The Berbice River

Listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2 last Friday, my ears pricked up during his discussion with one of his guests. Apparently a large number of successful people, including Presidents, had lost a parent in their youth. Whether their success was due to them striving harder because of their loss, or if this is just co-incidence, is hard to prove. But it did make me dwell on the loss of my dad when I was fifteen, and the way it affected the way I have lived my life since then. Anyone who has read my work will come across frequent references to him. Limbolands, my first poetry collection, was inspired by a dream in which we had sat by the Berbice River, my father and I, watching people walk on water. In the dream I ask him who they were and he answered, ‘The Limbo Walkers’. The poem of the dream grew into a collection in which loss of parent was also closely connected to loss of country, and any moving on and\or transformation that evolved, from adolescence to migration, to motherhood and writing is forever linked. Add my eerie pre-cognition of his death, a spirited and spirited country, a move westwards into education and so-called reality. I do centre my pivot from childhood to adulthood and awareness on his passing. This is not necessarily morose. Whilst of course there are times I still miss him, and have longed for his presence as a guide through countries of the heart and mind, his absence and presence have become the same thing: my reflection on the post-colonial state, love of music and literature, my insistence of the celebration of the spoken word through English, Creole, the dance, the voiceless, and the griot, are pepper and salt to the realisation of creativity as the force of life. The joy I get when running a workshop and seeing the creative spark fill new students with confidence, the buzz I get when performing, the warm glow when I see a finished poem, or completed book in which my words have settled, and overall, the dialogue and engagement which is part of this world I have chosen to be part of, is a constant affirmation of my life. It may not be a life that has brought me  wealth of the recognised kind, but a wealth of communion, discourse, sharing of ideas and open-mindedness. I have met and worked with some remarkable people which may not have been the case if I had chosen to sell insurance for a living. Perhaps my life as a writer is a constant quest. who knows?  But it is not a stagnant one. I move on to write of other things, as I did with my short story collection, Canterbury Tales on a Cockcrow Morning, and current tales of Thanet. New ideas are always springing forth. Yesterday 3rd Nov, would have been his birthday. 1908 … what a different birth, along the Berbice River, a baby crying into the wake of slavery’s past. I think he would have happy to see me now, writing. I hope so.

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