1)BDN: (CT/MF) What inspired you to write this book?
significant inspiration to write the book came from the people
who had become familiar with my stories and poems. From 1998, I
began putting my stories mainly on the Grenadian Website
called Spiceisletalkshop. Bigdrumnation, another Grenadian
Website, also featured my work. I was especially encouraged by a
special American woman called Ann Wilder. It was the favorable
comments that I got from those who read my writing that told me
that there was a market for the type of literature I was putting
out. From the comments I received, I realized that many people
were hungry for the nostalgia of yesterday. As time passed, some
people became very impatient and I can recall an e-mail from a
fan who demanded,” Where is the book?”
The stories were
always in my mind, but I was merely a driver and I needed a
vehicle. The Grenadian Websites became that vehicle.
I must also say
that I felt there was a void that needed to be filled. It is sad
that we are not strong on documentation. This is not only the
case with Grenada but the Caribbean as a whole. Our patois is
almost gone and our Grenadian colloquialisms and expressions are
When I walk
around Prospect Park in Brooklyn, I see all kinds of writings
depicting events that happened a long time ago. Near Grand Army
Plaza, one can see statues of men on horseback and the
inscriptions below tell the deeds of those historical figures.
We too, have our heroes and it is time we start writing about
them. I am sure there were people who did heroic deeds during
the rage of Hurricane Janet. We had outstanding individuals who
lived and died in Grenada. It is time we recapture the
highlights of the past because those who would do it for us
cannot do justice, for they do not know what we felt and
experienced. In the Forward of the book, I mentioned about a
little boy in Grenada who did not know where the historical
Empire Cinema was because no one had told him. We always had a
rich African tradition of storytelling and passing down
information. I used to sit and listen to my Grandmother. That is
how the culture was able to continue to breathe. When the
stories stop, all kinds of strange influences take root and the
Grenadian young people lose that sense of identity and pride in
the traditions. I was therefore moved to write the book so that
it could become a source of information.
2) BDN: What did writing this book learn you about you ownself?
I “larn” that
somewhere in my mind, I had the ability to retain and paint
pictures of happenings that took place many years ago.
Significantly, I was able to do so in a way that would grab the
attention of people who are not habitual readers. The humor I
injected into the stories went a long way to help sustain that
interest. I ‘larn” that I was gifted with a talent to make
people happy and proud of their culture.
I realized that
deep within me there is a well of stories that must be emptied.
Some of my fans recognized that even before I did. I remember a
Spiceisle Talkshopper called Tagwa telling me “You are a poet
but you don’t know it” That really hit home and it hit hard too.
I reached within myself as I wrote and I realized that I was
indeed blessed with the gift of memory and the abiding urge to
share my experiences with others.
worth mentioning is what I “larn” about myself from the reviews
of scholars like Caldwell Taylor and Dr. Francis Alexis. Those
distinguished Grenadian intellectuals were able to point out
striking features in the book that I was not conscious of when I
was writing. There were times the pen moved in the dead of night
as if inspired by a force beyond me. I realized that I was able
to write material that others could unfold in great detail for
3) BDN: You have taken this book to various North American
cities and also to Grenada. What have you heard from individuals
who have read it?
I saw the
happiness, acknowledged the appreciation and I felt the joy in
the faces of people who came together at those gatherings to
bathe in nostalgia and share memories and laughter with their
friends. The Canadian trip, the Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland
and Grenada meetings were venues where I experienced profound
warmth. The book is popular with Grenadians, Caribbean people
and people from various countries. Already many are looking
forward to my next book, my book of poems. They love the book
and they are happy it connects them to their Past. Some have
been instrumental in distributing the book for me. I did not
have the thousand eyes of a Random House to look over the book
but there is no question it has struck a pleasant note with many
people. The feelings I experienced can best be summed up in the
comment from an old lady who said to me,
“Sonny, come read for Granny” I was happy to do so.
BDN: What portions of the book are really autobiographical?
Much of the book
is autobiographical. My aim was to recall the experiences that I
had. I did not seek to interview people except in the story of
the Island Queen which took place about 8 years before I was
born. Most of the individuals or events I had the experience of
knowing first hand so it was easy to write the happenings that
took place around me while I was growing up in Grenada and to
pen them the way I remembered. The stories that deal with Palmer
and Schaper School and many others including the poem “Old Mr.
Marryshow on Pandy Beach” were written in the autobiographical
5) BDN: Is it just coincidence that this book bears some
resemblance to V.S. Naipaul's Miguel Street?
I can’t remember reading the book Miguel Street. I am not
saying that I did not read it. I read a number of Caribbean
books while growing up in Grenada and some of them, no doubt,
must have remained in my consciousness. I am particularly fond
of Ruler in Hirooner by GCH Thomas. I even like the size of his
book and I wanted a book around that size. While I was writing
the book, I made a strong effort to be as original as possible.
I did not want to copy the style of Paul Keens- Douglas or any
other Caribbean writer and if there is any comparison, I must
say it was not deliberate.
6) BDN: A language is a conveyor of values. What are some of the
values conveyed in the Grenadian nation language?
To answer that
question I go straight to my Mother and Grandmother. I can still
hear them telling me sternly “Respect yourself.” Yes, our
language is filled with words and expressions that convey
cherished values. I carried the word “Respect your self”
throughout my life and I am mindful of the fact that if I can’t
respect myself, I can’t respect others. The words filled us with
pride. “One hand cyan clap” tells us of the need for unity.
“Learning is better than silver and gold” my grandma used to
say and that emphasized the importance gaining acquiring
knowledge. And there were other words and expressions like “One
day for watchman , one day for tief” or “One day one day one day
congote” which presses the point that you might get away with
doing wrong today but one day it will catch up with you. It will
be good if our young people are familiarized with those valuable
7) BDN: There are very many terms of abuse and in the
Grenadian language. Why do you think that that is the case?
Indeed there are many abusive terms in the Grenadian language.
One must reflect on the history to find a root cause of
such abusive words especially those that involve our women.
Slavery did not help to uplift the cause of our women folk. It
was an oppressive system that meted out physical and verbal
abuse. Some of our men emulated undesirable qualities and it was
seen in the way they dealt with the women... Ah man might “pelt
ah wood” and then turn his back on the woman. He might tell the
woman “haul yuh arse”. When I was growing up, it was not unusual
for a young man who “breed” a number of young women to be looked
upon as a hero. Dat was man! Women were mostly dependent on men
and sad to say, many of them were at the receiving end of
abusive words. “Ah man pick up ah ting by the park.” Women were
termed “ah ting”. “Jaggabat”, “Leggo beast” and “warbeen” were
unflattering terms to describe certain women. Children too, were
at the receiving end of abusive words. A parent might shout “ah
go jook out yuh eye” at a disobedient child. Such words are
mostly said in anger and I can’t recall any parent doing such an
act. Similary ‘Ah go cripple yuh backside” was often said in
vexation. The language is filled with words like “planass”, “cutarse”,
“break yuh scrutch”, “take ah jail for you”, “ah go put ah
bullpistle or butoo in yuh backside”, and others. It is wise to
note however, that such strong words were only that- words, and
the undesirable actions rarely followed.
8) BDN: What is your favorite Grenadian food?
here: Oildown with plenty calalloo, pigtail, breadfruit and a
9) BDN: Can you drink ah real Grenadian strong rum without
squingin' up you face, eh?
Nah man! Yuh
have to squinge up yuh face. That is a ritual. You do so whether
the rum is strong or watered down.