic and Social Restructuring and Gender Affairs, was one of the last people to see her alive, as he had hosted the meeting at which she collapsed, never to recover, on August 20. He talked at the memorial about the young Pat Bishop’s desire to be seen yet he failed to mention that the better part of her career as historian, musicologist and cultural researcher was far more devoted to looking than being seen. Not “look me,” but “look we” was what she in her latter work was all about. More than anywhere else, you could hear it in the magical way she fused tassa, African drums and steelpan with European Baroque tradition in her epic signature piece the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah as performed by Despers and the Lydians and Malick Tassa Drummers at the very memorial service.

It was this that stuck in my throat: rage. The government would make sure that Pat’s work was remembered, he said; but I somehow got the impression that it was the works themselves and not her intention that the government would celebrate. Pat Bishop was an artist’s artist, and even greater than her desire for making her own work visible was her passion for protecting our arts and fostering their growth, probing them for an understanding of our national possibility and potential. Dr Tewarie, in addition to your tributes and a retrospective exhibition or whatever is planned to memorialize Pat Bishop, why not found a National Arts Council that would give significant and transparent grants to the arts in this country? Would that not be the better way to celebrate her legacy? Wouldn’t she be glad to know that some artist here, digging in the rich soil that is our cultural heritage, would have it that much easier? That our arts could be as respectable and comparatively well funded as any? That the hardscrabble life lived by some artist could be a little easier for it?

My friend writer Barbara Jenkins, who writes for the Lydians, eulogized Pat Bishop in a note published in the programme for Winterreise, the show Pat was directing at her death. With Barbara’s permission I’ve republished her words here. I wonder if Dr Tewarie will read them and I wonder if he will then understand.

 

A Winter Journey of the Soul

 

Do not go gentle into that good night…

 …Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Pat Bishop died on Saturday 20th August 2011.  She had been working on this Winterreise concert when she died. As was her way, she was also working on a collection of paintings, She Sells Sea Shells by the Sea Shore. For Pat, one creative activity inspired another, even segued into another. She could never do just one thing at a time when she was on fire; she had to find outlets everywhere or be consumed by her own energy, go into meltdown. This time, as she completed both – preparing for the concert and putting the last brushstroke on the last painting – she did self-combust.

I would venture that it was not the strain of the work she did do, that killed Pat Bishop – she was tireless with the choir, the steel, the painting, the teaching, the guiding, the writing, the thinking. These gave challenge, gave hope, gave reward in lifting the spirit, her own and those she worked with. It was the stress of what she did not do, could not do, that broke her.

More than anyone, I think, Pat recognised how lucky we are to have found ourselves here, in this miraculous space that is Trinidad and Tobago. How lucky we are to have arrived here with the gifts of intelligence, creativity and endurance and the blessed serendipity of being thrown together to share and fuse and mix and blend and make newer, better, more original creations, of people, of things. A people who, musical illiterates in the conventional sense, could take industrial waste, an empty oil drum, use heat and hammer, and create a musical instrument. A people who, colonised and coloniser, enslaved and slave-owner, plantation overseen and overseer, heated together in this crucible, could emerge as us! Look at we! Just look at we! Yes, WE the subject, not the object.

How many times must you say to a national community; how many times must you say to the corporate world; how many times must you say to ministers and governments of how many regimes, that the wealth of a nation is the people, their creativity, their natural born gifts, their talents? Not just say, not just talk, speechify, posture, but show by example, demonstrate by unceasing labour, by walking the walk, barefoot over beds of nails, through coals of fire, decade after decade after decade?

Say over and over and over, that our wealth, the treasure of our human capital, is inexhaustible, renewable, sustainable – the only long-term capital that this country possesses, the only investment worth while, the only thing that could, would, last beyond all other wealth. That this wealth must be recognised, nurtured, developed, cherished, rewarded?

That all else is ephemeral, all else, dross?

It was while she was called upon to say it one more time that the fragile clay vessel that housed her soul broke beyond repair and Pat Bishop died.

Pat had been going through A Winter Journey of the Soul for a long, long time. She had been soldiering on, putting the last of her energies into what she could do, while still hoping to persuade others, the powers-that-be, that the key to this country’s salvation lies, not in physical structures, but in empowering institutions; not in consumerism, but in conservation; not in $GDP, but in human GDP – Greatest Development of all People, ALL people – through their myriad talents, their boundless creativity. And she died, while saying so, one last time.

Is anyone listening?

Can anyone understand?

 

Barbara Jenkins, Lydian  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

 

 

 


Tiphanie Yanique in her own words

Posted: September 3rd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Books, Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The latest issue of Caribbean Beat magazine features an interview I did with USVI writer Tiphanie Yanique. You can read it here. I’ve already written a bit about Tiphanie on this blog here, but it’s worth repeating that she’s a gifted writer and I’ve been privileged to do a little book tour with her in NY a few years ago. I know she’s going to be an even bigger name in Caribbean literature as the years roll on and I’m pleased to have my name next to hers in Trinidad Noir, to which she contributed a story that appears in another version in her prize-winning book How to Escape from a Leper Colony. Write on, Tiphanie!


Sayamanda

Posted: August 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | 2 Comments »

Sayamanda concert ad

 

It’s exciting to see that a group of artistes has been drawn together to do a tribute concert to the late, great Andre Tanker. Andre Tanker, if you don’t know, was a Trinidadian musician, singer, songwriter and bandleader who pioneered a world-music sound here. His career spanned decades and he kept re-inventing himself, from his beginnings as a musician learning to play pan under Invaders’ Ellie Mannette, to being a bandleader in the ballroom dancing scene of the 50s, to creating reggae-jazz-Afrobeat influenced black power anthems in the 70s, to collaborations with rapso and rock bands in the 90s and Naughties. He passed away in 2003.

In a lot of ways, Andre Tanker played the soundtrack to my life. I grew up hearing the feral beat of his drum-driven track (from the  the movie Bim, which he scored) as the theme music to the Best Village arts and culture shows on TTT. I didn’t even know he’d written it, and it was only, decades later, after he had died, that I discovered that distinctive “dou-dou-dou-doum, dou-dou-dou-doum” was the soundtrack to a young Ralph Maharaj’s Bim thrashing through the forest in flight in that seminal movie made in Trinidad and Tobago. After that beat, there was always, and will always be, “Sayamanda”, a song about home and community that makes me cry every time. And “Hosannah”, a joyful prayer song that was sung at Andre’s funeral. And “Basement Party”, the most soulful groove any Trini ever ruefully shook his head to in a New York lime. It was his lyrical mastery that got me most–he could paint a whole world in a few deft words. But it was also, certainly, his music, that crafty, grounded, world-embracing way he had of shaping a groove. The downbeat drag of “Basement Party”, daring you not to wine; the pure sweetness of heartbreak of “Morena Osha”. I don’t know what Andre Tanker couldn’t do. He made music that still makes me shiver.

He was also a sweet, sweet guy. A perfectionist, I thought, but also perceptive and human. One of my regrets in life is that the last occasion on which I spent any significant time with him I promised I would pursue my songwriting, and I haven’t. I guess I still have a chance to rectify that and eliminate the regrets. Who knows. But if I ever have a songwriting career you can thank (or blame) Andre Tanker.

I don’t know if anybody can get Andre Tanker’s music as exactly right as he could. But I’m willing to bet that with the cast of this show, they’ll have a mighty good shot.

SAYAMANDA … with Andre in Mind, takes place at 8.30 pm, September 24, 2011, at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s. Produced by Golden Chord Management and Foreday Mornin’ Entertainment.

Featuring: Ruth Osman, Vaughnette Bigford, Michele Henderson, Nigel Rojas and others, accompanied by musicians Ron Reid, Theron Shaw, Harvey Wirht and others. Tickets are $250 and part proceeds go to The Andre Tanker Heritage Fund.

 

UPDATE:

Got this press release from the show’s organisers; it seems the show has been indefinitely postponed. Bummer. I was really looking forward to it. Hopefully it will be staged soon.

It is with much regret that Golden Chord Management and Foreday Mornin’ Entertainment announce the postponement of Sayamanda … with André in mind, a concert conceptualized to celebrate the music and legacy of André Tanker, one of our country’s finest musicians.Sayamanda was originally carded for Republic Day September 24, 2011 at Queen’s Hall.


After considered thought, we decided to re-schedule the concert to a date to be determined due to the current state of emergency and curfew restrictions initiated by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago.
We, the principals of Golden Chord Management and Foreday Mornin’ Entertainment remain undaunted by the unfortunate turn of events and will continue to seek innovative ways to pay respect to our outstanding musical and cultural icons.

We assure our supporters and well-wishers that we will continue to provide fitting forums for the exploration of local arts and entertainment, despite the obstacles that arise from time to time.

Thank you for your support and we encourage you to keep supporting the arts.

 


Women in science

Posted: August 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

 

My younger daughter, The Lady, announced some time ago that she wants to be an inventor. I am not sure where she got the idea but she has been consistently coming up with inventions since then, some zany and some really practical. (If I told you what they were it would be copyright infringement. Sorry.) I’ve always encouraged both my girls to love science as well as the arts and humanities. We have books on biology, physics and general science all through the house and there’s a couple of science kits floating around the house, so it’s not completely out of the blue, but there aren’t really a lot of role models for her, especially in the Caribbean, and most of my friends are artists and writers, with the exception of her godmother, who is a petroleum engineer. That’s why I was so excited this week to hear from a friend of mine that a Trinidad-and-Tobago-born scientist was coming here for a visit.

The scientist is Camille Waldrop Alleyne, and she went to Mucurapo Girls’ RC, The Lady’s alma mater, and St Francois Girls’ College, the school for which The Lady passed in this year’s SEA. The bio sent to me by NIHERST, the organisation hosting her visit, is tremendously exciting:

“For the past 15 years, Camille Wardrop Alleyne has been dedicated to the advancement of aerospace and space technology. She is currently Assistant Program Scientist for the International Space Station (ISS), based at the NASA–Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, with responsibility for communicating the ISS’ scientific research and education programmes to stakeholders and the public.”

Wow! I couldn’t ask for a more tailor-made role model for The Lady.

A little background: because her elder sister Miss Thing and I both went to Bishop Anstey High School, The Lady was disappointed to have passed for St Francois. I didn’t share her feeling; I was over the moon. St Francois, a government secondary school, is a very sound educational institution with a brilliant track record and I’ve heard nothing but good things about them for the past few years. I hope that, as a business magnet school, they will understand The Lady’s forceful temperament and know how best to shape that bold spirit so that she is a leader and unafraid of her power while still compassionate and human. I think this is where she is meant to be and I intend to do everything I can to support her and her school as long as she needs me to. And that includes bigging up a St Francois alum!

While The Lady won’t be at the lecture because she’s visiting family abroad on a well-deserved holiday, I hope to go and make copious notes. If she wants to be a scientist, I have her back.

Here’s the flyer for Camille Waldrop Alleyne’s lecture. Here’s hoping other little girls and boys from T&T can get inspiration and guidance from her too.


Trini daughter launches new book

Posted: July 29th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | No Comments »

Got this press release on Joanne Kilgour-Dowdy’s new book, which she’s launching next week in POS. She’s a heroic artist and teacher and always fascinating.

 

Joanne Kilgour Dowdy launches new book at NALIS

 

Celebrated Trinidad born arts practitioner and educator Joanne Kilgour-Dowdy will launch her latest book Artful Stories: The Teacher, the Student and the Muse on Friday August 5, at NALIS in Port of Spain.

The book is an exploration of the role of the artist as teacher and relationship that evolves between the teacher and the student in the creation of new work, whether it is lighting design, drama, dance, or music.

Kilgour-Dowdy left Trinidad in the eighties to study drama at the Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance, and Drama with the support of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and then moved on to the Julliard School in New York.  She continued her formal performance career which is carefully and poignantly documented in her photo autobiography ‘In the Public Eye’, which she also launched in Trinidad in 2010.

Professor Dowdy believes that she “must come to Trinidad to share every new book. Just like we introduce our new children to their family at home, I must bring my labours of love to my home island so people can meet their new relatives.”

In addition to a love for the stage, Kilgour Dowdy also has research interests in women and literacy, drama in education and video technology and qualitative research instruction. She has published her findings of the experiences of Black women involved in education from adult basic literacy to higher education.

Artful Stories, as described in the Foreword by Kent State University Professor William Kist, debunks the myth of art being a special skill, and artists being “special” people outside of our formal learning systems.

“Blood sweat and tears of the teachers and students are evident in this book – this is not playtime.  When one practices for five hours a day to master an intricate piece of choreography, or sweats through a couple of shirts laboring over the composing of just the right 500 words, one has a right to say what ‘work’ is.”

Next Friday’s launch takes place at 6.30 p.m. in the Audio Visual Room of the National Library of Trinidad and Tobago.

 

For more information on Dr. Kilgour-Dowdy’s work go to her website

http://jkdowdy.com/

 


Back to black

Posted: July 26th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Amy Winehouse. Photo by nuflicks/Flickr Creative Commons License

 

On Saturday I was in a sailing boat in St George’s, Grenada, getting ready to cast off when the skipper announced that Amy Winehouse had been found dead.

I’ve never met Amy Winehouse. I’m not a musician. I’m not British or anything even remotely connected to her. I only discovered her music about three years ago and, honestly, there were people who were more ardent fans. I do know, however, that hearing the news of her death made me deeply sad. She was an epic talent, writing songs that cut sharply into the pain of love and loving and singing them in a voice that wrung each drop of that pain from the poignant lyrics, the voice that her friend Russell Brand described as having “rolling, wondrous resonance”. I often put what I consider to be her best song, “Back to Black”, on repeat, feeling the music just probing my own pain the way a tongue will probe an aching tooth, flinching from the agony but going back for more and more of it.

I was in Grenada on assignment –I might not be able to make rent every month, so to speak, but I do have a fantastic career that lets me do things like that sometimes. My assignment called for me to experience Grenada’s beauty, and I had my morning tea on a balcony overlooking the two-mile stretch of white sand that is Grand Anse Beach. I had woken up Sunday morning with Amy on my mind and I wrote this poem in her memory.

 

Back to black

 

Sunspills on Grand Anse

White sand, white surf

Sad for her

Drunken life and death

Foreseen in black songs

Drowning in sorrows

 

Sunspills on Grand Anse

The surf washes over me

My heart beats

In tune to white

Black songs unsung

I go snorkeling

 

But there are nights, o Amy

 

I am you

 

Scarred and scared

Learning from Mr Hathaway

 


Yay! My new story is published in sx salon

Posted: July 12th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

The internet publication sx salon (produced by the Small Axe people) features a new story from me this month. The story is a noir-ish short called The Gun.

I have to say thanks to my writing workshop group–Sharon, Barbara, Alake, Rhoda and Monique–for their support in the editing and publication of the story. Could not have done it without them. A real tribute to the power of community. 🙂

The story is up here, but do also check out the rest of the magazine. Other pieces include reviews of books by Christian Campbell, Anton Nimblette and Geoffrey Philp, and the issue is a tribute to Peepal Tree Press, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.