Cover of Crossed Suns
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.
Please read our news page for details of our latest activities and upcoming books.
Here are our books to date:
First, some notes on the early years...
THE EARLY YEARS OF THE POETRY OF TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
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.
The 1976 cover of the arts journal Gayap
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.
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.
Cane Arrows at sunset
Caribbean Review of Books
The Poems of Anson Gonzalez
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.
The Journal of West Indian Literature
Wasafiri after 30 years
Trinidad & Tobago National Library
Digital Library of the Caribbean
To find a university, specialist or national library in the UK or Ireland, check out the copac website.
You can read Nicholas Laughlin's article on Eric Roach for a short exploration of Tobago's finest.
Links to Critical articles on T&T poetry will appear here from time to time.
Links to reviews of T&T and WI British poetry will appear here from time to time.
If you would like to leave us any comments or suggestions please email us:
GUYANA PRIZE WINNER
Sixty Years of Loving
Launched 14th February 2014. £9.00
Click cover to enlargeMaggie 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.
Please click here to go to the Books page to order this book.
Sixty Poems for Haiti
ed. IAN DIEFFENTHALLER
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.
Click to order
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.
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.Go Back