“Broader than Broadway”

by Nicholas Laughlin on August 31, 2010

Christian Campbell

Christian Campbell. Photograph by Sammy Rawal, courtesy Peepal Tree Press

Today is Independence Day here in Trinidad and Tobago — parades, flags, fireworks — and today we also wrap up the current issue of the CRB with three last features.

First, a portfolio of images from the painted wilde bussen — minibuses — of Paramaribo, accompanied by a short essay by your Antilles blogger. Decorated with hand-painted portraits of film stars and musicians, action heroes and politicians, the wilde bussen are a moving gallery of public art offering fascinating hints about the ideals and fantasies of contemporary Surinamese.

Next, the CRB’s “Also noted” column returns, with capsule reviews of ten recent books: poetry by M. NourbeSe Philip, Marion Bethel, and Jacqueline Bishop; a memoir by the late E.A. Markham; a new translation of a 1916 book by a pioneering Puerto Rican feminist; books on reggaeton and Haitian migrants; and more.

Finally, regular CRB contributor Lisa Allen-Agostini interviews the Bahamian poet Christian Campbell, whose debut book, Running the Dusk, was recently shortlisted for the Forward Prize. Campbell talks about his influences, literary and otherwise, about the shaping of his poetic voice, the texture of dusk in his book, and his sense of rootedness in multiple Caribbean locations:

I was raised by a Bahamian and a Trinidadian, and I was raised as a Bahamian and a Trinidadian. There’s also Grenada and Colombia/Venezuela (to open up the arc), and there’s likely Haiti somewhere down the line.

My breed of Caribbean person is not strange at all. I’m a UWI baby — my parents met at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. In the diaspora, and Toronto in particular, it makes perfect sense, because there is a lot of this cross-Caribbean mix-up business. The thing is, we haven’t really talked enough about what this means.

At a very early age, I knew the troubles and limits of nationalism and I know that I must also make trouble for the nation. My heritage gave me an innate sense of the broadness of the Caribbean and the many Caribbeans — “broader than Broadway,” as Barrington Levy would put it. It grounds me in my ability to fully draw on the spiritual resources of all the Caribbeans. It’s all mine.

Look out for a review of Running the Dusk in a future issue of the CRB.

And now that this issue of the magazine has closed, your Antilles blogger is hard at work on the September CRB, which will start publication next week Tuesday. I’m happy to say that this issue will include not only our usual coverage of books and visual art, but also a special section on Caribbean film, and our first regular music column. But more about those next week!

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