Friday, August 31, 2007

Something sad and maybe something to rejoice about...

My sister-in-law, Barbara Preston, widow of the late Aston Preston, former Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, died two days ago. She was a truly good woman, which is the highest compliment I can pay her. As my former headmistress, Sister Bernadette Little, RSM said of her in an e-mail to me, "She is a loss to a Jamaica that could do well with the finesse and charm she exuded, but heaven will be the richer for her presence." Amen, Sister B, Amen. I came across Zerofootprint on the Air Canada website, and thought again of my friend, Thomas. I'm hanging this up here, my fellow poet and writer, as a continuation of our conversation on these matters. Hopefully it's a step in the right direction. The quote comes from the Zerofootprint website. "Zerofootprint is a not-for-profit organization that has emerged as the industry standard for offsets. Our mandate is not only to help individuals and businesses become carbon neutral, but to develop the technology and communities that will help the world rise to the challenge of climate change. SNIP, SNIP... Every flight you take releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. When you offset your flight and contribute to certified environmentally friendly projects, you remove from the atmosphere an amount that corresponds to your share of CO2 generated by your flight." So here's a way for all the frequent fliers to compensate in some wise for the price the planet pays for each trip. It's not a perfect solution, but, God willing, it may help.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I'm reading a book called A YEAR IN THE SOUTH: 1865, by a historian of the American Civil War. The writer's name is Stephen Ash, and in the book he tells "The True Story of Four Ordinary People Who Lived Through the Most Tumultuous Twelve Months in American History". The caps aren't mine – this is the book's sub title. I'm not a historian. Chose geography instead, and am grateful to have been spared British history in high school. But I have always enjoyed these kinds of stories, history as it walked and talked its way through the lives of individuals, especially the lives of ordinary folks. Ash's sources in this case are two diaries from the period, a memoir and an autobiography. The autobiographer is the only black person, a slave, Louis Hughes, who managed to secure his freedom and that of his wife and child in 1865. The other three figures, a woman and two men, are rebels, secessionists, supporters of the Confederacy. I'm struck, more than anything else, by how ready "people" (which does not, in this case, include the slaves, whose behaviour is restrained beyond belief) were to do violence, wreak vengeance on one another, white on black, white on white. So many ordinary people in the account are cruel – women and men – or turn cruel as the wind changes. And these are all good, Christian, God-fearing folk. It shed light on the nowadays behaviour of soldiers, peace-keeping or otherwise, in conflicts and hot spots all over the world. It illuminated the behaviour of politicians even better. And it left me grateful that my own emerging story necessitated my leaving the classroom many years ago. I would not have wanted, at this stage of my life, to be wrestling with questions about what my responsibilities were in shaping the behaviours of those who passed through my hands: what I should have done that I didn't do; what I did do that I ought not to have done; whether I prayed, each day, hard enough about what my teaching would help to effect in the minds and hearts and imaginations of those I taught. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that you and I are not as responsible as all the teachers, lecturers, administrators and ministry of education staff in the world. But I know my own breast-beating propensities, and had I been a teacher, my bosom wouldn't be able to withstand the wear and tear.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I just read Nicholas Laughlin's interview with Geoffrey Philp in the issue of THE CARIBBEAN REVIEW OF BOOKS that arrived in the mail today. There's a great picture of Geoffrey (how come so many of these photos lack credits?) and I enjoyed the chat about Geoff's blog, the blog being not just a blog, but a sort of online entrepot, a cyber hub, and at this point, a fine resource. Indeed, given how things are going with other literary ventures in the Caribbean, we may end up with blogs like Geoff's being our only recourse. Nice little mixing image there that I didn't even set out to create. What's a mixing image? One of a taxonomy of "prismatic" images I invented a while back to use to talk about Caribbean literature, rather than ye olde simile and metaphor and so on. But more of that anon. I need to get to the grieving. I had an e-mail from Wayne Brown a few hours ago informing of the closure of CARIBBEAN WRITING TODAY after five issues. If memory serves, Nicholas was not so long ago expressing concern on antilles blogspot about the fate of THE CARIBBEAN REVIEW OF BOOKS. Both publications face the same challenges: not enough subscriptions, not enough ads. I won't attempt any analysis of why we fail to support these things – not just us in the region, but people all over the world who mine our literature for what it's worth. Just happy to say that I subscribe to both, have enjoyed both, think we need them both very much. It's the same thing as with the bees. While we profiling with the cellie, we killing off insects that we need to ensure that we have food to eat. I know there are those of us who don't have much patience with warner women, but I'll risk the label. We need to repent, soon. Of not putting our money where our mouth is. Of being more concerned with appearances than with substance. Of failing to husband the talents God give us. And God not a wise person to select for provocation, for, like my Granny used to say, "Him naaaah sleep."