Small Axe, Issue 38

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger


Cover art by Roberta Stoddart, The Dealer (detail), 1997.

Published by Duke University Press, 2012.

For those who’ve not encountered a single issue of  Small Axe, it is a journal of Caribbean criticism, engaging with the social, political and cultural concerns of the Caribbean islands, and their inhabitants, whether those people live in Trinidad, Jamaica, North America or elsewhere. Its title comes from the Jamaican proverb, “If you are a big tree, we are a small axe.”, popularized by the Bob Marley song. In both song and proverb, the small axe is interpreted as an agent of both critique and change. Edited by professors and writers David Scott and Kelly Baker Josephs, Small Axe is published thrice-yearly, in March, July and November.

In issue 38, which corresponds to Volume 16, no. 2, July 2012, the selections of criticism include a section on “Reading Edward Baugh Reading”, featuring two essays by the Jamaican poet and Walcott scholar himself. The section also highlights essays from Alison Donnell, Laurence A. Breiner and Nadi Edwards, on Baugh’s scholarship and research.

The startling talents of some of the Caribbean’s fine voices in literature are the focal point of the “Literary Competition Winners 2011” section, showcasing the winning work of Sonia Farmer and Danielle McShine, joint first place recipients for the poetry prize. In the Short Fiction category, first place winner Barbara Jenkins’ story, “Ghosts”, is published, followed by “The Iridescent Blue-Black Boy with Wings (After Márquez)”, the second-place story by R. N. Holder.

In its “Visual Life of Catastrophic History” segment, Jamaican artist Ebony Patterson’s “The of 72 Project” presents the faces of civilians killed in Jamaica’s May 2010 incursion. In the text that accompanies this mixed media presentation, probing and unflinching questions of wondering are asked, such as “Did they cry when hurt?  Were they tall or short ? Dark or Brown, RED ,YELLOW???? Where were they when they died ? Who was with them? Were they alone? Were they in a building ? Were they outside? Did they have guns ? Were they from Tivoli Gardens?”

There is much more to Issue 38 than these investigations of Caribbean identity, art and literature — though these on their own would be well worth the price of purchase. Pick up your copy at the shop, and wield your own small axe proudly. We’re already looking to sharing our thoughts on the current issue, 39, as soon as it’s available on our shelves (which should be soon!) Also, if you’re a longtime Small Axe enthusiast, stay tuned — this year we’ll be taking a look at select issues from the back catalogue which have long earned themselves places on our “favourite journal” lists.