ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes

   

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Our hearts break not / Though they are ever broken,
A froth of laughter / Tops our sea of sorrows,
our singing sighs like zephyrs / In night silence:
Our voices bear the tracery of tears, / The burden of their cadence.

 

 

Books on Caribbean Writers

 

Kenneth Ramchand, ed. West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology.  Nelson Thornes Ltd; Rev Ed edition (June 1980)

 

Laurence A. Breiner, Black Yeats: Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry. Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 2007

 

Laurence A. Breiner, An Introduction toe West Indian Poetry. Cambridge University Press,  2003

 

Eric Roach, The Flowering Rock. Peepal Tree Press Ltd, 1991

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Eric Roach and the Flowering Rock

Eric Merton Roach, father of Colin Roach, was born 1915 at Mount Pleasant Tobago. After a secondary education at Bishop's High School, Tobago, he entered the teaching profession. In 1939, he joined the army in Trinidad and served as a volunteer with the South Caribbean forces during World War II. His first poems, some written as Merton Maloney, date from this period. After a short stint in the Civil Service, he worked as a journalist with the Trinidad Guardian and The Nation.  He was also a regular contributor to the BBC Caribbean Voices programme.

At the age of 39, he turned his attention to writing and produced many short stories, poems, plays, articles, and a radio serial. He married in 1952 and in 1954 he left his job to devote his time to writing. By 1960, though he had accumulated an impressive body of work, including many anthologised poems and publication in Bim, Kyk-over-Al and other journals, there were no offers of publication and he returned to teaching.

In 1961, he moved to Trinidad where he worked chiefly as a journalist. In 1973, he again resigned in order to devote more time to his writing. In 1972, he had published a fiercely critical review of the new Caribbean poetry published in Savacou ¾ (‘Tribe Boys vs Afro-Saxons’) and in the absence of the publication of his own poetry of this period, which was indeed much closer in spirit to the Savacou collection than his somewhat intemperate review suggested, he was widely castigated for what were perceived as reactionary views.

Almost equally, he was taken up as a stick with which to beat the leading figures in the Caribbean revolution in the arts by its opponents. In the process, Roach’s own poetry was ignored. In 1974, leaving behind ‘Finis’, a suicide note transformed into art, Roach drank insecticide and swam out to sea at Quinam Bay, itself the subject of a fine poem ‘At Quinam Bay’ full of intimations of wearied ending.

Source: Eric Roach Collection

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The Flowering Rock: Collected Poems, 1938-1974

By Eric Merton Roach

This collection brings together for the first time the work of one of the Caribbean's major poets. It collects the poems published in journals between 1938-1973, Roach's early pseudonymous work and a substantial selection of his unpublished poems from manuscript. The collection is edited and introduced by Professor Kenneth Ramchand.Publisher, Peepal Tree Press, 1992

This is an extremely important book. Before its appearance no literary historian or critic, let alone lover of poetry, will have been able to measure the full richness of West Indian poetic creation. One always suspected that Eric Roach was one of the major West Indian poets. This book consolidates his name in a pantheon which includes at least Claude McKay, Derek Walcott, Louise Bennett, Martin Carter and Kamau Brathwaite.

I think what I respond to most is Roach's passion for the land and the people, both of which are so clearly and categorically West Indian. The intense feeling that informs his best poetry - and so much of the poetry is goodexpresses a very specific yearning for a shared identity which will leap over island isolation and bind together our fragmented historical consciousness into a coherent whole.Ian McDonald

The most splendid voice of the Caribbean Renaissance (1948-1972) . . . precious confounded Yeatsian & still utterly Caribbean statements.

Kamau Brathwaite

This first publication of Roach’s poetic corpus is quite simply a major literary event. Laurence Breiner

 

Source: Peepal Tree Press

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Poems by Eric Roach

Finis

night casts its blanket
on the wood
blacker than blindness

nothing breaks midnight now
the fireflies died
life’s candles flickered out

darkness has entered
at the pores of love
and joy and grief
and art and song

now sound is silence
silence
silence

a man has passed
into the heart of darkness

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The Flowering Rock

In fierce hot noons
Neath homestead trees
Our village girls
Breastfeed their young
Whose cradle is a song,
And in our valley
The stream water croons
Cool rhythms among stones.

Our hearts break not
Though they are ever broken,
A froth of laughter
Tops our sea of sorrows,
our singing sighs like zephyrs
In night silence:
Our voices bear the tracery of tears,
The burden of their cadence.

Oh from gaunt rock
As white as sanctity
The lily blooms:
Essence of darkness is
Too pure for fragrance,
The distilled stone,
The still voice of the skeleton.

This is our symbol -
Beauty famous in the slum;
The hungry boy who
Tomorrow shall become
The country’s hero;
The black loam bears him,
He breeds recurrent
In our fertile womb.

Day breaks, my darling:
Night, cast with eldritch dreams
Shrinks from these shores,
Light flickers on horizons;
Our souls like sunflowers
Turn toward the dawning:
Our hope begins its orisons.

Source: Eric Merton Roach

The Flowering Rock: Collected Poems, 1938-1974

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Black Yeats

Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry

By Laurence A. Breiner

In this impressive and much-needed book, Laurence Breiner sets out to present a study of Eric Roach “as a publishing poet . . . concentrating on how Roach in fact presented himself—or found himself presented—before the world of his contemporaries.” This means that while the work of Roach the Tobagonian playwright, fiction writer, and journalist exists as a sort of sunk context surrounding or permeating much within the scope of Breiner’s consideration, by the time page 279 (or page 297, for those who read endnotes) is reached, Roach stands forth from the crowd of named and unnamed tragic Caribbean figures who have pre-empted their natural time, forcing the sea to swallow them up (his suicide was in 1974)—to be known as himself, as much more than the author of the occasional anthologised federationist verse or the “hurt hawk” subject of posthumous tributes . . .

It is through his literary skill as writer and reader, working with his historical knowledge, that Breiner establishes his interpretations of Roach’s evolving sense of self as a federationist poet, and the tragedy of this rural Tobagonian whose voice did not find itself heard in time for the times according to which it launched song and endeavoured speech.Vahni Capildeo, Caribbean Review of Books

Laurence A. Breiner is the author of An Introduction to West Indian Poetry and a member of the African-American studies faculty at Boston University, where he teaches Caribbean, postcolonial, and 17th-century literatures. He lives in Boston.

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AALBC.com's 25 Best Selling Books


 

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 11 January 2012

 

 

 

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Related files:  Eric Roach and Flowering Rock  Kam Williams Interviews Colin Roach