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WORD VIEW: Book walk/tour II

Esther Phillips

WORD VIEW: Book walk/tour II

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THE LAST STOP on the proposed Book Tour was “Round House,” a heritage site and home of the renowned poet Kamau Brathwaite. I should point out that the work of acclaimed contemporary Barbadian writers is being celebrated on the tour as well.
One such writer is award-winning Robert Edison Sandiford. His short story Reckoning is set near the Constitution River. As the title suggests, Colin, the main character, comes to an understanding of his irresponsible attitude towards his daughter, whose name he cannot even remember. This change comes only after he suffers a beating at the hands of two unknown teenagers. What is important is the moral choice Colin makes when he takes this punishment in the place of an otherwise vulnerable couple. Colin sees how the man attempts to shield his wife and, by extension, their children.  
Not too far away is the historic Empire Theatre, where Frank Collymore played the leading role in various drama presentations. Austin Clarke speaks with the greatest delight of his Saturday matinee experiences at the Empire Theatre in Vol. 2 # 1, a Bim issue dedicated to “Colly”.
We’re now at the Waterfront Café where Linda M. Deane is inspired to write the poem Boats With Names That Rock: “In the Careenage boats pull us from their loose mooring/crossing our drinks and long talk with their careless wuk-up/ They call to mind funky cafés and second-hand bookshops/ the kind you find over ’n away in small chic towns . . .” The poem as it continues is as intriguing as the names of the boats the poet lists: Remember Me, I.O.U., The Other Woman, Killin’ Time. Deane copped the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award as well as the Prime Minister’s Award in 2004.
Further along we’re back with Lamming’s In The Castle Of My Skin. The writer is describing an incident where a large merchant ship is torpedoed in the harbour during the Second World War: “The city shook like a cradle and the people scampered in all directions. The war had come to Barbados.” The ship sinks slowly with its cargo of food, and the people are sure that the Germans are conspiring to starve them. Amusingly, one onlooker keeps rolling up his pants leg making as if to jump into the water, ready to take on the Germans and swearing what and what he would do to them. Only one thing stops him: if only he had on his bathing suit.
Depending on which route we take, we’re now on Tudor Street, where Hilton A. Vaughan, with poetic insight, memorializes a young woman in his poem To A Tudor Street Shop Girl: “You, too, seek beauty. Past the unlovely smells/ The aching days, the sweet but tawdry nights/ Past all the impatient shoppers’ shouts and fights/ Past smirks and saucy words and titters, bells/ Still ring for you in some fair land where dwells/ your gay young dream of interweaved delights./ The Prince still waits you there . . .” On this occasion, we cannot help but reflect on Vaughan’s well loved poem Revelation celebrating the beauty of black women.
John Wickham’s short story Meeting In Milkmarket presents us with a colourful picture of Suttle Street: “All sorts of spices spread a perfume in the air and the girls of the town, their mouths filled with gold and curses, slutted and strutted along the narrow wet streets.” The story, however, is primarily an evocation of class difference in the Barbadian society and its destruction of the innocence and close friendship of two schoolboys.
When the young George is attracted to the sister of his friend, he has to bear the cruel taunts of the other boys: “George like a barefoot girl.” Years later the two grown men have a brief and awkward meeting. George is well off. His friend is not. The writer’s statement is poignant: “The simple hardships of poverty and self-denial are nothing to the despair that follows when the hope raised by a sudden resurrection of the heart suffers its inevitable swift extinction.”
Literature is still one of the most engaging forms of creative expression and remains a mirror that perhaps best reflects the experiences and dreams of a people. This Book Walk/Tour is the initiative of Writers Ink Inc. and Arts Etc., writers themselves who passionately desire to bring to the attention of the public the Barbadian literary heritage that already exists and continues to be in the making. See you on the tour!
•Esther Phillips is an educator, poet and editor of BIM: Arts For The 21st Century;