Thursday, December 1, 2011


Unclosed Entrances: Selected Poems is one of the latest publications in the Guyana Classics Library. Peter Nazareth of the University of Iowa, in his fifteen-page introductory essay underlines the value of this volume to the literature of Guyana and to the literature of the Americas. In exploring Yogic Realism in this book, the poet’s term for his aesthetics, Nazareth hints at the contrasts and similarities with the magical realist writers of South America such as: Wilson Harris. The poetry in this volume spans more than two decades. Selections come from Demerary Telepathy, Between the Dash and the Comma, The Wintering Kundalini, A Surf of Sparrows’ Songs, The Hungry Sailor, A Writer Like You and In a Boston Night.

The Guyana Classics Library was launched in 2010 with the republication of Sir Walter Raleigh’s The Discoverie of Guiana, which was first published in 1595. The Classics Library is a collaboration of the University of Warwick (Caribbean Studies Centre) and the Government of Guyana and is published at the Caribbean Press (Warwick & Georgetown)

Monday, September 5, 2011

There is no Metaphor for Murder

From The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka


This was not what the Vedantists
Had in mind when they flew
Into the skies, their Sanskrit scribes
And engineers recording to scale
Replicas Germans created before
And during The War. Before those
Wrights. This was not what the Wrights
Contemplated before Kitty Hawk.
There is no metaphor for murder.


The casualties at Gettysburg are unsecret.
They were combatants. Not a civilian father
Having his first coffee break of the morning.
Somebody’s mother is somebody’s daughter
Just looking up from the morning numbers.
Smoke. Last words on a cell phone.
Today you ride a bike. You live in Toronto.
Today you ride a bike. You live in Tampa.
Today you always take the stairs.
How many bombs in Vietnam, or Japan?
One in Hiroshima. Just one in Nagasaki.
The count? You will never be popular.
Why is one more sacred that 3,000, than
40,000 Tamils disappeared in two weeks.
There is no metaphor for murder.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

from The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka

from The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka

31. Le Repentir

There, with queen palms roaring
They walled you in. Tombs and septic
Tanks look alike. Worms feast in both.
Who gyrates in graveyards? Jumbies
And poets. Both celebrate satanic verses.

©Sasenarine Persaud

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Guyana Prize Caribbean Award should be discontinued

For the first time in more than 20 years, a public comment on the Guyana Prize for Literature. But first, a disclaimer: As I write (August 27, 2011) the shortlist for the Guyana Prize for literature has just been announced and my collection, In a Boston Night has been one of the books shortlisted; by my count, my books have been shortlisted at least 5 times for this prize, which I have never won; and some, no doubt, may consider it uncharitable to say that several of the judges in the years in which my work was shortlisted are people with whom I have had differences of opinion, publicly and privately, relating to aesthetics and art—Indian aesthetics in my work; art as yoga; Yogic Realism, as I define my aesthetics; and the politics of literature following the tumultuous politics of Guyana in general and race in the Caribbean and elsewhere—largely to critics and professors schooled and steeped, if not blinded, by Euro-American aesthetics and ways of seeing the world; neo-colonialists, some may say.

I learned of the shortlist by email from the Guyana Prize Committee less than 7 days ago. A quick search of the Internet showed that others were privy to this list well before many of those shortlisted, or their publishers. A quick search of the Internet also showed that almost all of those commenting on the shortlist chose to ignore the Guyana Prize shortlist and deal with the Caribbean Award shortlist. It is this award, the Caribbean component of the Guyana Prize, I comment on today. A comment on the Guyana Guyana Prize for Literature will come later.

In a sentence: The Guyana Prize for Literature Caribbean Award should be discontinued and the more than $20,000.00 US expended on this prize should be given directly to Guyanese writers and artists in a juried granting system as used by Canada, the US and other countries. For one, there are already two Caribbean Literature awards: The BOCAS PRIZE, and the venerable, if irregular, Cuban CASAS DE LAS AMERICAS AWARD, which is open to works in English from the Caribbean and South America. Secondly, The Guyana Prize for Literature was established to promote writing by Guyanese writers at home and abroad. The Guyana Prize partially accomplishes this; a Caribbean Award does not further this intent of the award—we will, for now, bypass the politics of the establishment of the prize by the post-Burnham regime of the PNC. Fourthly, because of the dynamics of writing and publishing facilities on craft abroad, the Guyana Prize has tended to be of greater value to writers living abroad. A juried grants program which gives writers, painters, song-writers etc., living in Guyana, the space and time to focus on their art is the most effective way to ensure that local writers/artists etc. nurture, develop and perfect their art.

If there needs to be another literary award for Caribbean writers, this could be a project for CARICOM, or a collective project by the governments of the region, or a project of the University of the West Indies. But not an award supported entirely by the government of Guyana, while its own writers and artists are neglected. Charity begins at home—the Guyana Prize Caribbean Award is a contradiction of this when more than $20,000.00 US is being spent on an award with no direct benefit to writers and artists in Guyana. This is obscene. Especially given that Guyana is considered one of the poorest countries in the region and the world. Add another $20,000.00 US to $30,000.00 US for the Guyana Prize (Guyana component—see how ridiculous this has become even in nomenclature, with the Guyana Prize Caribbean Award) and this seems doubly obscene. The Guyana Prize is of value for both Guyanese writers at home and abroad and for the Guyanese nation. And, yet, perhaps, the Guyana Prize, too, needs to be reconfigured. This is a topic for another time.

My focus now is the Guyana Prize Caribbean Award, which should be abolished. This iteration of this prize seems to be the result of intense lobbying—a euphemism for bullying, some say—by a Nobel laureate and several Caribbean writers, based outside Guyana, during the 2008 Festival, coupled with some politics; a President not eligible for reelection looking at his legacy? Another disclaimer: I’ve never been a member of any political party in any of the 3 countries in which I hold citizenship; I am still not a member of any political party.

The Guyana Prize Caribbean Award, in the absence of a juried grants program for local writers, is a mistake and an affront to Guyanese writers/artists at home—and abroad. It should be scrapped and the funds earmarked should be funneled to writers/artists etc. living in Guyana.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In a Boston Night shortlisted for Guyana Prize

In a Boston Night was recently shortlisted for the 2010 Guyana Prize for Literature. Please see shortlist and note in earlier post.

Guyana Prize for Literature - 2010 Shortlist

This list is not the complete list as presented by the Guyana Prize Committee. The Caribbean shortlist of the prize is available on other websites. A comment on this prize will follow.


Berkeley W. Semple, The Central Station
Brian Chan, The Gift of Screws
Maggie Harris, After a Visit to a Botanical Garden
Mark Mc Watt, A Journey to Le Repentir
Sasenarine Persaud, In a Boston Night
Stanley Greaves, The Poems Man

David Dabydeen, Molly and the Muslim Stick
Janice Lowe Shinebourne, Chinese Women
Karen King-Aribisala, The Hangman’ s Game

Grace Nichols, Blood and Wedding: A Guyana/Caribbean Version of Lorca’s Tragedy
Harold Bascom, Blank Document
Janice Imhoff, The Changing Hand

The Guyana Prize for Literature
C/o School of Education & Humanities
University of Guyana
Turkeyen Campus
Greater Georgetown, Guyana
Tel.: 592-222-3470
Fax: 222-3583,

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lantana Strangling Ixora

This collection is as much about love and people in and out of relationships as it is about origins and the process of estrangement. The lantana is a flower of South American origin, and the ixora of Asian origin. The lantana, a creeper that grows profusely, often engulfing other plants, provides a ready metaphor for the consciousness of the Americas overcoming that of India in the Americas—the mainstreaming and divesting of yoga from its Hindu origins being the most visible manifestation. This collection ranges widely in its geographical and historical concerns, from Canada to Guyana to India and places in between, exploring the contradictions in our lives: familial influences, terrorism, literature, politics, race, and the power of language and representation. As always in Persaud’s work, love is ever present. This is a collection that displays mastery over nuances of language, and is at once quirky and humorous as it continues an engagement with the theme of “place as muse.”

POETRY ISBN 978-1-894770-72-9,
$17.95 pb, 5.75” x 8.75”, 112 pages
September 2011

Also by Sasenarine Persaud:
In a Boston Night (poetry), ISBN 978-1-894770-49-1, $16.95
Canada Geese and Apple Chatney (fiction), ISBN 978-0-920661-72-7, $15.95

Praise for Sasenarine Persaud’s poetry:

Persaud's poems . . . are like miniature raags, sensuous units of Indian music obeying conventions mysterious to western ears. —The Globe and Mail

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Derek Walcott's White Egrets

Finally, completed Walcott’s, White Egrets. Last year it was difficult to get past the first few poems where the egrets were overburdened as metaphors. I couldn’t get past these poems last year and almost didn’t this time. The persona is often in Italy, visiting Leopardi’s home; in love and out; in Spain; in Amsterdam; in his studio painting; in the warmth of a familiar island; in a nursing home meeting a love of a more youthful time he felt would never grow old, both now in wheelchairs facing each other and the ravages of old age on their bodies; in New York overlooking the Hudson, "No words/for the Artic liner moving down the Hudson, for the mange/ of old snow moulting from roofs. No poems. No birds"--beautful lines; And there are, of course, the egrets, overburdened as metaphors, and "the bleached regrets/ of an old man's memoirs..." There is a cluster of fine poems (21, 22, 23, and 24 and 39). There appears to be some “influence” from Leopardi in 30 and from Tagore in 38. One love poem to Roberta (who crops up in quite a few poems) in his Italian poems was lovely, but on the whole this was a very disappointing collection. There was a preponderance of literary/writing metaphors and figures of speech that would be fine read as individual poems in journals etc., but together in a collection, too many, too much—as though he had run out of lived/life experiences for metaphors. There were also many lines that could have been edited (but how does one edit Walcott!), lines which an earlier Walcott would not have published: “the boring suffering of love that tires” or “…which death will be taking/from my hand on this chequered tablecloth in this good place.” It was difficult to believe that Walcott would write such lines, especially this last line, at this stage of his life.

It was good to see that he did not include the mongoose poem on Naipaul, which he read in Jamaica in 2008—it was a terrible piece that bordered on racism. And yet he could not resist a poem on Naipaul, “Here’s what that bastard calls ‘the emptiness’” he begins another very poor piece on Naipaul and another very bad lapse. For those who think that Walcott is never bitter, biting, and vicious, this piece on Naipaul and his 2008 mongoose piece show otherwise. It is unfortunate that he and Naipaul should still nurse this bitterness—but poets and writers thrive on this, and, perhaps, I am no different. My forthcoming collection, Lantana Strangling Ixora has three poems which examines this feud, examines “Nightfall on Walcock” and the racial/political conundrum of the Caribbean that has spawned this. While an editorial in the Stabroek News (Georgetown, Guyana) did call his 2008 “poem” on Naipaul, “uncharacteristically bad” I have yet to find an Afro-Caribbean critic, writer or academic who has taken Walcott to task for his continuing attacks on Naipaul. In another poem he writes, in an apparent reference to Naipaul, of departed friends he cherishes more than "the most overprized fiction." This adjusted may well be an apt description for much of the poetry in White Egrets. There is, also, overprized poetry.

Ultimately, a good poet stimulates another—granted, poor poetry does, too—and Walcott in this collection did this to me. But, perhaps, the few fine poems (such as 21, 22, 23, 24 and 39) balances all else in any collection.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Canadian Literature Review of In a Boston Night

Emily Wall reviews In a Boston Night in the currrent issue of Canadian Literature, Autumn 2010. "Persaud's poems are delicious on the tongue...he's one of those rare poets who gets the recipe of humanness exactly right"