Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets From The Caribbean

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Peekash Press, 2015

Peekash Press, 2015

Writers from T & T, Jamaica, Guyana, St. Lucia and St. Vincent take to the proscenium of this diverse yet united ampitheatre – that of recent, dazzling arrivals to the Caribbean verse community. Each poet receives a generous berth of allotted space from the Peekash editors, in showcasing the range and lyrical, linguistic complexity of their pieces. Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, winner of the 2015 Hollick Arvon Prize, astounds with the unassuming, yet leviathan strength of her poems on intimacies, fear and feminist redemptions.

The concluding poem of her segment, “A Hammer to Love With”, summons dread recollections of a female subject’s fearful majesty, recounted through the eyes of a second person narrator – one who has been well-schooled in the wrathful, eclipsing instruction of such power:

“You remember, oh yes.
She must’ve been seventeen,
dragged him home bleeding from the mouth
and singing in god’s tongue.
Between her bone-sharp teeth,
the hammer, dark and glistening.”

Multiple Guyana Prize for Literature recipient, Ruel Johnson, demonstrates depths of paternal devotion, juxtaposed against carnal reflective heat. The final poem of his own section, “Sugar”, is prefaced with a line plucked from Walcott, but does not lean on that laureate’s strengths to craft his own historically replete word-diorama of life on and off the great, maligned Guyanese estates.

Sugar is as persistent in the memory as is blood and salt, Johnson reckons, as he uses clear, sonically sharp language to send these truths forth:

“in the hot, shimmering
sunshine of our summer
the blackened, grooved cutlass
drifting upwards to the sky, and
hovering for the space of some
fleeting, uncaught memory”

Six other poets bring their unique capacities for enchantment, persuasion and splendour to this anthology. Whether you come to these pages for Colin Robinson’s clear-eyed, trenchant thoughts on fragmented masculinities, or Sassy Ross’ fever-washed soundscapes of sensuality and faith, the worlds within these poems will keep you charted on a persistent series of returns.

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An Evening of Tea and Readings, November 23rd

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Official event flyer, designed by Kevin Hackshaw.

Official event flyer, designed by Kevin Hackshaw.

Dear Friends of Paper Based,

Amidst the pre-December Christmas listmaking and the first signs of tinsel-strewn excitement that this festive season prompts, it gave us glad tidings indeed to host our final Tea and Readings of the calendar year. Last Saturday’s event was marked more than the full stop on this reading series for 2013: as Joan Dayal (Paper Based’s owner, for any newcomers to the blog!) remarked, the final reading also serves as a forum in which we look forward to the series’ reprisal in the new year.

We welcomed a group of talented, diverse writers to the Paper Based podium: song-poet Paula Obé; poet Gilberte O’Sullivan; poet Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné; spoken word artist Mickel Alexander, and poet and fiction writer, Lisa Allen-Agostini.

Paula Obé reads a fiction excerpt from a full-length work, as it appears in the She Sex anthology.

Paula Obé reads a fiction excerpt from a full-length work, as it appears in the She Sex anthology.

Gilberte O'Sullivan shares a selection of her new and published poems with the audience.

Gilberte O’Sullivan shares a selection of her new and published poems with the audience.

This evening marked two firsts for our reading series, about which we’re delighted in equal measure. For the first time, we showcased four readers sharing space in a print collection: the brand new anthology, She Sex, published by Bamboo Talk Press and freshly-launched at NALIS this month. Edited by Obé, She Sex contains work from Boodoo-Fortuné, O’Sullivan, Allen-Agostini, as well as the editor herself. Copies of She Sex are available at the shop — we look forward to hearing reader responses on the power and emotional impact of this anthology, which reveals the core truths encircling much of female sensuality.

Mickel Alexander holds the audience rapt (including yours truly!) with one of his spoken word renditions.

Mickel Alexander holds the audience rapt (including yours truly!) with one of his spoken word renditions.

Boodoo-Fortuné shares poems from her soon-to-be-published manuscript.

Boodoo-Fortuné shares poems from her soon-to-be-published manuscript.

Gracing our reading series for the first time was not just any member of the ambitious, trailblazing initiative The Two Cents Movement, but an executive member, Mickel Alexander. Taking time out from 2 Cents’ event-packed schedule, which includes a comprehensive secondary school tour, Alexander brought the invigorating vibe of spoken word to Paper Based. We look forward to hosting more members of 2 Cents in the future, as we aim to diversify and broaden the scope of the readings that issue from our microphones!

Lisa Allen-Agostini shares from one of her unpublished short fiction pieces, bringing the evening's readings to a close.

Lisa Allen-Agostini shares from one of her unpublished short fiction pieces, bringing the evening’s readings to a close.

We’re not entirely through with our podium for 2013 — the shop will be hosting two book launches in December:

  • Ingrid Persaud’s If I Never Went Home on December 7th
  • Robert Antoni’s As Flies to Whatless Boys on December 14th

Keep your eye on our social media hubs (Facebook and Twitter) for more information on those events: we’ll be sharing more specifics closer to each launch date.

As we close the chapter on our 2013 Tea and Reading series, we look forward with new inspiration to what this initiative holds for us — and for you, our dear friends — in the coming year. It’s been an honour and a privilege to host so many talented poets, fiction and non-fiction writers. We’re grateful to each of them, for sharing so generously of their time and talents.

As we aim to make 2014’s readings even more successful, we eagerly welcome your feedback: feel free to share your thoughts, suggestions and recommendations here or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

She Sex: Prose & Poetry, Sex & the Caribbean Woman

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

The inaugural publication of Bamboo Talk Press, She Sex could rightly be regarded as a trailblazing, transformative work, concerned with showcasing the innermost erotic stories of Caribbean Women. Some truths about women’s sexuality — its practices; its taboos; the secrets it dares not reveal — are typically kept close to the chest, as the anthology’s co-editor, Paula Obé, mentions in the book’s introduction. Obé continues, saying, “Sometimes shadows need to be lit to take away that fear.”

Several of these pieces tackle achingly difficult subjects revolving around the female body and psyche, bringing them to the page with emotional fervour that lingers long after first readings. These contributors aren’t afraid to bare their teeth, whether they’re recounting the electric thrills associated with initial sensual encounters, or casting blame squarely in the laps of sexual predators. Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné’s poems lilt with a deep, quietly authoritative energy. In “Mother of Water”, the poem’s narrator triumphantly declares:

“I will not wear this gift
of well made shame
passed down to me.
I am a woman not buried
quite so easily.”

Lisa Allen-Agostini’s poem, “The Tiniest Tabanca”, delves energetically into Trinidadian Creole to probe the shocking hurt of a theft, one that leaves the subject of the piece sliced open with the intensity of loss. The line “sharp sharp knife cutting skin and flesh and bone like butter hand slip you crying onion tears slow surprising pain you never look for” conveys this in fluid urgency.

In the prose section, “No Lipstick for Me” by Kavita Ganness reveals the narrator’s inner turmoil, in the wake of a harrowing act of male-inflicted trauma. Ganness’ piece sees the protagonist alternating between outrage and bemusement, vacillating helplessly before she takes her defense into her own hands, in an act of exultant aggression. One of the early lines of the story warns, “…terrible things happen, it’s inevitable in most cases — like women dirtying their lips with lipstick.”

The collection features the work of several other writers, including talents from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Jamaica and Bermuda, making it a truly collaborative regional project. Indispensable for women and men who want to read true erotic tales from our societies, She Sex will prompt both delight and dismay, in competing measure.

An Evening of Tea and Readings, January 12th

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Official event flyer, designed by Reynold Kevin Hackshaw and Danielle Boodoo Fortuné.

Official event flyer, designed by Reynold Kevin Hackshaw and Danielle Boodoo Fortuné.

“Amazing synergies happen when you have so much talent beneath one roof, in one evening.” This was one of the enthusiastically shared comments, following the shop’s most recent in a series of teatime readings. The first official Paper Based event of 2013, this gathering marked another first: the first time this many readers were asked to share their work in one, structured sitting. Ten writers of prose fiction and poetry generously shared their time and work with the capacity-packed space right outside the shop. In keeping with the low-key vibe of the event, there were no fussy introductions or rattling speeches from either the admin or the writers. What unfolded instead was an evening of much laughter and quiet contemplation, including a chatty intermission filled with delicious treats and lots of wine!

Have a look at our photo gallery below, in case you missed the event (or if you were there, and want to relive some of the memories!)

FawziaBarbara

SharonRachael

ShivLeshanta

It was an honour to share the stage with these nine talented writers. I greatly look forward to seeing how each of their creative paths progresses, a sentiment I’m sure is echoed by all those in attendance at our first official event of 2013.

Photo of Fawzia Kane by Portia Subran.
All other reader photographs by Fawzia Kane.