Fault Lines by Kendel Hippolyte

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

FaultLines

Here’s the second in our series of posts on the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize shortlist! Today, we’re peering into the covers of Kendel Hippolyte’s fifth collection, Fault Lines, winner of the category prize for poetry. Published by Peepal Tree Press in 2012, the work further establishes Hippolyte as “perhaps the outstanding Caribbean poet of his generation”, unstinting praise bestowed on him in the Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry.

Marion Bethel, the chair of this year’s Bocas poetry judging panel, describes Fault Lines as “a singular achievement”. Furthermore, the official response from the judging panel indicates the unanimously high praise that St. Lucian poet and dramatist’s work received: “[The collection] demonstrates Hippolyte’s excellent, all-round craftsmanship as a poet. His voice and cadence are unique and distinctive.”

I was no less enthralled — I’ve remarked to anyone who’ll listen that these poems are imbued with the rhythm and sound of the island chain. They speak to, and about, our multiple islanders’ selves with clarity and insight; they document the natural and man-made world, paying close attention to the interstices that are mappable between both. Every  shoreline and schoolchild becomes significant beneath the poet’s gaze; nothing is trivial or commonplace except in our hesitant recriminations of ourselves. Hippolyte writes the human condition both for grandness and for frailty, and the result is poetry that demands to be shared and read aloud, in resonant tones. Thankfully, those both unacquainted and familiar with Hippolyte’s work will have the chance to hear him read from Fault Lines at this year’s festival: a rare and glorious opportunity to hear the lyrical words coming even more vividly to life.

The Poems of Sam Selvon

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Selvon

Reducing a knowledge of Sam Selvon to A Brighter Sun would be as detrimental as recognizing V. S. Naipaul simply for Miguel Street, or Earl Lovelace for The Dragon Can’t Dance alone. Yet, many readers of Caribbean literature, including those who pride themselves on being well-read, have barely even heard of Selvon’s poetry, making this collection as vital as it is long overdue.

Issued by Cane Arrow Press in 2012, The Poems of Sam Selvon has been collated painstakingly by Roydon Salick, a Trinidadian critical scholar whose previous publications include The Novels of Samuel Selvon: A Critical Study. In a foreword to the collection, penned by fellow Trinidadian scholar, Kenneth Ramchand, Selvon’s poems are described as being “worth attention whether you are a Selvon scholar or not.” Ramchand adds persuasively that “…if (Selvon) had written nothing else, this collection would establish him as a considerable poet, a relevantly West Indian one, and an original.”

What the collection reveals is that, unbeknownst to those who weren’t paying attention (or perhaps weren’t yet born!), Selvon’s poetry has been around — published in various literary journals, including Bim and Savacou. With the principal selection of poems having been printed in the Trinidad Guardian newspapers from 1946 to 1949, Selvon’s poems have undoubtedly existed in the literary landscape of both home and abroad. The poems themselves reveal the development of a keenly thinking mind, one concerned with identity, voice, the immigrant experience, and the pains of love and death.  They are recommended reading for university and secondary school students, and for those who want to learn more of Sam Selvon, beyond the banner of his more celebrated works.

For more information on Cane Arrow Press and their publications, you can visit their official website and browse their catalogue.

100 Poems from Trinidad and Tobago

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Anthologizing the poetry of Trinidad and Tobago is a noble undertaking, and one for which it seems not many publications exist. Difficult as it may be to provide a comprehensive guide to the nation’s poetic heartbeat, this new collection puts forth a valiant effort. Edited by Ian Dieffenthaller and Anson Gonzalez, published by Cane Arrow Press in 2012, 100 Poems from Trinidad and Tobago feels like a work that’s long overdue. It presents pieces from a diverse selection of writers, including a handful of fresh and promising talents, alongside well-established veterans.

In her Trinidad Guardian Sunday Arts Section interview with Ian Dieffenthaller, Lisa Allen-Agostini takes note of the co-editor’s hopes for a generous portrait of Trinbagonian poetic identity. Dieffenthaller is quoted as saying:

“The collection was chosen to reflect as many constituencies that I could identify and do justice to. I’m not saying that we’ve covered every root and branch but we did our best. […] After 1970 it’s virtually impossible to choose a representative sample. So much stuff was written after that so we just chose what we felt would fit that bill of T&T provenance.”

Prefaced by a comprehensive introduction that’s written by Dieffenthaller himself, 100 Poems from Trinidad and Tobago recommends itself as a must-have for anyone interested in seeing how poetry lives in our society: the ways in which the form, and its concerns, have both changed and remained essentially the same.

For more information on Cane Arrow Press and their publications, you can visit their official website and browse their catalogue.

Tantie Diablesse by Fawzia Kane

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

TantieDiablesseIf they were guests at a dinner party, Fawzia Kane’s poems wouldn’t bluster or shove their way into conversation. Quite the opposite: they would linger thoughtfully in the corridors or on the balcony, then present themselves with earnest clarity. The more time you spend with them, the more they reveal that they are made up of rich, folkloric allusion, flavoured with an architectural eye for precision, gracefully primed to impact well.

Part One of this first collection takes us to places we have beheld, and places out of the line of our vision. Its poems are steeped in the past while eschewing maudlin sentiment, or weighty nostalgia. The past is always around us, jostling with the present for supremacy, pieces like “How to Breathe” seem to say.

Part Two brings the reader face to face with Tantie Diablesse herself, a figure of legend and everyday mischief, one writ large in the creative imagination of any Trini who’s dreamed up beautiful women with suspicious feet. In these fourteen Tantie-centric pieces, this wildly infamous lady shares her secrets while proudly proclaiming her sovereignty: what emerges is a complex and deeply gratifying portrait of a figure both feared and revered.

Longlisted for the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Tantie Diablesse reads just like that poetic party guest you want never to leave your bedside table.

Tessa Pascall’s Through the Eyes of Innocence

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Copies of Tessa Pascall’s first poetry collection, Through the Eyes of Innocence, with the book launch’s program.

On December 3rd, at the Normandie Hotel in St. Ann’s, Tessa Pascall launched her first collection of poems. Edited by President of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago, Rubadiri Victor, the book contains poems from Pascall’s teenage years. It charts the progress and development of her thoughts from adolescence into young adulthood, with the poems featured in chronologically ascending order. In the collection’s preface, Pascall describes poetry as her primary method of self-expression, noting that the work is reflective of her “thoughts and feelings about things that were taking place in my home, my community and the wider society.”

Ms. Pascall, who is visually impaired, has been writing poetry for several years. She works as a research adviser and assistant in the Disabilities Affairs Unit of the Ministry of the People and Social Development. Specifically scheduled for December 3rd, the date of her book launch was doubly significant, as it marked the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

At the ceremony, Tessa’s collection was highly praised by journalist and book reviewer, Angela Pidduck, who praised the poems for their beauty, adding that they are a testament to Pascall’s comprehensive grasp of life and the intricacies of Trinbagonian identity.

Paper Based is proud to be the official affiliate bookseller for this event. Copies of Through the Eyes of Innocence are available at the shop, and would make splendid Christmas presents for:

  • young fledgling poets seeking inspiration for their first set of verses;
  • those who favour crisp, clean structures and rhyming schemes in their poetry reading;
  • primary school teachers who want to stock up on educational leisure reading for their pupils!

Tessa Pascall recites some of her poems, assisted by Mr. Kirk Noel, while mistress of ceremonies, Ms. Rosemary Hezekiah, looks on.

Tessa autographs a copy of Through the Eyes of Innocence for a guest, following her reading.