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By Roslyn Carrington
"I GUESS I've always had an affinity for the written word," says author Lau-
ren K. Alleyne. "I've always been a reader, and that flowed seamlessly into
Alleyne, who recently launched her first collection of poems, Difficult Fruit,
is a featured reader at the upcoming NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Many of her
poems, and the occasional essay and short story, have been published in a
number of journals and anthologies, including The Caribbean Writer, Black
Arts Quarterly, Women's Studies Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review of
Books, and more. She has also written calypsos for her sister, calypsonian
Her writing is perhaps essential to keeping in touch with her roots, as she
first left Trinidad in 1997. She currently lives in Dubuque, Iowa, where she is
Poet-in-Residence, and an Assistant Professor of English at the University
Quite a career turnaround, it seems, as she had originally embarked upon
studies in Radiologic Science and Nuclear Medical Technology. She was
quick to realise that the sciences were not for her. "My heart beats for
books, not labs; I changed my major to English."
She graduated with honours, but still wasn't sure if she wanted to be on
the critical side, and pursue Literature, or write. She opted for a Master of
Arts in English with a Creative Writing concentration at Iowa State Univer-
sity. "I got to study with some really wonderful writers, and decided to pur-
sue writing 100%. I went on to get a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
at Cornell University, where I specialised in Poetry."
She has also attended several writing workshops, including Callaloo, Cave
Canem, The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley and the Fine Arts Work
Center in Provincetown.
Naturally, being so far away from home, her Trini roots keep calling. She
thinks about her family often, and the extent to which they influenced her
creativity. "My family is awesome. My parents raised us to value education,
which they viewed broadly --- books, yes, but also music, dance, drama,
church, all of it. They laid a solid foundation for us, and I am immeasurably
grateful to them for their love, sacrifices, and support."
As a bright little girl with a profoundly inventive imagination, she wanted
to be an astronaut when she grew up --- and a doctor, a private detective, a
scientist, a computer programmer, a gymnast, a runner, a pilot, even a hobo.
"I once actually tied some belongings on a stick and ran away!"
Despite her ready ambitions, she was still unsure of what she would do
when she left school. "Somehow, I interpreted that as a sign that I would
die, and didn't even bother trying to study for my exams. Of course, as the
exams came closer, and I was still breathing, I figured I should at least die
with good grades!"
Not only did she not expire, but she is able to do something she loves with
her life. "I share that love with students, teach them to engage, and even
appreciate the power of language. It's a dream I didn't even know to have."
Being part of a wide writing community leaves Alleyne with many stories
to tell. "The most mind-bending interaction is my encounter with Jamaica
Kincaid, a 'shero' of mine. I had interviewed her for a literary magazine last
summer, and when I was invited to participate in a series where I'd be in
conversation with someone who had influenced me, I asked her and she
agreed! She opened her reading with my poem --- I almost fainted!"
The writer's life is hectic, but Alleyne is game. "I'm trying to launch Difficult
Fruit into the world, and get the poems to as wide an audience as possible.
I've been reading almost every week since the release date, and it's been si-
multaneously exhilarating and exhausting. My goals right now are to take
Difficult Fruit anywhere that will have me, and at the same time, to make
sure I keep up with the demands of my teaching, and, of course, to write
She looks forward with great excitement to being back in Trinidad for
"Bocas", and is optimistic about the effect the Festival will have on the lit-
erary arts here and in the wider Caribbean. "We are a creative culture, and
I can't imagine that writing isn't thriving here. Just knowing that Trinidad
has this kind of festival tells me that there's a pulse here, a beating heart."
On Wednesday (April 23), Alleyne will be part of a literary festival at UWI
from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm; she is one of the poets performing on Friday
night at Bohemia in Woodbrook from 8:00 p.m.; and will be reading with
Kwame Dawes, her editor, on Sunday 27 at the Central Bank Auditorium
More details about the NGC Bocas Lit Fest are available
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