‘Bad Words’ at Calabash 09

Calabash Vibes: The Underage drinker Drew, The fossil Blinger, Marlon, the proprietor of the world’s coolest name, Johnny Temple, the never far from a camera Annabelle, and some writer named Junot Diaz. Photo: courtesy The Fossil Blinger.

WRITER & WIFE: Anthony Winkler and spouse, Cathy, at Calabash (i enjoyed a brief career as Winkler’s wife courtesy Tallawah Review. The error has now been corrected).


The Torment of Saint Anthony, reportedly by Michelangelo

Writers are not the most spectacular looking creatures (except for Terese Svoboda who apparently dazzled the Calabash crowd with her silver-sequined mini dress if not her poetry) so i thought i’d lead into my first brief on the literary festival with some unrelated but compelling images from the artworld.

Japanese artist Takashi Murakami poses on top of one of his art works. EFE/Ym Yik.

I’ll tell you up front. The main draws for me at Calabash 09 were Patrick French, Junot Diaz and Pico Iyer. Many of the other literary stars i’d already heard read or know personally. I’ve heard Stacey Ann Chin at least four or five times but was still eager to hear what she might say or read from her memoir. I heard her being interviewed on radio recently and she struck me as more mature and thoughtful than on previous occasions where her rage outran her rapport with the audience.

Stacey Ann Chin flanked by Mr. Seaga and Anthony Winkler.
captions courtesy Peter Dean Rickards

Chin didn’t disappoint. Her account of her first encounter with a sanitary pad under the gimlet
(if grim) gaze of her aunt played havoc with the Jamaican sensibilities present some of whom shook their heads in disbelief. Stacey Ann proceeded with the frank chronicling of her abused pumpum, followed by Mr. Seaga whose autobiographical account was severe and puritanical in contrast. One of my companions sardonically remarked that he seemed to be reading his resume. Anthony Winkler, who followed, restored the climate of lewdness and profanity that had been set in motion the first night by an ebullient Junot Diaz. Winkler regaled the audience with the story of ‘Greasy Legs’ a prostitute who initiated generations of Cornwall College students into the slippery secrets of her anatomy.

The session between Paul Holdenberger and Pico Iyer took the festival out of the gutter to spiritual heights as travel writer Pico (whose work i used to read in Time magazine) described the peripatetic trajectory of his existence. A citizen of the Global Commons if ever there was one, Iyer (pronounced the way many locals pronounce ‘Higher’ but with a Barbadian ‘I’) personifies the figure of the Nomad, combining contemporary radical chic (he once spent two weeks at LA International Airport as part of the research for his book Global Soul) with a yearning for the timeless, ageless monasticism of ancient Eastern cultures.

The next session of invited readers included Laura Fish from the University of Newcastle whose second novel Strange Music is about Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Fish’s father resides at the Greenwood Great House near Falmouth where the Barrett Brownings lived. Fish struck a clean, light note followed by Marlon James, whose compelling, dark novel The Book of the Night Women has just been published to much critical acclaim. His profanity-laden reading found disfavour with audience members who had brought their children with them. They attempted to intervene without success and were reminded by the organizers that Calabash is, after all, an adult event.

From the album:
“Wall Photos” by Marlon James
Because the kiddies deserve a good story too. I know, please keep your awwws to yourselves

Does shielding young ears from words like pussy, bombaclaat, pumpum and other such words ensure a more sensitive, ethical adult? Especially when they can see for themselves the hypocritical, unjust society we live in? And if we assume that all the outraged adults yesterday had been similarly shielded in their childhood why aren’t we living in a better organized, more just society?

Patrick French was the boomshot for me. He didn’t just read from his superb biography of Naipaul. His comments and reactions to place names in Jamaica, his thoughts on Caribbean and Trinidadian society, his observations on Derek Walcott’s dubbing Naipaul the Mongoose at Calabash O8 engagingly prefaced the reading. His performance was deft and sure-footed. It never fails to impress me that the best writers are careful to leave you wanting more (as did Edwidge Danticat and Junot Diaz on the first night) while the lesser ones have no qualms about abusing your patience. It’s like blogging–you do have the freedom to go and on but is that really the wisest strategy in engaging your readers?

Postscript: Incidentally it is NOT true that Stacy Ann Chin has instructed her publishers not to distribute her memoir in Jamaica. I asked her myself and she said that the UK rights have not yet been negotiated although the US rights have and since Jamaica falls under the former where book distribution rights are concerned we will have to wait for bookshops here to stock it. The book is also being vetted to ensure that Ja’s strict libel laws have not been violated. When are we going to revise these? I mean antiques have their place but not in law surely? In the meantime anyone wanting a copy of Stacy Ann’s book can easily order it from Amazon.

Author: ap

writer, editor and avid tweeter

55 thoughts on “‘Bad Words’ at Calabash 09”

  1. Swearing is illegal in Jamaica, after all. Even though “bad wud” have been uttered in theatres for years without anyone commenting. Class is as class does. Or something like that.

    What did French say about Jamaican place names? Did he comment about the gutters in Gutters? The absence of treasure in Treasure Beach? The number of alligators in Alligator Pond?

    My family is from not too far from there, and my former home looks down on that shore.

  2. Nice teaser, Annie. We want more, more, more!!!

    Maybe I’ll start lacing every conversation with a few claats whenever I’m around the pristine ones. If they feel so entitled to ruining otherwise heady experiences with their uptightness, I feel completely entitled to doing the same to them.

  3. I’m the bane of mothers everywhere! Lock up your children before I say another bloodclaat! I’m almost not surprised by what happened,quite frankly and will certainly expect more of the same the next few weeks. We jamaicans have very strict expectations about entertainment and the idea that challenge, intelligence or even provocation can come along with it is anathema to us. I think we love our bloodclaats the way we love our dialect, cushioned in slapstick and a rife self jingoism as we become our own Steppin Fetchits. I’ll remember next time to write The Pirates of The Caribbean version of the novel for Jamaican mothers everywhere. Or I could just tell them about dem bloodclaat.

  4. That’s the only thing I disliked about that day, the blatant double standard about the “profanity debacle”. It’s totally ok for Mr. Winkler to go on about ‘greasy legs’ and say “Pum pum closed for maintenance” to roars of laughter and admiration for his style. But OMG that nappy head Niggar Marlon James how dear he not censor his work for ‘MY children’s ears’.
    I really enjoyed most of the readings and mos def Marlon’s I wanted to know more about Homer and what eventually happened, I’m so gonna hunt down his book.
    Calabash introduced me to Marlon James and after his reading I’m so his number 1 groupie. Hey Annie is it ok for me so show my boobs every time he says Bloodclaat next time?

  5. I don’t think the pussyclat protestors had children themselves. They were just protecting the morality of other people’s children, most of whom had already left. But why were there significant groups of children in the ugliest uniforms (I thought we had thought up all the worst colour combinations in T&T: but purple and yellow?) in large numbers on Saturday? I found it charming. And shouldn’t there be a space for young readers and writers at Calabash? It was interesting, however, that it was Marlon’s “pussyclat” epithet that provoked the outburst, not Junot’s permutations of fuck or the morning’s pumpum and narration about an actual pussyclat.

  6. Hi you all and welcome Soucouyant and Eve! Yeah the moral rearmament brigade terrifies me. they’re so sure of themselves. It’s the oddest thing, this obsession with civility, decency, morality and the rest as if observing all the rules is going to tame the violence in this society.

    Afflicted One! never knew you were such a prude and upstanding pillar of society! Mind the Tourist Board inducts you into their swaying welcome dance at the airport soon!

  7. i’m strangely happy that print also suffers from this weird schizophrenia in ja society, the country of daggering. i’ve been raging away about it for film where the most random of people feel they have censorship rights over what films are made in and about our dear homeland. “comfortable with the subject matter” is a phrase that comes up a lot. those same folks may well have been calabashing this fun may weekend… shielding their sensitive ears from all mention of the above mentioned… maybe ja is really just a beautiful palm tree lined, pearly tongued utopia and these other versions of ja with claats and guts and gore are a fiction of some deviant collective imaginations.

  8. This might be way off tangent, but it reminds me of a thesis one of my bloodclaat brilliant students just defended, about the racist and colonial origins of the West Indies public health care system. How at the core of it,was a concrete effort to keep those nasty blackies and their filthy diseases out of white bodies and how should any disease, such as AIDS arises, it must be through some African, some bestial, some non-white source infiltrating white space.

    I say all that because the end result of all this was a mind set and practice that spread to every other sector of life, a privileged few thinking they have the right to make the decision for everybody else because they are more educated, more well bred or just superior to everybody else. Like that white couple that tried have a their Jamaican servant’s tubes tied because the bloodclaat slut couldn’t make responsible decisions herself. We still see it at the core of censorship. You bloodclaat butus can’t make a sensible decision for yourself so I’ll decide what’s right and what’s wrong for you.

  9. Marlon makes an important point. A lot of the lawmaking in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century was based on the presumption that the “lower orders” lacked the moral gumption to decide things properly for themselves. So the superior castes/classes had to spell things out for them, and provide appropriate moral guidance for the inferior sort.

    It’s not an accident that race and class were seen as intertwined by the people in charge in the recent past. George Nathaniel Curzon, who reëstablished Poland, viceruled India, and otherwise made the lives of lots of people miserable, is said to have expressed surprised that East Enders were white.

  10. People does cuss. I am glad that what happened at Calabash did. In 2002 @ the Cropper Workshop in Trinidad my work was heavily criticised by fellow writers because my characters who happen to live in this modern Caribbean does cuss. It is time that we begin to appreciate a modern form in our islands that allow us to hear ourselves for who we are…a people rich in colourful earthy expression. Until then all we are is delusional

  11. I wouldn’t overthink it…

    You wouldn’t want your children to come home and tell you to ‘make some fucking dinner’–regardless of whitey and whatever slave slut got her tubes tied in the 18th century.

  12. Oh Aff how do u know it was the 18th c? it was the 20th actually. you’re just trying to be offensive as usual. and that’s fine.

    Slacker, yes, i know what u mean. I am glad too. for years i’ve been thinking that every time a DJ gets locked up for uttering ‘obscenities’ writers and poets should be objecting and taking a public stance on it. coz what they do and often get away with is no different. and even if that’s not the case freedom of expression is the same whether you’re a poet or a DJ–

  13. Hey if you don’t want your kids to be the type of disrespectful brats who would tell you to make some fucking dinner, learn to be a better parent. Not my job to do your parenting for you.

  14. I think what Annie said above is very true and want to repeat it:

    “for years i’ve been thinking that every time a DJ gets locked up for uttering ‘obscenities’ writers and poets should be objecting and taking a public stance on it.”

    The audience’s reaction to the cussing was surely flavored by the daggering directives and discussions in the media.
    Don’t know much about Golding or his government, or Jamaican politics even but…
    Bad government and censorship go hand in hand.
    People need to speak up…
    It is a slippery slope.

  15. lololol…how come I’m always the bad guy!!? huh!?!?

    The 18th century thing was in reference to what Marlon and FSJL said before about the time period, slavemasters and their sluts,etc.

    I wasn’t trying to “just be offensive”…geez Annie….I only do that when we’re at over your place and we’re liquored up unno!

    Marlon you’re mowing the lawn with a machine gun. Nobody is expecting you to raise anybody’s children, but with all those people there…you think all the cursing brought your point across better?

    I mean, even if you happen to think speaking like a half wit on a half-way tree bus is somehow a cultural delight that everyone should appreciate, you think that sort of language caused the “mock moral outrage” you were hoping for …or just eye-rolling sighs and disgust?

    What do YOU think of people who stand next to you who use the most foul language possible?
    There’s nasty language in every culture…and a time and place for it. I just happen to think that a tent full of children was probably not one of those places.
    “I think we love our bloodclaats the way we love our dialect.”
    Whats so charming about saying “bloodclaat”? The word FUCK is part of your culture too isn’t it? Should we celebrate that as well?
    Just my two cents.
    Annie..did you ask Staceyann to just THINK about wearing a little makeup next time? You have lipstick…give her some noh…laaad dat gyal favour Johncrow.

  16. lawd, Peter Dean, since when you tun so pious? clearly you haven’t been eating your daily jelly…

    the point is should the tent have been full of children? and btw Marlon was the fourth or fifth writer to use the same words, why pick on him?? Take on Junot no? and yes sometimes cussing makes the point or expresses something that no other word will. that’s why cuss words exist.

    I’m fascinated by them.

    anyway, look forward to continuing this argument in my living room with all concerned present and plenty vinho…

  17. I’m not picking on Marlon you know…truth is I wasn’t even THERE and only heard about it via Twitter and Facebook etc.

    It’s not specifically him I’m referring to but since he seems to be defending it so vigorously perhaps it seems that way.

    It’s got nothing to do with me attempting to seem pious either and I’m the last person to get on a high horse because someone swore.

    My only point is that EVERYONE who performs at Calabash knows that people bring their children there, so I’m a little surprised that sort of language HAD to be employed.

    Isn’t there anything equally “intellectually challenging” that could have been used at that particular place that didn’t contain the oh-so-cultrally-powerful use of the word “bloodclaat?”

    C’mon, the thing is SUPPOSED to be about literature isn’t it? The art of writing? Aren’t writers expected to have a mastery of vocabulary instead of a lack of one?

    Does being an ‘artist” mean that saying ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and ‘pussy’ is somehow less vulgar?

    Do we REALLY need to hear about Staceyann’s menses?

    With precedents like these, what titles should we look forward to next year?

    How about : “Colonialist, homophobic, fucking bloodclaat hemmoeroids made me an angry womanist?
    I think I’ll stay in Kingston where I can hear all of that stuff by hanging around the tax office.

    p.s Jello bad…make you lose your keys

  18. This could be a serious conversation, but I’m amused a bit. You weren’t even there, Afflicted, but you pushing your mouth all up front and centre??? Some facts: 1. Most of the kids (and thankfully all the ones in yellow and purple) had left the audience by the time Marlon read. 2. Staceyann and Marlon were reading from published and acclaimed artistic work, not having casual conversation about personal events laced with cusswords. Are we saying writers should censor their published work in their readings because pickney dey? 3. While Junot read at night when the children were tucked safely in their beds with visions of sugar plums and greasy leg dancing in their heads, he’s the one who used epithets as part of his conversation with fellow adults. 4. Well this one is part opinion: The kids the moral police were concerned about weren’t their own, but the groups of schoolchildren taken by the schools to which their parents entrusted them to a nice, proper literary event that suddenly became full of reality, without any parents present to make decisions about whether they were ready for it. That’s what we should be discussing, no?

    Anybody have creative ideas about how, if at all, the inclusion of young readers and writers in Calabash should provide for decisionmaking about their exposure to “adult” content? I don’t have any, but censorship is clearly not an acceptable one.

  19. this raasclaat wase-a-time argument still a gwaan? unnu gwaan mek PD laff afta unnu…Calabash naa miss mi nex year…btw…looking forward to the Vinho Annie!…when?

    lemmie just say tho that if MY Mother had dragged me to a “Literary Arts Festival” as a child i’d be fucken pissed about it…

  20. 1. Why you so concerned with the kids uniforms anyway? Is that supposed to be witty ? Who cares?

    And even if most of the kids had left, my question remains: Was there no better language that could have been selected or was the stuff with the profanity simply the most ‘powerful’ they could extract? If that’s the case…zzzzz

    2. Acclaimed by who ? (and I speak specifically about Chin here not Marlon since I know his critics aren’t the same sort of people who ‘acclaim’ Staceyann’s year-to-year rubbish).

    Marlon’s writing is better than the hyperbolic 1st year university student, psuedo-shock, Jamaica- hating politics that Chin uses to earn a living from the misinformed and often racist special interest groups she panders to. So I am surprised to hear that he chose THAT stuff out of everything else.

    Nobody is trying to censor anybody here so there’s no need for the hippy rage; but children WERE there were they not? Does that count for anything? Do adults (especially so-called enlightened adults) have a responsibility to set an example to young ones?

    Then you’re shocked when some 10-year old tells you FUCK OFF in the supermarket line.

    That’s one of the major problems in this backward country–ZERO respect for children.

    3. Junot is just as boring as anyone else who chose that sort of language at the event. If Calabash isn’t a family event why isn’t that made expressly clear to the public whose taxes help pay for it?

    On the contrary, a quick check of the Calabash INFORMATION PAGE itself turns up this peice of information:

    “Calabash is far and away the best literary festival I’ve ever attended or participated in. Never mind the incredible beauty of the place overlooking the Caribbean, the FAMILY atmosphere, the music, the great international mix of poets and storytellers, and the disciplined organization of the people running things—the Calabash audiences are huge and welcoming, and the writers get to use the best sound system they’ll ever read through again.”
    Russell Banks, novelist

    I don’t know about anyone else, but when I go to a LITERARY festival, I do not wish to hear language of the ILLITERATES.

  21. Here’s an idea for a performance piece next year!:

    ACT 1 : Staceyann starts talking about her menses again

    ACT 2: Hoglike Jamaican policewoman appears on the stage–the type of cop typically deployed to beat rowdy skettels at places like Uptown Mondays.

    ACT 3 : Staceyann screeches at her. Calls her a homophobe.

    ACT 4: Staceyann is grabbed by the hair, dragged off the stage and keeps shrieking until she’s gunbutted with the policewoman’s rusty Marcus Garvey-era revolver before being thrown into a policetruck and prosecuted.

    They’d do it to Macka Diamond and she’s just an old lady!

  22. LOL. I have a feeling this discussion would be a lot better with beer. But think about this. Fine that I’m a literary fiction writer and I should have some sort of vocabulary, if not intelligence. But what do I do when I’m writing about a character who does not have my vocabulary (or for that matter intelligence)? What does he or she say when she cusses? If I had my slaves shouting “heaven’s to betsy” or “well I never” instead of “what di blooclaat,” am I not being artistically dishonest? Sure I could make my characters speak well and show some restraint but then they wouldn’t be real.

    And sure I could tidy up for a public event, but people with children can’t assume that any artistic event has been censored for the kiddies, nor should they. I can’t imagine anybody telling Toni Morrison to read from somewhere decent because there are children present. I actually think children SHOULD be there, and they should realise that art that reflects life isn’t always safe. I’d think two slave women owning their orgasms would be a lot more empowering than somebody coming to tear them out wide and kill dem with stab.

    This goes toward explaining why I have so much trouble teaching jamaican writers how to write. This idea that expletives should never be used, even in a character that uses expletives. People say fuck in PG 13 movies. People say raasclaat in real life. I’m writing people. That’s how people talk. As for the passage, I chose it because it shows maybe more than anywhere else how the relationship between these women advance and undercut them at the same time.That means bonding in private over dirty jokes about sex, but it also means clashing over how to deal with being whipped every day while others are being killed about them. Lilith says she’s going to run away. Homer says don’t make it worse. Lilith says How the bloodclaat it must get worse? Jamaican mothers are horrified.

  23. My father, who was a good, earthy south St Elizabeth man, would regularly declare “to fortynine!” (in what Afficted would call a Marcus Garvey-era accent) to express his feelings.

    Heavens to Betsy! I think I’ll get the smelling salts out.

  24. lololo hello Diatribalist! welcome back, it’s been a while.

    Marlon, great response…

    yes, especially with that last response this has got to be one of the best comment threads around.

    Soucouyant, thanks for all yours too.

    yes Frag pull out your smelling salts and keep them by you.

    personally i think pd has the hots for Stacey Ann but he won’t have anything to do with women who don’t wear make-up,that’s it!

  25. he needs the makeup Annie…she’s not naturally pretty and has that disease that makes your face look like is has a pimply rash…what’s it called again? Rosacea? If she’s gonna be in the entertainment business, she could fix herself up a bit couldn’t she? No wonder the boys don’t like her.

    Marlon, I hear you about the pointlessness of trying to tone down the slave sexy-time chat. But the website DOES say that it’s a family event, so even if you happen to be liberal enough to believe its somehow beneficial to tell our girl children some slave vagina stories, I’m afraid there’s going to be some objections.

    If I took my little niece to see ICE AGE 3 after the website tells me its rated G..and I go there and she sees a couple of Mammoth lesbians screwing each other with a giant two-way dildo, I would be annoyed.

    But you still haven’t answered my question…artist licence or not, don’t you think you could have read something else with the little ones around? Laaaad.

    Re: “Homer says don’t make it worse. Lilith says How the bloodclaat it must get worse?”

    The use of the word bloodclaat there doesn’t emphasize anything in that sentence. If you used the word “fucking” instead of bloodclaat it would seem equally cheesy.

    People don’t always swear to convey emotion. To me its a rather easy way out, somehow excused by the hippies as permisable since its “culturally ours” as opposed to the nasty language of whitey.

  26. I suppose a “Whore House Full of Cunts” is also a better vocabulary, in French it is so. If you don’t know what is being said, when accompanied by a smile.

    I was once at a very Diplomatic afternoon party when I heard a very uptown female guest say to her daughter, “Yuh nuh have nuh Blood Klaat manners, go tell the Ambassador good evening.

    No one dared say a word, as she was very dark skinned and very rich.

    Who, I want to have lots of money so that I can tell anyone, anything, anytime.

    Yuh si mi?

    Nuff people would like to just cuss, but is afraid of what the neighbour might think.
    What does he do?
    Go to Calabash and turn cussing into poems, literature and what else.

    Can you imagine if he were using another language and no one knew what he were saying?

    It would be the sweetest words ever said.

    A French man in the eighties did his thesis on Jamaican Cuss Words, he was the most recognized of his group as a result.

    Do you imagine the French man getting the same recognition writing about a Whore House Full of Cunts?

    Hell no! A whore house must be loaded with cunts!
    What is so intellectual about a pussy shop filled with pussy!

    Hole on… try Bumbo Klaat, better yet Buuuumbo Klaaaat, Bloood Klaaat, Puuusi Klaaat.

    Did you know that to be a Pussy Klaat, means that you are the “Cats Pajamas”

    Raas Klaat, Head Cloth/scarf.

    Bumbo Klaat, Jungle Prince Cloth, Bumbo is a Christian name for a first born Prince.

    Blood Klaat is the angriest, when a one use this word him feel it from the coccyx, it raise him kundalini.
    But Bumbo Klaat is the mystic. You remember when Bumbo Klaat use to rescue the Pakistanis in a London from the Skin Heads in the eighties. They would become Jamaicans when attacked, and Skin Heads would run fi dem life?

    Yunnou nuh Bumbo Klaat memba! Jamaican people is a bunch of self haters, shut up yuh Raas Klaat and go love yuh self.

  27. But wait deh likkle bit! A wha’ dis a gwa’an yah so p’an Annie blog?

    Yuh si all di one PD, mek im go siddung an shut up im pussyclaat mout an mek big people ta’ak! Every pickney whe’ live a Jamaica ‘ear no ends a badwud every blasted day. When dem can siddung an listen an ‘ear hedicated people a chat same way like di man outta street, dem wi’ get fi realize seh badwud nuh ‘ave nutt’n fi do wid wha’ yuh know or nuh know. A jus’ ow people express demself. If dem parents did a bring dem up right, den dem woudda know seh bad wud a big people bizness. An yuh notice seh a ongle when black people a cuss badwud when everybady a jump up an come chat bout how dem a disgrace demself an tirra tirra? But when dem white people a roun’ up fi dem mout, a pyere kin-teeth a gwa’an. If yuh know o’ much time smaddy come tell me seh bout ‘ow since mi ave hedication mi “shoudda know betta” dan fi seh certain tings. Mi dis kiss mi teeth an’ walk whe’h. Mi nuh inna dis yah colonized mind foolishness so nuh badda come tell mi bout seh jus’ cau’seh Marlon or whoever tun writer so dem cya’an chat di way dem w’aa chat. A ou’fa mout dis? Afta mi na’a pay rent an it certainly nuh jyine no chu’ch! Mek di dyam hipocrite dem gw’eh!

  28. welcome Long B, and Jivaanii thanks for yours!

    very trenchantly put LB, i completely agree. When I told pd that he was in good company with the likes of Barbara Blake Hannah (who apparently complained to the sponsors!)he said he might have to revise his statements…

    can’t you just see them? the Moral Rearmament Crew…BBH with PD bringing up the rear. lolol!

  29. Let me repeat:

    To me its a rather easy way out, somehow excused by the hippies as permissible since its “culturally ours” as opposed to the nasty language of whitey.

    Longbench : There are very good reasons why Patois is an oral tradition. You are another.

    “jyine”, “ongle”, “pyere”, “hedication”?


    While I do realise that you’re trying to come off as a more vulgar, gay-positive version of Miss Lou, you should really understand that Louise Bennett didn’t speak patois solely for the purpose of showing that she could.

    She wasn’t ‘frighten’ for her own culture…you however, are trying just a little too hard.

    But even if it’s clear that your decision to write the most putrid language is probably related to your need to be identified with a wider ‘culture’, the question still remains:

    Why must children be forced to grow up before their time in Jamaica?

    SO WHAT if a child hears the sort of drivel that you just spewed every day of his/her life?

    Does that make it okay? Do you fuck in front of your children too?

    A few weeks ago our friend Eve had observed children drinking alcohol at late night street dances and engaging in acts with grown people on the street–and the feeling was the same.

    I suppose it follows that such behaviour is acceptable and adults should not care because, as you so eloquently pointed out: “Every pickney whe’ live a Jamaica ‘ear no ends a badwud every blasted day.’

    What selfish rubbish!

    Clearly, you think it is more important that you are permitted to express yourself like an uneducated twat than it is for you to simply curb those urges for a moment–if only for the sake of the little impressionable ones.

    For someone who seems to have such a nationalist fervor, one would think you would have a little more interest in the future minds of the country.

    It’s got NOTHING to do with being uptight, colonialist-minded or stuck-up…it has to do with acting with decency when children are around.

    You can cut it up a hundred ways and try to intellectualize it util your big mouth is tired from congratulating yourself, but the fact remains that Calabash is advertised as a family-friendly event. It is partially funded with public money so children (yes even ones in ugly uniforms) SHOULD be able to attend and hopefully come away enlightened.

    Yes there are curse words in literature, but is that an excuse to abuse your artistic licence; bombarding the children’s ears with the most ‘shocking’ thing you can reach for?: greasy legs, maxi pads and sex jokes between slaves?

    Next year, the organizers of Calabash should make it EXPRESSLY CLEAR that the event is an ADULT event where the subject matter and language used is NOT appropriate for children.

    That way, people will know not to bring their children; and Calabash will be forced to use some of those tax dollars to promote writers who will have to work a little harder to produce the ‘mock outrage’ that keeps them relevant.

  30. I really wonder who “AFFLICTED” is, because I would really take IT on directly. A dis-ease which needs a cure.

    Do you know why Children grow up before their time? (How can anyone grow-up before their time? A dem kinda statement yah Grine up people’s head)

    It is because they are sodomized by their Pastors and their Parents! That, not only grow them up, it grows them OUT… of consciousness.

    It is not what is said to them. It is what is done to them.

    You know I was at Calabash and mi neva hear non a wha mi and di res a talk bout.
    I must have been too busy listening to real life.

    Anyway if mi fallow dem people yah Satan kick mi outta hell.

    AFFLICTED! You really are! So mi nuh tink yuh have anything to say. I think that you should go back to Nowhere, as there is no culture on earth without WORDS OF PASSION, AKA, Cuss Words.

    I wonder what you would do, were I to tell you that Shakespeare was a Black Man and that his language were that of the streets.

    I am sure that you would Lynch yourself.

    Don’t care if yuh black or white…

    My allegiance is to that of The Truth of peoples of this planet.

    One Love!

    Nothing more to say, Annie should lock this down!

  31. Jiivanii : Tell me, since you’re all about the natural REAL LIFE of CULTURE and the “truth of the people”…tell me, what is it that separates you from the animals? I thought it was only animals that were inseparable from the habits of their common group.

    If you think that language and the things children hear are not important in the formation of their minds, my suggestion is that you step back from this conversation, strip off your clothes and go swing from a tree.

    It’s only natural.

    Nobody was arguing that curse words don’t exist or are not used in every culture. Did you actually read anything I wrote up there or are you just doing your part as a card carrying member of the confused, Caribbean-hippy mafia that is beyond correcting their own behaviour–no matter how obviously wrong they are?

    Go fly a fucken kite.

    There is no argument here about how one writes or the choice of language one uses in that writing. The only point being asserted here is that with the presence of children, people could have used some discretion.

    This is the first time I have EVER heard that Calabash is an ‘adult event, after all.’

    So now we know.

    PS. Shakespeare? Shaaaaaadaaaap.

  32. “Nothing more to say, Annie should lock this down!”

    Isn’t it interesting that when the hippies are called out on their crass behaviour the first thing they wanna do is ‘lock it down’?

    Where was that ‘mock outrage’ when the little children were hearing about greasy legs and Staceyann’s bleeding pussy?? Oh that was coming from those evil, uptight Jamaican mothers–they don’t count.

  33. Hail Annie Paul, what whole heap a cass cass pon yuh blog! Some bloggers seem to be taking this thing waaaaaay too personal!

    Afflicted/PD has made a consistent and cogent argument which is yet to be addressed by the “card carrying member[s]of the confused, Caribbean-hippy mafia that is beyond correcting their own behaviour.”

    Afflicted has responded to every concern raised about his position on this matter with clarity and in an almost academic manner. His responses have helped to give me a better perspective on a matter which is not as clear cut as some of us would try to make it out to be.

    Afflicted 1000 points, everybody else 1 point…2 at most;

    By the way, Annie it is liberals who now seem to be overly confident and sure of themselves…equating personal opinion with fact. Additionally, we seem to be continually sacrificing restraint and common sense at the altar of entitlement to the god selfishness.

    Peace and love, Stero

  34. Logged on to tell Annie thanks for the welcome, but this thread at least seemed to indicate this wasn’t a productive space for me to share thoughts. Now I’m just fascinated that you guys appear to share a social network, despite these profound differences in values and the meanness of the exchanges. That’s fucking amazing, and maybe there’s a lesson there for me in that, even as someone used to Trini picong.

    But, Afflicted, you need to look into getting own space to blog, man. I’m glad you finally found some sense of humour in the ugly uniforms, though.

    Two points of substance about children:

    Why is menstruation so offensive? (Both the actual thing and the way a mere claat exponentially amplifies the severity of a cuss). I know the ugly, untalented Lesbian is Afflicted’s nemesis, but if anything, Staceyann’s reading was totally the singular thing in Calabash best tailored to kids.

    And why must taxpayer dollars only fund common denominator “family friendly” activities? That concept certainly seems imported full cloth from some policy tank in the US. Isn’t the democratic State supposed to fund especially things the popular market will not, such as things related to minorities (the sexual ones too).

  35. Well, well, well. I see The Afflicted One has come out of hiding – BIG TIME.

    A/PD: Let me deal with the salient issues raised in your otherwise obnoxious commentary (seems this is a persona you actively cultivate and probably even get off on, yes? Hence the advanced troll-ish behaviour here)

    You raise a legitimate issue about how Calabash is billed; as all things go, it is only when these violations of the unspoken/taken-for-granted occur that policies are usually clarified. This is one such occasion. I’m sure there will be some announcement or something next time. So, no need to get all huffy about an event that you didn’t even bother to support with your presence.

    There is also the issue of how children figure into Jamaica’s literary/literacy culture. After the politicians read a book to the children for a photo-op, and the MOE and the Moral Ones bemoan the decline in literacy among youth, not much is really being done to change that situation. And illiterate youth do grow up to be illiterate adults. This still needs to be addressed, although not necessarily or only by Calabash.

    I do believe that there SHOULD be a place for children at Calabash; not every event at a literary festival is intended for or oriented towards kids’ ears, and doesn’t need to be. However, I don’t think that A/PD’s reactionary position of equating a few, isolated instances where writers and audience are dealing with sexually explicit material or language with some kind of irresponsible attack/scourge on children’s moral development is tenable or even relevant – the kids were not even there for God’s sake!!

    While you are so dismissive of Longbench’s comments about the problem of attaching cursing to educational or moral status, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to you that your condescending attitude is also part of the problem, and clearly informs why you feel so entitled to wound people with your very proper english words, and why you seem to have little regard for patwa, but yet love to “feature” it in your creative work. Apparently patwa ought to be reserved for raw, vulgar, spoken entertainment, and that’s the only way you can deal with it. Well, like Annie notes, you are definitely cut from the same ideological cloth as some of the people you seem to want to distance yourself from.

    While Longbench and Staceyann can defend themselves, I have to say, you have a fucking nerve spewing your sexist crap all over this blog and this conversation! You clearly want to believe that you have some insider hipster knowledge about all things Jamaican and which is supposed to legitimize the comments you make here. But really, A/PD, you are just another know-it-all Jamaican (is there any other kind, really?) offering an opinion, and not even a well-thought out one either (e.g. how is an adult cursing in front a child equivalent to two adults fucking in front of a child? Hmm?) Really, as your commentary suggests, you are quite ordinary, not as special or as different as you want us to believe. We are ok with that. You should try to be too.

    BTW: My commentary is personalized, because you have made very personal attacks against several persons in this discussion. Thus I feel entirely at liberty in tellin’ yuh bout yuhself.

    I fully expect you to come back with some other facetiness, so go right ahead and say your next best.

    One love,


  36. “The use of the word bloodclaat there doesn’t emphasize anything in that sentence. If you used the word “fucking” instead of bloodclaat it would seem equally cheesy.”

    Dude thanks for the editorial opinion, but I already have an editor and he’s pretty good. and I think you meant “fuck”, not “fucking.”

    LOL. If only I didn’t say one little bloodclaat. I don’t know where Calabash said they were a “family event”, nor do I know of any literary festival in the world, and I’ve been to quite a bit that bill themselves as such, even those with with tents for children. As for whether to use bloodclaat in my prose or not, the choice is mine and my editors. No offence to who thinks it was lazy, or cheap or vulgar, but I wrote it for me, not for you. You don’t like it, don’t buy it. You don’t want to hear it publicly, then don’t go to the event. You want to set a moral standard for yourself? kudos but leave me to set my own and if we don’t connect so be it. Would I have read from that passage had I seen children still in the audience? maybe not, but I didn’t and I’m not apologising for not making a sweep row to row to search for the kiddies. And hey, I get it that some of us are so brilliant that we don’t need to use expletives even with characters who would cuss, but forgive me for trusting my editor’s instincts instead of yours. Weirdly enough that’s the passage I’ve read to audiences all over, but it’s the Jamaicans who make a big fuss over it. How about sitting down with your children and explaining the good and bad ways people talk about sex and their bodies so that they can learn language and context so that they can make their own decisions? You can either explain what poison is, or keep it hidden hoping they will never find it.

  37. The ‘humor’ about the children’s uniform is still not funny, but since you appear to be Trinidadian I suppose you can’t help that. But I wouldn’t use it at any parties if I were you.

    Menstruation…yah..charming. Next.

    Natalie: My behavior has been anything but Troll-like. I know Annie very well.

    There is no reason for me to have any “regard for patwa” one way or the other. It’s around me all the time. I’m not some culture-fascinated idiot who giggles every time it is employed…especially when it is employed for no other reason than to curse.

    Patois is an ORAL tradition.
    That’s where it belongs. People who attempt to write it sound stupid (especially the uptown ones who think it’s sooooo amusing); but, if you are someone who actually understands the dialect, you also should understand that reading and attempting to write patois is definitely NOT the same as speaking it.

    With that in mind, one wonders why you would be encouraging it since you seem to view it as some sort of national treasure that should be protected, not destroyed by people who attempt to standardize it for their own benefit.

    If you don’t want it reduced to the utter nonsense that Jiivanii has so kindly demonstrated, I suggest you jump sides of this argument; unless of course you are one of those UWI people who gets paid to travel to foreign places teaching people how we speak on the bus (Carolyn? You in the building? I think I heard someone call you!).

    I don’t know about anyone else, but if some white ‘writer’ gave lectures at a university I attended and peppered his speech with words like FUCK, SHIT, CUNT and DICK –then excused that as being “representative of the culture”, I would de-register myself and demand a refund of my fees.

    This is part of what afflicts Caribbean writers and artists in general. They see themselves as some sort of culture-communicators, even to those who live and work here every day.
    They pigeon-hole themselves into these stupid little boxes that expects a ‘Caribbean writer’ to speak like a moron about tired old subjects that appeal to the lowest common denominator.

    Of ALL the things to write about? Slave sex jokes? Menstruation? Greasy thighs instead of a pussy.
    Oh how “Caribbean.”

    How edifying.

    Such masterly use of language and imagination.

    If that means certain people want to accuse me of being cut from a higher ideological cloth, you better believe that I won’t be losing any sleep over it.

    I have no problem being viewed as a classist if being a classist means tempering my language around little children at a function THAT IS CONSISTENTLY PROMOTED AS A FAMILY EVENT.

    This is why I was so amazed to read that when the mothers complained they were told that Calabash is ‘an adult event after all.” That is an outright lie and the organizers know it. If it was otherwise they wouldn’t promote it as such on their own website and they probably wouldn’t be able to access the public money that they do.

    As a matter of fact, the only warnings that I’ve ever seen at Calabash are the signs telling you that cameras are not permitted. Imagine the nerve! How DARE the public take photographs of men and women of such bumbopussyclaat letters!

    Google this word: Pretentious (for for those of you who prefer the slang version: “YUH TOO BLOODCLAAAT NUFF”..hoo-hoo..hee-hee…are we all culturally delighted now?!)

    Tell me Natalie, did your mother and father swear at you and around you from the time you knew how to walk? Did the people they invited into your home swear at will? Did they take you to the same sorts of movies that they attended, citing the ‘reality of life’ as a justification?

    If that’s the case, I guess I understand your weird personal attacks; but how sad that you were denied the childhood that I had.

  38. Sorry, made some changes to my last post:

    PD seems to be arguing two things here, which have nothing to do with each other. If he is arguing about the proper time and place to say whatever, I take his point and will censor myself next time I read in this country. But he’s also arguing whether my using the expletive in the first place makes for good writing or not and for that decision I’ll humbly defer to my own instincts and my editor. Cool?

    Maybe it’s time this comment stream came down since we’re diminishing into nasty attacks on each other instead of criticizing the writing or the moral and social consequences of it. I know this the last time I’m saying anything on this matter. MJ out.

  39. wow! ok. had enough everyone? before anyone takes the trouble to write another long response just remember that it may not be published…

    Stero it only remained for you to add your contrary voice to the argument!

    glad we broke the 50 comment barrier though…ta all!

  40. This is one dope-a#% commentary on a festival I should not have missed! Thanks! I will definitely link to it from my blog. You made me feel like I was there.
    Warm hugs from Cph,
    the lab

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