A Call for Submissions

November 23, 2009

Call for poetry submissions:

What for: An online portal for the reading and discovery of the work of West Indian/West Indian heritage writers of poems at:

 http://pentuhpaper.wordpress.com/

What we are looking for: Unpublished works that explore images of so-called Caribbean-ness and do something with them — invert them, twist them, crack them open. Baptise them or make them anew. Works that tread unfamiliar territory — or familiar ones. Works that spill out from that dark place in your mind and relieve the pressure of compression inside of your heart.

Avant-garde, experimental and radical verse are all welcome. Dabblers of journal verse are welcome. Bring yourself — with words.

Of particular interest are poems pertaining to themes of identity, gender, gender roles and sexuality.

Please indicate upon submission, if you would prefer to use a nom de plume. Please include a brief biographical sketch or simply, nationality information. Authors retain all original rights to their work.

For further inquiry, to hear more about this venture or to submit work, please e-mail creativecommess[at] gmail [dot] com

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sonja dumas’ continuum dance project (proud "we" for me) performs strange tale of an island shade @ the coco dance festival tomorrow+friday 8pm. strange tale… is a work we showed still-in-progress @ cottontree foundation and trinidad theatre workshop (little stuff + big stuff) earlier this year, it’s now done and one of my favourites i been in, up there with noble douglas’ why bach, why not? (totally different reasons). i love the movement and the text we explore, love the music used, and think it addresses shit we should all be thinking about…

COCO dance festival 2009
Contemporary Choreographers’ Collective
Featuring the choreography of Rachel Lee, Elvis Radgman, Makeda Thomas, Dave Williams, Abeo Jackson, Nicole Wesley, Sonja Dumas, Anika Marcelle and Northwest Laventille
Thursday, October 15th at 8:00 pm
Friday, October 16th at 8:00 pm
Queen’s Hall, St. Ann’s
All tickets $100
Available from participating groups and Queen’s Hall

walk good.

full disclosure: this post is, once again, excerpted from one @ sweet trini’s urban folk tales.

life imitating art?

July 22, 2009

it’s been suggested of late that i modeled my trinidad noir protagonist on myself even more than i intended (clear+conscious choice) and pointed out later that i seem to be living my fiction. the very fictitiousness of the work suddenly comes under suspicion. i don’t argue because i don’t necessarily care what brings revelation, once it comes, inspiration attendant. but nobody should die in the real story…

meanwhile, in unrelated news, i hear grims get nominated for a cacique award for the yet-unblogged-by-me 2009 3canal carnival show joy+fire lighting design. he also designing lights for the upcoming 3canal show freedom.com; i stage managing and directing some, featuring members of the gutta crew. and in related news, since isoke’s griot productions came into existence to facilitate our gutta reading, we running with it, starting with a full production of gutta beautiful as soon as we can- big tings a gwan!- and want to create our 2nd (multidisciplinary) show from scratch (me+isoke as co- artistic directors)- we have a company burning for worthwhile projects and timing already sends collaborators our way…

after freedom.com but before gutta, i’m in something with continuum dance project- check it:

Continuum has Something for the Little and Something for the Big

Continuum Dance Project will present its second venture for 2009 entitled “little stuff & big stuff” at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in Belmont on Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9. There will be two performances each day – the “Once Upon a Caribbean Time” stories for children will take place at 4pm, and Experimenta, a series of solos and group works by the company, begins at 7pm.

 Artistic Director, Sonja Dumas, who is the writer and creator of the CD entitled Once Upon a Caribbean Time from which the children’s stories will be adapted, is equally excited about the prospect of encouraging budding choreographers in Experimenta. “There is always room for new thinkers and movers in dance,” she said, “and their efforts should be encouraged.” Dumas will also present two of her own works – Vapse and The Strange Tale of an Island Shade. The latter is a work in progress. Continuum Dance Project, which had its first public performance in 2004, is a creative laboratory that uses movement as its main tool of performance exploration in a contemporary context.

Admission to the Once Upon A Caribbean Time show is $30 for children and $20 for adults. General admission to Experimenta is $40. Reservations can be made by calling the Trinidad Theatre Workshop at 624-8502. Patrons are asked to pay at the door.

so, plenty wuk to get back to, not all mentioned here, but all good. but as we talking entertainment industry, a brief comment on the shabba ranks + buju banton concert in the savannah the other day before i go: plenty baby powder, limacol, marijuana, cigarette, hemp smoke- not enough buju.

walk good.

full disclosure: this post is excerpted from one over @ "sweet trini’s urban folk tales".

found ourselves a whitegirl for our staged reading of gutta beautiful, so we orn like boil corn.

i’m thrilled with the cast and starting to get excited about saturday, cornerbar 4pm:

gutta beautiful tells the searing story of lola, a young black woman who finds herself at a crossroads in love and life after discovering her own role in her man’s choice to surrender to popular culture and the drug trade economy. lola’s journey, as well as michael’s and her girlfriends suga sweet and orchid transcend time, exploring the history of love and life for people of colour.

"the play represents both the imaginary and fantastic landscape of our collective psyche and the hard-core physical reality of our daily lives,” says playwright, nina a. mercer.

cast: isoke edwards-najeeullah, tracey lucas, tonya evans, mandisa granderson, muhammad muwakil, nickolai salcedo, sophie wight.

parental guidance strongly suggested; mature content.

about the author: born and raised in washington, d.c. and now residing in new york, nina angela mercer is a playwright, essayist, fiction writer and visual artist. her play, gutta beautiful has been produced at d.c.’s warehouse theatre (2005), and for d.c.’s first capital fringe festival at the woolly mammoth theatre (2006). she received her m.f.a. from american university and studied transnational feminist literature of the 20th century in the english doctoral program at the university of maryland. she has taught at american university, university of maryland, and howard university, and is also the founder and artistic director of ocean ana rising, inc., a non-profit arts incubator and outreach project. nina is the proud mother of two daughters.

walk good.

ps: i eh forget mj, just don’t think we really need any more commentary.

casting+art

June 16, 2009

and now, the last words you thought you’d hear me say: i need a white woman.
i’m directing a staged reading of the excellent play gutta beautiful this month and have 1 role still uncast- i need a white female to read 1 of the characters, so any whitegirls or people in the company of whitegirls interested in acting, please let me know asap*- it’s a good role, dark humour, reading supposed to be month-end.
plus, darren cheewah’s 1st solo art exhibit runs (june17th, happy birthday chee!) this week until july17th @ the republic of sydenham art gallery, sydenham avenue, st.anns: wednesdays-fridays 10am-4pm, saturdays+sundays 10am-noon (621.3970 for private viewing appointments mondays+tuesdays) all pieces on sale! and when he done that, i should be finally getting new ink!
there’s an erotic art exhibit happening around town, too, i may read something for its spoken word/poetry event- more details as i have them.
on the other side, mourning the loss of a friend- i didn’t blog about $hok’s ill health because in the same weird way i couldn’t seem to see him, i didn’t know what to say about it. denial, i suppose, which evaporated yesterday when i saw him still+small, except for his gargantuan hands, in his casket and realised i was in much worse shape than previously realised. now i wish i’d written about him when he was still with us. but i can still say he was always entertaining, wildly talented, and will be missed. biglove sheldon, wherever you are, enjoy the music.
walk good.

*full disclosure: something very similar to this post is up @ sweet trini’s urban folk tales, which is where you can contact me (comment/email) with interested whitegirls*.

“take the yampee from a dog’s eye, put it in yours, and look through the keyhole at midnight,” to see lagahoo. or come to queens hall the weekend of may15-17 when lilliput theatre takes the stage.
this year’s production investigates local folklore through one of our lesser-known, more elusive characters, using traditional and contemporary storytelling to ask questions that nobody seems to have answers for anymore. do you know what to do when you see a lagahoo?
lilliput theatre’s lagahoo started as all their shows do, with a junior carnival band designed by merylle mahabir. from the concept that sparked the costume design, ideas were hatched and nurtured and developed into a script by the drama class, asking and attempting to answer questions about lagahoo and his contemporaries in today’s world. artistic director, producer and choreographer noble douglas and director wendell manwarren have led lilliput on a journey of discovery – discovery that today’s youth don’t know trinbagonian folklore as in times past, and discovery of the secrets and stories that await the brave soul willing to listen, maljo beads clutched tightly, just in case.
lagahoo is a shape-shifter versed in the dark arts, but little else is known about the extent of lagahoo’s capabilities. what we do know is that lagahoo could be anybody, your boss, your teacher, your friend, your family…maybe we all have something of the lagahoo in us, waiting to be released.
but when nobody whispers about lagahoo in the dark of night anymore, when nobody tells the stories, can lagahoo continue to exist? does the shape-shifter assume a new form in keeping with the times, no longer known as lagahoo but manifest as some new danger? what happens to folklore characters when nobody believes in them? do they simply fade away or do they strike back?

walk good.

A Short Drop

March 30, 2009

It seems like wherever enclaves of people from different cultures are found, vestiges of our home and the culture from whence we came soon follow. Like roti shops and mini-buses. When I was an undergrad, you could take a ride from my campus in North Miami, all the way to downtown Miami (and back) for one dollar each way on the local jitney. The benefits meant that you weren’t limited to the schedule of the Miami-Dade city transport system, nor limited to their routes which didn’t necessarily go everywhere that people might want to go. The jitney ride in North Miami functioned as a main source of transportation (as well as supplemental to other public transport ) for large numbers of people including college students within the area. Here was where you were summoned onto an already full mini-bus by a nodding driver assuring you that there is room, while you scanned the darkly tinted windows with slight skepticism.

The thing is, you never really knew until you actually got on. Then you did, only to survey the hodge-podge of arms and knees, tightly folded legs, rapid fire kreyol over the sounds of kompa–with increasing doubt; while from his perch behind the steering wheel, you were solidly assured by the driver, that there was indeed a place for you, deep in the belly of the mini-bus. You just had to keep going. Eventually you’d find the space, sandwiched between two strangers, tightly squeezed on either side. When I was riding the jitney, there were still mini-buses with no buzzer, so you had to holler from the back over the din and once in a while, between the animated conversations and the music, the driver did miss your stop. But these people beside you, these people you only knew from this ride, would always help, passing on the call for “stop!” from person to person and mouth-to-mouth, like a verbal smoke signal until we came to rest. Even people that did not know English well, knew how to yell stop on the jitney.

Throughout the developing world, you can find versions of the mini-bus as a cultural variation of the government created transportation system. There is always something subversive about the way in which they function as a means of getting people around. These small mini-buses cramming as many people inside as they can, undercutting the cost of other transport in some places and/or providing flexibility of routes in others. They are privately owned and in many cases, this mysterious individual (s) is sometimes not even the person who is doing all the driving. In many parts of the developing world, mini-buses are part of a larger cultural representation of everyday life, in a way that other modes of transport supposedly are not. Or at least they are, in a different way.

In a large Western metropolis like New York city for example, city buses and other kinds of public state transport don’t function in the exact same way as the mini-bus, since you would find a successful mortgage broker riding next to a blue-collar worker, on the same train on any given day. In the developing world, mini-bus culture (and there usually is one), especially in the Caribbean (and Africa) is indicative of the other social and socio-economic forces at play as well. So much so that you can find people in Trinidad, who proudly declare that “they never take public transport” before (specifically maxis, and least of all a PTSC bus) because this fact is representative of being in a certain socio-economic class that is not dependent (or never has been) on public transport. Which means you are one of those people who has your own car and when you didn’t, you’re used to get dropped around all the time.

I want to feel like in 2009, you would still be hard-pressed to find someone who has never taken a maxi before but from what I’ve heard, that’s not true. Never taken a maxi? And okay with that? Never experienced the hustle of an ambitious tout in City Gate saying he had a special seat, just for you. Never been privy to the random conversational encounters on a maxi. Never been in the front seat of a maxi, music blaring loudly while barreling down the priority bus route at break-neck speed, with the breeze whipping at your face. Never had to dodge a bottom in yuh face after shuffling yuh own bottom around for seats on a maxi. In Trinidad, there are more and more cars on the road and we’re building more and more walls, around ourselves (literal and otherwise) to shut undesirables out, so there’s a whole section of people for whom, maxi taking just will not do. As to safety concerns, I would reckon that hopping a maxi from somewhere to town and back in the day, would still be somewhat safer than doing so in a flashy car. Plus in actuality if you ask certain kinds of people who don’t take maxis, why they don’t, it has less to do with being safe, than the notion of being cheek-on-jowl with the masses. The problem is being in close quarters, like, say a “bread van” maxi, with de marrish and de parrish.

In Trini we have our maxi taxis and in Guyana you can find the “mini bus” as well. In fact, throughout the Caribbean they exist, all over Africa, as well as regions in South and Central America. In South Africa they’re called “combis.” A friend informed me that in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto-Rico, they’re called “guaguas.” In the Vanity Fair 2007 Africa issue, I read Binyavanya Wainaina’s description of the Kenyan “matatus” as “anarchic public transport vehicles,” embodying the “edgy and beautiful” enterprising spirit of a transforming African country economy. These “Isuzu mini-buses,” these “loud, aggressive vehicles” reminded me of the red, yellow, green and maroon-band maxi taxis on the streets of Trinidad in their heyday. Nowadays, maxi drivers and owners in Trinidad have their own association or representative body, which is very active in attempting to regulate the ply of drivers and conductors. The rides themselves are relatively tamed down, compared to the excess of the earlier years where you might find a fuzzy, faux fur interior detailing inside on the roof, black lights in a maxi and more than enough bass to feel it reverberating deep inside your chest.

But during the late eighties and exploding in the early to mid-nineties, maxi culture flourished in a way that made them the scourge of everyone from school principals to middle-class parents. They represented a vehicular hustle, propelled by young brash men of color, driving and touting and jostling for passengers (and sex). From the school children liming late in town for subsequent runs of their favorite maxi, the branding of certain maxis as popular rides, to the epic pong of the bass line pulsating through the whole maxi and disturbing the peace, the dub, the dub lyrics, the school girls breaking biche to get whisked away by maxi men, the ambitious tout wetting some school girl’s ears with his own (or borrowed) lyrics, the tout shuffling through wads of cash to lure some teenager/s astray, the allegations of these big hard-back men being on the prowl, the tout who allegedly had HIV and was spreading it wantonly to school girls all over the place.

These stories and others like them are part of the maxi culture in our society, particularly ones exposing the seedy sexual underside of maxi culture. It’s Trini street culture. Trini urban culture. And just Trini culture–all stemming from a ride down the road in a red-band maxi. You can find similar sentiments and stories permeating all throughout our region of the supposed ills of mini-bus culture and the complaints about the drivers. What is it about these buses? That they are clearly indispensable is a fact. But also because of the way in which public transport, by its very design, forces the converging of different layers of people (even within the same socio-economic bracket) into a confined space. Everyone cannot have a car after all. So they do create an actual socio-cultural space while providing a real necessity and a service to the population.

red-band maxi

red-band maxi in Trinidad

Classic footage below of calypsonian Bally’s equally classic “Maxi Dub,” describing his dislike  of the youths’ maxi-culture and especially the loud dub music they play that he cannot decipher!