JAMAICA LAND WE LOVE

Greetings from Guangzhou everyone. i’ll be back next week. in the meantime here’s a poem by Dingo to hold you…

JAMAICA LAND WE LOVE

I woulda cuss some claat if it coulda draw attention to Jamaica land we love
An if dem neva start charge artiste fe it….
I woulda cuss some claat if it coulda draw attention to Jamaica land we love.
Jamaica land we love hobbling along on three flats and de-spair
this gearbox stuck in reverse is so….. “anti-forward”.
So I’m in this bourgeois café, listening to her bourgeois bullshit
An she goin on an on about her last trip to Europe an I’m perplexed
because she keep referring to us as “dem” , keep referring to us as “dem”
an mi confused cause I not sure who she calling “these people”.
An I figure she mean the ones catapulted from oppressed wombs to suck struggle at the nipple.
who with little conviction hold lengthy debates with their stomachs about the ills of overeating,
who no hear say slavery done so nuff a dem still a work fi nuttin,
who’ve been given bran new highways, so now di homeless can live in style,
In Jamaica land we love.

Where the middle class who have hit the oil slick on the mobility pole
Would start another demonstration if they hadn’t so effectively removed their feet.
Right now dem couldn’t galvanize……
Zinc fences used to mek me nervous one o’clock ina di morning,
this bwoy from country a blaze the streets of Kingston
from Bay Farm to Vineyard Town to Arnette
where roadblocks to prevent drivebys would meet wid the zinc fences to discuss mi fate.
Towering over me like coliseum walls, but with less romance to it.
Concealing, conniving, threatening, an sometimes if you search hard enough inside helplessness
u find calm, even content if you realize the ghetto is not a physical place
an if it is, it probably start uptown
where some big pickney take time a crayon di whole flag black.
And we suffer these leaders and dance wildly to the beat of their inconsistent snares.
Upright treacherous vipers with forked tongues
which facilitate the use of both sides of the mouth,
sponsoring the tools of tribalism as they posture and piss on tyres.
Shattered ambitions conspiring with hardened backs
and servile minds to start personal revolutions
and a fist still a raise an a bell still a ring an a tune still a sing
say common people like you an me will be builders for eternity
an me nah feel da vibe deh y’nuh rasta.
And commissions of enquiry are needed to find the burial spots of,
former commissions of enquiry
Because we understand dat di bigger heads is loyal to them friends.
But is Jamaica, and justice is limber
and truth is just a empty word written in blood on the still trembling walls of a portmore dwelling,
and our heaviest burden is still our legacy of silent acceptance, in Jamaica land we love.

Home of the church,
where one can easily be ambushed by a “Praying Mantis” decked in a Joseph like coat
but with trick pockets,
concealing the tools of the trade: confusion, grand wizardry and placebo effects.
Dark solicitous eyes weighing truths with immigration intensity
in vicarious contempt, like jealous jeanies.
Can’t save those in the hospitals but at night become tent healers
cockroach feelers sensing naivety of prey
an salvation did always make good company for despair, here, in Jamaica land we love.

A defiant air now seeps from cockpit hills, caressing the knees of maypole dancers
and bounces colorful expression off the tongues of ample bosomed coronation vendors
firing and glazing the vision of Garvey into a collective spirit, and lord, we got to keep on moving.
And somewhere along that thick line between information technology
and the coconut brush is where u will find me
romancing her majesty to lamplight, an celebrating the freedom of weed expressionism,
in Jamaica land we love
Still an enchanting isle, whose seemingly tethered sun still sets on breathtakingly beautiful beaches,
though survival can be a cataract.
in Jamaica land we love.

DINGO

Calabash Ho! (single entendre please–)

This is the time of year I like best. One week before Calabash Literary Festival and about 10 days before the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA) conference, which is in San Andres, Colombia, this year. The lineup at this Calabash, though stellar, could have been more exciting as far as I’m concerned; after all living in these parts who hasn’t heard Derek Walcott and Lorna Goodison, live and in living colour, over and over again? Last year’s was a more lustrous list of literary stars, Caryl Phillips, Michael Ondaatje and Maryse Conde amongst them.

But then again I don’t go to Calabash to listen to authors and poets reading aloud so much as for the sheer delight of lingering in the vibe-rant environment created by Colin, Justine and Kwame. I happen to know that singer and poet Dingo has been sharpening his latest poem and who knows if we’re lucky he might perform it there. The open mic segment is bound to have its share of great performances bursting through the thicket of paltry, mediocre rhymesters who will insist on abusing the audience with purported poetry.

Speculation is rife as to whether Walcott will behave himself or be spectacularly rude on stage; whether he will outcuss that indomitable cusser Bounty Killa and be carted off to bad wud jail; or if the balmy St. Bess air will temporarily render him tame and pleasant (incidentally Dingo has a poem, Jamaica Land We Love, that starts like this:

I woulda cuss some claat if it coulda draw attention
to Jamaica land we love

An if dem neva start charge artiste fe it….
I woulda cuss some claat if it coulda draw attention
to Jamaica land we love.

Jamaica land we love hobbling along on three flats and de-spair).

Walcott’s main rival in the race for Curmudgeon of the Year is of course, V.S. Naipaul, about whom the New York Times wrote only today.

A book-lover’s paradise, Calabash is a boutique festival if there ever was one. Hordes of would-be writers rub shoulders with would-be readers and actual writers at different stages of their careers. The main venue was succinctly described in a recent article: “At the far end is a small stage with a podium. The backdrop is the long curve of Calabash Bay. The village mongrels often have the best seat in the house, downstage. In Treasure Beach, even the strays enjoy a good poetry reading.”

Although Dominicano Junot Diaz, the celebrated author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, couldn’t make it this year, touring the Far East as he is after winning the Pulitzer and a clutch of other awards, Calabash die-hards will remember him as one of the up and coming authors featured at an earlier Calabash—2003? 2004? See? So you never know, someone you consider a no-name author this year could well turn out to be tomorrow’s literary lion. Incidentally a recent issue of the Caribbean Review of Books (CRB) carried a great interview with Diaz by Marlon James, author of John Crow’s Devil.

Another big draw will be Beverley Manley, whose hot memoirs, briefly serialized in the Gleaner, have set the country on fire. Naturally i have an advance copy, a review copy, which i shall devour over the weekend. Hey being a critic does have its occasional advantages.

But more on Calabash after the event. I will be ensconced at a seafront villa with a small cartel of Caribbean writers and publishing mates for the duration of the festival. A description of this delightful spot is to be found in the current issue of Caribbean Beat where Nicholas Laughlin, editor of CRB, recalls an evening spent there the year before during Calabash:

“…If you are in possession of a villa, you might consider throwing your own private party. The kind that starts when someone shows up with a bottle of wine and ends, well, whenever. Perhaps your housekeeper has cooked lobsters for dinner. Perhaps two up-and-coming Jamaican novelists will start a raucous discussion of the supernatural coolie duppy, egged on by an art critic, to the scandal of a young American poet. A couple of literary journalists huddle by the pool, exchanging hot gossip. Someone slips down to the beach for a midnight skinny-dip A hotshot online media producer captures it all on a hidden mike…”

See you in Treasure Beach!