A Letter to My African People

I (Grandmother)
To find East, sail West. Columbus,
with his head-shaking epiphanies
was caught in another conundrum. Columbus?
Shake head. Columbus who?
Mama used to say all things created twice.
Never understood, till now,
looking back. Hail Mary full of grace
Genocide wears the mask of
Race. Shame. Deceit. Lies half
Truths. African tribes at war.
I never expected my brother to sell me.
Or my friend’s sneer.
Had we known, we would have played nice.
Offered forgiveness. Sought redress.

II (Mother)
We were dragged aboard ships.
Waters rocked us. “Stop, turn back,”
they bellowed. But no one heeded. My child,
I tried to spare you.
Forgive me. A bowl?
Was that your life’s
worth? Death, our only reprieve.
Columbus, peddler of conversion:
whip or cross; which would endure?
Dance sister, like you hear
music and want to live.
Ease into it. Clap.
What is the life of a
negro worth?

III (Great-great-great grand daughter)
Stones press at your heels,
yet the ground is soft.
Eyes glued to the banana trees, your mouth
waters. You suppress
a groan, turn and awaken to
the hummingbird’s call.
“Do you remember the drums, the dress
and the dance?” they whisper,
“For you are more than this.” Eyes open.
Uncertain, chains loosened in 1834
severed four years later. Arms akimbo, you danced.
Now, move forward.
Let them old spirits go.
Hush. Find fulfillment.

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The Intellectuals

They walk abreast of you in the hallways,
They are weighed down by the possibilities that exists around them.
They are the instigators of change.
Like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. before them,
They forged a path on their own.
Their voices tremble when they meet oppression and injustice.
but in their hearts they hear one voice, this cannot be right
In a time when age means everything, it matters not
These bright young intellectuals are carving a way out with sweat, blood and tears
Dare I say I admired their courage, for it spurred me to action
Like their Shakespearean counterparts of yesteryear,
They are learning this stage called life and are exacting upon it their fair share of experience.

They move, back and forth from home to America, Canada to London
Japan, Liberia, Istanbul, someday even Kabul and Croatia
The minds of great men are forged in the pursuit of knowledge
And fortified by loss, courage and fighting
But not with guns, machetes or bombs
But with words and articles; speeches and lives lived.
These are the heavy-hitters, the forgotten soldiers
Who wage war for their brethren, their countrymen.
Hoping that one day the strife will cease and the lives of those they love will ease

Some say knowledge is a dangerous thing if left unchecked,
but I challenge you to challenge yourself, “Can you be better? Greater?”
Should I become complacent, may my hands continue to fight
My mouth continue to speak the truth
Especially against dictators and oppressors and the like
May I shield myself and clothe my brother
Like them, may I stand up and be counted
The pursuit of knowledge is a beautiful thing
For we are all seeking to understand ourselves, our nature.
Let us fight and change and grow, for them and us there will be many struggles.

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Across the Gulf of Time

Across the gulf of time
our tears stream
to fill the hole
the hollow spaces
of this life
are we men
women
children
are we sons and daughters
people adrift at sea
almost alone

Across the gulf of time
I extend myself
my hand, my arm
hoping to meet you
somewhere in the distance
in that space called time.

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Playing it Forward: The Versatile Blogger and The Real Neat Blog Awards

Hello everyone,

It’s been an astounding week of posts, especially since yesterday I kicked off the week with two interesting posts. The first a reblog by mswasse for Indie Authors about How do you define success, and an author interview with Vanessa Salazar about her first novel, Selima and the Merfolk and reading on Saturday at this year’s Bocas Lit Fest in Port of Spain.

Playing it Forward: The Versatile Blogger and the Real Neat Blog Awards

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This is my first nomination for a blog award and as such I would like to thank Daniel Park, The Oddity Writer for considering me. Do check out his site, he is a quirky writer who like me has gone through the ins and out of battling writer’s block. On his site, you can find a collection of his work that he has written over the years and others that he is still developing.

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Here are the rules for the Versatile Blogger Awards (taken from Owl Wonder, the illustrious writer who nominated Daniel):

  • Thank the person who gave you this award.
  • Include a link to their blog.
  • Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  • Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award with links to their blogs. (You can recommend them for one or both awards)
  • Finally, post 7 things about yourself. (Answer the person who nominates you questions, and then ask 7 of your own.)
  • Also remember to add the Versatile Blogger and the Real Neat Blog pics to your post.

Daniel’s Questions:

1. What is your fondest memory? When I was child my great uncle Jim would often visit my grandfather and whenever he was there he would tell us (my brother, my sister and I) fantastic stories. I always remembered the wealth of knowledge he carried around in his head, and I think listening to him, I developed a desire to make my own stories to share with the world.

2. Who or what motivates you to do your best or to be the best you can be? My family, friends and some of the astounding teachers I have had over the years. Basically the people who believed in me before I ever thought to believe in myself, and so the circle grows.

3. Talk about your personal strengths or your personal weaknesses? Public speaking has always been difficult for me. In secondary school a friend of mine nominated me to speak in front of a group of teachers and students. Terribly shy, I clammed up and tried to overcome it by doing drama. In college I entered a few more competitions, I didn’t win any but I learned a lot, saw the smoothness of people who seemed to have the confidence and everything down pact. In Japan I entered still other competitions, this time daring myself to give a full length speech in Japanese. I still didn’t win, but it led me to toastmasters and a group of people who like to practice giving speeches and enjoyed reading books.

What I’ve learned so far is that the fear is always there, and although it seems like this big discouraging wave waiting to knock you you over, it is just one obstacle, urging you to press forward. Despite the fear, because that’s where the really big win is.

4. How has your writing or WordPress influenced your life? It has caused me to open up, and provided me with a community that I am happy to be a part of. With respect to my work it has taught me to not always be so hard on myself to produce, that sometimes it is okay to relax and take a step back. I feel fortunate to have this space where I can share my work and help others.

5. How did you pick your blog name? My first blog name was they walk the night. That name referred directly to a novel I was trying to write about a group of wayward kids who appeared to be stragglers. Due to many things, one of them being writer’s block (really putting too much pressure on myself to create something great) that didn’t pan out. Or I should say I was a a constant state of re-editing. Months later, after recessing myself and my actions I decided to tackle the problem one day at a time, this time focusing on what I would do, hence the new name – Today, You Will Write.

6. Do you have a favourite book? Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is my all-time favourite book. I like Guy Montag and fireman who burns books, watching him change made me aware of the process of man to change and re-create himself.

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7. What word of advice, what moral or message would you give your followers? I would offer you the sage advice that I received from Octavia Butler in her novel Bloodchild. That writing essentially is about communication, and sometimes you will have to give your work to other readers to find out if the message you are communicating is the one that is reaching them, your audience. And that if there is a problem with your story, it is up to you, the writer, to fix it.

The Nominees who are now eligible for either or both the Versatile and the Real Neat Blog Award.

1. Teagan

2. Michael

3. Ray

4. Jackie Jones

5. Vanessa Salazar

6. Monicle

7. Smorgasbord

8. Chris Martin

9. Jalal Michael Sabbagh

10. Kristi S. Simpson

11. Janni Styles

12. Nicholas Rossis

13. Elaine Jeremiah

14. Mel Gordon

15. Michelle

16. Raymond

17. Piglet

Here is the list of my 7 Questions for you to answer:

1. Who is your favourite author or what is your favourite book?

2. If you had a super power what would it be?

3. If you could produce a movie which one would you choose?

4. How has WordPress helped you to become a better writer?

5. What fun thing do you do to keep yourself from burning out?

6. When you were a child, what did you want to become?

7. If you could live anywhere in the world where would you go?

So, thanks again, Daniel. To my readers, followers, fellow bloggers, thanks for taking this journey with me and making my life a little more interesting! Have a fantastic week each and everyone of you, and to the nominees, happy posting! Remember to check either Daniel’s site or Owl Wonder for tips on what to do, if you get lost at any point along the way.

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India on a Clear Day

On a clear day, the sun is illuminated
And its rays shine forth into the morning.
Inviting those yonder to approach.
Open up your windows and experience delight.
There are things here that you must try at least once.
Wait, can you feel the breeze as it caresses your skin?
Its fingers are small and playful.
Are you being kissed?
This is what love feels like…

It moves you but you are unaware.
Your foot – feels the paved earth with every step;
It moves black on black. Forward.
You cannot help yourself, so you kiss the wind, again.
Aurora, can she see your face? ‘cause I see yours. It is night.
Cold, that is how it is, even though winter has gone.
You may as well have gone to Lilliput with Gulliver.
Your face is as smooth as father time’s, for nothing
Moves without you. The sea surrounds you. You listen.

A man riding a bike

A man riding a bike

A Clear Day in India

A Clear Day in India

Outside the Prime Minister's Office

Outside the Prime Minister’s Office

All the shots included here are mine.

A Week of Poetry Posts

So as you can see from the last post, which featured a dear friend of mine, author Vanessa Salazar, this week is the Bocas Lit Fest. This is the festival’s fifth year. It is a wonderful event where you can meet many authors, both international and from the wider Caribbean region. You can also participate in workshops and mingle with other people who just like you, happen to love books.

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So, I’ll be away most of the week, instead of prompts, I’ll be uploading some of my poetry.

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Not to fear, the prompts will resume next week. Feel free to use my work as a jumping off point for your work. Besides communicating our thoughts and ideas, I think writing is our way to enter and contribute to the discussion of Art (be it someone else’s work).

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Look out tomorrow for Poetry of Place: focal point, India.

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And as always keep reading, writing and sharing your work!

Author Interview: Vanessa Salazar

Today, I will feature the work of Vanessa Salazar, a Trinidadian author who published her first novel, Selima and the Merfolk in 2014. A friend and fellow writer who I met a few years ago at Writers Union, she will be featured on the DIY panel at this year’s Bocas Lit Fest. Read on to learn more about Selima, and Vanessa.

Selima and the Merfolk

Selima and the Merfolk

1. Who are you and what do you do?

I am an easy-going blogger and first time author. If I had my way all I would do is write, read and hang out with my family.

Vanessa Salazar

Vanessa Salazar

2. Who designed the cover?

The painting was done by Jason Jarvis and Derick Smith did the graphics. I am extremely pleased with the cover.

3. Tell us more about the story…

The story begins with Selima going to live in Las Cuevas Bay with her estranged father, after her mother unexpectedly dies. Though her father is well known in the small community, no one knew he had a daughter except for his wife and mother-in-law. Selima feels terribly out of place and spends most of her time avoiding her perky stepmother, running away to the beach and eventually the forest. In the forest, she stumbles upon an extraordinary secret that has been hidden for hundreds of years…there is a mystical river, inhabited by merfolk.

Then, her adventure begins.

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Las Cuevas (North, Trinidad)

Las Cuevas (North, Trinidad)

4. How did you come up with Selima and the Merfolk, and why is it set in Las Cuevas?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and to write about mermaids. I am fascinated with them. When I was about six years old my grandfather convinced me that there were mermaids living in ‘The Fairy’ which is a river at the end of Las Cuevas Bay. That’s why the story is based in Las Cuevas.

This link gives more details as to why I wrote this book:  http://vanessasalazar.com/2013/01/15/whats-up-with-me-and-mermaids/

5. Who is your favourite character, and why?

Mrs. Clearwater. She is modelled after my grandmother who I like to call the black Sophia Petrillo (The Golden Girls).

6. What was the biggest challenge you faced while writing the novel?

Actually, I’ve had the story in my head for so long, it kind of wrote itself. My biggest challenge was finding time to write and edit.

7. What advice would you give to new writers?

Don’t rush. Your story is your own; tell it the way you want to tell it. However, never underestimate the value of good advice. Listen, learn and edit.

8. Where can readers find you?

I have a blog, www.vanessasalazar.com, and all my social media links can be found there.

9. Where can readers pick up a copy of Selima and the Merfolk?

If you are in Trinidad, copies can be purchased at:

Paper Based Bookshop – Hotel Normandie, 10 Nook Avenue, St. Anns

Deltex Art Shop – 66 Pembroke Street, Port of Spain.

Hardcover, paperback and e-book copies can be purchased online at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. You can also send me a message on my blog’s contact page.

10. What’s next for you?

On Saturday 2nd May 2015 I will be featured on the DIY Lit Panel at the Bocas Lit Fest.

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Location: NALIS POS, 1st Floor, Seminar Room 1

Times: The DIY Lit Panel – 1:00pm-2:00pm.

Check Out the link below for the list of authors:

Bocas Lit Fest 2015 Authors

Thanks for stopping by Vanessa. It was a pleasure having you here. I enjoyed reading Selima and the Merfolk and look forward to hearing you read on Saturday.

For those of you who live in Trinidad, do stop by and check out Vanessa on the DIY Lit Panel, and for others abroad go to amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com to purchase the book and post your reviews. It’s a really good read especially for young adults.