Family history

by Nicholas Laughlin on July 20, 2010

Frank Collymore reading BimFrank Collymore reading a copy of Bim in his garden.
Photograph courtesy the Estate of Frank A. Collymore

This week the CRB publishes Geoffrey Philp’s review of Patricia Powell’s novel The Fullness of Everything; a new poem, “The Garden”, by Ishion Hutchinson; and John T. Gilmore’s review of Edward Baugh’s new biography of Frank Collymore, the late Barbadian writer and editor of the pioneering journal Bim, described by his biographer as the literary godfather of a generation of West Indian writers.

Some CRB readers may remember that an excerpt from Baugh’s then book-in-progress appeared in our May 2008 issue, with the title “In praise of Colly”. Dipping into the archives and quoting from Collymore’s extensive correspondence, the piece describes his crucial role in encouraging and promoting the early literary careers of George Lamming, Derek Walcott, and other writers who made their debut in the 1940s and 50s. “We should not underrate his own writing,” Baugh says —

relatively minor in the overall scheme of things, but appreciable and significant. However, the more epoch-making achievement was his work with Bim, and Collymore’s Bim-related dealings with so many young men who were to play so great a part in the making of West Indian literature.

Gilmore ends his review of Frank Collymore: A Biography with a plea for a comprehensive new edition of Collymore’s fiction and poems. To which I’d add: it’s high time the Bim archive was fully digitised and made widely available online. If Collymore was West Indian literature’s godfather — an honour he shares with A.J. Seymour of Kyk-Over-Al and Henry Swanzy of Caribbean Voices — then all those back issues of Bim are part of our family history.

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