Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Literary Diversity: Publish Your Own. Fútbol On-line Floricanto. Call for Poets.

Review: Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean. NY: Peekash Press (Akashic), 2014. ISBN: 9781617752711 e-ISBN: 9781617752834

Michael Sedano

Peekash Press started out to be not a role model for U.S. publishers but the antidote. “we acknowledged that writers based in the Caribbean are less likely to be published than those living in the British or North American diasporas.” In Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean,  the publisher does both. Clearly, one  answer to exclusion and lack of diversity is publish it yourself. Now readers need  to discover and prove there's a market.

The thirteen stories collected in Pepperpot come from six island nations, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas. The editors chose for quality not token inclusiveness from Caribbean-region entries to the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Readers want consequential characters in diverse roles and authenticity of everyday life. Good writing that sets stories off with compelling plots and rewarding insights make or break any collection of short fiction, no matter how inclusive. Most stories in Pepperpot: Best New Stories From the Caribbean make it. Readers will enjoy the characters' interesting awareness of dialect and ways the writers use their Antillean setting.

Irony happens irrespective of location. So do coming out, murder, incest, redemption, perversity. In some ways, everyday sins and what they look like here. One character laments how completely a father can disappear on a small island. Another gets insulted for being called an up island snob. Anarchy arisen from gang-dominance makes up the daily fabric of some neighborhoods of walled-in homes.

Island food and smells play key roles in other stories. The soup of the title raza will recognize as cocido. What makes jam heavier coming out than the fruit going into the mass murder's neighborhood stove? Readers will be glad to see the perverts get their just desserts, like the creep who liked to suck soft fruits and his sleeping mother’s nipple,  who “was particular to fleshy, squishy fruits where juices dripped—sweetsops, custard apples, melons, hog plums, star apples, mangoes, and so on.”

In “A Good Friday”, beguiling aromas rising from a woman’s waist capture a man's attention. “She not so cool, after all. She not so cool." He could smell the fragrances of her, her skin, her breath, her hair—cinnamon, coconut, peppermint, vetiver, and oh, Y’boy KarlLee can’t tell which is which, only it warm and nice and sweet”

Readers new to Caribbean literature will find dialect among the most notable elements of the genre; nearly every story contains moments where characters, even narrators, relax into everyday speech.

Bilingual readers will appreciate the way these writers handle dialect and code-switching. For the most part they don’t. The writers adopt standard orthography and grammar, using dialectal variation and local knowledge to inform an ethos and otherwise make a tactical point.

Kimmisha Thomas’ characters use a code-alternating style during intimacy that reflects their relationship. Jackie yields to constraints of straight society while Berry looks to free her lover from being uptight:
“Is like I could feel you coming,” she said, squeezing me tightly.
“Okay, I’m happy to see you too. Don’t squeeze the life out of me.
“All right, man. You too soft and dainty.”
Once free, I looked around. Nobody was watching us. Maybe they were just pretending.
“Stop it,” Berry said, tapping my chin, “nobody nah pree we.”

I suppose a non-dialect reader like me doesn’t need to know for sure what that all means word for word. Jackie found Berry’s words reassuring, and that’s where it matters, and what it sounds like, in Jackie’s life.

Kevin Baldeosingh’s Sukiya is comparing her one-percenter world to a minimum-wage bank teller when a surprising error shakes her enough that years of dialect discipline nearly slip away. “Except, now, Sukiya was facing one of these very tellers and feeling a flutter in her stomach. She said, “What you mean—“ then stopped. She took a breath to make sure her voice was steady and, making sure to pronounce each word properly, said, “I don’t undertand what you mean. That cheque is for five million dollars.”

Sukiya will be among a reader's favorite characters in the collection. She’s an up-from-nowhere girl writing contracts and moving money around the world for oil and mineral exploration interests, contracts, bribes. A crook. Her boss intended the erroneous five million bucks to finger Sukiya for all the fraud and let him walk away rich and clean, while she rots in jail minding her accent.

For me, the best dialect usage is something not used--appositional translation. When a character uses a word like “rassclaat,” or “pickney,” the discourse flows along without accounting the language switch. It’s the nature of multicultural expression, text selects its readership. Tipos who resent being left out by diversity can Google the terms, join the audience.

“Bomborassclaat! Me dead to rass! Me’s the Queen of England, me’s royally and unmentionably verbed!”

Most often, context is sufficient to fill in the gaps, and after a few paragraphs sprinkled with dialect a reader catches the regularities of style and readily grasps the story, enriched by the lives and sounds of these characters and stories. The Caribbean ambiente adds its own unique pleasures that can be discovered for the first time only once. Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean will make a grand first impression, then lead into deeper exploration.

Readers seeking additional Caribbean writing will enjoy Akashic's Caribbean interest catalog and such noir collections as Trinidad Noir, Haiti Noir, Havana Noir, or Kingston Noir.

Order your copy of Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean from an independent bookseller in your town and take Pepperpot along on vacation. It’s an ideal summer read and a loud promise from the publisher: If you want diversity and inclusion, keep buying it.

Fútbol On-line Floricanto • A Taco Shop Poet

©2013 michael v sedano
Continuing into the semi-finals, the world stops for 90 minutes hoping to hear the announcer's lusty scream, "¡gggooolll!" Lástima, for the US side, as today's Taco Shop Poet laments "we" lost in many more ways than on the Brazilian grass.

there are no winners tonight
By A Taco Shop Poet

our last hope of america,
the united states lost today.
it lost in more than one way.
it lost by points
but also, by way of a lost
love of america. it lost.
it lost its head, it lost its heart
it lost its word.
it lost its hope.

during the match,
the post from the child
says, “lo que me gusta
de la selección estadounidense
es que nunca se da por vencido”
the u.s. team never, ever
gives up. this, while i look
on and see the failure
of soccer moms. the failure
of status quo. the failure of
signs and of protest.
and truth be told,
there weren’t enough
brown and black faces.
there were not enough
poor faces. faces with legs
willing to run to another
country to win.

such are the days
we live in. we have
never seen war. we’ve
never seen drugs or la bestia.
we don’t know survival.
and we’ve pushed
the border so far south
that central america
is now the beginnings
of the fence.

when i was
thirteen, i recall seeing
a man at plaza bonita
one day. he asked me what direction
and how far los angeles was. see,
he’d just crossed. and i pointed.
north. he’d told me
he’d walked from
guerrero. guerrero.
to los angeles.
from san diego.
from my home.
didn’t seem like
a distance too far
if you’ve traveled.

and two weeks ago,
i didn’t even want
to ponder the depth
of the rabbit hole
children might have traveled.
such are the days
when i try my hardest
to understand a broken
system. it hurt just
to think of children
that have walked
from honduras,
from guatemala,
from el salvador.
and as a parent,
i couldn’t bear it.
the weight of so many
paces. alone.

today, we lost a match
we lost a game.
but life continues on.
the cruel cynicism
slaps me straight in the face.
it slaps me and tells me
i may not be “american”
enough. and yes, i feel anger.
i feel anger for the young
lives turned away.
i feel anger for having protested
and been treated like a criminal
while rights of others
are respected.

today, we lost a match.
there was no fire.
there was no next time.
there were only children.
children held in prisons.
children left alone.
children wondering
when they will see
their mothers again.
children with lives
like my children and
we couldn’t do so much
as offer shelter
or food.

what would’ve jesus
said? i can tell you jesús
believes in america.
in his posts. during the game,
he believes, we should love.
believes that we can
be both mexican and american
and american and mexican.
but he wonders if these are the values
we’ve shared?

the match was too long.
and we lost. we lost our perspective.
we called them wetbacks
we told them that they carry
has the story ever changed?

this, this is the jimi hendrix
star spangled banner
crashing. this is the
bald eagle that has died
from DDT. this, this is the
home for refugees
following an armed conflict.
but not one from a conflict
caused by our consumption.
policies. police. drugs.

this is the day that we lost.
we lost our heads.
we lost our hearts.
we lost the game.
we lost the love.
of what it means
to be

Jazz-Inspired Poetry Anthology: Call for Poets

Pick a jazz artist and write three poems. “Jazz” is a big word and that’s what bloguera emerita Lisa Alvarado and Tara Betts intend. Pick your jazz genre and write about 3 songs. As Lisa told La Bloga, the proposed anthology is “looking for the best words about the music.”

LOVE YOU MADLY will be edited by Lisa Alvarado and Tara Betts. They seek poetry for a new anthology - poets write jazz. Each poet picks one jazz artist and writes three poems based on 3 songs.

Here’s a link to the Facebook page that includes all the details and specifications.

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