The mouth opens. It burps and yowls, gasps and laughs, mumbles and yawns. The mouth sings —loudly or quietly and can do it with a shimmer. The mouth whispers. The mouth SCREAMS. The mouth speaks, stutters, and stops.
Most people think about the connections between music and poetry in a very abstract way — that assonance is the descendant of rhyme or that music and poetry occupy very different spaces. For me, music is the first poetry that I ever learned. I come from an oral culture — or at least an aural culture of performance and music, drama and stories.
Shivanee Ramlochan, author of Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting (Peepal Tree Press, 2017) writes a Coolitude poetics and achieves a dazzling sense of historical hauntings in her debut collection of poetry. The ghosts leap. Her collection quite literally includes duennes and jumbies as a way to write about the missing, the dispossession, and the longing for a wholeness that haunts her speakers.
In her debut collection Thungachi (2017, Uhlanga Press) Francine Simon draws from the vast well of her Coolie inheritance to create poetry that speaks through the vocabularies of indenture. Being of Christian and Hindu Tamilian descent, Simon begins her book with the indenture story, fulfilling Vijay Mishra’s prescription that Indian Labor Diaspora be haunted by its traumas of oceanic crossings.
In her debut collection Thungachi (2017, Uhlanga Press), Francine Simon draws from the vast well of her Coolie inheritance to create poetry that speaks through the vocabularies of indenture. Being of Christian and Hindu Tamilian descent, Simon begins her book with the indenture story, fulfilling Vijay Mishra’s prescription that the Indian labor diaspora be haunted by its traumas of oceanic crossings.
To extend my look into Pirbhai’s vocabularies of indenture I consider Khalil Torabully’s poetry, the generator of the Coolitude concept. It is through his conceptualization of Coolitude that the Mauritian poet establishes a discourse that empowers the Indian labor diaspora to begin to draw connections between themselves despite national identities.
Andre Bagoo is a Trinidadian poet and writer. He is the author of Trick Vessels (Shearsman Books, 2012), BURN (Shearsman Books, 2015) and Pitch Lake (Peepal Tree Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared at Boston Review, Caribbean Review of Books, Cincinnati Review, St Petersburg Review, The Poetry Review and elsewhere. He was awarded the Charlotte and Isidor Paiewonsky Prize by The Caribbean Writer in 2017.
One of the most important poets of the Indian Labor Diaspora is Mahadai Das (1954–2003). Born in Eccles, East Bank Demerara, Guyana, her poem “They Came In Ships” serves as an ancestor poem to all of the poetry written by Indo-Guyanese people today. According to Peepal Tree Press’s website,
The poetry of David Dabydeen’s Coolie Odyssey (1988) is the first of the Indo-Caribbean body of poetry that I examine, as it was my own personal entry point into poetry. In his first book of poems, Slave Song, Dabydeen wrote entirely in Guyanese Creole ekphrastic poems that gave voice to the brown and black bodies painted by colonials in Guyana during the days of slavery and indenture-era plantations. This book moves between Guyanese Creole and standard English to produce the effect of a Caribbean person living a bicultural life in diaspora.
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 TheLives 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.
The first chapbook I’m looking at, Break Me Ouch by Michael Farrell (3 Deep Publishing, 2006), is a book of poems arranged as though they are panels in a comic book. Through this I want to observe how illustrations might amend our reading of poems, not just accompanying the poem but, in this case, forming the integral structure of the page itself.