Welcome to Cane Arrow Press


Crossed Suns cover
Cover of Crossed Suns

Welcome to Cane Arrow Press, a project dedicated to the promotion of the poetry of Trinidad & Tobago. To date we have published four books and another is in press.A typical cover is illustrated here.

We hope that the website will act as a directory for readers and researchers and a repository for some of the crucial critical nuggets scattered at home and all over the diaspora.

A parallel concern of the press is to record and promote the poetry of the West Indian diaspora in Britain, largely poetry but some philosophy and essays too.






News

Please read our news page for details of our latest activities and upcoming books.

Our Books

Here are our books to date:

SIXTY POEMS FOR HAITI ed. IAN DIEFFENTHALLER &MAGGIE HARRIS
ISBN: 978-0-9562901-3-7. Published June 2010.
A collection from poets in the West Indies, UK and Europe, some seasoned,some beginners. The only brief given was to send a poem for Haiti. Many responded directly to the traumatic earthquake of January 2010; others sent recent work as a gift to the people of Haiti. All profits to the Lambi Fund of Haiti.

OUR TIME IS NOW by CY GRANT
ISBN: 978-0-9562901-2-0. Published January 2010.
Essays on the need for a reawakening in Western consciousness by the author of Ring of Steel, the story of Trinidad’s musical gift to the universe; Blackness &the Dreaming Soul, a personal philosophy, and Rivers of Time, poems collected over seventy years. Cy passed the baton on to us on 13th Feb 2010 whilst in his ninety-first year.

AFTER A VISIT TO A BOTANICAL GARDEN by MAGGIE HARRIS
ISBN: 978-0-9562901-1-3. Published February 2010.
"This is the third collection from the award winning Guyanese-British poet: - a subtly orchestrated collection, telling of journeys and arrivals and dispersals, the epic of Caribbean reality. The poems are at times powerful and moving, at other times witty and tender, and always absorbing."

CROSSED SUNS by Ian Dieffenthaller
ISBN: 978-0-9562901-0-6. Published October 2009.
Poems written between Britain and the West Indies by the author of Snow on Sugarcane, a critical history of the poetry of West Indian Britain. The author grew up in and around San Fernando, Trinidad and has lived in Britain since the 1980s.

The poetry of Trinidad & Tobago

First, some notes on the early years...



THE EARLY YEARS OF THE POETRY OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO

Some context

The poetry of Trinidad and Tobago is a scarcely collected treasure: not one comprehensive anthology has been produced since 1947’s Papa Bois. In recent years, Anson Gonzalez has instigated an archival campaign, the like of which has never been seen before in the islands. Included in his output for 2006 was his 41 Trinidadian Poets, a record of the best work from 1973 to 1993, as captured by The New Voices journal he edited over that period. Cane Arrow Press is working on an anthology which seeks to bridge the period between Papa Bois and 41 Trinidadian Poets but also to reproduce representative poems from the entire 85 year period of T&T’s history of published poetry collections.

The potential for an English based literature in the country only extends back to 1797 when Britain wrested Trinidad from the Spanish. Elsewhere in the West Indies, British influence had been felt since 1623, with islands such as Barbados under unbroken British rule since 1625. In Trinidad, by dint of Spanish hospitality, it was the French who held sway by the end of the eighteenth century and this persisted for all of the early life of the Crown Colony, so much so that in 1869 JJ Thomas, a Trinidadian school teacher, felt obliged to defend the local language—French patois—in his book The Theory and Practice of Creole Grammar. By 1838, only 14 villages on Trinidad, spoke a form of English and it was not until 1920 that the effect of mass migration from the British West Indies could be said to have created an English–speaking majority on the island. The discovery of oil in 1910 did much to hasten the influx of English speakers. Tobago, a part of the Windward Islands Colony, only became a ward of Trinidad in 1889 and the independent country of Trinidad & Tobago came into being in 1962.

Gayap 1975-6

The 1976 cover of the arts journal Gayap



Best Poems of Trinidad

Best Poems of Trinidad: 1943


Early days: 1922- 1937

Throughout the nineteenth century, poems were published in local newspapers and some laudatory verse was issued to mark Queen Victoria’s jubilee and passing but any useful discussion of TT poetry in English can only date back to the 1920s. Of the poetry of those early years, similarly, we might expect only tentative steps on the route to a national aesthetic. This is borne out in reality: the earliest collection we can find is AD Russell’s 1922 offering The Legends of the Bocas. Much of the West Indian poetry of the 1920s and 30s is disregarded by the critics as mere reproduction of received colonial models to which a little local colour has been added. But the reader should be allowed to make up his or her own mind as to which poems have something to say about Trinidad & Tobago. Even the most imperial of poems may cast light on local issues: the two are not necessarily exclusive. Yet the paucity of much of the early poems—as poems—makes it easy to disregard the early work. Additionally, the particular circumstances of the Trinidad of that time led to a comparative dearth of poetry in relation to fiction.

Politician-poets

Trinidad appears to be unique in the West Indies in producing a band of poet-politicians centred on Alfred Mendes, CLR James, Ralph de Boissiere and slightly later, Albert Gomes. Their work and that of their contemporaries is largely to be found in two literary journals, Trinidad (1929-30) and The Beacon (1931-33, 1939). Mendes, a Portuguese Trinidadian, set up a literary group with like-minded individuals on his return from serving in France in the Great War. The group were well placed to reflect the disenchantment of many sectors of the population with colonial rule. These included the marginalized white Creole communities, French and Portuguese, the burgeoning black educated class, a genuine urban working class, a rising Indian middle class and liberals of all classes inspired by leftist foment in Europe. Whilst Trinidad only saw two issues, Mendes published four collections of poems between 1924 and 1927 and James had a story accepted by the English periodical Saturday Review in 1927.

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Cane Arrows at sunset

Links

CRB logo

Caribbean Review of Books

Trinidadian Letters logo

The Poems of Anson Gonzalez

Naked Light logo

Naked Light—Poetry & Sound

T&T Bibliography of Creative Writing

Many moons ago, Anson Gonzalez compiled a bibliography of T&T literature. We are working to update it. Meanwhile George Parfitt's West Indies Poetry is a useful reference. Find it on George Parfitt’s website.

Journals

JWIL logo

The Journal of West Indian Literature

Wasafiri logo

Wasafiri after 30 years

Libraries

Nalis logo

Trinidad & Tobago National Library

Digital Library of the Caribbean logo

Digital Library of the Caribbean

To find a university, specialist or national library in the UK or Ireland, check out the copac website.

Poets

Cover-After a Visit

Maggie Harris

George Szirtes

George Szirtes

You can read Nicholas Laughlin's article on Eric Roach for a short exploration of Tobago's finest.

Criticism

Links to Critical articles on T&T poetry will appear here from time to time.

Reviews

Links to reviews of T&T and WI British poetry will appear here from time to time.

Comments

If you would like to leave us any comments or suggestions please email us:





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OUR LATEST BOOKS

GUYANA PRIZE WINNER

Sixty Years of Loving
MAGGIE HARRIS
ISBN 978-0-9562901-7-5
Launched 14th February 2014. £9.00

Click cover to enlarge

Maggie was born in Guyana and moved to Britain at the age of 17, living in Kent before her move to Wales in 2006. Her first collection of poetry Limbolands won the 2000 Guyana Prize for Literature. Her work includes performance poetry for children Anansi meets Miss Muffet, a memoir, Kiskadee Girl, and a book of short stories Canterbury Tales on a Cockrow Morning.

SIXTY YEARS OF LOVING has already been enthusiastically received. Eileen Sheehan writes, “Harris’s voice is attuned to that of the Wild Woman archetype with poems that spring from the place of tension between the vibrant, instinctual nature and the strictures imposed by society.” Catherine Smith says, “Maggie Harris makes full and generous use of her lyrical powers to lead the reader into geographical and emotional landscapes of her youth and beyond.”

Please click here to go to the Books page to order this book.

STILL AVAILABLE

Sixty Poems for Haiti
ed. IAN DIEFFENTHALLER
&MAGGIE HARRIS
ISBN 978-0-9562901-3-7
Published 28 June 2010. £9.00

A collection from poets in the West Indies, UK and Europe, some seasoned,some beginners. The only brief given was to send a poem for Haiti. Many responded directly to the traumatic earthquake of January 2010; others sent recent work as a gift to the people of Haiti. All profits to the Lambi Fund of Haiti.

haiti cover

Click to order

Featured authors

The line-up includes poets from 12 to 89, from St Lucia to Botswana. All have given their work without charge in order to help the Lambi Fund of Haiti rebuild the earthquake ravaged country from its grassroots.

From the West Indies

  • Kamau Brathwaite
  • Kendel Hippolyte
  • Faustin Charles
  • Vahni Capildeo

From the UK and Ireland

  • George Szirtes
  • Debjani Chattergee
  • Rommi Smith
  • Eileen Sheehan

From Europe and Africa

  • Lidia Vianu
  • Vic
  • Giuseppi Soto
  • Andreattah Chuma

A Poem from the book


KNITTING A RAINBOW
Sarah Tait

I wanted to plait fog
catch sunlight in my hands
keep a snowflake in my pocket
for luck. I wanted to sail up Everest
see the Northern lights on my ceiling
and kiss a tiger's nose.

I’m still looking for that stitch I dropped
the day I tried to knit a rainbow -
cable-stitched red to keep out the cold,
garter-stitch green to warm the budding trees,
loops of indigo softening the dark
and cradling violet's fragile dawn.

Can a dropped stitch survive the fall -
coil out towards the hope snuggled between
the warmth of orange, and the daffodil smile
that shines its way to gold?

I wanted to knit a rainbow,
heal all the world with a blue sky,
find my dropped stitches had wormed through the earth,
brushed the perfect fingers of the dead crushed babe,
mopped the rivered grief
and hushed the howl of 'why?'

Trying to knit a rainbow with woolly words
and needles to tap tap tap through silence.
Knit the rain. Purl the sun. Try.

RECOMMENDED READING

Some books on the history of Haiti:

For the classic account of the "first revolution in the Third World," C.L.R.James's The Black Jacobins is recommended.

"This powerful, intensely dramatic book is the definitive account of the Haitian Revolution of 1794-1803, a revolution that began in the wake of the Bastille but became the model for the Third World liberation movements from Africa to Cuba. It is the story of the French colony of San Domingo, a place where the brutality of master toward slave was commonplace and ingeniously refined. And it is the story of a barely literate slave named Toussaint L'Ouverture, who led the black people of San Domingo in a successful struggle against successive invasions by overwhelming French, Spanish, and English forces and in the process helped form the first independent nation in the Caribbean." (One World Books)

For the later history of Haiti up to 1994, see List of History Books on Haiti by Bob Corbett.

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