I DOUBT, KAMAU, you will remember this incident that I feel compelled to relate in this small tribute for your 85 years.

I was browsing in a London bookshop not long ago. A book with the title The Mighty Dead: Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicholson caught my eye. In a chapter called “Finding Homer,” Nicholson reflects: “These are the two possibilities for human life. You can either do what your integrity tells you to do, or niftily find your way round the obstacles life throws in your path. That is the great question the poems pose. Which will you be? Achilles or Odysseus, the monument of obstinacy and pride or the slippery trickster in whom nothing is certain and for whom nothing can be trusted? The singular hero or the ingenious man?”

The passage struck a chord, and Nicholson’s questions reverberated back to a chance meeting you and I had some years ago at Frank Collymore Hall in Barbados. The date escapes me, but the location and surroundings remain as clear as yesterday. Like Nicholson, but more directly, you posed a seemingly simple question after some slippery remark I may have made. “And what,” you asked, “does Philip Nanton have to say about the Caribbean?” It’s a question that I have been battling to answer now for many years. It was a gift and a task. Your question follows me each time I try to write a poem or piece of prose. I continue to try to answer your question, one of those small but essential challenges for which I remain truly grateful.


Philip Nanton was born in Saint Vincent & the Grenadines and currently lives in Barbados.  He has presented programmes for BBC radio, and his work has appeared in regional journals and literary magazines.  He is the editor of Remembering the Sea: An Introduction to Frank A. Collymore (2004) and the author of Island Voices: From St Christopher & The Barracudas (2014).