Monday, March 10, 2014

WomanSpeak Launches Issue 2014 at National Art Gallery of the Bahamas March 27

A book launch celebrating the release of a limited edition of WomanSpeak, A Journal of Writing and Art by Caribbean Women, volume 7/2014, edited by Lynn Sweeting, will be held at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas on Thursday, March 27, at 7pm, and the book loving public is invited.

Seven  poets will read at the event, including noted poet Marion Bethel, author of Bouganvillea Ringplay (Peepal Tree Press 2010),  Lelawattee Manoo Rahming, 2001 Commonwealth Prize Winner and author of “Immortelle and Bhandaaraa Poems (Proverse, Hong Kong), noted author Patricia Glinton Meicholas, Small Axe Poetry Prize winner Sonia Farmer, and poet and WomanSpeak founding editor and publisher Lynn Sweeting of The Bahamas, and  new voice Attilah Springer of Trinidad.  Contributing artist Carla Campbell of The Bahamas will show her paintings at the event. A limited number of printed copies of the journal will be available for purchase.

“Voices of Dissent: Women Writing and Painting to Transform the Culture,” is the theme for this new collection from WomanSpeak Books.  Editor Lynn Sweeting of The Bahamas gathers together another small but powerful  collection of poetry, fiction, fairy tales, essays, and art in a  full colour, paperback edition designed by Julia Ames and featuring the painting “The Butterfly Effect: The Duchess” by acclaimed Bahamas painter Claudette Dean on the cover.  In addition to works by the noted and prizewinning poets reading at the launch, also included in the new collection are well known, noted author, poet, editor and teacher, Opal Palmer Adisa (Jamaica), Vahni Capildeo (Trinidad) whose collection of poems “Dark and Unaccustomed Words” was long-listed for the 3013 OCM Bocas Prize, Vashti Bowlah, (Trinidad) who was shortlisted for the 2013 Inauguaral Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize, and Daniel Boodoo-Fortune, painter and poet, (Trinidad), winner of the First Prize for Poetry in the 2012 Small Axe Literary Competition.

Full colour art by a small but powerful group of contemporary women painters is once again a prominent feature of the new WomanSpeak journal.  At the center of the collected art are Claudette Dean’s paintings from her collection, “The Buttefly Effect, four achingly beautiful portraits of women, each one crowned with enormous flowers that seem to emerge from the tops of their heads, like the power and beauty of the feminine creative imagination when it springs from the womanish mind.   Other contributing painters include Danielle Boodoo Fortune of Trinidad, new voice Cher Corbin of Barbados, and the radical feminist painter Maria Maria Acha-Kutsccher of Mexico, and  Bahamian Carla Campbell who will show two of her paintings included in issue 2014 at the launch.

Founded in The Bahamas in the 1990s, revived in 2010, WomanSpeak began as a personal labour of love for founding editor Lynn Sweeting and a few local writer friends in Nassau, a forum where they could publish their own creative work. In the new era the journal began to attract the attention of international writers and painters. The creative work of 30 women writers and painters from across the Caribbean and the world make up the new collection.

Today WomanSpeak exists to provide a forum for Caribbean women’s creative work, to nurture that creativity by publishing fine literature and art by women, to discover and publish emerging and developing writers, to preserve publications for future audiences, and to create a space where community and sisterhood among contemporary women writers and painters of the Caribbean can be cultivated and encouraged.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Silent Night

Silent Night

o how i wish
the hypyer-fundamentalists
would stop
admonishing my four year old
when she says getting presents from Santa
is her favourite thing
about Christmas.

she’s an innocent soul,
born from my body,
when they tell her she is wrong
i feel her pain
in all my bones.

i have allowed them
to tell her
that Christmas is about
the birth of the baby Jesus,
i have told her, the Christmas story
is my favourite story in the Bible,

i’m cool with carols,
midnight mass on Christmas Eve,
the Hallelujah Chorus,
i clap for her when she sings
songs about their god,
i have never told her,
i do not like their god.

i am silent on Solstice night when
i light ninety nine candles
for the returning sun
as my ancestors taught me to do,
i have agreed to wait
until later to tell her,
solstice is the reason
for the season
for me

i have tolerated
their difference
and their fear
of my difference,

i have locked my cards
and crystals
in a silver box,
my black hats
are hidden
in a plastic bag
under the bed,

didn’t I put the Star of Bethlehem
at the top
of my tree,

what more do they want of me?

i told her I was quite sure
the baby Jesus didn’t mind
if on his birthday
Santa Clause brought her
an easy bake oven.
i told her, spaghetti for supper,
we did homework together,

when the winter night fell
dark and fast
i lit the lamps,
took photographs of her
against a backdrop
of the glittering tree
hung with white roses,
peace doves
and lime green butterflies.

later as she slept
i thought about asking her teacher,
if Christ is all about love then
why won’t you allow the little one
to love Santa at Christmas?
and why won’t you love her
if she does?

but i would not ask, I knew the answer.

I lay down beside her to sleep.
The moon watched over us
All the silent night.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween is for the Children

Hey good people of the Bahamas, lets bring back the secular Halloween traditions of costumes and trick or treating for our little ones. Dressing up and pretending to be someone else is good for their creative imagination. Remember, trick or treaters are not criminals, just little children trying to trick or treat like Dora does on tv, for goodness sake, lets be nice to our children. Lets create a safe holiday for the little ones, lets be kind and generous to one another. Lets especially look kindly on the little children who have no costumes, who dress up as best they can  with what they have, lets be most generous to them. Lets stop complaining about how unsafe it is and let us put a pumpkin in the window and turn our house into a safe place to trick or treat.  Anglos, lets stop hiding behind our drawn drapes talking about crime when black little kids are trick or treating outside, stop “canceling” or “postponing” trick or treat  night in your neighbourhood because you are “afraid of crime”  because this boils down to refusing to open your door to  black little children who come to your door on Halloween night proper.  You can’t cancel or postpone Halloween. (To the people in the overly decorated  house who wouldn’t answer the door to my eight year old son a few years back because your neighbourhood association decided to cancel Halloween, I say, you are bad, bad people.) This is so 1980s and not in a good way, this is so racist. And fundamentalists, stop demonizing a harmless secular tradition for children, stop using the “pagan roots” of Halloween for an excuse to deny our kids some safe neighbourhood fun in 2013, remember, all your Christian traditions have pagan roots. I don’t like what American pop culture does with Haloween, I don’t allow monsters and zombies, though I will tolerate a dashing vampire, a good witch and a friendly ghost. I don’t like the way mainstream culture makes Halloween gory and scary, or the way costumes for women these days are all sexed up. I don’t like the exploding fireworks. I love little children in costumes trick or treating, I focus on them. I love putting on my witch’s hat and doing a little neighbourhood theatre for them. The modern secular Halloween traditions celebrate childhood, our children desperately need to be celebrated.  Low self esteem is killing us.  The simple tradition of dressing up and trick or treating on Halloween is a little way we can teach our children that their lives are worth celebrating, that we think they are worth celebrating  It is a way to create family and neighbourhood togetherness, a way to create community, the kind centered around children. So come on people, receive the little trick or treaters with some generosity, some creativity, some grace.  Let them have some fun, for Christ’s sake. Lets all have some fun. Have (create) a happy Haloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting Through the Gate

Getting Through the Gate

I turned left and found myself
At the gate, it was closed, two guards
In black shades with clipboards
Approached, one on either side
Of the car, one wrote down my name,
The other went to the booth to call
The principal’s office, the first one asked
Me to pull over until they could clarify
Whether or not I was authorized yet, so
I turned off the engine, got out, walked
To the car behind, told the people I was
A parent with a disability being denied
Entry to pick up my daughter in pre-k,
And to the car behind that one, and the one
Behind that one until a guard walked
The line of cars to tell me they’d allow me
To get through the gate this time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Human Rights Poem for Blog Action Day 2013

Seeing What Cannot Be Seen
(A Human Rights Poem for Blog Action Day 2013)

Squadrons of government
soldiers in riot gear,
massed and ready
behind the white man
confronting the forest man,
for any reason
to begin firing,

nation of mothers, fathers,
children, grandfathers,
grandmothers, The People,
behind the forest man,
their bodies,
their voices,
their stories all
outside the shot,

the forest under fire,
fields of burning stumps,
dead bodies, murdered chiefs
laying in their graves,
violated treaties,
stinking mines,
cattle ranches worked
by Indian slaves,
missing children,
dying animals,
all these are
what cannot be seen

in the photograph,
nor the citizen journalist
aiming the camera,
nor the face
of the blog writer
who published the picture,
or that of the Global Voices
online editor who reported
the report
of  the last
on the rain forest Indians
taking to the streets
to save their land,
to save their lives, nor

the face
of the forest man
to die rather than step aside
for the bulldozers
because without the forest
he will die anyway,

we cannot see ourselves
in the picture

until now.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

One for Women Writers

Take Joy

Woman  poet, take joy
Because happy is the last thing
Man-culture wants you to be,
Take joy, make joy, call yourself
The new feminist revolutionary.

Woman of the word, take authority
As it will not be given to you in gold –
leaf banquets or cabinet appointments,
take it like a thief in broad daylight,
but never run, never hide.

Woman writing as if your life depended
Upon the language of your dreams
Spoken aloud, take heart, your words
Keep us all alive, give them like the tree
Gives us air to breathe, freely.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Imagining These Words Matter

I am blogging in the Crab Grass Garden. It begins to rain. I laugh. Then think of them. The mother and daughters murdered in Pakistan a few weeks ago for making a film of themselves outside in the rain laughing. The mother showed the film she made of her daughters to a friend who showed it to her male relatives. The men were outraged, broke into her home in the middle of the night and shot them all dead. Mainstream (patriarchal) culture called it an honour killing. The mainstream press never covered it. Bloggers wrote about it and I read about it at Global Voices Online. The rain keeps misting down and I wonder, what exactly was it about the film that drove the men to murder? I remember a clip of the offending film on Global Voices. In it the girls were dressed conservatively though their faces were uncovered. As for laughing, they barely cracked a smile, they giggled then stopped. I realize, it wasn’t what was in the film that pissed them off. It wasn’t the creative act either. Not the mother’s act of picking up the camera, or turning it on her daughters and encouraging them to smile. It was not that she archived the little film, not even that she showed it to friends that enraged them. The rain keeps on falling lightly around me and I realize with certainty, it was the idea of creating the film that got them killed. They died because of that single, fleeting moment when one of them said, Imagine making a film of ourselves! Imagine seeing ourselves in a film! Imagine! In the patriarchy the womanish imagination is illegal and the penalty is death. I am blogging in the rain in the Crab Grass Garden, imagining these words matter, imagining bringing this blog back to life with writings that say something about the power of writing to challenge an unjust status quo, imagining the new poems I will write, the ones to protest misogyny, hyper-fundamentalist father god religions and the 200 million girls gone missing in the world that no one talks about. Imagining poems I will write to protest my own government’s failure to pass laws and implement policies that improve women’s lives. Imagining my words had the power to change things. Where I live, I can imagine myself writing and publishing a blog, then do it, and no one will want to kill me for it. But I don’t take my freedom for granted. Not for one minute.I dedicate these words to that mother and her daughters, because   perhaps they knew what was going to happen. Perhaps they decided it was worth it.

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