Commentaries

On theorizing Caribbean space: History and linguistic diversity in the Caribbean

Coolitude poetics from the Caribbean

Sewdass Mohabir's Jeewan Jhoti, Courantyne River, Berbice, Guyana.

In order to understand Caribbean Coolitude poetics, one might review the local poetics to illuminate context. Coolitude uses Caribbean poetics — broadly created by and maintained by black intellectuals. Coolitude would be nowhere without its ancestor and kin, Négritude. A question arises: is the Caribbean as one geopolitical space and how have the histories of different colonizers’ languages created disparate yet united experiences in the Antillean archipelago?

The dark containers (PoemTalk #117)

Larissa Lai, 'Nascent Fashion'

Left to right: Colin Browne, Daphne Marlatt, and Fred Wah.

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Larissa Lai’s poetry here “is on the move between things,” as Fred Wah puts it in this episode of PoemTalk, for which Al Filreis also gathered Daphne Marlatt and Colin Browne to discuss Lai’s long poem Nascent Fashion (published together with several other long poems in Automaton Biographies). Fred, Daphne, and Colin were on tour together as a Western Canadian trio for readings and events along the US east coast. Fortunately for PoemTalk and Kelly Writers House, Philadelphia was one of their stops.

Coolitude poetics interview with Sudesh Mishra

Sudesh Mishra

Sudesh Mishra is the author of five books of poetry, including Tandava (Meanjin Press), Diaspora and the Difficult Art of Dying (Otago University Press), and The Lives of Coat Hangers (Otago University Press); two critical monographs, Preparing Faces: Modernism and Indian Poetry in English (Flinders University) and Diaspora Criticism (Edinburgh University Press); two plays, Ferringhi and The International Dateline (Institute of Pacific Studies, Suva); and several short stories.

Fiji Indian Girmitiya poetry

New arrivals

Indian indenture migration to Fiji began relatively later than the trade to the Caribbean, South Africa, and elsewhere, starting in 1879 and ending in 1920, according to Sudesh Mishra’s article “Time and Girmit.” Coolies in Fiji suffered the same deception that laborers suffered at the hands of the arkotiya — the passage to plantation bound them to five-year renewable contracts. Yet the situation in Fiji was different specifically because of the indigenous Fijian presence in the governmental affairs. There were indigenous people present in Surinam and Guyana but their representation in governmental affairs was marginal, unlike the situation of the colonies in Fiji.