Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 9th 2013 Contents B3
There are many reasons to feel good
about the current state of literature
One can draw this conclusion from the latest
edition of Wasafiri, the 29-year-old British
literary journal that highlights the work of
black and Asian people around the world.
Wasafiri has devoted its entire summer issue
to analysing and showcasing the work of writ-
ers from T&T.
One of the issue s contributors, Sharon Mil-
lar, gave the country s literary fraternity another
cause for optimism when she was awarded
the Commonwealth Short Story Prize last
week, in a tie with Canadian Eliza Robertson.
Another contributor to Brighter Suns,
Trinidadian-British writer Monique Roffey,
who won this year s OCM Bocas Prize for her
novel Archipelago, described holding regular
workshops over the last four years with Millar
and a handful of other new writers.
One of them, author and poet Barbara Jenk-
ins, at this year s NGC Bocas Lit Fest won the
Hollick Arvon Prize for emerging writers.
Another, T&T Guardian editor/columnist Lisa
Allen-Agostini, was shortlisted for the award.
The prize gives the winner cash and other
forms of support to allow them to finish a
piece of work.
Five of the writers on the shortlist were
from T&T. All six were women.
A spirit of collaboration, the establishment
of new institutions like the T&T-spawned
Bocas, and more women entering the field
seem to have infused fresh enthusiasm and
hope into the local writing industry. This was
reflected in the tone of Roffey s essay.
"There is a boom going on right now, a
big crop of literary talent has sprung up in
Trinidad," she writes.
The essay, like the entire issue, celebrates
the work of the established---Earl Lovelace,
VS Naipaul and Lawrence Scott, and of course
Samuel Selvon, from whose novel A Brighter
Sun the Wasafiri issue takes its name---while
promoting the emerging, such as Amanda
Smyth, Anu Lakhan and Roger Robinson,
One of the major differences between the
new generation and the old, writes Roffey, is
that more of them are writing while living in
T&T, "embedded in the culture, language and
politics of the island."
Millar, in her article, detailed two institutions
Roffey credited with helping revitalise modern
T&T literature---the Caribbean Literature
Action Group (Calag) and Bocas. Calag, made
up of writers and publishers, was formed last
year (it is now going by the name CaribLit),
and the festival saw its third instalment in
April this year.
"The joint objective is to help another literary
generation take up the baton," Millar writes
in a review of the 2012 festival. "Alliances like
Calag need forums like Bocas to foster ties
and encourage the dialogue that needs to con-
tinue after everyone has gone home. The for-
mation of Calag signalled a commitment to
writers with few regional resources."
Miller describes the mood of the 2012 festival
as "optimistic and excited."
There are a growing number of Indo-
Trinidadian women authors, Prof Frank Bir-
balsingh points out in another article. He calls
them "late arrivals on the Caribbean scene"
who began their rise to prominence in the
Looking at the
works of Shani
writer) and three
ingh contrasts the
portraits of Indi-
women who are
ipants in the
action of their
sees in the
men s char-
"tend to be
sketched in bare physical and emotional
outline, and they tend to play roles that are
secondary in importance to those of their male
The new, women-penned work "assumes
a revolutionary aspect in its presentation of
female Indian-Trinidadian characters," Bir-
But publisher Jeremy Poynting issues a
warning for the new writers in a potentially
Too many local writers, he argues, become
trapped in "self-consciously national writ-
ing"---clichés of what is "Trinidadian" that
are based on what has been written before or
what people who don t live on the island
Part of the explanation for this may be that
despite the increase in T&T writers producing
work from home many still live abroad. Poynt-
ing admits with concern that his company,
Peepal Tree, publishes more work from the
Diaspora than the resident Caribbean by a
"Too many submissions we see from
Trinidadian writers seem inclined to repeat
what has already been done," he writes. "None
of this is to deny the significance of Carnival,
calypso and steelband as hugely creative inven-
tions of popular origin," he adds. "Or to argue
that they are impossible topics for imaginative
treatment, but prospective writers need to
look hard at books such as Selvon s I Hear
Thunder (1963) or Lovelace s The Dragon Can t
Dance (1979) to ask themselves if they are
doing anything new."
Elsewhere in the magazine, Earl Lovelace
examines the role of rebellion in the history
of T&T; one essay makes the case that VS
Naipaul is a "queer Trinidadian" and Lawrence
Scott contributes a poignant short story that
ponders the parallels between capital punish-
ment and ageing.
Dark romantic entanglements are at the
heart of a story from Allen-Agostini, and
poems from Abinta Clarke, James Aboud, Ali-
son Gibb and others are featured.
The 100-page journal chronicles a promising
beginning. But it is just that---a beginning.
"What writers need is not just a room of
their own," writes Monique Roffey, "but also
some kind of system of support, of backup,
a society, a culture in which to be received."
She concludes: "This is what I believe is
happening for the first time in Trinidad, that
there is now enough of a groundswell of literary
activity in which Trinidad s writers can not
just grow, but thrive."
T&T writer Sharon Millar, joint winner of the
2013 Commonwealth Writers Short Story
New dawn in T&T literature
Wasafiri special issue captures...
The Brighter Suns issue commemorates the
60th anniversary of the publication of Sam
Selvon's A Brighter Sun.
JWave's new single
coming this month
Díaz latest book
a great read
to show at
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