‘the sporting life’ Preserving our literature heritage
by Petamber Persaud

Guyana Chronicle
April 15, 2007

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Wednesday April 4, 2007 – It rained all day, heavily and with flood intensity.

The calendar of events for that day was chocked with activities capitalising on Guyana’s hosting of some super-eight matches in the ninth Cricket World Cup.

It was Holy Week leading up to Easter. And it was a short working week – Monday was a national holiday for the Muslim celebration of Youman Nabi (the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad) and Friday was Good Friday (marking the death and resurrection of Jesus).

Despite all those challenges and considerations, part VIII of The Journey, an evening of literature, was a resounding success. The venue was crammed to capacity, standees finding comfort in various artistic ways to lean against walls and pillars.

The evening was a resounding success due to a variety of reverberations from the soft-spoken Kelly Persaud reading from D. H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Horse Winner” to the intense presentation of Rosamund Adoo doing the poem, “Juggler”, by Richard Wilbur to versatile voice of Ron Robinson doing “Massa-day Done” written by Ian McDonald to the sing-song chorus of students performing the nursery rhyme, “Hot Cross Buns”.

The eight edition of The Journey was staged in the National Art Gallery, Castellani House, under the auspices of the Gallery and the event was coordinated by literary activist, Petamber Persaud.

Castellani House was built in the years 1879 to 1882. The National Art Gallery was opened in May 1993. Within the first ten years of its existence, it had presented more than sixty art exhibitions and some forty-five other events in its related arts programme.

The Journey is an ongoing series of literature programmes designed to go where other related undertakings have failed to venture. To appreciate this, a listing of the objectives of The Journey would show how useful is this venture to society.

The intent of The Journey is to sensitise more Guyanese (and non-Guyanese) as to the massive output in the field of literature by our writers, both local and overseas, to expose literature to more persons especially our young people, to foster an interaction between those who know and those willing to learn about literature, to raise the level of appreciation for such matters, to restore a reading culture by putting the joy back into reading, to offer another, and eventually a permanent, venue for oral performance, to encourage more writers to write and to publish, and to encourage scholarship and more research in our literature.

The Journey has covered much ground and achieved quite a lot in a short period. The event has facilitated over one hundred and fifty individual and group performances of prose, poetry, song and drama. Selected pieces included works of Guyanese and writers from around the world.

Presentations came from a cross section of Guyanese, both local and overseas, and from non-Guyanese. The performances by youths from schools in Georgetown including students of Monar Educational Institute were met with overwhelming appreciation.

In part one, we went to the beginning of our (Guyanese) literary heritage, the oral literature of our indigenous peoples, moving into the printed word, from the first published poem in the early 17th century to the first published anthology, covering a period of 100 years.

In part two, we sampled various genres of writing, prose, poetry, song, the essay, the novel, and the letter. We also celebrated the works of past Guyanese writers and honoured a couple of living resident authors.

In part three, we celebrated living Guyanese women writers while giving local emerging writers a chance, another occasion to showcase their own fare.

Both groups of writers need our support especially our women writers who face numerous challenges both as women and as writers.

In part four, we celebrated our literary heritage that was captured in anthologies; anthologies serve to shape a nation’s literature.

In part five, it was “school days are happy, happy days”, going way back to “Jack and Jill”, “All the world’s a stage”, moving to present day and long overdue inclusion of Guyanese writings on the CXC syllabus.

In part six, it was literature in translation (from foreign languages) and Guyanese creolese. Although it was a sampling of different cultures, the themes explored by dissimilar writers are universal ones encompassing issues of identity, alienation, integration and freedom. Some selections included “Won Bon” by Robin Dobru from Surinam, “The Book of Sand” by Jorge Luis Borges from Argentina, “There are those who….” by Joseph Polius from Martinique, “Outside the Marriage Bureau” by He Hiaohu

from China, “AmeRican” by Tato Laviera from Puerto Rico, “Don’t delve too deeply” by Alberto Moravia from Italy , “Sell me?” by Nicolas Guillen from Cuba, and “Bourgeois King” by Ruben Dario from Nicaragua. “Laas Lick” by this writer, performed by Travis Chase ended the programme.

And in part VII, it was “winner’s row” featuring selections from works of literary prize winners from around the world including Rabindranath Tagore, V. S. Naipaul, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Neruda, Gao Xingjian, Toni Morrison, David Dabydeen, Paloma Mohamed, Mark McWatt, Martin Carter, Arundhati Roy. Performers included Ian McDonald, Russel Lancaster, Rovin Deodat, Alim Hosein, Vanda Radzik, Rosamund Addo, Kia Persaud, Simone Dowding, and Sacha Wallace.

The Journey, part VIII, manoeuvred under the theme ‘the sporting life’ featuring sport and pastimes in literature from around the world. The selected pieces included “Massa-day Done” by Ian McDonald, “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D. H. Lawrence, “Sonny Ramadin” by Cecil Grey, “Seaside Golf” by John Betjeman, “The Hole in the Gallowgate End Fence” by John Oliver, “Blasting for Runs” by Rohan Kanhai, “The Draught Players” by Berkley Semple, “Juggler” by Richard Wilbur, “Living for Cricket” by Clive Lloyd and “Laas Lick” by Petamber Persaud.

Performers included Ron Robinson, Rosamund Addo, Kelly Persaud, students of Monar Educational Institute, Daren Henry, Lynden Dundas, Evan Persaud, Elfrieda Bissember, John Stevenson and Petamber Persaud.

The Journey, an evening of literature, part VIII, staged under the theme “the sporting life” was an evening to remember. At the end, the response was heartening. There were tangible displays of anticipation and projections offered up by the audience to this ongoing series of literature events.

But above all there were endorsements for the project and support for its future staging.

Responses to this author telephone (592) 226-0065 or email: oraltradition2002@yahoo.com

Literary happenings
* Just off the press is the second edition of “Bibliography of Guyana and Guyanese Writers” compiled and edited by Lal Balkaran, “The Undiminished Link” by Victor Waldron, Hansib 2007, “Cricket at Bourda” and “Sportsmen & Sportsmanship”.

* You can get THE GUYANA ANNUAL 2006/2007 at Universal Bookstore, Austin Book Service, Michael Ford Bookstore, Fogarty’s Stationery Department, Nigel’s Supermarket, the National Art Gallery, Castellani House, Sandra Goodchild of Guyenterprise Ltd., and from the editor at telephone (592) 226-0065 or email: oraltradition2002@yahoo.com