CREATIVE SPACE – PASSAGESThursday 25th July 2019
By Joanne C. Hillhouse
Trinidadian poet Wesley Gibbings held a launch event on Thursday 18th July 2019 at the Best of Books, his third through the region in support of his book Passages. It makes sense as Gibbings is as regional a writer as one can be, though primarily known for his journalism and his activism. Gibbings, 60, is a 38-year media veteran, founding and former president of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, and was a recipient in 2017 of the Percy Qoboza International Journalist Award by the US National Association of Black Journalists for his work in the area of press freedom.
Some in the media fraternity might be surprised to learn he is also an accomplished poet. “They know me as a journalist, as a press freedom busy body …why not show them a different side of myself,” Gibbings mused at the launch. That other side, included before this year’s Passages, On Life (1977), The Poetry of the Ages with Simon and the Prophets, a one-act play (1980), Cold Bricks and Warm Eyes (1988), and Lost in the City (1991).
His launch was an eye-opener for anyone who’s thought of him purely – or even primarily – as a journalist. “If I had the time to write what I want,” Gibbings said, “what would come out would be poetry.” One of the things that he carries over from journalism, his bread and butter, to poetry, his passion, and vice versa, because there’s no doubting that he’s also passionate about journalism, is by his own word his “attention to detail, because that’s where stories are.”
What Gibbings said about the craft of poetry – about the importance of mastering the craft – was one of the reasons I wanted to write about his event; that and I haven’t written about the literary arts nearly enough in this CREATIVE SPACE considering that it’s my passion.
Gibbings spoke of the masters – Pablo Neruda, the Chilean Nobel Prize winning poet, whom he described as “the most complete poet…of our time” whose influence he said can be felt in the sexy and deep and dark parts of his collection; and two of the Caribbean’s greatest, Derek Walcott (St. Lucian born Nobel Laureate) and Guyana’s Martin Carter – and not from a distance; he was the writer bold enough to give them his work – and in the case of Walcott suffer scathing criticism which ultimately helped him improve as a poet.
There is, from the readings (I haven’t read the collection as yet), not as much about the concerns of a journalist – politics and social movements – as one might expect. Life’s inner rumblings and nature seemed more influential. He told of Guyana and finally understanding the country as presented in Wilson Harris’ Palace of the Peacocks when he experienced the country’s powerful rivers up close, even spending the night on the Essequibo, the largest river in Guyana and the largest between the Orinoco and the Amazon.
The other reason I decided to write this is the shout-out given to the event venue The Best of Books – because literary spaces are dwindling in Antigua and Barbuda (The Map Shop for instance, so iconic and yet winked so quietly out of existence). Current ACM president, Antiguan and Barbudan journalist Anika Kentish, who helped organize the event, said in her thank yous:
“One of the ways the Best of Books stands out is that it has created this nurturing environment for our authors… and created this haven for young children and that is highly commendable.”
This opportunity-to-sponsor post is part of the online edition of the culture-and-arts-focused CREATIVE SPACE series which gives local businesses an opportunity to boost their brand while boosting local art and culture. The original is posted at Jhohadli – blog of author/creative writer and journalist Joanne C. Hillhouse.
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