Wednesday, April 28, 2004

"A poem," he said, in answer to a question about knowing when a poem is completed, "is really an attempt to write a poem."

-- Teasing words from Derek Walcott, at his reading in Kingston on Sunday--see stories in the Observer and the Gleaner.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The unvarnished truth is that there's no space on the right for John Kerry. Hard-line exiles--for whom Cuba is the only issue--are dedicated Republicans. However, there is an opening on the left. A viable position for Kerry would be to declare himself fiercely anti-Castro and then point out that Bush has no Cuba policy other than the embargo--a 45-year failure that has yet to make any progress toward its stated goals: free elections in Cuba and an end to Castro's reign. Kerry should then champion what the majority of exiles want--unlimited remittances and unrestricted travel--and argue that increased contact with Cuba will lay the groundwork for civil society in the post-Castro years.

-- Ann Louise Bardach suggests how John Kerry could win the Cuban vote & hence Florida, in Slate.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

In The General in His Labyrinth, Castro's close friend and drinking buddy, Gabriel García Márquez, writes in the voice of Simon Bolívar, saying: "The man who serves a revolution ploughs the seas." But the great Liberator's last words in the novel are these: "This nation will fall inevitably into the hands of the unruly mob and then will pass into the hands of almost indistinguishable petty tyrants of every colour and race." One suspects that, reading his friend's novel, Fidel must have shivered slightly--even in a very hot climate.

-- From Jay Parini's review of Volker Skierka's new biography of Fidel Castro, in today's UK Guardian.
Does writing poetry pose a health threat? Is there any such thing as the Sylvia Plath effect?

And is the phrase "live fast, die young" more applicable to sensitive young souls describing their torment in verse than to James Dean-style tearaways?

According to James Kaufman, whose research has just been published in an obscure publication called Journal of Death Studies, the answer could be yes to all three questions.

So the scientists have confirmed it....

Friday, April 23, 2004

I do see the resemblance. Brian Lara the frog has turned up in Portsmouth, no doubt sent ahead of the WI cricket team to spy on preparations for their tour of England this summer....
Trying to harness a conversation with Lakshmi Persaud is like trying to catch a butterfly.

The author of Raise the Lanterns High ... flits between talking about her new book, her life and her children, and back again. But what drives her is not arrogance but an infectious enthusiasm.

"If the book is praised, it doesn't go to my head and, if anyone says to me they don't like the book, it does not disturb me. When someone reads the book, their interpretation of it depends on a whole host of things," Lakshmi said.

-- From a short profile of Trinidad-born Persaud in yesterday's Hendon & Finchley Times.
The Will of all Wills was a Warwickshire Will....

And a handsome, cheerful fellow too, they say. Today is his birthday, his 440th by most accounts. Here's a sort of present--a silly little poem:

Present from Stratford

She took a train through the autumn smoke,
a scarf to her lips. She trod in the crowds
& the shrubbery-beds, drank tea, was cold.
She plucked up something from under a tree.

Clacked in a blue box tricked with stars:
a seed, a cone, its broken needles
dry like thorns, unlovely wooden
bud, a brittle rosemary burr.

Not whole as a stone, I thought, not old
as a stone, not perfect under my thumb.
Then, not dead as a stone, I thought.
Something ought to be sleeping inside--

this metaphor's too plain. It nests
on the shelf, a pine-bark egg on its bed
of pins. Sometimes I fetch it to smell.
Sometimes I'd like it inside my mouth.

-- Philip Sander

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Lara dislikes the ball and means to drive it away from him. Sobers used to co-opt it. Lara in full cry will bloody a bowler and leave him wishing he were dead. Sobers used to make bowlers fall in love with him.

Every ball bowled to Lara is to him an adventure, a brand new problem or window of delight; and the question you see him asking in that split-second pause is: "By what inventive chord-of-a-stroke shall this one be put away?" When he winds up dead-batting, Lara feels it as a constriction, an interruption of what he's there for. For all his elan, he is at heart a marauder, a taker-apart of a fielding side.

By contrast, every ball to Sobers was part of a preordained scheme of things. He didn't ask, "With what chord shall I destroy this one?" He asked, "Where in the melodic line does this ball fit?" Most times, he found the response which harmony dictated....

Brian Lara lives in and through cricket. But where Sobers was of Barbados and the colonial 50s, Lara is from Trinidad and a product of the '80s. He grew up amid the Me Generation, not the British public school and its traditions. He has no empire either to administer or to resist; he comes from a country with nine synonyms for heckling; and his immediate cricket ancestors are Pace-like-Fire and Licks-like-Peas. Moreover, he is generationally a man of the Americas, an American. And what all these mean is that, unlike Sobers, Lara is a man alone.

Among West Indians, Trinidadians are the existentialists.... Perhaps it has to do with the relative young-ness of the society. Or with its urban demographics, or its bi-ethnic composition.

But you see it in Lara, in the little lunge-and-rock-back, the early sighting but the playing late, the sense that, to him, each ball represents a discontinuous new promise and peril.

-- Wayne Brown, writing in today's J'ca Observer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Like tens of thousands of other West Indians, I spent yesterday morning in front of the TV, anxiously counting down the runs to the quadruple century. And I'm not even much of a cricket fan. But I'm thrilled Lara's recaptured the record, & hoping that this time it means the beginning of a turnaround for the whole team--& not yet another lost opportunity.

Then I pick up the Express this morning & read this infuriating article:

A world cricketing legend.

That's how Prime Minister Patrick Manning described West Indies captain Brian Lara after he scored 400 runs--the highest Test score in the 127-year history of the game.

Manning issued the statement yesterday saying initially it is difficult to find superlatives to describe a man who has broken two world records in ten years.

Manning later telephoned Lara in Antigua at around 6.40 p.m. extending his personal congratulations. Manning asked Lara what he would like the country to do for him now and assured that the Government was making appropriate preparations for him on his return to the country.

The headline? "Manning to Lara: What do you want?"

I couldn't help thinking that no prime minister has ever asked, say, the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, "What do you want?" I couldn't help thinking how many calypsonians & musicians have died in poverty, & of Carlisle Chang's great mural The Inherent Nobility of Man, demolished in an airport renovation. Which isn't to deny the magnificence of Lara's achievement yesterday. By all means let's throw him a parade, give him another medal, name something else after him. But you can't build a civilisation on just sports heroes & beauty queens, however much we may adore them here in the Caribbean.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Islamic fundamentalism in Southeast Asia is erasing the past and cultures of the peoples of the region, with Christianity and Islamic fundamentalism "at war with each other", the 2001 Nobel Laureate for Literature Sir Vidia S Naipaul said in Bangkok yesterday.

Naipaul, who was speaking after reading from a work on Malaysia at Chulalongkorn University, said some people wanted to stamp out their own past and culture. This destruction of people's pasts is "very brutal", he said.

The outspoken Trinidad-born, Oxford-educated writer is often accused of giving Islamic societies a less-than-glowing appraisal, and he did nothing to change that yesterday, saying countries that converted to Islam--such as Malaysia and Indonesia--had suppressed their pre-Islamic pasts, resulting in their people developing "troubled personalities".

-- Pravit Rojanaphruk reports on Naipaul's visit to Bangkok in today's Thailand Nation.