what questions did you ask?

December 29, 2009 § 2 Comments

A writer/poet friend of mine who migrated from England to the US in her formative years once asked what poems or books were offered and taught in our (Guyanese) schools. I remember saying there weren’t many American writers on the curriculum; we studied mostly Caribbean literature such as V.S. Naipaul, Derek Walcott and others. But I forgot to mention we also studied the works of African authors too.

Several days later while daydreaming on the L train, a piece by Nigerian poet J.P. Clark came to mind… my brain fired in exclamation “i studied him too!”

It was the first poem that Mrs. Walcott gave in order to examine imagery. Ibadan! I remembered loving the feel of that singular word rolling off my tongue, how i felt reading the piece but mostly the feverish search for its meaning. My 10 year old self learned Ibadan is a place in Nigeria and was ecstatic to re-visit the poem and peel back the layers with a new perspective. O, how that piece of knowledge was pertinent to both my understanding and appreciation of the following and its inevitable influence many many years later:

running splash of rust
and gold – flung and scattered
among seven hills like broken
china in the sun.”

……………14 years came & went when I wrote


in the reticence of solitary
i heard the vibrations
crumble pretension into shards
of unwanted china.”

At the conception of the above, I was unaware that Ibadan played a pivotal role in its construction. More particularly that image of broken china. That is, until deep within my daydream at the Wilson Avenue stop on the L train where i remembered that poem and my friend’s question, when the parallel was drawn.

This would not be the only instance literature would climb through the fissures of my brain. Things Fall Apart was the template for my disapproval of the war in iraq. I remembered how occupation/invasion affected okonkwo and the characters of that novel. In moments like those i appreciate the richness of my education and how it shapes my political views, my womanist perspective, appreciation for Africa, and the pride in my tongue and South American/Caribbean culture.

From Chaucer to Achebe, Kincaid to Nichols, Salinger to Soyinka and the line that still walks with me: “the broken silence of the heart,” I love good literature!

Margaret Atwood said “The answers you get from literature depend on the questions you pose.” This leaves me wondering what questions did i ask, if any at all? And were they the right ones? I’d like to believe they were.



December 28, 2009 § Leave a comment

Three weeks ago, a child at work- well she is 13, so that makes her a teenager- asked if I cry. My answer? “sure I do.” She wanted to know when was the last time. I tried to recall then told her this summer. She wanted to know why? I told her my mom’s visit was cathartic. She further inquired “and you haven’t cried since?” I replied, “no I haven’t.” Almost complaining she said, “that’s months ago… what about before that?” I couldn’t remember. Told her this and offered the endnote, “I’m not a cryer.” She said “I cry a lot.” I suggested, “it may have to do with your hormones; puberty can have that affect.” She said “no, I cried a lot even before…movies, feelings of being overwhelmed…you name it, all make me cry. I cry almost every day.” I said “okay. That’s fine too.” She said “I know.” Then asked, “how do you not cry in months?” I answered “I don’t know.”

And I really don’t know because in the past couple of days, I cried more than I did this entire year.

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