CREATIVE SPACE #16 OF 2022 (Uploaded August 10th 2022)
CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the two–part CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean author, journalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer.
Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on August 10th 2022:
Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS.
CREATIVE SPACE: DOTSIE “DON’T CARE”, POETRY UNFILTERED
Dotsie Isaac wasn’t always the “don’t care” ah-damn scribe and spoken word artist she is today, calling out powerful men with seeming nerves of steel. When she started attending open mics back in the aughts, she was “too shy” to read her own poetry and her sister, D. Gisele Isaac, already established in the literary and public sphere, read them for her. What changed?
“I talked to myself…and then over time I said ‘you just have to do it, it’s your work, and you have to be able to present your work.’” The road between then and now didn’t come without anxiety – “I mean I went ahead but trust me I was shaking like a leaf, during those first performances.” The audience had a lot to do with her building confidence over time. “I found a friend in the audience and it made it easier for me to present my work.”
And that work has become balder and bolder. Take “Bull Bud” with its counter-attack to a very personal public attack from the country’s leader, in response to Dotsie’s criticism of his performance as prime minister during a virtual forum. The poem begins “You are a whining little puppy” and returns his insinuations about her personal life in kind.
As for possible consequences of using her voice in the way she does, Dotsie said, “I really don’t care.” She continues to express how she feels, including about experiences like anxiety and depression, eschewing self-censorship. “If I do it, I will not be true to myself, I will not be true to my craft, I will not be genuine.”
A chief inspiration is “anger”.
Presenting orally rather than in writing gives her a “rush”.
Her style is marked by a dryly witty delivery.
With all of the above, Dotsie has carved out a space for herself as a successor to the town crier and the calypsonian – à la Latubma who declared, “I go sing what I see, I go mirror society, culture must be free, dem cyaan muzzle me”. This is not by accident. “I remember when I was growing up and when calypso was calypso,” she said, “Calypsonians were like the social conscience of the country and of the people.” She feels she must use her voice in a similar way rather than “talking about pretty little things tied up in a pink bow.”
When Dotsie writes about the British royals, for instance, it’s still with a mindfulness re the larger social issues – racism, classism, and the cognitive dissonance of dressing up streets with bunting over “stinking gutter water” along the royal route. She specifically called out the Reparations Support Commission which released an open letter raising the issue of reparations: “A letter? A letter that was not really addressed to them?” Her poem timed to this visit was being requested on radio the day after it debuted.
The accessibility, genuineness, and topicality of her rhymes being what they are, she is that rare literary talent who has found popular acclaim locally. Her Kirk Vankelt-produced show, Senses, a one-night only event in June raised enough money for her to follow through on her promised donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation in honour of a sister-friend who died.
Now, she’s planning to take her show on the road. “What I want to do, and the bug that has bitten me is to take my work on the road and perform it…just take it to the diaspora and perform it.” Hear that diaspora?
Asked about her favourite piece that she’d written, Dotsie replied, “There’s a piece that I did that I call ‘8-8-21’ that I wrote after teargas Sunday last year. I call it ‘Freedom 8-8-21’…it starts by saying, I think, ‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. When the youth are protest ready, they become revolutionary’. And it goes on from there and it just kind of encapsulates the entire Sunday, everything that happened that Sunday. Because I happened to be there. That was my personal experience. I was caught up in it. I was gassed as well… that piece means a lot to me not only because it was my experience but also it’s history, it’s chronicling what happened that day.”
Her advice to writers coming up behind her? “Just be true to yourself. I read and listen to a lot of poetry that I’m not even sure what it is they’re talking about. It’s too abstract for me and I’m sure there’s an audience for that. But for me, let’s just get straight to the truth, let there not be any ambiguity, let’s just talk about it. So, just be true to you, to yourself. Nothing going happen to you. You may upset a person or two but so what.”
Images used in this post, with the exception of the one with the Heart and Stroke Foundation which was published in the Daily Observer newspaper, are from Dotsie’s Senses show and were provided by her.
Watch the full CREATIVE SPACE interview with Dotsie Isaac.
You can find Dotsie reading more of her poetry here.
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