Just finished reading She Sex Prose & Poetry, Sex & the Caribbean Woman (edited by Paula Obe and Carol N. Hosein), a collection of writing by Caribbean women. The fact that I took this long to read this is not an indication of its quality, as I actually recommend it as a read and not just because I’ve got pieces in it. In fact, true confession, I’m not terribly confident about the two pieces selected for the collection. Another true confession, I write more poetry than fiction probably but I feel more sure-footed in the world of fiction. Of my pieces in the collection, One is probably my favourite; it grew out of a visual prompt, a painting by Antiguan artist Glenroy Aaron. I remember the thing that struck me about the image was how intertwined the man and woman were, almost like they were extensions of the same body; hence the poem title ‘One’ – “I want to be so deep inside you/it be like/I’m wearing your skin/when I touch your nipple/it be my lips tingling.” Though it’s blatantly physical, I wanted to suggest emotional intimacy equal to or beyond the physical, and I wanted it to feel like a seduction not at the beginning of a relationship when they barely know each other, but when they’re already in – deep. My other piece – “A Religious Experience” is borderline sacrilegious since it’s using sacred terminology for something considerably less sacred. But the choice of terminology is meant to suggest the reverence with which they’ve embraced this connection they have – “and so we prayed/then the breeze sang a Holy song.” I’m hoping their selection suggests that I communicated something of what I was trying to communicate. But you, readers, will be the judge. As reader, my favourites included:
The Sum of All Our Parts – I once shopped an article called ‘the Sum of Her Parts’ to publications far and wide – it was about my relationship (and by extension women’s relationship) with the body. It’s a complicated relationship, at times a love-hate relationship. Trinidadian Marsha Gomes-McKie’s piece acknowledges this in a very relatable and affirming way. Is any woman ever happy with her breasts – when they’re big we wish they were smaller, when they’re small we wish they were bigger, and with the threat of breast cancer they can feel like a ticking time bomb. McKie-Gomes’ piece acknowledges this. It puts two women in the all too familiar space of a doctor’s waiting room and forces a conversation between them, a conversation that compels introspection on the part of one of the women and that’s when the piece soars, pushing forcefully into its message of self-love…and satisfaction.
When I read fellow Antiguan Zahra Airall’s Over the Hills and Through the Woods, I don’t hear my own voice or some faceless narrator’s, I hear Heather Doram’s voice. See Heather, an accomplished Antiguan artist, performed this piece in the staging of Airall and company’s When a Woman Moans. It is a celebration of a woman’s awakening to herself, finally coming into her own post middle age, and it brought the house down when Doram did it; I’m happy to see it in print.
We Always Smile for Photos by Bajan Shakirah Bourne is perhaps the best story in the collection. That’s subjective, of course, but though a sad situation all around, the prose is lively and rich with irony. It’s theme of abuse is unfortunately ever-topical, and the self-delusion/denial all too real. “Maybe you should go to counseling…” one character said; the other replies “we’re not so bad that we need counseling!” Of course, they’re both fooling themselves about the strengths of their relationships, but they’re not ready to see it yet. Bourne is an impressive artistic force out of Barbados – on to her second film in as many years, oh, and releasing her first book of fiction in that time too.
Paula Obe’s vividly visual – and strangely abstract – Night Shadows was an intriguing tease of her novel Rose.
No Lipstick for me by Kavita Vidya Ganness draws you in from the first line “panties being ripped have a certain sound that you can’t forget” and it keeps you right there in the midst of this battle, uncomfortably close, and as close as you are, you’re still not quite sure at the end what you bore witness to. Interesting.
Also playing with perception – and giving new meaning to the term dangerous love is Delesse Francis’ How Much He Loves Me.
Nicole George’s Quiet Afternoon in November feels like a perfect interlude; I like how it feels. Meanwhile Jamaican Davia Andrews pushes boundaries in the Many Faces of Sex with a sexually fluid character shifting from this partner to the next, gender irrelevant, until she (or is it he) finds the one that connects to her soul. Sunsets, another favourite, feels like a sequel to this, two lovers, deepening affection, the beauty of their love and the backdrop against which it blooms, the suggestion that that love is taboo. “If your mother found out…”
The couple in Sandra Sealey’s Cyan Keep He Way from She have a love that’s much more worn in – a certain matter of factness, rough affection and … longing, and rendered in a voice that’s pure Bajan and marked by wry humour. You might be surprised by who the mistress is at the end…but the clues are there, throughout, so maybe not.
Defiant – that’s another of the book’s moods – it’s not all hearts and flowers – Carlyon Blackman’s The Art of War: Food Stories IV and Filing for Divorce – brief and bitter verses – is evidence of that.
Kavita, I liked another of hers, She’s a River; it’s the kind of poem that when you read it, you want to hear performed out loud, because it has a certain flow that lends itself to that. But also I like how she plays with words and in particular the sounds of words in a way that’s not just frivolous but full of meaning – “she’s a river, don’t damn her, don’t dam her”. Get it?
You can read my thoughts on that other all female collection I was recently a part of, as well as other recent reads, here.