This is an impressive collection. Like many others, I never appreciated that such writing talent and range of expression existed – far less flourished – here in Barbados, but this anthology exposes it all. I felt my soul uplifted and my spirits soaring at the literary riches offered up in these pages.
The stories and poems grab you by the throat and don’t let go. Some leave you with a smile, some gasping for air as their narrative unfolds, others in wonder at the sheer creativity within. Can you tell that I enjoyed them all? Well done everyone, and well done, ArtsEtc judges.
In any review it’s tough to mention some entries and omit others. However to avoid simply a tedious list of contents, I must give a personal take on a few outstanding ones.
Right off the bat, Cherie Jones touched me with her bittersweet “How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House” (a baffling but intriguing title). I could feel the characters, live their emotions – and suffer with them at the end, where we are left to our imaginations.
I’ve rarely seen dialect in written form which absolutely works, but in “Automated Reality”, Kerry Belgrave achieved it for me, while giving a thoughtful commentary on our times.
Gale Withers then entertained with a clever stacking of words and lines in “Hurricane Coming”, which had the effect of making me actually feel the event. This feat appeared again in Daniel Boxill’s “Vertigo”, though with less impact and seemingly more show for its own sake. No matter, it remains an enjoyable read.
“Rain Cloud” by Shadon Cumberbatch left me so shaken and sad that I had to stop reading for a while, and simply absorb it. It’s a wonderful first-person telling of family abuse which leaves you feeling sad for every damaged personality in the story – no mean achievement. But a bleak read, indeed. “This Could Be It” from Shakirah Bourne did the same thing for me, they both refer to the unevenness of people.
Corey Springer’s “Jade” was sexy as all-get-out, and very agreeable too. “Prickett’s Well” (Edison Williams) began well as a mystery read but lost me in the characterisation and seemed to peter out in the end. And “RIP2me” (Shanae Gill-Hinds) made me smile.
“Kendrick Goes Missing” (Martin Boyce) contained some Tarantino-like violence and intriguing characters; I wish it had gone further – but also appreciated that it left my mind to fill in the blanks. By contrast, “Home” from Chloe Walker was sweet and gentle.
Sharma Taylor’s “The Woman Whose Laugh Cracked The Sky” was powerful, though I kept wondering why it never developed the mystery of its main character and that laugh. However the first-person style again worked well for me here. By contrast, “A Hand Came Through The Wall” was perfect little gem of a story. And Linda Deane’s “A Way Back” was strongly evocative and quite ambitious, though perhaps deserved a longer-form presentation to bring out its linkages and connections.
I liked Nick Whittle’s “I Pour Another Rum” with its tilt to absurdist, shoulder-shrugging philosophy, though it seemed to promise more than it delivered.
So now I feel bad, having not mentioned everyone and not having given unstinting praise – which was certainly due. All in all it’s an amazing collection of depth and craft. I stand in admiration.