047_Global13_Spotlight_Tri&Tob

Global 13

SpotlightTrinidad and Tobago more directly than at the level of protest: organising responses to floods exacerbated by climate change or dedicating hours to understanding government process. Which classic writers do you love, and why? ‘Love’ is perhaps not quite the word. From childhood, I love E Nesbit for her way of not talking down to the reader and sense of social comedy; Paul Keens-Douglas for his wit and perfect ear for monologue; and Robert Louis Stevenson, who writes the childhood feelings children can’t articulate. Later, sometimes it was the writers I didn’t love who stuck with me. For example, I am not sure that I love Henry James, yet I re- turn to the astonishing vividness of some of his descriptions of objects and of wildflow- ers inPortrait of a Lady. Your five books areNo Traveller Returns (2003),One Scattered Skeleton, Person Ani- mal Figure (2005),Undraining Sea (2009) andDark & Unaccustomed Words (2012). Can you say something about each? No Traveller Returns was conceived as a book, beginning in the Caribbean and rang- ing outwards via England and Iceland into the country of death. There are dialogues, lyrics, imaginary drama, some prose po- ems, even short fiction. One Scattered Skeleton is a prose mem- oir, dealing with topics such as attitudes to mental illness, femininity and homosexu- ality in Trinidad. Each chapter explores a different form, a different way of exploring truth – personal letters, a diary, a commen- tary on others’ texts. Excerpts have been published in anthologies and journals and You have worked in academia in Britain. bering a time when it was less accessible. on websites, but not the whole book. The What views do you have about the UK They know first hand that education, like Guardian journalist Ann Morgan picked it system as compared to (say) the system in health, is not a profit-making business, un- up as her Trinidad choice in her ‘Year of Trinidad? less it is run at a loss in terms of human Reading the World’ project. I have no direct professional experience of capital. As for the UK, since my Fellowship Person Animal Figure is a series of dra- the academic system in Trinidad, other than in Cambridge, I have spent very little time matic monologues. Undraining Sea and giving the occasional talk or workshop. working in academia per se, and always Dark & Unaccustomed Words are the sec- There seems to be very good uptake of the in fixed-term creative writing posts rather ond and third parts of the project begun Trinidad government’s free tertiary edu- than in, say, manuscript research. withNo Traveller Returns, moving through cation, with a number of mature students the endless play of cities and situations re- qualifying or requalifying in areas that How do you think Trinidad faces, culturally, flecting one another to the exploration of would otherwise be too costly, such as law. the rest of the world? the possibilities of form. If Amartya Sen’sDevelopment as Freedom The rest of the world is already in, or pass- My fourth full poetry collection, Utter, is right, this investment in education might ing through, Trinidad. The island is at a due out shortly, is my favourite book to well pay off in a generation or so. strategic point, a flight path for humans as date, and the end of that style of dramatic Quality of student life there is character- well as many species of bird. People are monologues and palimpsestic poetry, at ised by closeness of Trinidadian youngsters very much hooked into new communica- least for now. to their parents and families, similar to that tions technologies; and the population is I have also co-authoredAll Your Houses in Latin countries. University life in Trini- multi-ethnic and migratory to a degree that with Andre Bagoo. The prose poems and dad is not as much part of a rite of break- makes London look simple. It is time for photographs show abandoned or decaying ing with origins as it is in the UK. There the rest of the world to come to terms with urban spaces in Port of Spain still explod- continues to be at least something of the this archipelagic sensibility, where criss- ing with life: greenery, clutter, staircases interweaving of generations. The older crossing and fluidity are not jargon terms into the sky. generation truly values education, remem- but a way of life.● globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l47


Global 13
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