Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 1st 2013 Contents B3
Caribbean writers and readers have been
talking about a new publishing house on the
literary scene---but Bamboo Talk Press is not
just any publishing house. Headed by Paula
Thomas, better known as Paula Obe, who has
been writing poetry since she was 12 and has
many published works, it will be a hub for
writers and poets regionally---offering traditional,
print-on-demand and e-publishing, as well as
editing, illustration, layout and launch event
"I have always been inspired by small pub-
lishing houses," Obe explains.
"I knew first-hand about how hard it is to
be published, since there are very few publishing
opportunities here, and getting published inter-
nationally can be that proverbial needle in the
haystack. I wanted to do my part, because there
are so many talented writers locally and in the
Talent, unquestionably. But there are also
challenges facing this type of start-up in this
type of economy. Obe recognises them all and
she s meeting them head on.
"The social and financial landscape keeps
changing. The micro level really is the macro
level, the personal is indeed the political, and
now more than ever, the average person has
the tools to re-create and nurture this changing
landscape. We are pioneers and there is land
for the taking. This combined with a network
of my loving family, dedicated friends, including
my other director in the business, has helped
me go full force into this growing dream of
The foundation of this dream is poetry.
Obe believes it has the power "to create a
dual universe: to heal, to destroy, to help to
hinder, to shout, to whisper, to love to hate, to
bleed, to cry, to laugh, to lie, to tell truths...
poetry speaks to every emotion possible. The
question is, what is it do we want poetry to
do on an individual level? What is our poet-
It is a fair question, but the overriding
answer---at least when it comes to the publishing
of poetic works---is that poetry is unprofitable.
Many established publishing houses steer clear
of poetry because of its limited financial returns.
Obe, however, sees the flip side: "There are
poets who have been able to market themselves
and do pretty well, performing and selling
books and CDs at performance spaces, some
of which they have created themselves. Poets
have to see themselves as a brand, market
themselves, create that audience... that will
give a publisher an added reason to publish
As a publisher, she also believes in finding
new ways to present the work: anthologies,
and combinations of poetry and prose. "In this
way," she explains, "more people have an invest-
ment and more copies will be sold."
She certainly walks her talk. In October,
Bamboo Talk Press will launch its first regional
anthology, She Sex, which features some tal-
ented female poets and prose writers from
Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Bermuda
Jamaica and T&T. (Sunday Arts Section editor,
Lisa Allen-Agostini, is one of the contribu-
The company also has an imprint, Bamboo
Shoots, geared towards books for children and
"When Bamboo Talk Press went public,"
Obe says, "I got many inquiries from writers
writing for children and young writers. I recog-
nised that this is a service that is indeed needed.
Already I have lined up some talented children
illustrators to work on projects. As time goes
by, I will structure the business to suit the
demands I see around me."
Obe thinks that, realistically, Bamboo Talk
Press will only be able to publish about three
books a year the traditional way, where the
press makes the investment and the author
enjoys royalties. For its print-on-demand serv-
ice, Bamboo Talk Press will try to offer great
cost for a top quality product. The publishing
house also plans to collaborate with other
organisations, such as Oleander Circle, which
does creative arts counselling, and Poetic Vibes,
which creates events for their writers and poets.
These types of partnerships, Obe says, will
allow her a 360-degree viewpoint of issues
"There are also other ideas that will be
revealed in time in the area of audio books and
She maintains that there is an untapped
market for poetry and plans to explore new
ways of presenting the literary genre.
"There are many spoken word poets who
are combining spoken word and music now,"
she says. Obe herself has performed at folk
festivals that embraced her own unique style
of poetry and
performance: "It s
all about exploring
different ways to
reach new audi-
For all Obe s mod-
ern thinking, however, the publishing house is
rooted in a deep oral tradition.
"Many years ago, I was walking past Wild
Flower Park, and as I passed the bamboo patch,
I heard them talking... "crick"... knocking like
a tamboo bamboo band, talking in Morse code.
I wrote a poem called Bamboo Talk, where I
aligned it to our ancestors talking to us through
Bamboo Talk Press is also part of an impres-
sive publishing tradition. Anson Gonzalez, poet
extraordinaire who printed the literary journal
The New Voices for 20 years, routinely dis-
covered and published promising Caribbean
writing talent; Obe was among them.
"Anson helped nurture my writing as a young
poet, and afforded me the first space to publish
my work. I believe he planted that seed to
establish a publishing house just by his actions.
I too want to create a space to develop words
and writers and readers."
This, Obe says, is the most important work
she could be doing for the country s---and the
region s---literary landscape.
"As a child, besides the recommended authors
for school, I would not have been exposed to
the many local writers I met being part of
organisations such as the Writers Union. I want
our regional children to have literary heroes
that they can relate to, writers that speak their
own language. I want to provide opportunities,
both for writers and readers. The Caribbean
is so alive with talent; going to poetry events
is a testament to that."
to perform in
off in September
No Bois Man... to
premiere in Toronto,
T&T film fests
She Sex, the upcoming inaugural
publication of Bamboo Talk Press.
The small Bamboo
with big ambition
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