In his time

by Nicholas Laughlin on September 16, 2010

Wayne Brown

Wayne Brown (1944–2009). Photograph courtesy Mariel Brown

The Trinidadian writer Wayne Brown — who died a year ago this week, on 15 September, 2009 — first came to widespread attention as a poet. His debut book, On the Coast (1972), won him the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and a Gregory Fellowship at the University of Leeds. His second book of poems, Voyages, appeared seventeen years later, by which time Brown was better known as a prose writer. In 1984 he began writing a column for the Trinidad Express, and over the next quarter century In Our Time appeared in several other newspapers in Trinidad, Jamaica, and Guyana — well over three thousand editions, or several novels’ worth of prose.

In Our Time ranged over subjects from social and political commentary to literary criticism to personal reminiscence, and even outright fiction. “I write about anything,” Brown said in 1987, and “I use the techniques of fiction in writing these pieces.” Several dozen In Our Time columns were collected in A Child of the Sea (1989) and Landscape with Heron (2000), but the vaster part of this extraordinary oeuvre remains in suspended animation, as it were, in newspaper archives and clipping files. Elegantly composed, furiously thought out, often moving, occasionally infuriating, Brown’s columns belong to an important Caribbean tradition of literary writing in the popular press, and furthermore decisively influenced a generation of younger Trinidadian writers who used the newspaper column as a literary medium of urgency and ambition.

In the mid 1990s Brown moved permanently to Jamaica, where he had lived earlier in his life, and there he became best known as an editor — of the literary pages of the Observer, of several anthologies and collections of poems by other writers, and of the short-lived online journal Caribbean Writing Today — and as a teacher and mentor. The writing workshop he ran out of his various Kingston homes developed into an important institution in the Jamaican literary scene.

This week, the CRB remembers Wayne Brown and his literary legacies. We publish, first, “Pan Session: Laventille”, a poem found among his papers after his death; as well as an essay on Brown’s life and work by Mervyn Morris, his longtime friend and fellow poet. (This piece is adapted from Morris’s introduction to the new collected edition of Brown’s poems forthcoming from Peepal Tree Press. A new collection of his prose is also in preparation.)

We also continue our special section on recent Caribbean film, supported by the trinidad+tobago film festival, with Georgia Popplewell’s review of Orpailleur, a thriller directed by Marc Barrat and set in the interior of French Guiana.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Beatriz Rodriguez Carbonell June 27, 2011 at 8:12 pm

wayne brown was an excellent man, I now him in cuba when he received the cardiovascular surgical.Really I was the nurse that gave the inmaedialtly care in the cardivasculary rom. was the firts experience whith the extrager man, and whith the people that talk true english language. knew good and excellent family mariel and saffrey, the dauther.really I wanted know more about him but is a pity that he died, when I read the article in the internet about his funeral I felt pain and never forget the date. kiss for his douther.
the cuban nurse

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