Do You Know Eileen Hall?

If you google her, you might find her wiki entry (no pictures though) describing her as “an American poet”. Not true. She is, though, a largely forgotten Antiguan poet; and the same wiki entry does disclose that “Hall was born in Antigua; her father’s family was from Oxford and her mother’s family was part French and part Irish, the French side having been in the West Indies since the mid seventeenth century.” Like I said, Antiguan poet, one of the first – research would suggest – to be published internationally. Her 1938 book, published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, was The Fountain and the Bough. HallI just read it and while I won’t be reviewing it, I thought I might do a post about Hall – sharing some of what I’ve learned about her and some of what I liked in the book.

She was referred to in writings by Ford Madox Ford, influential figure in the literary world, remembered for, among other things, championing new literary works and literary experimentation, and friend, as Mrs. Hall Lake – married to Dr. Michael Lake.
I’ve posted about her before at my Wadadli Pen blog where I shared her poem Lullabye
I said in that post, among other things, that the poem was, to my reading, “ahead of its time for many reasons including the use of our nation language.” The collection in which this poem appears, the collection I have just finished reading, is out of print and, as I noted in that post, Hall the writer “is little known in Antigua”. I, of course, had to shade Wikepedia a little bit for referring to her as an American poet, though given her publisher and the literary circles she moved in it was probably intended to reflect where she fits in the canon. Of course, since I’m so much about the place of Antiguan and Barbudan writers in the Caribbean literary canon, I’m pulling a Maxine Waters and reclaimingreclaiming (well, not my time) but one of our literary artistes. Oh and (sidebar) I need that mug.

I don’t want to suggest that I’m leading this reclamation as I really became aware of Hall when she was featured in the 2012 edition of the Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books(an issue spotlighting women writers and guest edited by Edgar Lake who described it as “a small part of what lies forgotten in libraries and museums around the world”) which credited her as “an Antiguan-born poet”. The Review informed us of how well received her writing was, and the fact that she was published in the likes of Harper’s, Poetry, and American Mercury; “Her short stories and translations of other women’s work are strewn in small publications on both sides of the Atlantic.” The Review, too, singled out for mention her use of the creole in the time that she wrote.

The January 1939 edition of Poetry, meanwhile, credited her “structural mastery: the clean, spare welding of word and phrase that gives logical shape and direction to a poem” and further added, “Eileen Hall’s poems are never glib and facile, always compact, meticulous, assured” even as it critiqued the over-attention to discipline and form at the expense of adventurousness in her poetic exploration.

The Wadadli Pen blog also has my share of her poem, also from the book, Obeah Woman. I first heard this poem during a panel I participated in. The person who presented it is a former teacher of mine (Gordon George) and it caught my attention – as it did the many students gathered in the room. I, of course, asked him if he had more of her work and he shared the book with me.

Information on Eileen Hall, Eileen Hall Lake, Eileen Lake is scant. There is a reference to “Biala’s beautiful friend Eileen Lake, ‘long of limb’ …and ‘lithe of back’” from Ford’s work, as referenced in the 2005 biography Ford Madox Ford and the Regiment of Women: Violet Hunt, Jean Rhys, Stella Bowen, Janice Biala by Joseph Wiesenfarth.  Yes, Dominican born Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea (recently reviewed here), was, from what I’ve glimpsed, part of that literary crowd as well; wonder if Rhys and Hall’s paths ever crossed.

I also found a couple of translation/writer credits for two BBC series – Emil und die Detektive/Emil and the Detectives, in 1966, for the BBC’s children television series Jackanory (there’s also a credit for this story in 2016 collection Der Krimi: Crime Fiction in German) and It Isn’t Enough, in 1959, for Saturday Playhouse. I am not 100 percent sure this is her but there is evidence that she moved to Europe and did translation work, so, maybe. There’s a credit as well to a 1956 translation of Johanna Spyri’s classic Heidi for Penguin Books. The reference I found, wrote this: “Eileen Hall was also the translator of Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner, which was first published in English by Jonathan Cape in 1931, but little else is known about her. This translation, along with Edwardes’, is one of the two most widely disseminated today and may be the translation most contemporary British children have grown up on. In both the U.S. and the U.K., if one were to look for a new copy of Heidi in paperback, this would be the likely option.”

So these new finds mean two things – I need to update her listing in the data base of Antiguan and Barbudan writers, and I really don’t know a lot about her.

But I’ve read her book (dedicated to Michael Lake) and some of the language was truly sublime. Some favourite lines:

“My childhood litany of rock and water
is now the sweetest of dead languages.
The stars are altered – Now the dawn
Can tell me nothing that I wish to know.” – from Dead Language

“…For death, the sculptor works in living tissue.
The starving soldier, without eyes or fingers,
Stands with the medals on his breast to prove
The impotence of valor.” – from Street

“I remember the nameless ones,
The incorruptible, who, not being meek,
Inherit nothing but a little earth.” – from Laurel

“My heart has withered on your grave,
and what I had of grace or truth
Lies there with you, and now my youth.” – from The Night Comes Down

Check out Obeah Woman – it’s short and sweet (or maybe I should say, vicious).

“From hot canefields, far voices float.” – from Afternoon: New Division

“The dates and names of death no more are seen,
Obliterated by the living green.” – from Graves on Barton Hill: Antigua

“We laugh, because we must create
A god, from time to time, to hate
Something to hear us when we curse,
Locked, raging, in this universe.” – from Sonnets I – VII

Okay, I’ll stop there; I’d say go read it but it’s out of print. Maybe there are more used copies out there; I don’t know. But I’m glad still to share and claim this Antiguan and Barbudan writer as I continue to explore our literary legacy.

I’m making this my Sunday Post because it’s the reading that ends my week. As for what else I’m reading, see my post So anyway, that’s what I’m reading which has been updated with a new review since I initially posted it for Top Ten Tuesday.

As for my own writing, I’m doing advance publicity on Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, my new picture book, and post-publicity after my ghost story, Papa Jumbie, was posted to Akashic’s Duppy Thursday (check it out and come back and tell me what you think).

Finally, as a reminder, the islands and countries of the Caribbean have been dealt the one-two punch of Irma and Maria, and the daunting reality of busier and more violent hurricane seasons if we don’t step up our efforts to curb climate change. irma-01-0.jpg

We still need your help – whether your contributions, or your advocacy, or your tourism dollars so that we can stimulate our economies and help ourselves. We are a resilient and a resourceful people, and we will recover but everybody needs a little help sometimes. Here are some hurricane relief links.


So, anyway, that’s what I’m reading.

I’m responding to the Broke and Bookish’s latest Top Ten prompt, Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List.

top tenWe don’t have Fall where I live but it’s hurricane season…does that count? Ugh. Inappropriate humour aside, I can’t wait for it to be over. I’ve been through my share of hurricanes since David in 1979 (it’s one of my earlier memories and, boy, did it imprint) but Irma is eternally in the bad books of Caribbean people after this season. As I write this, Maria is out there somewhere with Lee behind. How did M get in front of L? It’s been that kind of season.

In the midst of this nightmare hurricane season, there are still books. I already reported how I finished Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter during Irma. So, it being ‘Fall’, I’ll tell you what I’m reading now. It’s my contribution to Top Ten’s Fall TBR List. These are all going slowly so I’ll run them in descending order from the ones I’m most engaged with to the ones I haven’t touched yet.

photo-5Saint Lucian Literature and Theatre: an Anthology of Reviews compiled and edited by John Robert Lee and Kendel Hippolyte –one of the authors sent this to me a while ago and I’m really enjoying reading it. I don’t think I expected to when I started because it’s a decades long collection of reviews of writers whose work I don’t know (for the most part) and plays I’ll never see. I appreciated the effort, and the value of pulling together a collection like this; I wish our Culture department had the instinct to take on these kinds of projects – to document the arts and art criticism as a foundation to build on. But I thought my interest would begin and end with that sort of indifferent appreciation. But I’m really enjoying the insights, especially the section on theatre where I can see the productions and the arc of their theatrical tradition through the writings of the critics. In the articles, I can also read the all too familiar challenges of creating in a Caribbean space (where arts is so under-resourced that its full potential is stunted) and the conversations around that. I feel like I am in conversation with the critics as well. It’s a valuable collection. ETA: Finished! Read the review here.

Nobody owns the Rainbow by Kristene Simelda – this is an Advance Review Copy (ARC) I recently received. Started reading it in the line at the APUA (the power company) which is interminable if you don’t have reading material (though it’s gotten better); so that’s how it jumped the queue. I’m not mad at it though. It’s okay so far.

black roseThe Black Rose by Tananarive Due – I have a feeling if I could nab some uninterrupted reading time, I could get in to this. It’s thematically dense but the main character is a spunky young girl, now young woman, trying to pull herself up from a hard scrabble life, and, since, the book is a fictionalized re-imagining of the life of Madame C J Walker, into a self-made destiny as one of the first African American millionaires (which is not too shabby for a pre-civil rights era black woman who was born in to a family of former enslaved people cum sharecroppers, i.e. de facto enslaved people, who lost both her parents in infancy).

61a5gJVWYsL__SX320_BO1,204,203,200_All the Joy you can stand by Debrena Jackson Gandy – I haven’t shelled out money for a self-help book since the heyday of Iyanla Vanzant (when she was inspirational author not reality star); and, while Iyanla resonated with me, I don’t like think-and-grow-rich self ‘help’ books generally. I didn’t buy this one – a friend gave it to me when she was leaving the island some years ago, and it’s been sitting on my bookshelf unenthusiastically since then. I read it in snippets. Sometimes I’m even into it. We’ll see.

21240244Singles Holiday by Elaine Spires – I’m almost embarrassed about this one. It’s written by a friend of mine and I bought it forever ago (because I was drawn to the laugh out loud humour of her writing after attending a reading) and I think I’ve been reading it just as long. I need to finish already. But it’s just not pulling me right now. It might you though – it’s about a group of Brits on a Caribbean vacation, hookups and hurricanes; many hookups and one hurricane, but, when it comes to hurricanes, one is plenty.

DiaCritica – I am going to chalk this one being even on the list up to me not being able to leave any book in my possession unread. It’s really not for me. But it was given to me by a research student after she interviewed me about my books. Most of it isn’t in English, but it wouldn’t be the first book not-in-English that I’ve struggled through. Only, in addition to being in a foreign language, what English there is in this one is in that deep dimension where academics live, i.e. somewhere way over my head.

nectarNectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya – This one is only all the way down here because though it’s migrated from the bookshelf to the active reading pile, I haven’t actually cracked it yet.

The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – I legit looked at this one when I picked it off the shelf (it was next in line) and couldn’t remember how it came to be in my possession, and when I realized it was one of those think-and-grow-rich self help books, I was decidedly unexcited…but see my insistence on giving every book in my possession a chance. Sigh.

516A7ixyOUL__SX330_BO1,204,203,200_A History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – this is my most recent purchase – got it just this week (FINALLY!). I enjoyed his Book of Night Women and the chatter around this Man Booker Prize winner has been crazy. I’m really pumped…but I gotta finish one of the book’s uplist first (or something). We’ll see; I may end up pulling rank on this one. ETA: I pulled rank; this one is officially in the active reading pile.

Anything Jonathan Kellerman – I actually don’t have a new Kellerman (when I asked for him at the bookstore they were bemused, apparently nobody ever asks for him, and sent me to the used books pile which I went to though I know I’ve probably read any Kellerman likely to be in that pile). The fact that I’m even scoping for him is likely to have the many unread books on my shelf right now going…wait, what? But I’m feeling the need for an Alex Delaware fix. The series may be like fast food but there’s a reason we line up for fast food every now and again. Sometimes you just need food to be quick and fun, not good for you. And  Alex and Milo and Robin are…okay, they’re not fun, what with digging in to the seedy underbelly of life in LA solving crimes and what not…but it’s usually a quick read, and as we say in Antigua, I long to see them.

While you’re here, if you’re here, I just want to point you to three recent posts on my blog:

After the Storm (mostly because if you can I want you to check the links and help with hurricane relief)

Now available for pre-order – Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure (Coverthis is my picture book – got any kids in your life?)

Papa Jumbie Published in Akashic’s Duppy Thursday Series (I wrote a ghost story! Go read it).

Papa Jumbie published in Akashic’s Duppy Thursday series

‘Just as Steadroy finish mek up he bed under de Big Head, smadee call he name. He freeze … “Papa?” … … … he shiver, looking up de nose-hole of the stone statue, before turning pan he side and resettling heself. De plastic flower an’ dem wha dem lay last Labour Day rustle when he shif’, but after dat, dead silence.

Smadee call he name again.

He tun back pan he back; stare hard pan Papa stone lip an’ dem, looking for even a quiver … … … he choops to heself. Only picknee believe in jumbie. Dead na speak an’ Papa dead long time. Besides, Papa jumbie woulda up Heroes Park not dung inna market.’


So, I wrote a ghost story… That’s it excerpted above (man, it’s hard to find excerpts that don’t give the whole story away; especially when the story is limited to 750 words). Delighted to have been selected for this series. Read the whole thing published in Akashic’s Duppy Thursday series.

This is my third Akashic publication. First was my submission to their noir Mondays are Murder series The Cat has Claws and second was Amelia at Devil’s Bridge published in Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean (for which Akashic teamed up with Peepal Tree under the imprint Peekash).


Now Available for Pre-Order – Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure

If you go to Amazon now, you can pre-order my picture book Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure. The beautiful art work is by Trinidad and Tobago artist Danielle Boodoo Fortune, the story is by me (Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse), and the publisher is Caribbean Reads publishing which also put out my teen/young adult title Musical Youth (a Burt award finalist).

Here’s the Lost! A Caribbean Adventure synopsis: When an Arctic seal named Dolphin finds himself far from home in the warm Caribbean sea, he has to rely on new friends for help. Will he make his way back to his Arctic home?  This book includes a short story and a puzzle.

The character of Dolphin is inspired by Wadadli, a young male hooded seal who somehow wound up in the Caribbean from his home in the North Atlantic, his rescue, and the efforts to get him back to colder waters. This story re-imagines…how. For a child, 5-8, it is a colourful introduction to the wonders of the Caribbean sea that, via a simple and poetic narrative, interlinks themes of dreaming, differentness, friendship, helpfulness, environmental awareness, and adventure.

The First Page is up, and the Books page and main Reviews page have been updated, and as soon as your reader reviews and critical reviews start coming in, the Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure Reviews page will be updated as well.





Hurricane Irma – Relief

Bonaire Bliss


Barbuda Pink Shells

My love affair with the Caribbean began in 1987 on my first trip to Antigua. I was captivated by the people, the music, the smells, the sounds. After a week’s stay, I returned to a cold and dreary landscape in the US. I always knew I would return, and I did, to later move to Antigua, located in the Eastern Caribbean. There, I met a man, fell in love, had a child and forged a life.   My experiences included visiting many of the islands in the chain, including my favorite Barbuda. I loved the people and was astounded by a 17-mile pink beach.  I have life long memories of my time in the Eastern Caribbean. Later in life, I shifted gears, became a windsurfer and eventually found Bonaire.  Bonaire is outside the hurricane belt, above the coast of Venezuela. Most people know Bonaire’s neighbors, Aruba and…

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After the Storm

Mother Nature has her way of reminding us of our fragility. For us in the chain of islands making up the Caribbean, getting out of the way is more complicated – we are islands (literally surrounded by water) and small. Of course being in hurricane pathways has bred in us a high level of awareness, preparedness, and responsiveness. But we are still small islands and at a certain point all we can do is surrender, hunker down, and wait…and after the storm get on with the business of doing what needs to be done to get back to normal…until next time. There is a feeling of helplessness that comes with that but we are also a resilient people, and we don’t wallow in that feeling for long – if we give it any purchase at all.

This time around while Antigua was barely touched, our sister island Barbuda was left bare (literally, the island has had to be evacuated after the decimation caused by hurricane Irma)

news footage

Barbuda: Post-hurricane Irma news footage (video still).

…and that’s just one island who felt her force as she made her way toward the mainland US (which is, as I write this, awaiting Irma’s landfall). We are in our twin-island Caribbean nation state beginning the process of recovery and there are ways you can help. I wanted to share some links that seem legit (though, please, do your own due diligence):


This one’s a list of donor needs and avenues maintained by Antiguanice

The Barbuda Recovery and Conservation Trust Fund

Information re government accounts through which people can make donations

and a couple more for people off island:

This is a gofundme set up by (Antiguan based in the US) Juneth Webson

Barbuda Hurricane Relief Fund set up by (Antiguan based in Canada) Tasheka Lavann

Antigua and Barbuda Red Cross


There are others. There’s also this facebook group which is steadily updated. These are just some of the avenues I am aware of and feel fairly confident passing on. Support recovery efforts if you can – these are specific to Barbuda but several other countries have also been hard hit (do what you can, if you can).

I have seen social media posts (seemingly out of the US) indicating that we don’t matter either because the posters have never heard of us, because we’re too small to matter, because we’re ignorant for living in a hurricane pathway, because our houses are supposedly poorly built and not because of the 185 mph winds that passed directly over Barbuda, or because we’re doomed anyway – because climate change. I will agree with one thing; we do need to take climate change seriously – it is a factor and, though islands like ours are among the most vulnerable, this is a global problem. The lives of many hang in the balance. The Paris Agreement (which America recently pulled out of) was one step toward combatting climate change. So, in addition to supporting recovery efforts, we can resolve to educate ourselves on climate change and on efforts to mitigate its impact, and do what we can to support and advocate. The lives of every single being on the planet hangs in the balance. We have a saying here, today for me, tomorrow for you; I mention it here not to wish any of the trolls who scoffed at our pain ill but as a reminder that we need to stand together, because we’re all in this together. We, in the Caribbean, grieve and stand with the world when bad things happen anywhere in the world. We are very tuned in to the world (though we know the world is not likewise as tuned in to us) and we care (to wit, our hearts go out to Mexico as well at this time in the wake of the quake there). One of the trolls said we matter only as tourist destinations, and it is true that we live where the world vacations.


Better days: visit to the Barbuda frigate bird sanctuary, one of the country’s main tourism attractions and an environmental treasure.


Mother Nature smiles on us most days out of the year with her unparalleled beauty, but  our size and location notwithstanding, we matter like anyone else, simply because we are.


Okay, this ran longer than I planned…and it’s still my Sunday Post and my Sunday Salon (in part because I’m hoping more people will see it and pass it on). The Sunday Post is a  book-related meme run by the Caffeinated Reviewer and Sunday Salon is a book-themed facebook group. So let’s get to the books, shall we.

I moved my review of Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys here and, you know, after some of the comments exhibiting willful ignorance re the Caribbean, I can’t rec this one enough.

Meanwhile, my new review this week is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which is my quickest read in a while, mostly because of the hours of waiting before and after Irma – it was a good distraction (I know books are a good way of passing the time, of course, but one of my nephews was reminded of that with the power out. I really do hope he sticks with the book he started reading). This book was given to me by a fellow blogger over at Book Connectors, so I’ll be sharing this there as well.

Also some other quick links in case you missed them -my interviews with the Culture Trip and African Book Addict; my guest posts on Wandering Educators, the Author Dream series, and in the new issue of Anansesem; and this shout out by the Rumpus re my contribution to their letter for kids series  and my Carnival flashback – Out Dey!


Happy Sunday and Happy reading and give where and if you can.






Out Dey!

Some days you just need to go back to your happy place (yes, there were bumps in the making and showcasing of Grace’s Merrymakers; but playing mas is still one of the purest pleasures there is because when the music hits you, you feel no pain).


on the road 2

on the road

This is me and a couple of friends playing the mango tree faerie from my children’s picture book for the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival.

Video taken by my niece (who was one of my banner holders) 20706223_1678542355489442_804926424_oduring our appearance on the stage – first ones on the stage (no warm up) – Carnival Monday, pictures plucked from the Antigua Carnival’s Facebook – Carnival Tuesday album. The song in the video is Out Dey by Claudette ‘CP’ Peters which went on to earn her the distinction of being the first female soca artiste to win the Antigua Road March title (i.e. most played song on the road for the 60th anniversary of Antigua’s Carnival).

For the back story go to the making of Grace’s Merrymakers and for the back story to that (i.e. the book itself) go to the With Grace first page and reviews page.

Yep, it may have been released in December 2016 but between being picked as one of the US Virgin Islands’ Governor’s Summer Reads and the tree faerie being Out Dey in de Carnival, it’s been the summer of Grace.

ETA: I’m also making this my Sunday Post (a meme run by the Caffeinated Reviewer) because, yay, I finished and blogged about Wide Sargasso Sea this Sunday. Read the review here. That means that I can add another book to my active reading pile and that book is – ta-dah! – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith. Don’t judge me. Okay, judge, whatever but another blogger decided to mail it to me after I told her how much the movie sucked – either this is a case of the book being better than the movie or she’s trying to prank me. Either way, there’s a hurricane coming and I need the distraction. You know how this post opens with needing to go to my happy place, well…there you have it.