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New Writing and Art from Antigua and Barbuda

The entire Antigua and Barbuda issue of Tongues of the Ocean is now up. The poetry, stories, essays, lyrics, and art have been uploaded at a rate of two per week (and, believe it or not, there was some method to the madness of the pairings) since September, and before that it was months of selection, editing, ordering, back-and-forthing, and perhaps a little hair-pulling. Now, it is done, just before the end of the year, and I am happy to have been asked to bring a sampling of Antiguan and Barbudan arts to this platform (Here is my introduction to the issue). Hopefully, it will serve as confirmation that our arts are very much alive (to paraphrase that M & M commercial “we do exist!”), and an impetus to discover more of it. With thanks to managing editor Nicoletette Bethel for the invitation and to the various creatives who responded to my invitation to submit and trusted me with their work. Now that it’s all up I wanted to take the opportunity to point you in that direction, share some of the reader responses, and maybe some of my own why she chose it moments as well.

Cover Image – Summer One by Glenroy Aaron

Summer One by Glenroy Aaron. Tongues cover image.

Summer One by Glenroy Aaron. Tongues cover image.

[note: this was created specifically for this issue; a sort of creative dialogue between me and the artist Glenroy Aaron. I had written a poem in response to one of his paintings and essentially he was doing the same, painting an image in response to one of my poems. That poem, as it turns out, was the only piece of mine selected for the issue. Glenroy’s art work was well-liked when shared on social media. And as Glenroy went on to be selected to do the cover art for my book Musical Youth, clearly that creative conversation continued.]

What Aesthetic – Antiguan and Barbudan Artists discuss the State of the Arts in Antigua and Barbuda

[note: artists have busy lives; the challenge here was keeping this virtual conversation going over the better part of a month or so. Not everyone I approached participated and not everyone who participated was as active as I would have liked – without a doubt veteran artist Heather Doram is the MVP of this roundtable for both the depth of her knowledge and the enthusiasm of her engagement – but it all came together quite conversationally in the end. And some of the response on social media hinted that this is something people might like to see more of]

Discretely Antiguan and Distinctly Caribbean by Dr. Hazra Medica

[note: I specifically solicited this piece from Hazra who was, at the time, on the cusp of becoming the country’s newest PhD and who I knew, because I had been one of her interview subjects, was going where no one had gone before in terms of her investigation into Antiguan and Barbudan literature. I thought something from her could bring this entire issue into focus, and it did. Plus, it attracted strong reader response: “It’s great to know that there’s some fresh scholarly work focused on Antiguan literature and music. Looking forward to reading this thesis when it becomes a book”…”This very informative and enlightening introduction shows that Antigua holds its own in its contribution to Caribbean Literature and cannot be ignored.”… “Medica holds up our mirror to show and to reflect our world, neither for acceptance nor recognition but as a simply statement of fact like the law of gravity. Dis we tings.” ]

Summer One by Joanne C. Hillhouse with art by Glenroy Aaron

Coconut Man by Glenroy Aaron

Coconut Man by Glenroy Aaron

Coconut Man by Glenroy Aaron

[viewer response: “Love the attention to details… A handsome coconut man portrayed by a talented artist.” ]

Marcus Christopher – a lyrical sampler

[note: I had to had to had to include calypso and Marcus was beyond generous in sharing his work. It hurt my heart when I then had to cut most of what I’d selected from his extensive catalogue to conform with Tongues’ formatting. In the end, after everything, I ended up being able to give only a taste of his work but hopefully just enough, with the quote from Dorbrene O’Mard to put him into context, to hint at his greatness as one of the building blocks of the art form in Antigua. reader response: “A well deserved tribute.” ]

Excerpt from Send out You Hand (a novel) by Dorbrene O’Marde

For My Father by Brenda Lee Browne

[note: it wasn’t timed that way, of course, but Brenda Lee lost her father right around the time this was published; making it all the more poignant. Reader response: “This heartfelt piece feels like the love language of the Caribbean”… “Beautifully stated. Felt the love reading it because many of us share a similar experience”. ]

 Untitled by Brenda Lee Browne

Heather Doram’s Moonlight on Butterflies

[note: this one was actually the strongest contender for alternate cover]

Heather Doram’s Serenity from her Strength of a Woman series

[note: I was keen to include something from this affirming and empowering series, though it was a few years ago now; the entire series, both feminist and feminine, with a clear point of view and her unique technique, is among my favourite things that Doram has done]

Ms. Ellie by Gayle Gonsalves

[note: if Glenroy Aaron’s Summer One was the most shared, this was easily the most commented on story, art work, or anything from this issue: “I enjoyed reading about Miss Ellie and the Reverend. I was disappointed to learn it was a short story”… “Wonderful heartwarming story”… “Wow! That was a wonderful story. I so enjoyed hearing about Miss Ellie. I’ve read Gayle’s short stories in her book ‘Painting Pictures and Other Stories’ and she continues to impress me” … “so engaging. I was surprised when it ended, I was expecting and wanting more”… “Gayle is such an amazing writer. I got so caught up in the story; at times becoming very emotional” … “Gayle continues to a special writer to me. I connect with her work. I read ‘Painting Pictures and Other Stories’ and was so inspired by her writing! She always impresses me” … “Wow!! You are talented my lady. Keep up the good work!!” … ” What an engaging piece of work! “Miss Ellie’s” visuals are vivid and the tone very soft and loving. Thank you for yet another lovely story, Gayle. I was just sad that the story had to end.”… “I really enjoyed this” … “love this story“]

Heather Doram’s Rightful Place

[viewer response: “absolutely stunning“]

X-Saphair King’s Turmoil Within

[note: I saw this in a local exhibition and specifically reached out to the artist; it’s nice to see some artists rebelling against the idea that art has to be ‘pretty’ as opposed to telling its own unique story. That divergence from the norm is creating interesting works like this one.]

X-Saphair King’s Strength through Pain

[viewer response: “Hauntingly inspiring“]

A LIFE, a Spirit…a Name by Barbara Arrindell

Little Red Hoodie by Kimolisa Mings

[note: pretty sure I asked for this one as well. Kim is better known locally as a poet than a story writer but I was familiar with this story, having edited an earlier draft for the author. It doesn’t have the lyricism of her poetic voice but it has a certain boldness and I appreciated the work she had put into the crafting and re-crafting of it so that she didn’t just have a good idea but a good idea well executed. I liked that it was at once paying homage to and subverting a popular children’s fairytale; I liked that it demonstrated that there were writers among us both honouring and breaking with the traditions of genre and narrative – acknowledging the foundations on which they stood but building their own, somewhat askew, wing. I also liked that though it took something from European lore, it was very much rooted in the modern Caribbean, to an unsettling degree, considering how dark it gets – though ironically in so doing it hews closer to the original version of the fairy tales than the romanticized Disney versions.]

Diaspora by Shakeema Edwards

[note: having seen this young woman come through the ranks of programmes like Wadadli Pen and the Independence literary arts competition, and other writing and arts programmes, I reiterate that she is one to watch. She’s always had a confidence and ease with language that gives her a good head start. I’ll always remember interviewing her about her winning submission to the Best of Books’ Dancing Nude in the Moonlight next chapter contest, in which fans of my book were asked to continue the story just one chapter more…surreal right? More so that when I asked her if it was challenging, she said no, not particularly. If my writer-self as author of the original work was mildly affronted that she found it that easy to match my style, the side of me that mentors other young writers, who has worked with Shakeema in at least two writing programmes, Great Young Minds and the Independence young writers retreat, was impressed with her handling of voice and style because it really was uncannily well-matched to the original work. You’ll read it for yourself when you read the new edition of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, forthcoming from Insomniac, with extras like Shakeema’s fan fic. Clearly as this and her other accepted submission to the Tongues issue demonstrates, she continues to grow in strength of voice and skill as a writer. Like I said, one to watch. Reader response: “Enjoyed this humorous take on how we try to fit into new environments and lose a part of our identity in the process.”]

Small Island Deprivations by Althea Romeo Mark

[reader response: “Althea Romeo-Mark can guide us through the forests and deserts of Africa, the mountains and lakes of Europe, the highest structures of North America, Asian rivers and streams, through magnificent Australian walkabouts, islands that thrive on the beauty of small things with equal facility and familiarity. No migrant is capable of such an awesome feat. Only a citizen of the world is so qualified.”]

Woman to Woman by Tameka Jarvis-George

Black Woman Cry by Charles Langley

Her Missing Fingers by Devra Thomas

[note: Devra is another Wadadli Pen alum. Happy to see her stretching herself creatively.]

Strange Fruit by Tammi Browne Bannister

[reader response: “Thought-provoking. My kind of read.”]

That Laugh by Shakeema Edwards

Smitten by Rosalie Richards

[note: and so begins the Wadadli Pen portion of the issue. I launched Wadadli Pen programme to encourage young writers back in 2004 and it continues to be a gateway for emerging talent of which the authors of Smitten, The Legend of the Sea Lords, and the Night I went to Cricket are only three recent examples]

The Legend of the Sea Lords by Vega Armstrong

The Night I went to Cricket by Zion Ebony Williams

Unwanted Visitors by Althea Romeo Mark

Brown Girl in the Ring by Linisa George

[note: this poem has become somewhat iconic locally, as a favourite through several stagings of When a Woman Moans, Antigua’s answer to the Vagina Monologues, which was also staged by the same group of which Linisa is a part, a quartet of theatrical activists – Women of Antigua. I requested it specifically for the issue, sure that it would be the perfect way to round things out. Most recently, it’s referenced during a pivotal arc in my book Musical Youth. Clearly, I’m a fan.] UPDATE: After being featured in this issue, this poem was selected as a performance piece for the 2015 Shakespeare in Paradise festival in the Bahamas.