Friday, June 24, 2005

[You for] the fragrant-blossomed Muses' lovely gifts
[be zealous,] girls, [and the] clear melodious lyre:

[but my once tender] body old age now
[has seized;] my hair's turned [white] instead of dark;

my heart's grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.

This state I oft bemoan; but what's to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there's no way.

Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world's end,

handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o'ertook him, husband of immortal wife.

-- Only the fourth "complete" poem by Sappho known to modern scholarship, finally revealed by a find in Cologne last year, published for the first time in the TLS today, translated with a short commentary by Martin West. (Not sure if the link will be good for longer than a week.)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Yesterday UNESCO announced the latest additions to the Memory of the World Register (a list of archive holdings & library collections of global importance); among the 29 new additions is the C.L.R. James Collection at the Main Library, UWI, St. Augustine:

Trinidad & Tobago - C.L.R. James Collection
The C.L.R. James Collection consists of original documents including correspondence, manuscripts, pamphlets, personal and literary papers of the late Cyril Lionel Robert James (1901-1989). James was a leading theoretician of the Trotskyite wing of American communism and the main ideologue and leftist thinker of the nationalist movement in Trinidad and Tobago during its most radical phase from 1958 to 1960. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, C.L.R. James spent much of his life in Britain and the United States. His influence spanned the Caribbean, Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The collection is kept at the University of the West Indies, in Trinidad.

(Two other collections at UWI-St. Augustine are already on the register: the Derek Walcott Collection & the Eric Williams Memorial Collection.)

Also new to the register: the José Martí papers at the Centro de Estudios Martianos in Havana. (There are as yet no other Caribbean collections on the Memory of the World Register.)

(Thanks, Georgia, for pointing this out!)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A reality TV show is being filmed in Tobago. The shapely cast of MTV's Real World/Road Rules Challenge series has flown in to compete in over 16 mind and muscle-wrenching survivor-type episodes, called "Gauntlet 2", being shot at various picturesque locations over the next three to four weeks.

For a reality show, the main venue is, for some critics anyway, quite unreal.

Less than two months after Tobago hosted the "7th Annual Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development", permission has been granted to the American cable network to film part of their series upon the sands of Tobago's most famous, and important, nesting site for globally-endangered Leatherback turtles--Turtle Beach.

The location along Greater Courland Bay that MTV have chosen for their "beached" galleon structure and shoot happens to be right on top of one of the turtles' favourite egg-laying spots, during the most important breeding month of the year.

--From Mark Meredith's report in today's Express.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Joyce's Ireland was like Naipaul's Caribbean in many ways. Full of mimic men, emptiness and the nightmare of history, trapped by the nets of race and religion. He chose exile over acquiescence and held his course in difficult circumstances while public taste inched towards his work.

From the Bloomsday editorial in today's Stabroek News!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Jeffares was born in Dublin and went to the city's high school. A much retold anecdote is his writing to the Nobel laureate (a former pupil) for a contribution to the school magazine. Yeats demurred, Jeffares insisted, and got his poem, "What Then?", Sang Plato's Ghost. A prophetic achievement.

R.I.P. A. Norman Jeffares (editor of the paperback selected edition that was my introduction to Yeats, my favourite poet)

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

From the Guyana Project

Leave behind you your high-seasoned dishes, your wines and your delicacies: carry nothing but what is necessary for your own comfort and the object in view, and depend upon the skill of an Indian, or your own, for fish and game. A sheet about twelve feet long, ten wide, painted, and with loop- holes on each side, will be of great service: in a few minutes you can suspend it betwixt two trees in the shape of a roof. Under this, in your hammock, you may defy the pelting shower, and sleep heedless of the dews of night. A hat, a shirt and a light pair of trousers will be all the raiment you require. Custom will soon teach you to tread lightly and barefoot on the little inequalities of the ground, and show you how to pass on unwounded amid the mantling briers.

Snakes, in these wilds, are certainly an annoyance, though perhaps more in imagination than reality, for you must recollect that the serpent is never the first to offend: his poisonous fang was not given him for conquest--he never inflicts a wound with it but to defend existence. Provided you walk cautiously and do not absolutely touch him, you may pass in safety close by him. As he is often coiled up on the ground, and amongst the branches of the trees above you, a degree of circumspection is necessary lest you unwarily disturb him.

Tigers are too few, and too apt to fly before the noble face of man, to require a moment of your attention.

The bite of the most noxious of the insects, at the very worst, only causes a transient fever with a degree of pain more or less.

-- From Charles Waterton's Wanderings in South America (1825), text available online from Project Gutenberg.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

From the Guyana Project

The Guyana Heritage Society has expressed concern over reports that the National Archives collection was being moved temporarily to the National Cultural Centre, as the building housing it had been sold.

"We're losing our history," society member and local historian, Professor Sister Mary Noel Menezes said yesterday, addressing the state of affairs of the National Archives and the deterioration of materials during handling and movement from one location to another.

Full story in today's Stabroek News.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

I was too distracted to report on the 2004 Guyana Prizes for Literature when they were announced a week & a half ago, but in his column in today's Stabroek News prize committee chairman Al Creighton summarises the results (fiction winners: David Dabydeen & Fred D'Aguiar; poetry winner: Ian McDonald; first poetry winner: Berkley Semple; drama winner: Paloma Mohamed).

Also in today's Stabroek: Robert Moore's recollections of Walter Rodney as a prodigy at Queen's College in the late 50s.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

From the Guyana Project

I have formerly remarked that I wished to have it in my power to say that I had been sucked by the vampire. I gave them many an opportunity, but they always fought shy; and though they now sucked a young man of the Indian breed very severely, as he was sleeping in his hammock in the shed next to mine, they would have nothing to do with me. His great toe seemed to have all the attractions. I examined it minutely as he was bathing it in the river at daybreak. The midnight surgeon had made a hole in it almost of a triangular shape, and the blood was then running from it apace. His hammock was so defiled and stained with clotted blood that he was obliged to beg an old black woman to wash it. As she was taking it down to the river-side she spread it out before me, and shook her head. I remarked that I supposed her own toe was too old and tough to invite the vampire-doctor to get his supper out of it, and she answered, with a grin, that doctors generally preferred young people.

Nobody has yet been able to inform me how it is that the vampire manages to draw such a large quantity of blood, generally from the toe, and the patient all the time remains in a profound sleep. I have never heard of an instance of a man waking under the operation. On the contrary, he continues in a sound sleep, and at the time of rising his eyes first inform him that there has been a thirsty thief on his toe.

The teeth of the vampire are very sharp and not unlike those of a rat. If it be that he inflicts the wound with his teeth (and he seems to have no other instruments), one would suppose that the acuteness of the pain would cause the person who is sucked to awake. We are in darkness in this matter, and I know of no means by which one might be enabled to throw light upon it. It is to be hoped that some future wanderer through the wilds of Guiana
will be more fortunate than I have been and catch this nocturnal depredator in the fact. I have once before mentioned that I killed a vampire which measured thirty-two inches from wing to wing extended, but others which I have since examined have generally been from twenty to twenty-six inches in dimension.

-- From Charles Waterton's Wanderings in South America (1825), text available online from Project Gutenberg.