Deane's List

Winners of the 2017 Frank Collymore Literary Awards with the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados.
COLLY WINNERS! Left to right: Sonia S. Williams, Heather Barker and Shakirah Bourne with Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados Cleviston Haynes.

Welcome to Deane’s List. Mostly about the literary arts in and outside Barbados, but also about other art forms and issues shaping culture and community. Mostly informal and about what’s noteworthy and toast-worthy. But not above or beyond a gripe or a swipe. A randomized threading of the personal with the universal. A web, if you will, in the shape of a list. Spun as an occasional blog for ArtsEtc by one of its editors, a sometime-ish writer whose name is Deane.

On the lit carpet
The Frank Collymore Literary Awards, or Collys, kickoff the very first Deane’s List. A special anniversary edition entitled “20 Years—20 Celebrated Writers” took place at the newly christened Courtney Blackman Grande Salle on the first Saturday of the New Year. I am still beaming broadly for winners Amanda Haynes, Shakirah Bourne, Sonia S. Williams, and Heather Barker. I treat the Collys like the Grammys or Oscars of the literary arts in Barbados. I like to glam up and go see who’s picking up the top prizes any one year, to support and celebrate those gracing that “lit carpet”—or to grace it myself! Whether I’ve entered, am on the podium or not, attending is one way I re-pledge my membership of the community and the industry, and reaffirm my own literary arts journey. I have found over time that it’s also an excellent kick-start to the New Year—it gets the creative fire lit (no pun intended) behind a backside. Listening to extracts from winning pieces and to the inspiring feature address always puts me in the right mind to begin another year of lining up words to see if they will fly right. Sometimes they make it into a competition or publication; other times not. But always I am aware of the community that helps create both the friendly and critical space for me to do what I do. This year at the Collys, there was no featured speaker. Instead, a video was commissioned featuring the thoughts of winners from the past 20 years. This was a creative and savvy move by the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Committee, which undergoes some dramatic changes this year. In some of the clips chosen, there seemed at times a clunky overemphasis on the monetary incentive of the awards. Overall, though, and thankfully, watching it was like being on the receiving end of multiple fires or flames or flares—a generous source of heat and light in the form of insight and encouragement—that Colly himself would have vigorously fanned. It is that spirit of generosity that Frank Collymore as a writer, teacher, editor, publisher, and mentor embodied; a spirit one hopes wasn’t lost on the writers present: of the four winners mentioned above, three shared ArtsEtc’s Robert Edison Sandiford as editor and mentor. Now that’s noteworthy. I’m sure that, if not in the heat of the win, then in the quiet after, they took time to salute and acknowledge that singular guiding hand. And I’m sure Colly would have clapped for that.

 Farewell, Melanie London-Cox.

For Dappa, Boo and Mel
January has again found me remembering and mourning musicians. I did not know Damien “Dappa” Taylor but, after the musical parade and tribute for him following his untimely death in December at age 35, I felt like I did. He wore several hats but was best known as a flautist and a member of the tuk band fraternity. I watched video clips of tuk drummers, pennywhistlers and Mother Sallies leading the procession of friends and colleagues, and felt moved. There was a New Orleans spirit, yet it was richly Bajan. Tears fell, so did rain. But there was joy in there, too.... Almost a year ago, we said an equally shocked farewell to another multi-creative: Adrian “Boo” Husbands. He was a musician I did know, for close on 35 years. I wrote a remembrance at the time and mention Boo again here now because it was Melanie London-Cox who led many of the tributes for him. She founded De Culture Train, an online cultural group and, with Boo’s energy, kept it sparking and sparkling. Almost a year to the day, I was saddened to learn Melanie, a singer, musician, vocal coach and activist, a fierce upholder of standards in her chosen field, had herself passed this month, succumbing to cancer. We never got a chance to work together, though we spoke about doing so. And we shared a lively Bajan-Brit banter on Facebook whenever we did connect. It has been a tough time for our artistic communities. Heartfelt condolences to loved ones, families and friends.

Our hurricanes, our voices
A list makes its way onto a list, and it’s a toast-worthy one! It’s from the September 2017 issue of and is a compilation of essential hurricane-themed reading for children and young adults. What makes the list itself essential is that it includes books and resources editor Summer Edward labels “our voices”—the authors are either in or of the Caribbean. If you felt there were gaps in homegrown YA literature on this timeless and increasingly pertinent topic, i.e., coping with the loss and devastation during and following a natural disaster—then this list, designed “to help young people process the trauma and move forward,” has started to plug them.

Guyanese-American actress Ingrid Griffith during a segment of Demerara Gold in Barbados recently.

The one-line review…
“Gripping! Timely. Take that under-told narrative to CARIFESTA XIV!” for Demerara Gold, Ingrid Griffith’s one-woman show about migration and abandonment from a Guyanese-New York POV (based on a segment she performed recently in Bridgetown).

A picture's worth...

Scene from Duelling Voices, by the Mustardseed Youth Theatre Ensemble in Janauary (Photo courtesy Vaughn Renwick). Read the 1,000 words here.

Call of Duty: the famous and famously named edition
I’ve been dropping the name Kai Miller quite a bit recently. Not that Miller, not the Kei with an “e,” but a Kai with an “a”! It’s pronounced the same, and, of course, if you’re speaking to someone who’s up on her contemporary Caribbean literariness, it results in instant fangirl/fanboy drama. Kai Miller is a young beginning writer in Barbados. So beginning, he didn’t even know that, phonetically, he has a famous and trending literary name. So beginning he is still in that emotional outpour-onto-the-page stage—though he does possess an untidy flair. So beginning—but also so humble and aware that he is beginning—that he is reaching out for help. The first time I heard his name he was Snapchatting my teenager. “Mum, I’ve told my friend Kai Miller to register for the workshop you’re doing—” she yelled from her room. The double-take I did gave me whiplash! My jaw dropped; so did whatever I’m sure I was holding at the time. I wasn’t the only one to geek out. The camp organizer and a fellow tutor whose age group Kai eventually joined did so, too; other writer friends likewise. That was just before Christmas. Kai, who is 17, has reached out again in recent days to ask for help with publishing some of his work. Very gently (for now, at least), I have tried to peel him back a few or even many steps, and, with a grace so rarely seen in one his age, he has accepted that, first, he needs to look, really look, at his manuscript; to pay attention to the words before he starts scoping options on CreateSpace. As my editor did with me, I sent him a modified tip sheet with questions about why he wants to publish and for what audience and market. His reasons right now are personal and family-oriented; his lyrical prose expressions have found favour with close friends and a social media audience, and he wishes to capture that. I also asked about what he’s reading. He admitted he’s reading nobody right now (though the work of Rick Riordan has caught his eye); certainly no Caribbean writers, and zero poets. The next stage in my call of duty, before I take a deeper look at the 3–5 pieces he obediently sent me, will be to steer him, again gently, in the direction of his famous namesake with an “e.” A poem or two or maybe his blog. And, really, those are not bad places for any beginning poet and prose writer to begin.

The  “actual” Kei Miller with (left) Heather Barker (again!) and Linda M. Deane after his poetry workshop at CARIFESTA XIII in Barbados August 2017.

Trump: Good for something?
Chaaa!!! I cannot believe this man mek this list! [Insert good, long Bajan stupes! right here.] But, y’know, with each offensive, stupid, racist, sexist, anti-environmental or war-mongering utterance, action or tweet—and each one is more offensive, stupid, racist, sexist, anti-environmental and war-mongering than the last—the current president of the United States does something miraculous. Yes, miraculous! He provokes in the rest of us who are outraged a call to arms, to action. To counteraction. Many of us admired Barack Obama. Others of us may not have been outright Obama-ites, but at least he gave the impression a responsible adult, a parent even, was at home or reachable. He made us feel safe, reassured, consoled; that the world was in steady hands. He actually may have made us too comfortable, lazy even. Trump has us off our heads, yes, but up off our backsides, too. Observers worldwide note a new freshness, boldness and urgency in the work of artists and writers, for instance. His latest “alleged” comments about "shithole countries" certainly gave the panel of Caribbean authors at the Key West Seminar plenty fuel. People in many countries who have never demonstrated against anything in their lives are doing so for the first time. My response to Trump’s triumph at the polls November 2016 startled and, for a while, mystified me. I felt real angst and then, almost reflexively, decided to start volunteering in my community. I stepped up that volunteerism as the year progressed and am set to continue. My figuring: can’t do anything about the situation in the United States. But I can still send out counter-energy by helping a situation on my own doorstep. Thanks to Donald Trump, the children where I live have an after-school creative writing tutor—oh, for another three years at least!


The Colleen Lewis Reading Room at Fresh Milk, Barbados.

A library you can make yourself at home in?
That would be…Gladstone’s Library in North Wales. Named for notable British prime minister William Gladstone (1809-1898), and a wonderful stumble-upon for me while clicking on random episodes of BBC Radio 4’s The Essay. I found nothing to warm me to Gladstone when I was taking “O” Level history back in the dark age of an English all-girls’ grammar school in the 1970s. (He was a Tory, unapologetically descended from slave owners, and didn’t he once deliver a speech in support of the Confederate South? Plus, I was always more of a Disraeli girl.) But it seems ole Gladdy was a bibliophile to end all bibliophilia. Over his lifetime he amassed an impressive collection and established it at a site that has evolved and exists today as the UK’s only residential library. Not only can you visit, read, borrow books and do research, you can also check in and stay for a fortnight in any of its 24 guestrooms. You can seclude yourself or commune with others, write and think and concentrate, and then write and think and concentrate some more—uninterrupted—for two whole weeks! A writer’s drooling dream! Gladstone almost, almost redeems himself. Here in Barbados we have the marvellous Colleen Lewis Reading Room, with a collection available to writers and artists staying in residence at Fresh Milk. But are there any actual residential libraries in the Caribbean, me wonders?

Spin webs back to me on that and anything else on the Deane’s List that snares your attention.