Firing the Canon

Among the persistent contentions in Caribbean art and literature are questions of gatekeeping and the “Caribbeanness” of the works and their creators. Who polices the canon? Who gets recognised and even who is Caribbean enough? This special issue of Moko “Firing the Canon” is prompted by these concerns. We ask: Who’s left out? Who’s in? Responses to our questions take the form of nominations from writers and visual artists who have experienced a degree of exposure that moves them beyond the categorisation of “newcomer” in their respective fields. The content of this issue reflects a marshaling of their personal reactions to and endorsements of a range of emerging creative practitioners – individuals in the early stage of their careers. – Ayanna Lloyd, Marsha Pearce, and Colin Robinson – Guest Editors

So begins the latest issue of Moko magazine (which you might remember published my poem Children Melee in 2014) – a special issue in which writers and artists with a bit of a leg (or in my case, maybe just a toe) in the industry – get to nominate another writer they feel needs to get on. I thought this was a cool idea because as me and my toe know, it ain’t easy trying to cut through these vast and choppy Caribbean literary seas much less the oceans beyond. I have mixed feelings because there are still so many talented writers out there who struggle to get the attention of the gate keepers, especially when they come from small places, but in a small way this project helps to illustrate that there is more beyond the usual voices, and more still, still waiting.

In this issue, you have White Woman on a Green Bicycle author Monique Roffey reccing Alake Pilgrim who had me lol’ing from the opening paragraph of The Bees…

That was the end of the goats and after that, Vishnu’s attempts to sell farmer’s insurance earned him nothing but two-three good cuss.

You have me reccing Brenda Lee Browne…


..excerpting a longer novel-length work, Lovers Rock. The excerpt begins with the anticipation of a first date for the young West Indian-Brit …

Dante’s mother asks if he is getting married as he smells as sweet as a bride and he had been getting ready since about 5pm – well since midday when he went to the barbers for a trim and a shape. He’s ironed three shirts, chosen two pairs of slacks and a pair of jeans.

…and ends with an encounter all-too-familiar to black youth…

Dante looks at the policeman and then at his truncheon and decides that the dance is more important than
sparring with some Babylon. He raises his arms and the policeman begins scanning his body with his hands,
paying close attention to Dante’s crotch and ankles – he is so close that Dante can smell the fish and chips he must have had for dinner accompanied by a slight musky scent.

And Sharon Millar’s pick, a pick that makes perfect sense to anyone who’s read Millar’s collection Whale House and Other Stories, Caroline de Verteuil lures the reader in with …

On the morning the old woman died, a strong breeze began to blow.

It blew the rich violet blossoms off Miss Olive’s prize-winning orchids and whipped Uncle Beddoe’s curtains violently up into the air. It slammed the Blackmans’ unlatched window shut, sending shards of shattered glass skidding across the living room floor. It disheveled poor Mr. Gopeesingh’s meticulously placed comb-over just as he was leaving the house to meet his first granddaughter, and it blew whooping cough straight into the lungs of that very infant, giving her a wheezing rattle that would last the rest of her life.

Stephen Narain recc’d Gabrielle Bellot who presents here a re-write of Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl from the perspective of a mother and daughter coming to term’s with the latter’s gender identity …

You can forget about anything I left you in my will if you go through with this abomination.
Please call later, do not forget me, but when I called you last time you said you didn’t want to hear my voice sounding like that, so you will just abandon your mother because you want to be like that!

And Lily Kwok’s Chinese born mother character in Saying ‘I love you’, off of another Millar rec, sounds awfully like a Caribbean mother…

To be fair, Lisa’s mother had also never said “I love you” to her. It isn’t because she doesn’t love her and isn’t because she doesn’t want to say it. It’s just not what Chinese parents do. Instead, Chinese parents speak love through the language of cooking meals, of sewing up bursting seams, and of never giving up on you – even after you have given up on yourself.

And that’s just some of the fiction options (my favourite of the fiction recs, actually) in this collection which also includes artists reccing artists and poets reccing poets, paying it forward.

Read the entire issue: Moko-2015-Special-Issue-spreads


3 thoughts on “Firing the Canon

  1. Pingback: Reading Room XV | Wadadli Pen

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