Not at all sure

I want to do this, but here goes.

It’s Lent, and my mother died barely two months ago, and her brother died eight days before her. I didn’t give up anything else for Lent, but vowed to write a poem a day. A sevenling a day, to be exact.

As Lent started in March and Easter comes in April, this meant that some of the discipline would cross over into NaPoWriMo, when I usually commit to the poem-a-day business.

I must admit I missed a week at the end of March, and will have to catch up. But the goal for Lent is forty sevenlings to lay the foundation for one long elegy. Taking inspiration, not surprisingly, from Tennyson’s In Memoriam; similar, but not the same.

So: March

Stuff that’s Happened since October

So there’s the big thing: our mother’s illness and death.

This time last year she was fine. Or seemed fine, though the cancer that would kill her was quite probably growing quite happily and quietly inside. This time last year she decided for the first time in years not to attend the annual Thinking Day Service because she was tired. She wasn’t diagnosed till June, and she died one week ago.

*moment of silence*

Some little things:

My chapbook, Mama Lily and the Dead, was published in December.

The Avatar Review accepted four of my poems for publication in this year’s issue.

More stuff? Nothing really comes to mind. Death has a way of shutting out all the frivolous. Not entirely a bad thing, IMO.

Back After Too Long

This blog has been on hiatus for the last five months because we have been nursing our beloved mother through her final illness.

She died last week, on February 15th.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll resume my blogging schedule; but I can’t say that it will be the same as it was before. We shall have to see what will be.



iPadding around

So here’s the thing.

I mentioned a while ago that my husband, who doesn’t give frivolous gifts like jewellery or flowers (*stop changing my spelling to American, WordPress!!*), does give gifts that DO stuff. Like computers. Like iPhones. Like iPads.

I mentioned that he had given me an iPad. Not exactly against my will (who could turn down such a gift?) but far earlier than I thought I ought to get one.

I have been enjoying it as an e-reader, having finished both The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest on it, and dipping into Ulysses off and on, reacquainting myself with Winnie-the-Pooh, even importing PDFs to read in the iBook app.

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Checking in

Well, I don’t know if there are still people who drop by and read this blog, which has become dormant for a little while.

This is a post to say that I’m not giving up on it altogether, but rather taking a sabbatical. I am thinking how to reform this so that it can work best for me in my new, more active and strangely fulfilling life these days.

In the meantime, enjoy the archives, and go and have a look at what else is keeping me busy these days:

Shakespeare in Paradise

tongues of the ocean

In particular, have a look at tongues of the ocean, where Issue 5 is coming to a close. This time, Issue 5 took a qualitatively different approach, reproducing a very exciting exhibition from this spring online. It worked! Go check it out.



So here’s the thing.

Yes, I got a degree in literature lo these many years ago.

Yes, we were exposed to the Great Books in English. And because I studied in Canada, they were really English, most of them. I have great gaps in my reading of American literature — no Moby Dick (we did Bartleby instead), no Twain or Hawthorne or Wharton or Dickinson or Frost. We read Henry James and called it a day, And believe me, I did read James from cover to cover — particularly The Golden Bowl, don’t ask why (Portrait of a Lady got itself skimmed).

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A little encouragement goes a long way

And flattery goes even further. Thanks to Harry and Aditi, I’ve been encouraged to keep writing on this blog. So I will.

Today I’ve got two things I want to share with you all. The first is that round here we’ve been sleeping with the Canadian covers. When I tell you why you will all want to move here, but I caution you: what you think of as balmy round here is a little different for two main reasons. (1) We are (literally) Hemingway’s (Bahama) islands in the (Gulf) stream, which means that all temperatures here must be imagined in terms of wetness — wet and cool in the winter, wet and hot in the summer. and (2) WE HAVE NO HEATING SYSTEMS. Except in our cars.

That said, this past week’s average temperature at night has been about 60 degrees F (16 C). (I can hear you now: that’s nothing!! I’d kill for 60!!) Fine, but then add the wind chill (our cold fronts are not still, but arrive on the backs of northern winds), dewpoint and humidity, and then remember: *no heat*. And for most people, no woolly sweaters — just cotton hoodies, unless you’ve been living, like me, in the far far north. All my Canuck friends and transplants are freezing. So think again.

I love it!! The tourists, not so much.
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Happy New Year

So. This blog (Scavella’s Blogsphere) is now going for five years old, having been established sometime in 2005 over on Blogspot. In that time much has changed. In the beginning, I walked anonymous in cyberspace, using my Scavella moniker as a cloak to my real identity, not sure how to use the blog, nor what for (it was mostly for poetry back then). Since then, this has become one of five blogs that I administer, each of them for a different purpose, and each of them more and more time-consuming.

This being a new year, and time being one of those commodities that is easy to waste and impossible to keep, I’m changing the way I deal with this blog. What was once a refuge is becoming a burden; I really don’t have the time to write down the cool things I once put here on Blogsphere, and I don’t have the application to develop the poetry of the blog in a way that can rival Rob’s Surroundings, or Aditi Machado’s Blotting Paper or the fascinating trivia that can compete with Harry’s Heraclitean Fire, or the confessional-made-great-reading of Julie’s Carter’s Little Pill.

I just don’t have the time.

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Fall Cleaning

It’s time I got my life in order. This semester was a good one, not too hectic, with manageable courses and reasonable marking. Next semester I may be back to teaching English which is a far heavier load when it comes to marking — no group presentations and papers, and you have to read each word carefully and help students figure out their weaknesses.

I have been suffering from online snafus for the better part of a year now and have decided to take control. So I’ve begun! I’m going through my emails and am streamlining, streamlining. I’m gonna make enable the checking of mail from my iPhone at last (been ducking that because of all the high-class JUNQUE that I have been getting in my email boxes). I’m reconsidering my subscriptions to various RSS feeds and rethinking how I’m gonna follow them. I may even retool how I’m going to deal with the various blogs I have, which are mushrooming. Addicted to blogging, that’s what I am.

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Moving back to normal (posting, that is)

and the cool weather is a-comin-in.

I’m noticing a pattern now. I tend to post about the weather in October and in March. That’s because seasons are different year — hot and wet and cool and dryish are the main two, and the hot and wet seems to dominate (starting in May and running to September). Or maybe it seems that way because it’s been summer for so long. When it’s summer you don’t remember what it’s like when it’s winter (which means that we don’t need air conditioning to function as people are expected to do in this twenty-first century world) and when it’s winter you don’t remember what it’s like in the summer but in October and March no day is predictable, no day is the same. Continue reading

On why this blog is slow to move


In my other lives, I’ve got myself into a whole bunch of things that make it difficult for me to keep up with my blogging. Something’s got to go, and of everything it’s the most personal, the most recreational of my online activities. Every other blog that I keep (and there are many) has a purpose and a function. Scavella’s Blogsphere was started to deal with my writing, with the stuff that is entirely personal, and that stuff has been put on hold for now; I’m not even keeping up with my responsibilities as a moderator at PFFA these days.

The reason?

If you want to find out what I’m really doing, go here:

I’ll be back online with some vague regularity after October 12.


Ten Questions for Poetry Editors – Scavella’s Turn « Very Like A Whale

Nic Sebastian over at Very Like A Whale invited me to respond to her Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. You can read the result this week here:

What goes on inside poetry editors’ heads? is a burning question for publishing and wannabe-publishing poets everywhere. With this third Ten Questions series, we are showcasing weekly answers from a diverse group of poetry editors to Ten Questions for Poetry Editors. Each editor’s responses will appear as a separate blog post and all posts will be linked back to the series’ standing page.

Our responder this week is Nicolette Bethel [aka Scavella], editor of Tongues of the Ocean.

Ten Questions for Poetry Editors – Nicolette Bethel « Very Like A Whale

Update on synaesthesia: everybody has it

We are all capable of “hearing” shapes and sizes and perhaps even “tasting” sounds, according to researchers.

This blending of sensory experiences, or synaesthesia, they say, influences our perception and helps us make sense of a jumble of simultaneous sensations.

Oxford University scientists found that people associate lower-pitched sounds with larger and more rounded shapes.

More here: BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | People may be able to taste words

My synaesthesia experiences can be found here:

Synaesthesia reloaded

Is syn sin?

PFFA’s discussion of synaesthesia and metaphor

More synaesthesia

My synaesthesia & colour themes

On why 2543 is a cool number

Summer Rain

It’s one of those underwater days, when the rain has turned everything grey and wet, and thunder’s rolling somewhere off in the distance.

In tropical places and really wet places this would be called the monsoon. But here in Nassau, the rain’s not as predictable as monsoon rain (which rolls in and falls daily, often at specific times of the day); you know (or hope!) the rain’s going to fall in the afternoon most days, and the roads stay wet and puddles collect on the sides of them. Some years it’s like that. But some years there’s more rain (like this week’s rain — every day, most of the day) and some years there’s only clouds and stifling humid heat.

Days like today (which is a day like the day when I took my final G. C. E. O-level, way back when, at the beginning of June, a drippy, grey, swishy day when the rain dripped down the spears of the great big sisal plants that lived outside my parents’ front window until the hurricanes of the turn of the century knocked them flat, and when the end of the day was marked with the news of a scholarship to go to a very special school and a rehearsal for the entertainment on prom night) are days I treasure.

And today’s just that sort of day — three decades almost to the day later.

The thing about vacations

is that they disincline one from returning to work for a while. I’m currently suffering from this after a fabulous Easter vacation on Long Island, one of the islands in the middle of the Bahamas, one of those the Tropic bisects. (Well, it’s not an exact bisection, but the north is subtropical and the south is tropical, and you notice the difference, we found, if you’re driving in April with the car windows open.)

My head is full of images, emotions, and ideas for poems. I’ve written most of them out but there are a couple more.

In the meantime, some photos. I’ll be back to caption and arrange them later.

Twenty-five writers meme

From Geoffrey Philp:

The deal is to name 25 writers who have influenced you, and then tag 25 people.

Hear ye the gospel according to Fragano: “Influence” does not mean the same thing as “enjoy a lot.”

(Just to note — this has been cross-posted with Blogworld so I can cross both my writing networks)

As with everyone else, before, in no particular order:

  1. T. S. Eliot – for blowing my mind
  2. Kamau Brathwaite – for blowing my mind again
  3. Ngugi wa Thing’o – for inspiring me to write plays
  4. Chinua Achebe – for Things Fall Apart and A Man of the People
  5. Toni Morrison – for just being
  6. William Shakespeare (no, for real) – what I said about Morrison
  7. W. B. Yeats – for channelling ghosts and writing great verse
  8. C. S. Lewis – for Narnia and concision
  9. Bronislaw Malinowski – for participant observation, the Trobriand ethnographies, and theory I can believe in
  10. Claude Levi-Strauss – for Tristes Tropiques Continue reading

New Year’s … well, you know

I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I don’t believe in ’em. I never keep ’em. I find I can change my life quite substantially during Lent, thank you very much; it was thanks to Lenten abstinences that I lost the taste for potato chips and for sodas.

But that’s by the way.

I don’t get into new year’s resolutions, but I do get into changing my life. I tend to do that pretty regularly — every three to five years for the last twenty or so years. The one constant, the one element to which I keep returning? Academia, specifically the college/university where I have taught, part-time or full-time, since 1986.

Ye gods.

So I say that to say this. I left the life of the bureaucrat behind five days ago, though I’d been on vacation for 8 weeks and 2 days (in the employ of the Bahamas government, a person is able to accumulate weeks of vacation from year to year. In the old days one could do that indefinitely, and I have met many civil servants who have easily 50 weeks of vacation (my parents were among those people). In recent times, things changed, and one could only accumulate up to 15 weeks’ vacation.

I have been whittling down my vacation all year long, else when October came I’d’ve had just about 12 weeks for this year.

This is one of the perks. This is one of the things that keep civil servants from going absolutely crazy. When you think about it, it’s one of the crueller tricks the service plays with you. It dangles this vaca-carrot before your face, and you run, lulled into happy thoughts of when you take it all, until you run over a cliff or a precipice or that baby someone placed in your path.

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Happy New Year, of course

It’s 2009, which means that I’m no longer a civil servant.

And yes, that’s cause for celebration.

I thought I’d post a couple of images just to move the process along.The quality isn’t what I’d want it to be, but as I took them from my phone I’m not complaining.


The first one is a wannabe photo. I walked outside on  Tuesday to collect the hammock in which I’d been lying, and stopped. On the telephone wires, silhouetted against the backdrop of the sky you see in the pic, was the waterbird that hangs out round our pool. It used to find a habitat in the empty lot that has since become a warehouse in the middle of our neighbourhood (don’t ask), along with taller, whiter birds (egrets, I’m guessing, but I’m not a bird person so I don’t know for sure). Behind the bird was the brand-new crescent moon, floating on its back in a limpid sky. And then there was the streetlight in the corner of the frame. Of course I was cameraless and phoneless and knew that if I dashed back into the house to get one the whole thing would change. And sure enough. When I came back out, a cloud had covered the moon, and by the time I was where I’d been before, the bird was gone.

But use your imagination anyway.

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I know it’s been a long time

It’s been a different year.

Yes, I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo.  Yes, I’m planning to write this November.  Yes, it’s the same as it’s been for the last several years, only I have made less preparation than ever before.  We’ll see what happens.

The main thing, though, is that this is the year for change.

No, I’m not talking about the US election, though I could be, couldn’t I?  I’m talking about my career.  The five years I promised to give to my current job, which is a government job, ended last week — I recognized the fifth anniversary of my first day.  As a public servant, and as someone who entered the public service to make a difference and not to have a difference made in me, the time has come to, well, go. 

That takes up some time.

That being said, check back next month.  I’ll be NaNoing as usual, and I’ll also be gearing up for the Caribbean Reading Challenge.


Newness & Husbands

I don’t always like to do things like this but. I have a husband who lives for surprises and delights. Good surprises. Like the good surprise he gave me today.

So I’m working on my podcast. (If you ever follow my other blog you’ll know that I’ve taken on the task of making weekly podcasts. The subject is not guaranteed to thrill, unless you’re an economist interested in the sustainable development of small island nation states. And hubs says to me as he’s putting on his shoes:

Why don’t you go for a swim? If you start working on that now you never will.

If I don’t, I say, I’ll spend all day tomorrow doing it.

Off he goes. And he comes back with some packages. (one day I’ll describe how we get our mail.) One of these packages is a box about yea big and so long — in short, about the size of a new laptop computer.

Is that what I think it is? I say.

What do you think it is? says he.

A new computer, say I.

Open it and see, says he.

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Holidays, holidays

Round here, we celebrate Columbus. 

No; celebrate is too strong a word. Commemorate is a better one.  

Whatever the situation, we have holidays round this time. After all, the island of Guanahani, where the new world landfall took place, is somewhere in our archipelago. Or in the Turks & Caicos, which is part of our archipelago (pace TCIslanders).

Anyway. Today was a holiday.


Spent it on the beach, eating.


So there.


I’m on Facebook, and here’s why.

Much as I shy away from virtual communities (I get quite enough real community in my life, thank you very much), I tend to join them when it seems as though there is a practical purpose to be served.  

Here’s the practical purpose with Facebook (MySpace too, clearly, but I am not drawn to MySpace):  it’s a cheap, fast-and-dirty way to announce stuff.

I live in a country where over the last 15 years we have gone from a single broadcast monopoly (one government-owned corporation that controlled all radio and television – Americans, sit in wonder, and then remember we were once owned by the Brits, who until relatively recently had something similar, at least with television) – to an open broadcast community and a proliferation of radio and, in the last five years, television stations.

Everybody wants to get in on the ground floor.  Everybody wants to make money.  But the corporate community is the same size as it was, and its advertising budget hasn’t increased one whit.  What with fuel prices being high (though dropping), etc, the cost of advertising has skyrocketed but profits haven’t.

And in this market, what I (read we – we have a company) do and what I want to advertise is niche-specific and has a high capital cost.  

I’m talking theatre here.

Fifteen years ago, a production would cost maybe $12k-$15k to mount.  However, with judicious marketing (on the single television station) and good occupancy, the same production could bring in $20k-$25k.  Doable, right?  Leaves us enough to mount the next one, keep things going.

These days, though, you don’t know who your audience is, and you don’t know which radio station they listen to.  Television is still predictable – the idea is to get a spot on the nightly news.  But that isn’t either cheap or easy.  

Enter Facebook and other networks.  And the Bahamian public has adopted Facebook as its net community of choice. More and more people are getting the word about fun things to do out, and expanding their networks, and targeting people who are interested and ignoring those who aren’t.  Pretty ingenious, no?  And also pretty cost-effective.

For now.  Until they figure out a way to charge for that too.

Don’t get around much anymore

Last night I had a dream about a strange place near to our international airport that used to be, among other things, a classy bed and breakfast resort as well as a girl’s boarding school.  (That part is unclear.  You know how dreams are.  It may have been a co-ed boarding school, but it’s just not easy to tell anymore.)  In the dream, it was being used for a meeting.  The meeting started out as a meeting of civil servants, although it changed to a spot for the remote broadcast of our national festival and a secondary site for that festival, to be conducted by the armed forces of the country (read police and the defence force — our version of marines) for people who are on their way to the airport and want a taste of the festival.  And yet, considering the fact that access to the performance space was up a rickety old iron ladder and onto a sloping roof, it seemed a little optimistic.  And then, given the fact that a dead aunt of mine, who when she was alive was both one of the most beautiful women of many people’s acquaintance, and also, thanks to various health challenges, lame in one or both of her long, long legs, turned up, it seemed, well, a little dream-like.

There were, come to think of it, many long-dead people in the dream.  It was peopled with the dead and the missing.  You tell me.

But I say all that to say this:  I have been scarce, and will continue to be scarce, because I am in the process of changing jobs yet again.  I never thought I would be the person I am when I was growing up.  I never imagined a nomadic existence.  But my professional life has so far been peripatetic, and once again I am moving on.  The dreams that go with the period of transition are always vivid, improbable (more so than usual), and surrealistically coherent.  Last night’s was no exception.

So there that is.  I shall be posting spasmodically for a while longer.  Then, after things settle, let’s hope the regularity of my posting on this blog will resume.

Perhaps there will be more dreams to share — who knows?


Why I haven’t been reading/writing lately

Oh, come on, you didn’t really think I’d tell you, did you?

I would if I could but I can’t.  Or if I did, I’d have to shoot you.

The simple, all-encompassing, oh-so-tedious-and-boring reason is:  work.

For those who don’t know by now, I am a senior(ish) civil servant in a broken civil service, and so while there are times when I could be fooled into thinking that what I do really matters, it really doesn’t.  I’m like a really athletic hamster on a fairly stable wheel, so that when I’m running on it I can climb halfway, or even, on special occasions, three quarters of the way, to the top — but that just means the cycle to the bottom makes the floor of my tummy drop out.

I can’t share, by law and convention and colonial intention, the details of what my work is.  (And no, I’m not in any secret service; know that everything public servants do is secret, unless otherwise instructed.  Don’t ask.)  But I can say that this week has been a particularly busy week on the hamster wheel.

I am taking vacation starting Monday.  It’s a bad time, but hey.  One of the perks of this job (you really need them — another one is a parking space whoo-hoo) is that you can accumulate your vacation time, but only until you’ve racked up fifteen weeks of it; then you have to take it or lose it.  I found going into this year I had almost ten weeks of it, so I’ve been taking some every now and then.  So tomorrow, I’m heading north to Montreal to see my soon-to-be one-year-old nephew, who’s morphed into a little boy somehow overnight (when I last saw him he looked like Tweety Bird, only not so yellow.  Not a bad thing, in my opinion, as Tweety was my favourite Toon back in the day).  I shall catch up on Hudgins over the week.

And on other reading, too, the audio book kind.  Last year, Ondaatje; this year, Atwood and Eugenides.

I’ll report when I’m done.

Summer is here

93 degrees F and plenty of humidity.

May is usually the first month of the rainy season.  No rain yet — is this the drought returning or is it just that the rains are taking long to come?  Definitely plenty of humidity, though sitting outside on the porch feeling the breeze — blowing from the south-west, the trades have turned — is pleasant.

We just turned on the air conditioning.  It’s the first time for the year   Because oil prices are now so high we have been putting it off.  We’ve spent two afternoon/evenings in our pool (new enough to still have us broke) but you can’t sleep in the pool.  We’re testing the air conditioner tonight.

More in the morning.


Some gifts just keep on giving.

Some time ago, Rob McKenzie emailed a couple of his  writing friends to suggest that we submit work for The London Magazine, which was going through a transition and needed to get material for their next issue pretty smartly.  I sent in some stuff.  Regular readers of this blog will know that it’s already paid off for me in ways that were unexpected, and that’s all good.

(It’s better than good, actually; getting a publication in a magazine you didn’t query is pretty doggone excellent in my book.  Thanks Niki and Sara-Mae and Rob!)

So yesterday the gift kept giving.  I got an email inviting me to read at Pencilfest, a literary festival scheduled for the University of Warwick in May.  Big stuff, complete with live broadcast by Radio Four, the works.

Unfortunately, they can’t cover international travel, so I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to let the opportunity pass.  Tickets to cross the Atlantic are exorbitant (you can get good deals if you book WELL in advance, but  a month or two out, not a chance).  But it’s the most exciting thing to happen to me and my writing for a while.

Thanks, London Magazine and Trespass!

A Poem is an Act of Memory (and other thoughts)

A poem is an act of memory, first forged out of the need to remember what would otherwise be forgotten – in an oral tradition record-keeping is an art, not an act of administration. Early poems were to be recited, memorised, passed on, and a heightened language lifted by rhyme and beat makes the memorising easier.

— Jeanette Winterson, “Going Back to the Roots”  


It remains true, and always will, that a great poem resists being paraphrased, and resists being reduced to a simple narrative argument. It is another litmus test of quality, perhaps, that new meanings can continue to be found in the poem, and that one can go ever deeper without ever feeling one has plumbed the ultimate depths. This is not ambiguity or clarity at issue, therefore: it is richness, and resonance, and a lifetime of memory folded into a small, densely-worded space: in other words, a true poem.

Art Durkee, The Ideology of Critique 4: Ambiguity    

 (both links found thanks to Frank Wilson’s Books, Inq.)

Poetics (with a nod to Nic)

Over on Nic’s blog, there’s a post that refers to two articles that discuss the theories that attach to poetry these days. One is written by Reginald Shepherd, who’s answered her 10 questions this week. The other is an interpretation and a clarification of what Shepherd wrote, by Chris Tonelli.

Now I wouldn’t normally get worked up about this kind of discussion. It has to do with titles and movements and a bunch of stuff I thought I’d left behind when they pinned the hood on me that allowed me to use the title “Dr.” without committing fraud.

But Nic brought it up, and so I’m pursuing it.

In brief, it’s a discussion of types of poetics, ways of defining oneself in a broader context. It’s an academic discussion, one that probably has more meaning for those poets who reside in academic circles — and who want to be published in the journals that are connected with academic circles — than for pretty well everybody else. And I wouldn’t have taken it up except for the fact that Shepherd refers to “inside” and “outside”, and where one falls in relation to “inside” and “outside” has fundamental bearing on one’s impact in this world, even beyond academics. Witness the discussion about Southern writers further down this blog.

The trouble with the whole discussion is that it is pretty largely irrelevant to what I think is happening in the world of poetry today. What one calls oneself — which, as I say, has a whole lot to do with carving out a niche for oneself and one’s style or focus in an academic world — really doesn’t seem to matter to a whole heap of very interesting poets, who are not only writing, but who are communicating through media that are far broader and less controlled than they ever have been before. Granted, it’s going to be a while before this shift is reflected in the establishment — among that group of people who think of themselves and their work in terms of schools and theories and titles — but just how long that while is going to be is unclear. For those of us who are beyond the academy — and I say “us” even though I have qualified myself to be in the academy, because I qualified myself in the wrong thing, and even there (anthropology) I tend to regard all the schools, the posts and the symbols and the whole shebang as window-dressing. And it’s more important window-dressing in the world of anthropology, which exists really only within the academy; there are very very few amateur anthropologists of any great worth. In literature, which interacts with the public on its own — well.

But I digress. As I was saying, for those of us beyond the academy, for me, I cannot think of anything more stultifying to my work as a writer than trying to squeeze it into a box that reflects a particular literary movement that may or may not fit me. The latter’s more likely than the former, anyway; how many Bahamian writers are there in the academy anyway, and when has any of them affected a school or a movement? I’ve been there, done that, and shaken it off. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life chafing because I’m not a full-time writer, even though I want to be. (By that I mean because nobody PAYS me to be a full-time writer.) But I cast off cloaks of expectation when I slipped out of fundamentalist evangelical protestantism. And I don’t intend to go back again.

So here’s a thought. Here’s what I’d prefer to do. Rather than trying to master the divisions and the fences in poetic theory (because thank heaven, no university is paying me to have to try), I’d much rather write what I need to, the best way I know how. I’d rather let what I have to say tell me how it ought to be said, rather than having some school of thought tell me what I’m supposed to be saying and trying to squeeze into its contours. I’d rather be part of a movement that sets critics trying to find a word to describe it, rather than squishing myself into shapes other people have already defined.


Synaesthesia Reloaded

So I get an email from the people in whose survey I participated a year and half ago asking me to take part again. Study of synaesthesia over time. I get it. So I took part. It was interesting to me and (presumably) to them, but a little depressing too: my colours are fading. I knew they faded with age, but they are fading visibly. The colours are more or less the same, but harder and harder to see.

I reproduce the spectrum of my digits and letters below.

June 2006


February 2008



People who have been following this blog long enough know that I have a love affair with February.

Yep, that’s right.

It doesn’t hurt, of course, that I live in a country where winter’s the good season and summer’s the one you want to avoid.

Why February? Well, maybe because it’s so short, and that adds to the mystique. But also because the sun’s returning from the south and here, in this sub-tropical location, that fact does make a difference. The days are getting long enough for people who are sentenced to work 9-5 can leave work in the light (though, depending on where they’re going, may still arrive home in the dark). And the light, like the light in September, is just gorgeous. The shadows still filter out the worst of the sun. But unlike September, the air is cool and the sky is usually clear, and the sea is absolutely gorgeous.

Here’s where I’m sitting this morning, har-di-har har:


I’m sitting right where the guy with the hose is.

We’ve got a sprinkler going for our new (imported-from-America) grass, and the birds — a bunch of jays — are swooping through the water as though they’re auditioning for Fantasia.  Yesterday there were blue jays — the right sorts of birds for my seven-month-old nephew, who was born in Montreal while my brother attends university to get his doctorate.

There’s an old poem I wrote in February (but I say it’s March, because I revised it in March) that I wanted to post but I can’t find it anywhere.  When I do, I’ll edit it in.


One way to get past a slump like last weekend’s is simply to go submit some poems somewhere. I’ve done that, and we’ll see.

Another way is to start writing something new, as Mary suggested. Good idea, Mary. I still have the conclusion of the second novel to write, and then I’ll have four Nassau Mysteries complete, three of them ready for redrafting.

Another one is to get a couple of compliments. Now, normally I’m a little wary of compliments, especially when they’re given to my face (online it’s a little different, because in my experience online communication has an odd tendency to exaggerate the impolite, while — in my country especially — face to face communication tends towards the hypocritical). But here’s the thing. Last week my play opened. We’ve had poor houses, and I’m worried about money — the theatre where it’s being put on charges exorbitant rent. But we’re getting damn good critical reviews. People have also said nice things to me, and while I salt that liberally when it happens right after the show, when people come up to me two or three days later and tell me nice things, I tend to trust them a little more. Especially when it’s the right nice thing — like “I haven’t been able to get the play out of my head since I saw it”. That’s what I’m aiming for. I don’t want people to like the thing. I want them to be haunted by it.

And finally, the other thing is to see a profit from one’s writing. The profit I’m seeing is tiny — enough to buy lunch, maybe — but the script of the play’s been on sale at the performances, and I’ve finally done more than break even. Absurd that it makes me smile and lifts the blues, but there it is.


Now let me go work on the Bridport entry. Nothing ventured, as they say.



I’m not much one for gut-spilling, and don’t imagine that that’s what’s going to happen here. But if I were the kind of person who stuck icons in posts, my mood today would be blue/sadface. Depression has a bad rap these days, so let me use a good nineteenth century word: melancholy. I feel terribly Keatsian at the moment. Perhaps I should use the Keatsian solution — writing impossibly lovely poetry about feeling blue —

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk

— nope, been done.

What it is is post-completion blues. I’ve just finished three major projects. My play’s in production, the script’s been (self)published, and I’ve just delivered a collection of essays to a local distributor and am working out the business end of having it made available in stores near you.

And I’m seeing the end of the tunnel with the Lily poems too.

And I’m on vacation. Double whammy.

I should know better. Long ago, in university, I discovered that although being over-busy frustrates me and makes me nuts, it also makes me happy. When I don’t have too much to do I get depressed. And by “too much” I mean stuff that requires thinking. I am an addict, and a selective one at that. If I’m not doing something creative, I get depressed.

So here’s the thing. I’m between projects. And I’m blue. So, although there’s no nightingale around here, only a cold-front greybreeze and an over-sensitive car alarm that goes off at two-minute intervals, here’s how I feel today:

… for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight upon no pain …

The rest is silence.


Quick Question

I’ve been eyeing the WordPress Platial widget for some time now.  There are times when I’d love to have people know just where I am in the world, and I though it might be nice to include a map or two.  I’ve got the map up in the sidebar, but I don’t know whether I’m going to keep it.

So I’m looking for feedback.

Interesting?  Taking up space?  Not doing much for you?  Let me know.


Happy New Year from the Mute and Stuffy

All right, I know I’m late.   But you have to understand; New Year’s Day for many Nassauvians is spent far away from the internet and from WiFi.  Many of us are downtown on Bay and Shirley Streets (these are the main drags) attending the New Year’s Day Junkanoo parade.  And if you know Junkanoo at all, it lasts for twelve hours.

This year was no exception for me.  I left early on Boxing Day (sometime after 5 a.m. — the parade started at midnight), which meant I missed the rain, which came round 7.  But yesterday — I was going to say two days ago, because it was two sleeps ago, but it was only yesterday — I stayed, doing my duty for my *-ing Job, until after the sun came up.  I got home with daylight, and went to sleep.  Got up at noon, and opened my mouth to say good morning to the man I married — and whispered like the wind.  

Well, fine.  I’ve been getting “sick” since last Friday.  You know.  The kind of sick you can usually deal with — stuffy nose, sore throat, your typical cold.  I’ve been taking it easy.  I even planned not to go to Junkanoo if I thought I was too ill.  Obviously I didn’t think that, because down I went — and voilà.  No voice.  

Forget the frog.  It’s like my voicebox has gone and died.   

The things I do for my Job.  

The things I do for my country.  

Happy New Year.

In the meantime, here’s some (poor-quality) footage to prove I was there: 

Roots Girls Passing   

Writing in the face, Part II

Yesterday we received news that another friend and colleague, a friend who lives, coincidentally?, not far from the other, was murdered in his home as well.

Shortly after that, I got a phone call from the one person here who has read the first novel in the series. She was freaked out by the location and manner of the murders.

So am I.

I’ve always known, and touted, the power of words. But when it hits this close to home, it becomes eerie, and makes one think again about what one’s doing. I don’t know what else to say.

Gonna write, though. As the people say:

keep writting …

Writing in the face


Before I go on, let me say that I haven’t mastered the art of it. Writing in the face, that is.

I’m working on a series of crime novels based in my home city, Nassau, New Providence, Bahamas. It’s a project that I take very seriously when I’m at it — when I’m writing as my screen personae of Scavella and Madison Hill — but that in my professional, “real” life, I keep very private indeed.

There are reasons for this privacy. I won’t go into them now. Just think of it this way: when you live in a country with a fledgling literary tradition, you consider very seriously the kind of oeuvre you want to add to the pot. Genre novels, even the best, list towards formula, work within parameters that are global in scope, and tend to be featureless — quite literally, they’re generic.

Today, though, art — or perhaps I ought to call it craft, because it’s more slog and smoothing than a whole lot else — met reality in ways that have unseated me, that have thrown me off-balance and interrupted the flow of words.

A colleague and friend was murdered today in the city of Nassau, and the themes that have appeared in the series over different books have become real.

The grief and misery that I feel right now are compounded by the fact that what has come from what I fondly believe to be my imagination is currently far too close for comfort. The location of his death, the manner of his death — these are elements that appear in different books in the series.And I haven’t yet mastered the art of writing in the face of the resulting confusion.

Borderline Manic



It’s official.

I have been Diagnosed.

Last night, my uncle-the-psychiatrist informed me that I’m borderline manic, whatever that means.

All I did was announce that I want to take all of the next generation of cousins to Disney World. There are seven of them, ranging in age from 13 to 3, not counting my brother’s son, who’s 4 months and nowhere near weaned.

What’s so manic about that?

Coming out

A couple of months ago I sent off a set of Lily poems to the Shit Creek Review‘s companion zine, II. Paul Stevens and Nigel Holt very kindly accepted them, and they’ll be published shortly, along with (perhaps) an essay talking about them. They’ll be published under my real name.

For a long time, years in fact, since 2001 when I started writing poetry again and started posting it on the web, I’ve been Scavella. International Person of Mystery. My identity was a closely guarded secret, yadda yadda ya. This was for a couple of reasons. For one, I like my privacy. For two — and please, no offence — I’m not overwhelmed with a desire to meet the people I have met and respect and like online in person. My job is demanding enough when it comes to human beings. I like the cleanness of cyberspace. And for three (“couple” meaning a different thing here in The Bahamas than it does in the rest of the Anglophone world, apparently), I liked the androgyny of the name, especially when I became a moderator on Poetry-Free-For-All. And for four (what I said, above), I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with sharing my works in progress under my real name.

So — Scavella.

Continue reading

I was going to post something Big today

but then I chickened out.

The time didn’t seem dramatically right.

Here was my week:

Monday – work.  Meetings.  A press conference I didn’t know anything about.  Scramble to finish some stuff — like to get bills paid and so on because the budget year is coming to a close and our government’s budgets don’t carry over from year to year.  They close and open and there’s a gap of about two to four weeks when no bills can be paid because it’s a black-out period when the fine ants (finance people) crawl all over the spending and earning of the last year and analyze and report on it.  We’re in it now.

Tuesday – work.  Early meeting.  More meetings behind that.  A long lunch to come home and pack.  Back to the office to do some paperwork.  From work straight to the gallery where I was giving the reading.  Not a bad turnout, some people I haven’t seen in a long time, and a good response to the work.  (I will post a summary of what I read, I promise, and I will also post soundbites, but maybe not for a while, not till I have the time to put them together.)

Wednesday – up at 3:30 to catch a plane.  Flew all day basically to get to a meeting in the southern Caribbean.  Flew American Airlines.  Note to self, if self can help it:  NEVER AGAIN.  They have stopped serving food on certain flights — like flights to the southern Caribbean (do they serve food on flights that lead to and from whiter countries, I wonder?).  Having been travelling since 4:30 a.m., I did not eat.  I wanted airplane food, believe it or not.  Thank Amex for its plasticness.  I had to PAY $5 FOR A SANDWICH.   It’s not worth the miles I earn.

Thursday – up at 6:30 to get to the meeting. Met all day.  The country hosting the meeting sent us on a boat ride for dinner.  Went to bed at 12:30.

Friday – up at 7:00 to get to the meeting.  Met all day.  At the end of the day was informed that our call time for transport back to the airport yesterday was 3:30 a.m. Negotiation got it pushed back to 5:00.  Went to the special dinner planned for the delegates, but skipped the cultural show after.

Saturday – up at 3:45 to clear out of the room, check out, and get to the airport.  Flew out at 7:10.  HAD TO PAY $5 FOR MY BREAKFAST – which was a variation on the lunch I paid $5 for on Wednesday.  Not happy.  BOYCOTT AMERICAN AIRLINES (I may not be able to; it seems to be the airline of choice for our government).  But we caught an earlier plane out of Miami so that was a good thing.

Sunday – have a funeral, a radio programme, and some other stuff to do today.

Poetry is the last thing on my mind.