6th Edward Baugh Distinguished lecture

Edward Baugh

This year, I will give the 6th annual  Edward Baugh Distinguished Lecture which  is put on by the Department of Literatures in English at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Professor Emeritus Edward Baugh has earned an international reputation as an authority on Anglophone Caribbean poetry in general and on the work of Derek Walcott in particular.

An outstanding teacher, Professor Baugh has guided the  intellectual development of several generations of students at Mona.  I, myself, chose to do my PhD dissertation on Derek Walcott’s poetry and plays, largely because of Professor Baugh’s passion for the subject.

TheDistinguished  Lecture Series pays tribute to his stellar career.  Previous speakers  include Trinidadian writerEarl Lovelace,  Guyanese author/scholar Mark McWatt and Australian literary critic  Helen Tiffin, one of the co-authors of the foundational post-colonial text, The Empire Writes Back .  

Fi Wi Nation, Fi Wi Language

Anthony B

‘Talk like Miss Lou, mi no talk like foreigner’.  A so Anthony B seh inna fi im song, ‘Nah Vote Again’.  Im a one conscious DJ weh know seh how im talk reveal im history an im culture.  Im naa put on no twang an a try gwaan like seh im come from foreign.  Im naa try fi cross over.  Anthony B know seh fi im language a ‘nation language’ as di one Kamau Brathwaite from Barbados seh.

Professor Brathwaite a one big-time historian an poet weh did teach right ya so pon di Mona campus a University a di West Indies.  Im gone a New York University. Professor Brathwaite call fi wi Creole language dem inna di Caribbean ‘nation language’.  Becau im know seh yu language talk yu nation; it mek people know weh yu come from, who yu be an weh yu a defend.

Kamau Brathwaite

Professor Brathwaite write one lickle book weh im call History of the Voice.  It come out inna 1984. An im livicate di book to Mikey Smith, one dub poet weh wicked people did stone up a Stony Hill.  Kill im dead.  One a Mikey well-beknownst poem a di one weh him call ‘Me Cyaan Believe it’.  Im dis a bawl out fi all a di people dem weh a suffer.  Yu fi hear im seh ‘Lawwwwwwwwd’. It stretch out same like how people a suffer, long-long time.

An Mikey talk bout di belly-pain woman ha fi bear:

Doris a modder of four

Get a wuk as a domestic

Boss man move een

An bap si kaisico she pregnant again

Bap si kaisico she pregnant again

An me cyaan believe it

Me seh me cyaan believe it.

Dreaming of a white Christmas

Inna History of the Voice, Professor Brathwaite call up di ancestor dem.  Im go back inna di 1950, dem time, an im go a Carriacou, one lickle island, part a Grenada.   Di people dem kip up one celebration every year weh dem call di Big Drum.  Dem honour dem old-time people.  One Black American writer Paule Marshall, who fa people dem come from Barbados go a New York, she write one nice-nice story bout di Big Drum ceremony.  Di novel name Praisesong for the Widow.  Mi teach it inna dat deh same course mi did a advertise – ‘Looking for hot sex and romance’.

Di people dem pon di lickle island a Carriacou know dem nation an dem nation language.  Inna fi har novel, Paule Marshall show wi seh di people dem from Carriacou weh live inna Grenada, dem know English good-good.  But as soon as dem go dong a wharf, fi ketch di boat go a Cariacou, a so-so patwa dem a chat.

Conquistador at work

Brathwaite talk bout how di system never set up fi mek wi member fi wi owna African language dem.  Hear how im put it: ‘What our educational system did was to recognize and maintain the language of the conquistador – the language of the planter, the language of the official, the language of the Anglican preacher.

‘It insisted that not only would English be spoken in the anglophone Caribbean, but the educational system would carry the contours of an English heritage.  Hence . . . Shakespeare, George Eliot, Jane Austen – British literature and literary forms, the models which had very little to do, really, with the environment and the reality of non-Europe – were dominant in the Caribbean educational system. . . .

‘And in terms of what we write, our perceptual models, we are more conscious (in terms of sensibility) of the falling snow, for instance . . . than of the force of the hurricanes which take place every year’.  A true.  Christmas a come an plenty a unu a go buy Christmas card wid snow pon Christmas tree.  And unu a go sing Christmas carol bout ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.’ So unu no bodder gwaan like all a di foreign culture no deh ya pon top a wi, a beat wi dong inna di grong.

Hard core stuff

Earl Lovelace

Still for all, mi know seh tings an times change.  An wi a study plenty Caribbean writer inna fi wi school inna dem ya time.  Tek for instance Earl Lovelace.  Im a one storyteller from Trinidad and im spend time inna Tobago when im a pikni.  Im write one deep-deep novel, The Wine of Astonishment, weh deh pon di CXC syllabus.  Pure patwa inna dat deh book.  It sweet yu see!

 If yu a read dis ya blog soon a morning, yu can ketch Mr. Lovelace up a Philip Sherlock Centre fi di Creative Arts a UWI. Im a gi di Edward Baugh Distinguished Lecture dis morning, 11:00 aklak. Di lecture set up fi honour EddieBaugh, di fos West Indian professor inna di English Department a UWI.  Lovelace a go talk bout ‘Reclaiming Rebellion’.  An im new novel, Is Just a Movie, a go launch.  Pon Tuesday, from 11:00 aklak to 1:00 aklak, Mr. Lovelace a go talk to literature student bout  The Wine of Astonishment under di big tent, side-a di undercroft. All di school dem weh waan come ha fi email di Department a Literature inna English fi book space: litsengmona@gmail.com.  Di phone number a  927-2217.

Den mi get one good joke last week from one man weh email mi bout ‘Governor General Gives Throne Speech in Patois’:  “I am extremely disappointed in you when you wrote that ‘there’s no Jamaican I know who makes love in English. In the height (or depth) of passion, no self-respecting yardie is going to moan and groan in English’. OK, so far so good. What I was expecting to hear from you (as an experienced person in this area) are some of the types of sounds that are made by people making love. Hard core stuff. That’s my disappointment. Can we your loyal readers expect it?  LOL. Have a wonderful day”.

Hear weh mi tell im seh, “DWL.  How about ‘woi, woi, woi’ for starters”.  Im send back one sweet-sweet answer.  Not like some a dem sour people pon di Gleaner website weh always a complain bout mi column.  Mi no know weh mek dem ha fi a nyam up demself so.  Hear weh my faas friend im write back seh: ‘You are a delight. I can always rely on you. You’re simply the best. I almost died laughing. You will kill me, I need not hear anymore. (Although).  You’ve shut me (to hell) up. Period’.