House of Nehesi

Cutting edge spaces: Debbie Jack in Florence, Italy; Lasana Sekou in Tripwire, California

Drisana Deborah Jack, in Florence, Italy. (© D. Jack photo courtesy)
Drisana Deborah Jack, in Florence, Italy. (© D. Jack photo courtesy)

GREAT BAY —St. Martin authors Drisana Deborah Jack and Lasana M. Sekou started their weekend in cutting edge cultural “spaces” on both sides of the Atlantic, said Jacqueline Sample of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

On Sunday, Jack was a panelist on “Representing Place and Race” at the Black Portraitures Conference in Florence, Italy. Over 200 speakers presented research papers and working commentaries on conference panels and in addresses at Villa La Pietra, home of the New York University Florence program.

New York City’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, delivered the opening address at the conference, on Friday, May 29. The “who’s who” audience of artists, intellectuals, and movers and shakers in art, film, and related fields came mostly from North America, Europe, and Africa.

Drisana Deborah Jack said on Sunday that, “It is humbling and empowering to be in Florence with some of the great minds in the field of Black visual culture. Here we are looking at the history, the present and the future. I am privileged to add my images of St. Martin to the larger cannon of images and ideas.”

Jack is a leading St. Martin artist and poet. Her poetry books, The Rainy Season and Skin, are published in the Caribbean by HNP (Jack’s artwork will be on exhibit at New York’s El Museo Gallery, June 12 – August 7, 2015).

The NYU Florence conference, “BLACK PORTRAITURE{S} II: Black Body and Re-Staging Histories,” may be timely in offering what the organizers term as, “comparative perspectives on the historical and contemporary role played by photography, art, film, literature, and music in referencing the image of the black body in the West.” The Harvard University professor, Louis Henry Gates, Jr., was one of the organizers of the four-day conference.

On the other side of the Atlantic, “‘the polyglot pride of st. martin’: an interview with lasana m. sekou” by Caribbeanist scholar Dr. Sara Florian, was published in Tripwire 9, a journal of poetics.

Editor David Buuck announced the new edition of the radical thought journal from California, on May 27. “In the interview, Lasana comments on language, literature, the political ‘structure’ and ‘adjustment’ of 2007 and 2010, and race in St. Martin, North and South,” said Sample.

The theme of Tripwire 9 is, “Transnational  / Translational.” The featured authors and translators of their works are from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Algeria, Iran, India, and China among other countries.

HNP and Arte y Literatura are the publishers of Sekou’s books, including his multilingual titles, Nativity, Pelican Heart, and Musa desnuda. The poetry of the St. Martiner has been translated into Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Turkish, and Chinese.

Tripwire editors describe the journal as one “devoted to a counter-institutional exploration of radical and experimental modes of contemporary poetics, art, and cultural politics.”

New Anguilla poetry book launches at Governor’s reception for LitFest 2015

GREAT BAY—Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in Anguilla, A New Anthology Edited by Lasana M. Sekou, launched Thursday, May 21 at Government House in Anguilla.

Her Excellency, Ms. Christina Scott, the Governor of Anguilla, will hosted “the official launch of the book” at the “reception to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the ‘Anguilla Lit Fest,’”. The literary festival runs from May 21-24.

Where I See The Sun has already met with bold comments from new generation poets and authors, said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP, the book’s publisher.

“This is pure poetry: critical, sincere and plain. The glorious and convoluted history of small island nations sits heavily on the shoulders of so few. This may be your only chance to hear them speak like this,” writes Wena Poon, award-winning Singapore-born American author.

The Guadeloupean author and hiphop artist Fola Gadet finds that the poetry of the collection is “rooted in a strong desire for real freedom.” There are over 90 poems by 43 poets from the 35 sq. mi. island in the book. Most of the poets and the poems were never published before.

The anthologized poets include: John T. Harrigan, Bongo Joe, Medora, Tyrone James, Vanessa Croft Thompson, Catrina Jones, Alexis Ryan, Sharleen Gumbs, Fabian Fahie, George Hodge, Zipporah Bannister, Marvin Gumbs, Kay Ferguson, Davon Carty, Magueda Jackson, Wendell Lake, Gregory Maye, and Bankie Banx.

“Their names may ring hollow to many a literary critic or student of Caribbean Literature, (with the exception, perhaps, of the venerable Bankie Banks, a true musical legend who has stuck to his Anguilla roots through thick and thin),” wrote literary critic Fabian Adekunle Badejo in the preface to the book.

The other writers are: Mikael Mussington, Teresa Richardson, Vernon Webster, Sharon Lake, Clemvio Hodge, Jemmisa Graneau-Gumbs, Rolandito Richardson, Akeem Rogers, Amethyst Davis, Leroy Hill, Iain Bibby, Rita Celestine Carty, Cassilda Carty, Patricia Adams, Reuel Ben Lewi, Marnair, Alvin Payne, Romeine Browne, Delano Smith, Hyacinth Hughes, Akeem Rogers, Jervayne Daniel, Jason Richardson, Dollynell Best, Rennetta Lewis, and Oluwakemi Linda Banks.

The important thing about the budding and seasoned poets in Where I See The Sun “is that they now will be heard throughout the region and beyond and the story they tell, a reminder that size really doesn’t matter when it comes to human experience and existence or for that matter where it concerns creative output,” said Badejo.

Where I See The Sun will be available at the Anguilla Lit Fest, the 13th annual St. Martin Book Fair, IrieLife, Van Dorp,,, and other bookstores.

Caption: Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in Anguilla, A New Anthology Edited by Lasana M. Sekou (House of Nehesi Publishers).
Caption: Where I See The Sun – Contemporary Poetry in Anguilla, A New Anthology Edited by Lasana M. Sekou (House of Nehesi Publishers).


Lasana Sekou in new Princeton University encyclopedia; St. Martin poet signs Petition against “racist” law in Dominican Republic

Wide treatment of Caribbean Literature in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, edited by Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman (Princeton University Press)
Wide treatment of Caribbean Literature in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, edited by Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman (Princeton University Press)

Great Bay/Marigot — The St. Martin poet Lasana M. Sekou on Sunday joined others in signing a Petition against what he calls “the unjust and fundamentally racist law” in the Dominican Republic that strips citizenship and affects over 200,000 people born in the DR to migrant parents, especially from Haiti, from 1929 to the present. And what Sekou stands up for may be exactly why US professors Roland Greene and Stephen Cushman wrote in the new Princeton University Press encyclopedia, about Sekou’s “activities” having “far reaching consequences.”

Literature and socio-political or cultural activism don’t always go hand-in-hand. However, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics: Fourth Edition, edited by Greene, Cushman et al. engages the complex nature of poetry around the world.

John Flood, an English literature teacher at the University of Groningen, calls the book “the most recent edition of the ‘Bible’ of poetry.” The “1,639-page encyclopedia of over a million words” has “over 1,000 entries,” writes Michael O’Sullivan in Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.

The Yvy League title departs on “poetry in the Dutch Windward Islands” with Wycliffe Smith’s seminal survey, Windward Islands Verse (1981), then cites that, “Thereafter, the activities of Lasana Sekou, … have had far-reaching consequences.”

The question is raised about whether St. Martin’s “creole English” had “a poetical dialogue with Dutch” and its relationship to publishing and “written literary languages.”

For Nicholas Lezard’s UK Guardian review, if we still need to “realise there is an impulse to poetry in us that is universal, there is really no better book than this.”

Sekou’s work with House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP) is noted for attracting “local talent and … other Caribbean writers to St. Martin.” The island’s additional “concrete point of reference” with Africa through the “widely seen” theater performances and workshops of “the Nigerian critic Fabian Badejo” is also noted.

More than 250 new entries cover recent terms, movements, and related topics in the encyclopedia. Broader international coverage includes articles on the poetries of more than 110 nations, regions, and languages, wrote the book’s editors.

The coverage of the literatures from most of the language zones in the Caribbean by The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, outclasses great English-language anthologies that have committed the sin of omission. “Those that left out the writers and publications of whole parts of the region, focusing only on the larger nations of the English-speaking Caribbean. Sometimes they gave a token mention to the literatures of French- or Spanish-speaking countries and territories but hardly ever to writings in Suriname or the Dutch colonies,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP.

The Princeton University literary encyclopedia is the newest book that’s making a difference with more material about serious Caribbean literatures and literary activities, said Sample.

In fact, it is through the treatment of the whole Caribbean that the discussion emerges in the Princeton tome about the relationships, or lack of, between Dutch, Papiamentu, “English creole,” and Sranan in Suriname and the remaining Netherlands territories. The editors even make a point of difference in the relationship between Dutch and Papiamentu (Curacao) and Papiamento (Aruba).

George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, and Amiri Baraka are the other HNP authors referenced in the authoritative study.

According to David Marx:Book Reviews, “The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics may well evolve into becoming the most important reference book in anyone’s library; serious writers, novelists, short story tellers and those with a penchant for language and poetry in particular.”

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry & Poetics explores assiduously American, European, African, Arab, Asian and other literatures. With references from the ancient and Aristotelian to modern Zulu poetry, Lezard lets the “succinctness” of the book’s preface speak for the edition: “This is a book of knowledge, of facts, theories, questions, and informed judgment, about poetry. … Poetics, the theoretical and practical study of poetry, is one of the oldest disciplines in the west, one of those founded by Aristotle along with ethics, logic, and political science.”

George Lamming, Wena Poon & homemade ice cream to lively up St. Martin Book Fair 2012

GREAT BAY/MARIGOT, St. Martin —The 10th annual St. Martin Book Fair, with “Forward …” as its theme, will run from May 31 to June 2, 2012, at Belair Community Center, USM, Marigot Public Library, schools and other venues throughout the island, said Shujah Reiph, coordinator of the book fair.

Some 14 visiting authors and artists will participate in the “book fair for the entire family,” said Reiph.

Among the famous and fast-rising writers coming to St. Martin will be the illustrious Caribbean novelist/thinker George Lamming, from Barbados. He will head up the book fair’s Presidents’ Forum at USM on June 2.

Lamming’s unique presentation and conversation with the audience will focus on the late Dr. Walter Rodney, the legendary historian and political activist who was assassinated in Guyana in 1980. Copies of Rodney’s classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, will be available at the book fair, said Reiph.

Also confirmed for the St. Martin Book Fair is novelist, playwright, performer, poet, attorney Wena Poon from Singapore. Her books include Lions in Winter, The Biophilia Omnibus, and Alex y Robert, which has been serialized in London by BBC Radio 4.

Poon has won literary awards in the UK, France, and Singapore for her writings. The subjects of her books range from the Chinese diaspora, modern tales about “a serious English banker, a sexy Taiwanese ingenue, and a dapper Hong Kong leading man,” to bull fighting in Spain by an American woman, and a science fiction series, described as “an absorbing video game with a love story embedded in it.” (Quest Quest Magazine)

“But we see the St. Martin Book Fair as a way of introducing Wena Poon to the Caribbean,” said Reiph.

The fact that the Harvard-trained lawyer speaks English, French and numerous Chinese languages, and that French and Chinese are sometimes used in her English-language fiction, puts her right up the St. Martin multilingual neighborhood, said Reiph.

Poon’s workshop at the St. Martin Book Fair is called, “Books Are Boring! Rethinking the Art of Consuming & Creating Fictional Narrative.” The workshop is scheduled for June 2, at USM.

On Saturday, June 2, the university campus is the home of the main exhibition of books, multimedia tools, children’s games and storytelling, workshops, and symposia.

The all-day Saturday fare also includes a St. Martin film screening and discussion with the director and actors; and a cooking and homemade ice cream-making demonstration by new Caribbean vegan cookbook author Taymer Mason.

However, before the rush on Saturday, there is Friday. On June 1, the Yacht Club Restaurant, at Fort Louis Marina on the Marigot Waterfront, will host the annual literary evening of the St. Martin Book Fair.

About 11 authors from countries and territories such as Haiti, Antigua, Barbados, USA, Italy, Singapore, and Martinique, will treat the audience to “some really great selections” from their original poetry and fiction, said Reiph.

As a 10th anniversary feature, two promising young St. Martin writers that are working on their first manuscripts will read at the evening concert of words. “Usually only writers of published books read at the poetry and fiction recital,” said Reiph.

The Book Fair Committee (BFC) and organizers have been meeting over the last few months to put an exciting anniversary program together. “We are busy ironing out the tough wrinkles. We are working hard to give the St. Martin people and our visitors a world-class St. Martin Book Fair,” said Reiph.

The BFC will coordinate over 20 book fair and pre-book fair activities for the festival, said Reiph. All book fair activities are free for the general public to attend.

Conscious Lyrics Foundation and House of Nehesi Publishers, both NGOs, organize the St. Martin Book Fair, in collaboration with St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and the University of St. Martin.

Caption1: Wena Poon, award-winning novelist, poet, playwright from Singapore. (Courtesy WP)
Caption2: George Lamming (L), novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, orator. (Saltwater Collection photo)
Caption3: Taymer Mason, author of the new Caribbean vegan cookbook.

Economist to speak at 10th annual St. Martin Book Fair

Shujah Reiph, book fair coordinator (L) with BFC member Cindy Peters. (Courtesy file photo)

GREAT BAY/MARIGOT, St. Martin —The 10th annual St. Martin Book Fair, will take place on May 31 – June 2, 2012, said book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph.

Some 14 guest authors and artists, from Asia to the Americas, will be on hand to celebrate the opening of the book fair’s 10th anniversary edition at the Belair Community Center on Thursday, May 31, at 8 pm, said Reiph.

Dr. Girvan, leading economist, author, and professor emeritus at UWI-Trinidad, will deliver the keynote address, “The Cost of Moving Forward with Caribbean Unity,” at the opening ceremony of the literary festival, said Reiph.

Dr. Norman Girvan, economist, author, professor emeritus UWI-Trinidad. (Courtesy NG)

Dr. Girvan is an essential ‘go to man’ for presidents and prime ministers and was only recently the United Nations Secretary General’s Personal Representative on the Guyana-Venezuela Border Controversy (2010), said Reiph.

Books by Dr. Girvan and all of the visiting authors, and titles by the growing number of St. Martin writers, will be available at the book fair.

There are over 20 book fair and pre-book fair activities planned for the festival by the Book Fair Committee (BFC), said Reiph. All book fair activities are free and “the general public is invited to this ‘book fair for the entire family,’” said Reiph.

The St. Maarten Tourist Bureau returns in 2012 as the main sponsor of the St. Martin Book Fair. “The Tourist Bureau as the main committed sponsor and the University of St. Martin as the home sponsor of the main book fair day, have been collaborating with the St. Martin Book Fair from the very beginning,” said Jacqueline Sample, president of House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), one of the book fair organizers.

“The Ministry of Education and Culture, headed by the outgoing minister Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, made a contribution this year to the St. Martin Book Fair’s 10th anniversary,” said Reiph, who is also president of Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF).

CLF and HNP have been organizing the St. Martin Book Fair since 2003, in collaboration with the St. Maarten Tourist Bureau and the University of St. Martin.

The opening ceremony of the festival is alternated each year between both parts of the island. Various activities, the main book launch, and the school visits by international and St. Martin writers are conducted island-wide “in keeping with the island’s traditional unity,” said Reiph.


Dr. Norman Girvan, economist, author, professor emeritus UWI-Trinidad. (Courtesy NG)


Shujah Reiph, book fair coordinator (L) with BFC member Cindy Peters. (Courtesy file photo)