Saturday, 22 July 2017

Writers To Watch: Zahra Gordon

Zahra Gordon is a poet and writer with more than 10 years of experience. In her teens, she was a poet’s apprentice with the youth program, Arts on the Block and also staff writer and Foreign Desk Editor for Montgomery Blair High School’s award-winning online newspaper, Silver Chips Online. She has worked as a journalist with the Trinidad Express and T&T Guardian. She has also been a contributor to Caribbean Beat and Island Vibes Magazines. 

Have you been published? Share the links to your published work in the comments below.

Her poetry has been published in literary journals such as Amistad, Mantis, phat’itude, Kalyani, TRAUE and The New Engagement. Gordon is an alumna of Howard University where she majored in English with a minor in Caribbean Studies and worked with the poet Dr. Tony Medina. She has had featured readings at numerous events including the Bocas Lit Fest, T&T National Library Week and the Caribbean Studies Association Annual Conference. A fellow of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and the CaribLit Residential Writing Programme, Gordon was also a winner of the 2010 Furious Flower Poetry Competition. In 2015, her work was longlisted for the Hollick Arvon Prize for Caribbean Writers.

“Immigrant Sings the Blues” 


you assume

my American

life

did not include

food stamps

and rodents;

that I never

had an ER doctor

administer

charcoal

to get the extra

tablets out of

my blood stream.

you assume

my American

life

did not include

death,

debt,

and numerous cries

tossed to

deaf ears.

you believe

it’s better

to scrape

greenbacks

together

in the biting winter,

than to hustle

for reds and blues

in the midday sun.

you wonder

who comes back

to this small island

when they could be

lost

in big yankee space.

you don’t know

about my high school

history teacher   who

lectured on the ills

of Cuban communism,

preached justification

of the Grenadian invasion.

you don’t know

the compliments

I’ve received

from his colleague:

“Boy, you Africans

really know

your beads!”

did I tell you?

about my black American

friend

who related once to me

the makeup of a class

she was taking:

foreigners,

children of foreigners.

“I’m the only

normal one,”

she said.

“I don’t understand

the teacher.”

how many students

did not understand

my father

when he substituted?

how many pump

attendants

demanded he speak

English

when buying gas?

for how many positions

was he deemed

“overqualified”?

you assume

this American

life

is golden.

It’s actually

indigo.

By Zahra Gordon
13 Mar, 2017  in Contributions / Reflections on Blackness by Sakina Laksimi-Morrow

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Thursday, 20 July 2017

Four Best Places to Write in Trinidad and Tobago

I can relate to being hit by inspiration while in a dark restaurant or worse being without a pen and having to resort to using my Bobbi Brown eyeliner. Never being able to use that clutch that’s too small for even my phone because I'm always taking notes.  Having to review notes on my cell phone filled with incorrect auto-correct words because stopping would’ve been too much. I can write anywhere. In fact, I collect places to write like a wine connoisseur collects fine age-worthy bottles. Places can be paired with moods and needs like wine to food and cheese. Here are a few of my favourite writing spots in Trinidad and Tobago.

I know it’s a clichĂ© but it’s tried and true! While it may not be on a Parisian CafĂ©, the bustle of Rituals, the inviting smell of deep roasted coffee-beans, the churning of the blenders, it creates the perfect ambient noise for my writing. I go there when I’m not in the mood to be home at my desk.

2.     PTSC KYC Tours
Trinidad and Tobago Public Transport Service Corporation offers Know Your Country tours at reasonable rates starting from $75, the bus meets at the Railway Building, South Quay, Port of Spain and takes you for a day of sightseeing and brings you back. I love it because you meet so many different people and you rediscover your backyard. If you have a day give, pack a cooler and bring a notebook and some pens. I book a trip when I have time off and I am seeking inspiration. Perfect for free write sessions.

This is two in one because Pax Guesthouse is a historical hotel and eco-resort on Mt. St. Benedict, on the grounds is also The Abbey of Our Lady of Exile. It’s a peaceful place to bird-watch and be close to nature. Pax offers a daily afternoon tea every day from 3:00PM-6:00PM. I like writing there (sometimes I make a weekend of it) because no one disturbs you and it’s where I go when I need quite.  

4.     Sandy Point Beach Club, Tobago
I am most productive with writing when I am in Tobago. So much so, I try to get there once a year to focus on my craft. Sandy Point Beach Club is primarily a timeshare resort, but they offer rentals. Where are you most productive when writing, let us know in the comments? Tobago is where I go when I need time to devote to my page, my mood is that of the bohemian writer, I find I can write piece after piece effortlessly the closer I stay to the ocean. Maybe it’s the salt water? 

5.      Please see comments!

I am always searching for my next new favourite place to write. 
Where do you write? 
Can you recommend number 5 for me? 

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Andre Cook Shares Work from His Upcoming Collection


Andre Cook is a published writer and poet. He has been travelling the United States staying in beautiful hotels while curating his poetry collection for publication. Currently he is working on his collection in Atlanta. I got a chance to spend some time with Andre Cook, to discuss who he is as a writer. I hope the interview below inspires you.

Andre Cook: In my early years of life I loved to sing and dreamt of being a famous vocalist like. God had other plans and events took place to help me form new dreams. I learned about writing and the power of words through dinner conversations with my family, hearing and learning their extensive vocabulary and various ways to use it. Their words became my words and through comic books I learned the power of painting the blank page with ideas using words as my paint brush. I took what I absorbed from various literary pieces and crafted a style of writing that allowed me to see things in pictures and ways to explain the picture with words.

Gershia:        What inspires you to write poetry? What’s your writing process like?
Andre Cook:            I am born storyteller and I hear to inspire and be inspired. Art is designed to invoke emotion and stimulate thought. When an artist, no matter the medium they use, can discuss a piece of creation that didn't exist until they brought it to life and touch the listener and have a discourse on what the piece means, it's potential and how it makes others succeed the artist has done their job.

I don't have a writing a process to speak of. The literature more engages me. I have a thought or a thought appears in my mind. Sometimes the words are accompanied by music and that piece may become a song or they can be words that when left alone and returned to fit into a poem and or narration. It's like having a friend who comes to sit and talk with you. They appear they share and they leave. In their departure I write and the piece come alive.

Gershia:        How do you begin a poem? How do you know when to end a poem?
Andre Cook:            Sometimes I start with an idea and or a feeling. I may actively search for words and or sometimes am overwhelmed with the idea that it literally writes itself. I know when the poem ends when there is nothing more to say about the topic. The words are said and the meaning is given and comes off the page

Gershia:        What makes a poet successful?
Andre Cook:            You know you are a successful writer not by media attention or fans or acknowledgement it is when you have said all the piece needs to say and you present and audience no matter the size shares it. Writing is about message not the money. It's about using your voice.

Gershia:        Can you talk a bit about your favourite poets?
Andre Cook:            I enjoy Henry Wads Worth Long Fellow. He wrote many powerful and engaging poems but the two that stayed with me the most are the Children's Hour and Psalm Of Life. The first tell us how he appreciates being a father. He a window into his life and uses words to share his intimate thoughts about caring and playing with his children. We get to see a man being a man. The next we get to see the man perform as genius. What he writes in Psalm of life insight and depth. We challenged to want more but the more must be the betterment of mankind. Shakespeare Sonnets 27 and 29 I think are brilliant.  27 because of one line “For then my thoughts (from far where I abide) Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee.” The language used and the thought behind it, especially when connected to the remaining lines just makes the sonnet absolutely beautiful. Sonnet 29 talks about self-pain and then thinking of someone you love and how that thought and that person changes their perception of life.

Gershia:        How do you represent yourself in your work?
Andre Cook:            My work doesn't often reflect me as a person but they do discuss matters that are important to me. The work is a like a friend visiting. They arrive and we discuss the share ideas and opinions about how the world is and how it should be. While the friend is visiting I start writing and one my friend has left the ideas remain and so it becomes a monologue yet also a continuation of the conversation until the friend returns and we talk again.

Gershia:        What advice would you give an aspiring poet?
Andre Cook:            Advice, I'm in no position to advise anyone but I can say, this, write, sing, paint, speak and use what ever healthy means you have to express yourself. If not pen and paper, spray pain, or computer Instagram and blog. Share what you feel the world should think about and or know. Never question should I write this only how will it affect the viewer and or audience. Write everything you think and feel then decided what you think you should share and what is only for you. Write and never censor yourself. Your voice is powerful whether it shared with world, friend or just with yourself.
Write!

I asked Andre to share with us work from his upcoming collection. I loved this first line of Twilight it really draws you into the character's mind.

Twilight
Scars littered my psyche from being the one who sacrifices my pride for the benefit of others. So to stop the self-inflicting wounds that come at the edge of telling someone, I like you, I want you, I chose you… I withdrew. I allowed myself to be a thing, because things have no feelings they can only function. Under the spell of my own illusion I said, I‘m steel, I’m cold, I’m a rock, without a consciousness, without a heart… I just am.
My true-self, my real-self, screamed. It would escape its prison and sing to me old songs that say, “Love Is on the Way” and “Hold on for One More Day”. The hope I tried to choke and suppress, squirreled away strength and pocketed faith. The day I spoke to you, it wasn't kismet and there were no violins. It was a calm, cool, drink to a soul that had been burning with fire. It was an, "Understanding Mellow" that went from attraction, to infatuation, to feeling I could love you. Prior my caring and sharing was a seduction. In itself sex is an action. It was the acquisition and possession of a woman. I put the action before the meaning and the meaning was lost in translation.
Yet in one conversation you gave my soul the rendition it so desperately needed.
You invoked a connection, where your body was mine and my body was yours and I wanted to kiss you. Passion without understanding is just acquisition without value. What we had was twilight.
I was new to having my fantasy translate into reality. I didn’t feel worthy. I didn't know I had permission. I know now how love should be. Love is devotion not acquisition. I must nurture respect, appreciation and understanding before passion. You are worth knowing and I’m too precious to be a function.


Copyright 2017 Andre Cook
Hope you enjoyed a sample of what Andre Cook has to offer. LIKE Poetry and Prose to read more talented writers. 

Share in the comments:
What inspires you to write? 
What’s your writing process like?

Monday, 17 July 2017

Writers To Watch: Interview with Motilal Boodoosingh

Writers Retreat After Dinner CocktailsWhen I hosted the Pax Writers’ Retreat in 2015 I met Motilal Boodoosingh. The first time I saw Motilal perform his work was during the after dinner cocktails, on the veranda overlooking the lights of the homes below. Writers did what writers do when they assemble after a good meal, with a glass of wine in hand. An impromptu open mic bloomed like the dama de noche flower and Motilal commanded his peers’ attention like the scent of jasmine at night.

Motilal Boodoosingh is a sixty six year old retired Offshore Gas Production Worker.  He has a BA in Literature and Communications, a Certificate in the Teaching of Reading from UWI, UWI Croppers Foundation Writers Workshop Diploma, and an Adult Literacy Tutor's Certificate. He has been published in The Caribbean Writer, Moko Magazine, Interviewing the Caribbean, Isle Scribe, The Trinidad Guardian and elsewhere.


He volunteers as a remedial English teacher with the Penal Police Youth club and has been lately trying his hand as a playwright/ producer for a play he has written for them. He is the father of four and grandfather of two. He enjoys the support of his wife Savi in all his endeavours. Below, is an interview discussing his view on literary life.




Gershia:         Do you write about your life experiences? If so what time-period do you find you write about most often? 
Motilal Boodoosingh:         I write mostly about my experiences as a young boy from preteen to my late twenties.

Gershia:         Do you hide any events or people in your writing that only a few people will find? 
Motilal Boodoosingh:         Off course. You want me to get sued! In the sixties Penal was like Peyton Place! Sometimes I would merge characters and events but most of my stories are based on happenings as I remember them.

Motilal Boodoosingh

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Gershia:         Do you want each short story to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each story? 
Motilal Boodoosingh:          My stories can stand alone. However you will see characters and places recurring. I plan to have a collection of stories published later this year.

Gershia:         Do you see yourself making a living as a writer? 
Motilal Boodoosingh:          I write for the love of it. I think it is therapeutic. Haven't made any real money as yet. However I did get paid writing essays for fellow students at High School, especially the science students.

Motilal Boodoosingh Reading at Bocaslitfest

Gershia:         What does literary success look like to you? 
Motilal Boodoosingh:      Being published is great. I think I am happier reading my work before an appreciative audience. Making people laugh means a lot to me. The applause I get after I read tells me I am successful in reaching people.

Gershia:         What advice do you have for unpublished writers? 
Motilal Boodoosingh:          Forget about being published. Write primarily for yourself and the love of it. Join Poetry and Prose, read in public, listen to criticism and rewrite. Publications will come when you least expect it.


Tell us in the comments:
Do you hide any events or people in your writing?

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Diane Metts a Mixologist of Words Blending Reality and Fiction


Diane Metts


I want to introduce a mixologist of words blending reality and fiction. When I met Diane Metts I instantly felt her honest spirit, her mellow vibe and her passion for writing. You only have to talk to Diane for 5 minutes to know she is the real deal. Diane Metts was born and raised in Providence Rhode Island, she is a new upcoming Author who published two books at the age of twenty-four. 

Growing up Diane didn't have it easy so writing was a way for her to escape the traumas and stressors life brought her way. At just two years old she was adopted because both her parents were drug addicts who had signed over their rights. Feelings of neglect, shame, low self-esteem and rejection were emotions that she struggled with on a daily bases. Bits and pieces of her sequel Stolen Innocence reference certain parts of her life that had a huge impact on her and made her the person she is today. 

Despite all the triumphs Diane went to school to be an EMT and worked on the ambulance for three years before becoming a medical assistant, and has since remained in healthcare for the past six years. Bringing patients who have been through traumatic and stressful experiences some peace is a passion of hers. She didn't think it would turn into a career but it was so rewarding, she never looked back. In her free time, Diane likes to write while relaxing at home with her cat Tink and is also taking classes to become a trauma nurse. 

Diane encourages all people who need advice with life and similar situations she’s gone through, not to hesitate in contacting her via email at dmts5311@gmail.com.
Read my interview with Diane below.

Gershia:                     Where does your inspiration come from? What inspired you to write about the issues you addressed?
Diane Metts:              My inspiration comes from seeing children go through some of the things I had to experience growing up. Adoption, low self-esteem and thoughts of feeling worthless are all troubles children and adolescence face every day. When I noticed I wasn’t the only one dealing with these emotions it inspired me to write a book that shows the characters dealing with similar emotions. My goal was to address the fact that nobody's life is perfect and we all go thru ups and downs despite how good looking we may think we are. When you realize how common your situation is, your whole perspective and outlook changes for the better.

Gershia:         How did you get published?
Diane Metts:  My best friend started a publishing company and released both of my books.

Gershia:         What is your writing process like?
Diane Metts:  My writing process starts with brainstorming. I gather info from what I see on tv, crazy stories my friends tell me and my daily life. Once I feel I have a story line I write a plot and work around that.

Gershia:         In writing urban fiction you represent a community. How do you balance portraying the reality of urban life and still depicting the community in a good light?
Diane Metts:  When I write my goal is to be very truthful about the environment we are exposed to. The community still needs a lot of work because schools and learning programs aren’t a priority to the government when it comes to minorities. The biggest asset we have as a community is being survivors. No matter how hard it is losing our kids to gun violence, drugs, teen pregnancy and lack of money; we still make it through. Shining light on our community’s strength and perseverance is something I strive to capture in my books.

Gershia:         What other authors have you fallen in love with and why?
Diane Metts:  Sister Souljah is my favourite author. I was about fourteen years old when I read her book No Disrespect. That was the first book I couldn't put down. It opened my eyes about so much in the world. I admired the way she was able to write in a way that I could visualize every moment as if I was living it. Reading her books were an escape for me. I would spend hours in my room just reading. When I finished her book I instantly went to the library and got another book of hers, The Coldest Winter Ever. From there I was obsessed with urban fiction and Sister Souljah became my role model. Her books and style of writing have had a major impact on where and who I am today.

Gershia:         Are you apart of a writer’s group?
Diane Metts:  On social media I belong to a few writers groups.

Gershia:         What is your advice for unpublished writers?
Diane Metts:  My advice to all unpublished writers would be to keep writing even if you haven’t been able to get your first project off the ground. The more material you have when the time comes the better. Writing is about versatility and capturing an audience. After you release the first book your readers will be looking for the next book and if you don’t produce fast enough you could lose them. Publishing will happen eventually if you put yourself out there to the right people and network. But you have to have options and evidence that writing is not only a passion but a talent not everyone can master.


Fourteen year old Parrish wanted to become a woman so bad that she followed in her best-friends footsteps. Who would have thought becoming a grown woman could put your life, safety, health and morals on the line? Parrish fell in love with Terrance a man twice her age, and would do anything to make it work, even giving him her virginity. In the process of becoming the woman her best-friend trained her to be, she slowly began losing herself. Not only was she struggling with her own life, but she was dealing with both of her friend’s sudden health problems, her father's rejection and Terrance's lies and infidelity. Stress had become such a big factor that she turned to drugs to cope. Even though she had the support of her mother, it wasn’t enough to keep her happy and her mind off the man she loved. When you fall in love with a grown man, be ready to risk everything, and I mean EVERYTHING!

It has been two years since the death of Parrish's best friend and things were beginning to look up for her. She was learning how to co-parent, going to therapy and working on mending the relationship with her father. Until one day she gets an unexpected visit from a detective. Cooperating the best she could was still not enough to keep her safe from the man that killed her best-friend’s mother. Parrish decided to flee the state with Helder; the man she currently has feelings for. She thought she was getting away from her problems, but little did she know drama was waiting for her on the other side.

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Writers To Watch: Zahra Gordon

Zahra Gordon is a poet and writer with more than 10 years of experience. In her teens, she was a poet’s apprentice with the yout...