Black History Month 2015 / El Mes de la Historia AfroamericanaPosted: February 28, 2015 Filed under: IMAGES Comments Off on Black History Month 2015 / El Mes de la Historia Afroamericana
Andre Bagoo: “I am the Archipelago”: Eric Roach and Black IdentityPosted: February 28, 2015 Filed under: 7 GUEST EDITORS, Andre Bagoo, English, Eric Merton Roach | Tags: Black History Month Comments Off on Andre Bagoo: “I am the Archipelago”: Eric Roach and Black Identity
“I am the Archipelago”: Eric Roach and Black Identity
By Andre Bagoo
THOSE who know Eric Roach, know how the story ends. This year marks the centenary of the Trinidadian poet who was born in 1915 at Mount Pleasant, Tobago. He worked as a schoolteacher, civil servant and journalist, among other things. Along the way, he published in periodicals regularly. But in 1974, he wrote the poem ‘Finis’, drank insecticide, then swam out to sea at Quinam Bay. The first-ever collected edition of his poetry only appeared two decades after his death. In it, Ian McDonald describes Roach as, “one of the major West Indian poets”. He places Roach alongside Claude McKay, Derek Walcott, Louise Bennett, Martin Carter and Edward Kamau Brathwaite.
Too often is the discourse on Roach coloured by his story’s ending. We cannot ignore the facts of what occurred at Quinam Bay, yes, but sometimes they distract from the poet’s genuine achievements. Notwithstanding the emerging consensus on his stature, he is still best known for his ill-fated death. Yet the journey is sometimes more important than the destination.
In an introduction to the same collected edition of Roach’s poems published by Peepal Tree Press in 1992, critic Kenneth Ramchand states: “in the English-speaking Caribbean, is there anyone who had written as passionately about slavery and its devastations before ‘I am the Archipelago’ (1957) hit our colonised eardrums?” Ramchand notes that Roach was, “committed, as selflessly and as passionately as one can be, to the idea of a unique Caribbean civilisation taking shape out of the implosion of cultures and peoples in the region.” For Ramchand, “the ultimate justification of [Roach’s] art would be that it contributed to the making and understanding of this new, cross-cultural civilisation.” That cross-cultural civilisation is the one Walcott speaks of when he remarks:
Break a vase, and the love which reassembles the fragments is stronger than the love which took its symmetry for granted when it was whole….This gathering of broken pieces is the care and pain of the Antilles….Antillean art is this restoration of our shattered histories, our shards of vocabulary, our archipelago becoming a synonym for pieces broken off from the original continent.
This is really a call for the new breed of Caribbean poets, the breed that reverses colonialisation’s history of plunder. Just as our colonial overlords of the past have done, poets, now, are free to pillage from whichever continent they choose. This is not a process of retribution, but rather the restoration of the resilience of the human spirit itself amid the sea of history. It also asserts the reality of the fact that we are as much a part of world culture as anyone else and cannot be marginalised from it.
Roach – sometimes called the “Black Yeats”– was one in a long line of poets for whom imitation and allusion are, in fact, blatant acts of rebellion. He also saw himself as key to the process of forming a West Indian Federation, a political union which he felt required a new poetry. Though that union never came to pass, Roach’s work still serves to engage key aspects of Caribbean identity.
The narrative of Black identity, whatever that may be, has to some extent played on the idea of separate black and white races. It has also called for a rejection of “white” ideas and a return to African ideas. But these are uneasy dichotomies which paper over the realities of history over time, the mixing of races and the idea that race itself is an invention. At the same time, these categories ignore the complexity of colonisation. That process of colonisation saw states and peoples being exploited for economic resources and then, in the mid-20th century, abandoned by colonial motherlands under the pretence of liberation – even as strong economic subservience remains in place to this very day.
And this is why Roach remains relevant: he not only asserts that the English language is as much ours as theirs, but also sings of the true implications of history, a history sometimes obscured by neat narratives of “independence” and “emancipation”. This is why Roach is still alive.
. . .
I AM THE ARCHIPELAGO
I am the archipelago hope
Would mould into dominion; each hot green island
Buffeted, broken by the press of tides
And all the tales come mocking me
Out of the slave plantations where I grubbed
Yam and cane; where heat and hate sprawled down
Among the cane – my sister sired without
Love or law. In that gross bed was bred
The third estate of colour. And now
My language, history and my names are dead
And buried with my tribal soul. And now
I drown in the groundswell of poverty
No love will quell. I am the shanty town,
Banana, sugarcane and cotton man;
Economies are soldered with my sweat
Here, everywhere; in hate’s dominion;
In Congo, Kenya, in free, unfree America.
I herd in my divided skin
Under a monomaniac sullen sun
Disnomia deep in artery and marrow.
I burn the tropic texture from my hair;
Marry the mongrel woman or the white;
Let my black spinster sisters tend the church,
Earn meagre wages, mate illegally,
Breed secret bastards, murder them in womb;
Their fate is written in unwritten law,
The vogue of colour hardened into custom
In the tradition of the slave plantation.
The cock, the totem of his craft, his luck,
The obeahman infects me to my heart
Although I wear my Jesus on my breast
And burn a holy candle for my saint.
I am a shaker and a shouter and a myal man;
My voodoo passion swings sweet chariots low.
My manhood died on the imperial wheels
That bound and ground too many generations;
From pain and terror and ignominy
I cower in the island of my skin,
The hot unhappy jungle of my spirit
Broken by my haunting foe my fear,
The jackal after centuries of subjection.
But now the intellect must outrun time
Out of my lost, through all man’s future years,
Challenging Atalanta for my life,
To die or live a man in history,
My totem also on the human earth.
O drummers, fall to silence in my blood
You thrum against the moon; break up the rhetoric
Of these poems I must speak. O seas,
O Trades, drive wrath from destinations.
. . .
Andre Bagoo is a Trinidadian poet and journalist, born in 1983. His second book of poems, BURN, is published by Shearsman Books. To read more ZP features by Andre Bagoo, click on his name under “Guest Editors” in the right-hand column.
. . . . .
Mildred K. Barya: Birmingham Postcard and The Promised LandPosted: February 28, 2015 Filed under: 7 GUEST EDITORS, English, Langston Hughes, Mildred K. Barya | Tags: Black History Month Comments Off on Mildred K. Barya: Birmingham Postcard and The Promised Land
Mildred K. Barya
Birmingham Postcard and The Promised Land
After eleven months in Birmingham, Alabama, I left for Denver, Colorado. I was excited about my new teaching and studying life in Denver, but also sad to be leaving a place that had been home to me in every sense of the word. I wondered if I would ever find the same generosity.
The moment I arrived in Birmingham, I was received with love, a welcome dinner, laughter, and in a matter of hours I felt at home. Love continued throughout my stay. Within two weeks I found an apartment—with help from my new friends and fellow teachers—moved in and was told to make a list of whatever item I needed. Within twenty-four hours my house was filled with every lovely thing—a beautiful brown couch, an orange armchair that became my favorite relaxing seat, got me floating gently into pleasantness, leaving all tiredness behind. I was also given a computer table and chair, a dining table complete with four chairs, a brand new bed and mattress, and everything that I needed for the kitchen: plates, glasses, cups, kettle, pots, pans, and utensils.
I felt lifted up, light, fluid, melted by all that love; I wondered what I had done to deserve such care and compassion. I had simply showed up, and the residents had done what they thought was theirs to do; for them hospitality was second nature. Humbled and eased into comfort, it was not hard to enjoy my job.
In my short teaching career, I had thought it was okay to like students, be friendly and helpful, but also to maintain a respectable distance. My students at Alabama School of Fine Arts changed all that. It was love or nothing. Bonding. Knowing that I was from Uganda, they were keen to introduce Southern cooking to me. Before I knew it we were having buffets in class: collard greens cooked Southern style, shrimp, ham, chicken, grits…And never did any one of them falter in their assignments or fail to submit work on time. Their stories were delightful, wonderfully crafted, heartfelt and compelling.
When it was time for my departure, all I could think of was my students’ warmth and laughter, intelligence and humor; their remarkable poems and stories; their honesty, enthusiasm, and trust. I was aware by then that most of them had shared with me truths and concerns they wouldn’t have revealed to others. They had sensed that I would understand and help. They transformed me, giving me the best alive experiences.
The month of February was especially packed with activities that involved marches, visits to the Civil Rights Museum, (just a few blocks away from the school), and, opposite the museum, the 16th Street Baptist Church where four young girls had died in a bomb explosion during the peak of the Civil Rights Movement. I was glad to witness the 50th Anniversary celebrations at the church in 2013, and to chat with the “babies” who had been a year old during those turbulent times of the 1960s, and who were now mature men and women. I wondered how much they remembered, and if a lot had changed after all.
On a Sunday, in that baptist church with its red cushioned chairs, I sat in the chair that had welcomed Martin Luther King, Jr., and I listened to the energetic, soulful singing, feeling transported to a time in the past, a time before I was even conceived. I felt one with history, the present, and the future. Everything flowed seamlessly back and forth, there was no boundary separating the three. I had to pinch myself to know where I was and was not. In that moment I understood the impression of liminal spaces, when the curtain wall cracks just enough to let in a little light for one to perceive briefly another lifetime. I looked into the mosaic glass window (now restored) that had splintered as the bomb exploded that September day in 1963, claiming those four young girls. I glanced around me and wondered how I came to be so lucky to be in the past and present at the same time. I said a prayer for little girls who are still growing and don’t know the terrible times that befell those who came before them. I prayed for the little boys too, that amongst them we might have as many Kings as seashells on the shore.
The Civil Rights Museum taught me about what got “left out” in school. I learnt the true meaning of struggle; that revolutions whose time has come can never be extinguished; that the past is vital and breathing in the hearts of all who care; that the fruits of today are the pains of yesterday. And when I set my eyes to the Vulcan, the world’s largest cast-iron statue – now 110 years old and still watching over the city – I realized that the god of forge and the goddess of fire are precisely what all men, women, and children need, and that that was what Birmingham had given me.
Back in class we ended the 2013 commemorations with two poems by Langston Hughes, Daybreak in Alabama and Birmingham Sunday, which we read out loud.
But the most wholesome tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy is Arthur Flowers’ book: I See The Promised Land, published by Tara Books in 2010. An extraordinary graphic version of King’s life, it beckons the reader to sit down and listen to a good story “replete with the Will of the Gods, with Fate and Destiny and The Human Condition.” Arthur, being a hoodoo Lord of the Delta, a Memphis native, strings out the narrative with griot rhythms and an invocation to Legba to open the gate. The story is riveting, and the book stands out as a distinctive collaboration with Manu Chitrakar and Guglielmo Rossi. Chitrakar’s free-floating images are rich with color and texture, deeply steeped in the Patua scroll-painting tradition of Bengal, India. Flowing in and out of the text, they are the perfect complement to the narrative. I See The Promised Land is a book everyone should read, an essential addition to any art or biography collection.
. . .
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Daybreak in Alabama
When I get to be a composer
I’m gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I’m gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I’m gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
. . .
(September 15th, 1963)
Four little girls
Who went to Sunday School that day
And never came back home at all–
But left instead
Their blood upon the wall
With spattered flesh
And bloodied Sunday dresses
Scorched by dynamite that
China made aeons ago
Did not know what China made
Before China was ever Red at all
Would ever redden with their blood
This Birmingham-on-Sunday wall.
Four tiny little girls
Who left their blood upon that wall,
In little graves today await:
The dynamite that might ignite
The ancient fuse of Dragon Kings
Whose tomorrow sings a hymn
The missionaries never taught
In Christian Sunday School
To implement the Golden Rule.
Four little girls
Might be awakened someday soon
By songs upon the breeze
As yet unfelt among
. . . . .
To read more essay-and-poem features by Mildred K. Barya at Zócalo Poets, click on her name under “Guest Editors” in the right-hand column…
Jackie Ormes: Torchy, Candy, Patty-Jo & Ginger!Posted: February 28, 2015 Filed under: English | Tags: Black History Month Comments Off on Jackie Ormes: Torchy, Candy, Patty-Jo & Ginger!
Jackie Ormes (1911-1985), considered to be the first Black-American Woman cartoonist /syndicated comic-strip writer/illustrator, was born Zelda Mavin Jackson in Monongahela, Pennysylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. She began her newspaper career as a proofreader for the Pittsburgh Courier, an African-American weekly that appeared every Saturday. .
Nancy Goldstein, author of an exceptionally-detailed 2008 biography of Ormes, states:
“In the United States at mid (20th) century – a time of few opportunities for women in general and even fewer for African-American women – Jackie Ormes blazed a trail as a popular cartoonist with the major Black newspapers of the day.” Her cartoon characters Torchy Brown (1937-38, 1950-54), Candy (1945), and the memorable duo of Patty-Jo and Ginger (Ginger a glamorous quasi-“pin-up” girl, and Patty-Jo her frank and accurate kid sister, 1945-56) delighted readers of the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender.
“Torchy Brown in Dixie to Harlem” was a comic-strip telling the tale of a Mississippi teenager who finds fame and fortune as a singer and dancer at The Cotton Club. “Candy”, a single-panel comic, featured a wise-cracking housemaid. In the 11-year-running “Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger”, precocious child Patty-Jo “kept it real” (as only a child could) in her commentaries about a range of topics – racial segregation, U.S. Foreign policy, education reform, the atom bomb, McCarthy’s “Red” paranoia, etc., while her older “Sis”, Ginger, posed or strutted in mute mannequin glamour. Both Ginger, and the later Torchy Brown (of Torchy Brown in “Heartbeats”) presented gorgeous and fashionable Black women in an era when few such images were to be found. The final newspaper strip for “Heartbeats” in 1954 also hit home on themes of racism and environmental pollution.
Briefly, from 1947-1949, Ormes was contracted by a doll company to design a realistic Black girl doll (not a Mammy or Topsy stereotype), and she would become an avid doll collector in later life. Married happily for four and a half decades, she retired from cartooning in 1956 but continued to draw and paint still-lifes, portraits and murals. One of the founding directors of the DuSable Museum of African-American History in Chicago, she was deeply committed to her community.
But it is Jackie Ormes’ special populist-art contribution to American culture – her unique comics – that we remember today – during Black History Month 2015!
Ian Williams: “No hay un sinónimo para TI”Posted: February 27, 2015 Filed under: Ian Williams, Spanish, ZP Translator: Alexander Best Comments Off on Ian Williams: “No hay un sinónimo para TI”
Ian Williams (nacido 1979)
“Soy Sincero – y Tú? Hombre para Mujer – con Foto”
Mi ex devolvió a su ex,
entonces busco alguien – otra nueva persona,
alguna lista par diversión adulta, algo directo (según mi parecer):
ni cosas pervertidas, ni llaves en boles; ni cuero, ni juegos de actuación con “palabras cautelosas”.
No quiero palabrerío emocional, y aunque no eres mi “novia”, también no tienes que ser una zorra.
Echa un vistazo a mi foto abajo (pregúntame si querías un foto del rostro).
A mi no importa como pareces – soy serio; solo sé sincera.
Quiero buscar una mujer que:
no es autómata del correo-basura,
no es un precio,
no es un virus,
que no es mi ex,
no está hecha de silicona,
y que no es la tipa que eche un polvete con hombres al azar
– pero ella se da cuenta de quedar aquí en esta línea – leyendo, sí, aún leyendo…
. . .
Una vez que a uno le gana lo que quiere, pues a uno ya no más lo desea…
¿A uno ya no más lo desea a cual cosa?
A uno ya no más desea lo que deseaba.
Un hombre y una mujer quiere a una mujer y a un hombre
a un hombre y a una mujer
(dependiendo del hombre y de la mujer).
Una vez que a uno le gana lo que quiere – una vez,
pues a uno ya no más lo quiere solamente una vez,
y pues: a uno ya no más lo quiere – como mucho.
Sí pues no. ¿Sí y no? No.
Sí pues no pues sí – y siempre, después de sí
vendrá no. Nunca siempre es sí – pero siempre: no.
Conoce – siempre conoce – que:
después de sí vendrá no.
Deseamos lo que deseamos,
no lo que deseabamos…
. . .
Ecolalia (en medecina) es una perturbación del lenguaje en la que el sujeto repite involuntariamente una palabra o frase que acaba de pronunciar otra persona en su presencia, a modo de eco. Es un trastorno del lenguaje caracterizado por la repetición semiautomática, compulsiva e iterativa de las palabras o frases emitidas por el interlocutor e imitando su entonación original.
. . .
La razón que nunca avancé más allá de la primera línea…
Y ahora tú me dices que lo sientes para decir —–
[una primera línea fracasada]
Y bien, yo diría lo que dijo mi ex,
si no estuvo alfombrado
hace tiempo…durante los años 90.
Perdoné a ella, a ti, a ella.
¿Cuándo se volvió tú el pronombre correcto para ella?
No tengo nada decirte.
Y tú – a mi. Y ella – a mi.
Nada decir a ella.
Sigo trenzándonos en cuadriculados.
No lloré durante la noche,
y no lloré ningún río a causa de ti. Ella.
¿A quién bromeamos, eh? Tú.
. . .
Los tres poemas arriba: del poemario Anuncios personales © 2012 Ian Williams
. . .
No decimos cosas como __________ por aquí.
Aun con el mudo selectivo de estados cuadrados, zonas horarias,
y el tiempo entre nosotros, todavía no ro hacemos.
Nos ladeamos el teléfono a otra parte de la oreja,
llenamos la boca con esponja:
Que la pases bien esta noche
Muy bien, hasta otra…
pues colgamos el teléfono
por si acaso uno de nosotros no lo dice – o lo dice.
Un tarareo en la garganta, un trino, o nos aclaramos la voz
– Te amo
No lo digas.
Una vez mi abuela casi lo dijo…
Yo vi su cuello, y sus manos – trinando.
Mi abuelo había regresado de las colinas de Speyside,
durante el mediodía, llevando su sombrero, y ella le dijo:
Estoy contenta que has vuelto, seguro
– dicho formalmente,
como estuvo limpiando las palmas sobre los pliegues de su vestido.
Cuando el se murió,
los aldeanos tenían miedo que ella vagabundeara en las colinas
con el machete herrumbroso de su difunto,
y con faisanes atados en su vieja cintura,
dándole voces en un falsete agudo.
Nunca deambuló. O le descubrieron antes.
Ella nunca llamaba a él nada
. . .
Terceto para TÚ
Hay un sinónimo para ti.
Y mil millones de nombres para los hombres como mi,
ningún para ti. Ningunos. Muy pocos.
No hay un sinónimo para TI.
Dice el tesauro: no hay una pareja. ¿Quieres decir “yogi”?
¿Puede qué use ti?
Ah no – hay ningún sinónimo para tú,
y mil millones de nombres para los hombres como yo.
. . .
Excepto Tú y Terceto para T\P
del poemario Conoces Quien Eres (You Know Who You Are) © Ian Williams 2010
. . .
Ian Williams, escritor y poeta, nació en 1979. Ganó su doctorado en Inglés de la Universidad de Toronto, y ahora (2014-2015) está enseñando a los estudiantes de la Universidad de Calgary en Alberta, Canadá. La Corporación Canadiense de Radiodifusión (CBC) le mencionó como “uno de los diez nuevos escritores canadienses prometedores”…
. . . . .
Kendel Hippolyte: Blues Rizado y Blues CuerdoPosted: February 27, 2015 Filed under: English, Kendel Hippolyte, Spanish, ZP Translator: Alexander Best Comments Off on Kendel Hippolyte: Blues Rizado y Blues Cuerdo
Kendel Hippolyte (poeta de Santa Lucía, Caribe, nacido 1952)
en la ciudad aquí afuera, me estoy ahogando en mi rarezas,
de un esfuerzo por quedarme auténtico…
la cabeza flotante, el cuerpo hundiendo,
mi cabeza va navegando pero estoy sumergiendo…
las mujeres venden ciruelas, los hombres venden barras de chocolate…
compra uno – o el otro – quizás los dos
pero cuídate con el comprando, porque algunos se pudren ya
– es valuable el dinero, y la putrfacción propaga tan fácilmente…
hacia arriba de los caminos cruzados, intercambio mi rostro
pero no hay nadie que lo compre – ¿y quién necesita un rostro?
me embolso mi cara y me maquillo con una inexpresiva,
muy tarde para las caras, y me pongo la vacía…
anoche, estaba oscuro como alquitrán, los faros se fundieron,
y ahora, por fin, conozco adonde voy…
estoy buscando a Kinky (“Rizado”) – ha cambiado su dirección, es el mismo lugar pero ha cambiado su dirección
vivo por el resto de mi miedo y estoy muriendo en mi “vivo”,
tengo que aprender como cantar desafinado,
me siento extraño, al primero, pero me sentiré de acuerdo, muy pronto,
tan pronto como puedo aprender esta canción, voy a sentirme bien.
. . .