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. I’m also going to Mailbox Monday it. 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.


Site Updates (August 3rd 2017)

I have added my review of/reflections on the reading of Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then here so so, and archived my previous review (Shakirah Bourne’s In Time of Need) which you can still read here.

See now then

More books finished. You know what that means; time to update the wish list. Seemed a good time to update Joanne’s picks as well. It’s a LP post.

I’ve also updated the media page with links to my interviews on The Culture Trip and African Book Addict, and my guest post on Wandering Educators. I hope you’ll check those out. As noted before, I am not always able to respond to individual requests for information, but this is a one stop shop for any information that I am comfortable sharing publicly – and some that I’m not.

If you check the Networked page, you’ll see an addition and subtraction there. The addition is Women who live on Rocks, a mostly expat site about the lighter side of island living. I thought I’d bring some homegrown flava (lol) so I applied to become one of their bloggers. Here’s my first post.




IC Excerpts

In December 2016, Interviewing the Caribbean, a Caribbean arts journal edited by Opal Palmer Adisa, ran two of my poems, a short story, and an interview. Half a year on from the publication of those pieces, I’ve decided to share the interview with you, though I invite you to check out the entire issue and all other issues of IC, after reading my review of  IC 2016 Part 1, of course.

IC: Both poems reference the violence of poverty, where hope collapses in lieu of things, basic needs. You are known primarily as a prose writer, where does poetry fit into your portfolio?

Interviewing the CaribbeanJoanne C. Hillhouse: I write probably just as much poetry as fiction, and have published some in journals, but fiction is my one true love and poetry …well, maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never studied poetry writing, not the way I’ve studied fiction, or maybe it’s the editor whose rejection included the shade that my poetry is not up to the standard of my fiction but, to my mind, my poetry hand is not as strong as my fiction hand. But I work at it, I keep coming back to it, I enjoy reading and writing it, and I don’t like to paint myself into corners when it comes to writing. I experiment across genres and sub-genres, so for me poetry is another area of expression and experimentation.

IC: Are there specific issues/subjects that demand poetry, while others demand prose?

Joanne C. Hillhouse: Good question. I’ve never really thought about that. I think my
poetry tends to deal with more personal themes but then my better poetry, like the ones you’ve chosen, are not really personal at all. So, I don’t know. I think fiction tends to come to me through characters and trying to map their journey, while my poetry tends to be more responsive to instinct and feeling. But I’ve dealt with the same themes in both, in some way.

IC: The man or persona in “The Bamboo Raft” seems like a good candidate for the “Election Season” politicians as his dire poverty is for sale, with just a little hope. Can you speak to the violence of poverty in the Caribbean and its impact on people’s lives.

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I don’t know if I can speak broadly to the violence of poverty. I
also don’t believe that poor people are more inclined toward violence, criminality, or corruption. What I will say is that, as evidenced by Election Season, I get frustrated that the people continue to be sold a six for a nine and continue to allow themselves to be sold a six for a nine, in this five year political carnival that leaves the most economically vulnerable just as vulnerable as they were. But when you’re trying to make life sometimes you don’t have the luxury of looking at the big picture, even though you’re the person who most needs to. I think the status quo works for who it works for, and it’s not the most economically deprived. It can be a self-defeating cycle. That said, I grew up in the working class community of Ottos, Antigua, and what we lacked was a “reality”—what I mean is the material things, and whatever status they conferred, we lacked, but the absence of those things didn’t define us, not in our own minds, and with our parents emphasizing education and hard work and resourcefulness, we knew it didn’t have to limit us. And I don’t think we were unusual in that.

IC: As a writer who loves and cares about her island, where do you see hope? Do you see an end to the senseless violence.

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I see hope in the children always. I am very engaged with my nieces and nephews. I volunteered with the Cushion Club reading club for kids over the years and have seen people come through that programme who had chips on their shoulder because of where they come from in society and how they might have been perceived because of it, come through and surprise themselves with how great and full of potential they are. I’ve done youth writing and youth media training workshops where you see the growth even over the course of a two week programme that you wish the funding was there to allow to continue year round—especially when they meet you in the street and ask, when we doing it again? And you can’t believe it’s the same person who didn’t seem to be that into it to begin with. I’ve seen some slip through the cracks as well, don’t get me wrong, and I know what it is to stand in front of a classroom and feel the undiluted impact of teen apathy and entitlement. But the ones that grow into themselves give me hope. And also, I run the Wadadli Pen youth writing programme; I’ve seen people write themselves free of their insecurities (as one testified years later in an open letter) through using their voice—which is why I’m a big proponent of the arts in the becoming of young people— and feel that we are not doing enough to create programmes and programme continuity when it comes to youth development. Not just the literary arts or just the arts. It can be sports, as in the case of one of my nieces, or whatever stimulates them, but something they can focus on that can be an outlet for their confusion and imagination, something that can begin to suggest to them their value, or can give them a space to work through their anger as they begin to come to terms with how unfair the world can be. Also, hopefully, they can see how beautiful it can be; because creativity is the very definition of beauty in the world. So, yeah, cliché as it is, the youth, that’s where hope lies. And it’s crazy disorienting (pleasantly so) to then have a conversation with them as a young adult after everything—you just want to squeeze their cheeks and squee look at you all grown and bout your business…but you restrain yourself, of course.

IC: “Zombie Island,” despite its nihilistic title and the trajectory of the story that descends into total chaos, ends on a romantic and positive note—not everyone is jaded and even in the worst of situations, people can care for and protect one another. That’s a very hopeful and affirming ending. Do you believe that good overcomes evil?

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I’m not Pollyanna and I have my dark and despairing periods when it comes to all the evil and suffering and badmindedness in the world, but I suppose I do lean toward hope or some days, if I’m being real, the hope of hope…how else are you supposed to get out of bed in the morning?

IC: What would you say is the antidote for this violence in the Caribbean? It seems to me that some of us have always been able to keep the violence at bay, to continue to live in harmony, to reach deep down and come up with a smile as Sammy and the protagonist of the story manage. Do elaborate.

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I don’t know that there’s a single antidote. We have the pain of
our history, the baggage we still carry, poverty, violence, disconnection from ourselves. I suppose my actions speak to some of the things that can be done, what worked for me—giving our young people an opportunity to tap in to their creativity, a forum to express themselves, to connect with what they’re really feeling, and to know that that’s okay, to listen and to hear each other, all of that. I don’t have faith that the politicians will do it and so we do what we can in our homes and in our communities, however big or small or personal our community is. As for Sammy’s smile, never underestimate the power of laughter.

IC: I have heard it said that the violence in the Caribbean is a failure of independence, that the Caribbean was better under colonial rule. What are your thoughts on this perspective?

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I don’t believe being subject to the vision and will of another is
ever better; however, more…orderly…it might have been. The worst and most sustained violence we experienced as a people was under colonialism, pre and post emancipation, beginning with the violence of being torn from our homes. We’re still unhealed in a lot of ways. So, I am not a colonialist, nor am I pro-capitalists who act like colonialists, sometimes with our permission; I am pro-Independence all the way—political independence, economic independence, independence of the mind. But when the foolishness get me vex, the pettiness and the politricks, I sometimes have to remind myself that we are young in our Independence and are going to eff up, but sometimes I wish our learning curve could be sharper and that we could shake the tribalism of partisan politics which is stunting us. One of my favourite songs is King Obstinate’s Believe; we sing it and its vision of who and how we could be, if we harnessed our collective will to the purpose of nation building, but sometimes I don’t know if we hear it and its call to, “believe in yourself, most of all as one people.”

IC: As a Caribbean writer, what are your hopes for the Caribbean/for

Joanne C. Hillhouse: That’s a big question. I hope we get better, do better. And if I can hit an environmental note for a moment, I hope we realize how blessed we are to live in one of the most beautiful and biodiverse places in the world, respect the balance, and resist the impulse to destroy it in the name of the almighty dollar. I hope we truly start acting like we really believe our people and especially our youth are our most valuable resource by investing in programmes and the sustainability of programmes meant to nurture their potential—including creative/arts programmes. Beyond that I guess I hope we center ourselves in our own story.

IC: What keeps you writing and where do you envision your writing in the next five to ten years?

Joanne C. Hillhouse: Honestly, I wish I was doing more writing. My spirit is never so full, my mind never so focused as when I’m writing. My writing, I mean. Writing gives me life and there are times, I’m convinced,  that it saved my life. The pull of the characters, the many things I don’t know, the sunset I saw this evening …all these things keep me writing. And yet I have so many unfinished things. I make my living as a freelancer (writer, editor, writing coach, course/workshop facilitator, etc.), so the hustle is real, but I also feel blessed that I’m able to make my living doing what I love. I hope my writing hand will continue to grow stronger. I hope to still be a freelancer, emphasis on free, but I hope for a better balance of the writing I do and the writing I have to do…good health and more travels. So, if you know of any programmes looking to sponsor a writer…

IC: What is your writing process?

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I write. Wherever, whenever I can. I write.

IC: Your story, “Zombie Island,” seems to straddle genres, but more importantly tries to find a “logical” reason to explain the surge of violence in the Caribbean. Speak about the impetus for this story.

Joanne C. Hillhouse: I love zombie movies and TV shows. I wanted to write one. I like to try my hand at things I’ve never written before. That’s how I ended up trying my hand at noir, and the teen/young adult genre that resulted in my book, Musical Youth, a Burt Award finalist, or the fairy tale, With Grace, that’s shortly due out as a children’s picture book. So, it was that impulse to try something I hadn’t done, to experiment. It was also the reality of violence—everything that happened in that story including a raging man banging down my door happened in life, though none of it, as is always the case with fiction, happened as it happens in life. My irritation with the politics is there as well, so it must have been political season when I wrote it. But mostly it was me wanting to see if I could tell a zombie tale at all, and then more specifically a zombie tale in a Caribbean space, not the snarling horror of it, but the creeping awareness of it…and then, of course, the snarling horror of it.

Press Release – With Grace, a Caribbean Faerie Tale, Lands Just in Time for Christmas — Wadadli Pen

On Wednesday 21st December 2016, the Best of Books bookstore on St. Mary’s Street hosted the launch of the latest book by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse. The book, With Grace, a Caribbean faerie tale, is the sixth book and second children’s picture book by the local writer. “In With Grace, Joanne has […]

via Press Release – With Grace, a Caribbean Faerie Tale, Lands Just in Time for Christmas — Wadadli Pen

News and such

Just came across this notice about my panel at the Brooklyn Book Fair at Poets & Writers (trippy)


More news re book end events at the Brooklyn Book Fair courtesy Caribbean Cultural Theatre via St. Lucia Online

Programming note: I’m told my books will be on sale at Powerhouse (Saint Ann’s, Brooklyn Historical Library, Brooklyn Historical Society) & I’ll also be with CaribbeanReads (Musical Youth’s publisher) at the Caribbean Cultural Theatre tent (Booth 121 – Korean War Memorial Plaza at Cadman Plaza West – Downtown Brooklyn, NY 11201).

…and the St. Croix Source has an announcement re the next edition of The Caribbean Writer (check it out)

Always a Winner!

This video is kind of blink and you miss it but, hey, I’ll take it (thanks, Alscess Lewis Brown).

I wish you could see what came before. There was a little dance off. You’ll remember I did a similar thing during my Musical Youth Schools Tour here in Antigua, specifically during the Antigua Girls High School stop.

“Shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop. Shoulder-shrug, chest-pump, hip-sway, hop… and Zahara’s body tensed up in anticipation of her cue…” – from Musical Youth

Both of these guys gamely took on the Challenge and, whaddya know, they were both wiinners. Because we’re always winners for trying.

For other videos, subscribe to my youtube channel.

Insomniac announces release of Dancing Nude in the Moonlight: 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings

Below is the press release issued by Insomniac on the publication of the 10th anniversary edition of my book Dancing Nude in the Moonlight. Also here’s the PDF: Dancing Nude in the Moonlight f14 press releases 3

Dancing cover 2

“A narrative that is rich in issues, values, intercultural conflict, and gender relations as

they present themselves in Antigua today… (the) love story is sensitive, sensuous, well nuanced…”—

Dr. Elaine Olaoye (Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books, 2008)

Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Antiguan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse’s novella about love across

cultures, was published in 2004 to critical acclaim in the Caribbean. The book is taught in Antiguan

and Barbudan high schools, and gives a touching picture of the problems a young couple

face as they attempt to build a life together.

Selena is from Dominica, and Michael is from Antigua. She is a single mother, struggling to

make a living in a new country. He is a former West Indies cricketer, forced by injury to coach a

school team instead. In spite of their mutual attraction, their path to happiness is a rocky one as

they try to bridge the gaps between their two cultures and their different lives.

In addition to this work, the new edition includes “fan fiction” and poetry based on the story,

and other short stories and poems depicting life in Antigua. Hillhouse’s clear-eyed social observations

and deep understanding of the issues facing women in the modern Caribbean in particular

make these stories tender and powerful. A social worker comes to terms with her own past as

she struggles to help a girl who has been abused; a teacher forms a complex bond with a former

student; and a widow tries to hold onto her memories of her happy marriage in spite of revelations

about her late husband.

Joanne C. Hillhouse is the author of Musical Youth, which placed second in the 2014 Burt

Award for Young Adult Caribbean Fiction; Oh Gad! a 2014 “Weekend Reads” on NPR; The Boy

from Willow Bend; Dancing Nude in the Moonlight; and the children’s picture book Fish Outta

Water. She has also been published in several international journals and anthologies, including

Round My Christmas Tree, Pepperpot: Best New Stories from the Caribbean, For Women: In

Tribute to Nina Simone, and In the Black: New African Canadian Literature. Hillhouse lives in

Antigua. She runs the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize writing program to nurture and showcase the literary

arts. Visit and

November • Fiction • Trade paperback • 978-1-55483-140-1

Canada $19.95 • U.K. £9.95 • U.S.A. $19.95