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Archive for June, 2008

Poetry in Real Time

The Trini’s off-hand and carefree way with words continues to amaze.

I was in the Clico headquarters building in Port of Spain when I ran into a long-ago neighbour who lived across the road from me, on Prince Street, in Arima.

Limped, I should say, rather than ran into, to be exact. She queried my gait and I told her why and how. “Chile, we all Chinee now,” was how she answered. “We all Lim Ping!” Unpremeditated, she amazingly knocked off that rejoiner like any good extempo calypsonian.

Which brings me to another example, quoted from the introduction to the authorised Naipaul biography by Patrick French, The World Is What it Is.

French met some calypso singers in Trinidad and he asked one of them, Keith Eugene Davis, if he had ever heard of V.S.Naipaul.

“Man, course I heard of him.”

“Can you do song bout him?”

“At once the guitar was in his hands, and he sang spontaneously.”

Now I must tell you after all/ People know about V.S.Naipaul/ But is very sad to explain/That man don’t live in Trinidad again/ So now the facts I must unfold/ One of the best writers in he world/ But then I give you my view/ He was very international too/ So I think it very wise/When they give him the Nobel Prize.

If anything, Gloria’s one-liner was perhaps even more impressive!

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Passing through Gallup, New Mexico, Janice, ever fascinated by woven baskets, picked up a lovely specimen, to find that, true, it was hand made, but hand made in Pakistan.

In this redoubt of Native American activity and culture, where the price of artifacts was drastically reduced because gas-conscious visitors were down, as were sales, it was poignant that this other element was working against local tradition.

The following day, driving what seemed like hundreds of miles to Canyon de Chelly, we noticed in a gift shop there, that the Pakistani baskets were also happily ensconced. Only, this time, the proprietors had taken a pair of scissors to the tag, which now read, simply, “hand made” with “in Pakistan” quietly excised.

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Arnold Rampersad

I finally caught up with Arnold Rampersad. In early May I got an e-mail from him: he was due in Trinidad to give the Eric Williams Memorial Lecture on May 23. That meant I would miss a possible meeting with him since I was to visit there myself, but in the following month, which I did.

Then, on June 19, Labour Day in Trinidad I saw an announcement in Newsday, I believe, that Rampersad’s lecture was to be rebroadcast on TV that same afternoon! So, finally, I got to hear his lecture.

He spoke about the precursors to Barack Obama; those imaginative people who had paved the way for the possibility of the Obama phenomenon, starting with Frederick Douglass. A lucky break it was for me.

Rampersad is a professor at Stanford, a Trinidad-born intellectual who, at last, is being recognised in his homeland. His most recent work is an acclaimed biography of Ralph Ellison.

Supposedly Rampersad is working on something about growing up in Trinidad — much to be anticipated.

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Bravo dog

The West Texas sun threw long shadows, and one of Amy’s dogs angled himself onto a shadow of an oak on the lawn and gratefully stretched out in the shade.

Though undoubtedly unaware of the work of Manuel Alvarez Bravo, the dog nevertheless replicated the famous photo by the Mexican photographer of a paisano relaxing in the shade of a post!

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Haiku and Port of Spain are like oil and water.

One is cool, restrained, revelatory. The other is a conflicted whirligig mired in uncertainty. To find a book of Haiku from that setting is, therefore, something of a miracle.

Yet, that is what Alec de Verteuil and Dawn Glashier have pulled off in a gem of a little book, Echo of Basho.

Haiku, as you know, and as de Verteuil recalls in an introduction, comprises three lines of 5-7-5 syllables in the classical form. Luckily for us this is not an ironclad rule if you’re not writing in the Japanese language.

“Brevity, simplicity, purity of statement” in an “intuitive response to a specific event, observation or realization triggered by nature or by everyday things.” That’s it, more or less!

And if you insist that the Japanese sensibility is entirely foreign to a Trinidad style, Pat Bishop, in a preface, reminds you of unsuspected links.

“For those of you who haven’t noticed it, our panyards have an increasingly number of Japanese players at Carnival time and it is not too difficult today, I am told, to hear very good pan is Tokyo.”

One of my favouites from Echo of Basho.

steelband in the rain

the notes rise up and drops fall

we are drenched twice over

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Thanks to a Seattle ex-pat Trini and my daughter, Skye, a blog is born!

When my column in the Trinidad Express ended in May, Louis Sellier, a fan of the column, suggested another outlet: a blog. This advice coincided with a similar notion from my daughter in Trinidad, herself in the writing business, and a blogger.

I hesitated, imagining the set-up and maintenance beyond my computer skills. But in a recent trip back to Trinidad, Skye showed me how easy it was to get a blog going, even initiating me into the mysteries of photo uploads with Flickr.

The rest is up to my ingenuity — and WordPress for Dummies. So here goes!

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