Tag Archives: Caribbean poetry

Blacktip Island Literary Society Begins Growing Organic Poetry

Aeromonas hydrophila

The shredded bits of Anne Bradstreet’s poem Contemplations are being transformed into a new poem in a laboratory dish at the Blacktip Island Poesy Society. The poem is one of a dozen poems society members are growing organically. (photo courtesy of Stefan Wolkowski)

The Blacktip Island Poesy Society this week announced members have begun an organic poetry contest to discover if, under the right conditions, literature can be grown in Petri dishes, BIPS members said.

“We all wanted to work on something different, not rehash the same old sonnets and couplets,” BIPS prefect Doris Blenny said. “Joey Pompano mentioned organic poetry, and we figured, ‘well, why not’ The idea caught fire from there.

“Each member chose their favorite poet, shredded a poem by that poet and put the scraps in a Petri dish with the saline solution of their choice,” Blenny said. “There’s already growth in all of them, but we can’t make out any words yet. For now, it’s mostly just green scum, but that’s exciting in itself.”

Society members say the experiment has multiple aims.

“We want to grow new poetry, sure, but we also want to see if the style and syntax changes,” Corrie Anders said. “Will a Kipling poem produce another poem with rhyming couplets, or will it morph into free verse? We could have a situation where theme and sensibility change radically with the passage of time. And the strength of the saline solutions.

“We’re working with poems in English from across the spectrum,” Anders said. “I’m doing John Donne. Lee’s Helm’s doing a translated page from the Iliad. Marina DeLow’s got Edna St. Vincent Millay. Hugh Calloway’s working with Christina Rosetti. And ‘Tonio Fletcher picked Ezra Pound—no telling what’ll grow out of that one.”

Literary experts cast doubt on the experiment.

“Organic poetry is literary work springing naturally from the author’s connection to the world around him or her,” Tiperon University-Blacktip literature adjunct Edwin Chub said. “It’s not something literally grown from organic matter. Seriously?

“It’s based on the idea of man and nature being part of the same form, and the poem’s meaning springs from that,” Chub said. “The goal isn’t to literally spawn new poems from older ones. The only thing the BIPS people are going to grow in their dishes is algae.”

BIPS members brushed aside that criticism.

“Old stick-in-the-mud Edwin can read, and believe, whatever he wants,” Antonio Fletcher said. “We’re creating a new art form. They laughed at Emily Dickinson with her dashes and slant rhymes. They laughed at Chaucer writing in English. We’re not gonna be constrained by hidebound mockery.

“Me, I mixed a little iguana poop in with my Pound-and-saline, just to see what that’ll produce,” Fletcher said. “And when everybody’s finished growing their poems, we’re gonna harvest ‘em and have a poetry slam to show off our creations. You’ll see.”

Leave a comment

Filed under best scuba diving novels, Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Literary Society to Stage Walter Savage Landor Festival

Walter Savage Landor

The Blacktip Island Literary Society this weekend will stage a series of readings and performances celebrating the life and works of British Romantic poet Walter Savage Landor. (photo courtesy of Payne Hanover)


The Blacktip Island Literary Society Thursday announced its plans for the inaugural Walter Savage Landor Literary Festival, honoring the obscure British Romantic poet and his alleged ties to the small Caribbean island.

“A lot of people never heard of Landor,” festival organizer Payne Hanover said. “We’re all about giving him some love. His work, by itself, is largely unknown today, but he was a huge influence on the next generation of writers, including Dickens, Browning, Yeats and Ezra Pound. Never mind Pound was a complete nut job there at the end.

“As for the local connection, people don’t realize he spent his last days on Blacktip Island,” Hanover said. “History books said he died in Italy, but we’ve got island records saying that was just a ruse. He gave his creditors a head fake and sailed for the Caribbean. Blacktip Island was a Brit Rom hotspot back in the day.”

BILS members praised Landor’s work.

“Critics loved him. The public, not so much. And that sucks,” Alison Diesel said. “He was the bomb in prose and lyric poetry. His Imaginary Conversations are lit, especially the ones between Marcellus and Hannibal, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and Diogenes and Plato.

“People don’t remember he was tight with Coleridge,” Diesel said. “Dude had the connections and the chops. He and Byron had no use for each other, but we let that slide—he was a Blacktipper. We’re all Romantics at heart. Except for . . . well, never mind.”

The society plans readings of Landor’s work at various sites around the island.

“We’ll have scheduled readings at the Heritage House, of course,” schoolmaster Barry Snapper said. “But there’ll also be surprise pop-up readings at bars and resorts all across the island. Flash-mob style interpretive dance performances, too. Some of them on scuba.

“You really don’t have a true appreciation for Landor until you hear Dermott Bottoms stumbling through, I Strove with None and Twenty Years Hence on the Heritage House steps,” Snapper said. “It gave me chills during rehearsals.”

Island residents are looking forward to the weekend’s festivities.

“Don’t know nothing about poetry, but they talked me into helping by telling tales about the man,” Dermott Bottoms said. “Had total contempt for authority. I like that. He’d fit right in on Blacktip.

“Had a mouth on him, too,” Bottoms said. “Dude could piss off the Pope without half trying. We gonna have a two-day booze-up and get in fights to celebrate his life properly.”

Leave a comment

Filed under best scuba diving novels, Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Local Author Recasts ‘Beowulf’ as a Modern Caribbean Epic


Blacktip Island’s rugged shores are the setting for Antonio Fletcher’s modernized rendition of the epic poem Beowulf. (photo by Paloma Fairlead / BTT staff)

Local author Antonio Fletcher this week released his modern Caribbean retelling of the Old English epic poem Beowulf in an effort to popularize a literary classic by recasting it in a modern setting to make it more culturally relevant.

“Most folks know the Beowulf story, or the first part of it, but who’s really read it? Or seen the movie? Not me,” Fletcher said. “Bringing it up to date, making it matter here and now, that’ll make Blacktip Islanders proud, you know. Taking some stale old story and claiming it for our own. Like what Derek Walcott did with The Odyssey. I expect this’ll do at least as well.

“An Old English poem and the modern Caribbean don’t seem likely to work together, but that’s where it gets its energy,” Fletcher said. “I switched out those cock-eyed, four-beat staves with a soca rhythm to give a Caribbean feel, and instead of ‘wine-dark seas’ and ‘whale roads,’ I got ‘rum-dark seas’ and ‘wahoo roads, so it’s pretty different. Calling it Barra-Wulf,” ‘cause the hero’s like a barracuda.”

Fletcher said his inspiration came at a bar late one night.

“Sitting in the Ballyhoo a few months back, and ol’ Dermott had had him too much white rum and started tearing the place apart, laying out anyone who got within reach,” he said. “I thought, ‘Dermott looks like a big, shaggy animal busting up a good party, and that put me in mind of Beowulf.

Barra-Wulf starts with the Blacktip Island mersquatch busting up a resort bar on a big karaoke night,” Fletcher said. “Barra-Wulf, he motors up in his in his flat-end canoe, hears about a monster ruining island parties and decides to do something about it. He whacks the mersquatch, then the mama mersquatch, just like in the poem. At the end, he dies fighting a giant barracuda. Kills it, but he dies, too. It’s something everyone can relate to.”

Local literary critics applauded Fletcher’s efforts.

“Cross-cultural literary appropriation is a long-standing literary tradition, so Antonio is in fine company. I expect,” Blacktip Times book reviewer and part-time literature professor Paloma Fairlead said. “Beowulf is about a hero who travels great distances to test his strength against supernatural monsters, despite impossible odds. That take on the human condition is universal, even on Blacktip, and shows we’re not so different from people a thousand years ago on the other side of the world.

“I haven’t actually read ‘Tonio’s book yet, but it sounds like he swung for the fences,” Fairlead said. “Tackling a classic like that is refreshingly ambitious on an island where ‘literature’ is too often the label of a beer bottle. It’s ‘Tonio, so the language and phrasing are probably a bit rough, but it will no doubt resonate with readers.”

Some residents, though, were not so positive.
“Haven’t read ‘Tonio’s book either, but no way anyone could make that old thing more boring, so ‘Tonio’s on solid ground there,” James Conlee said. “Thing is, this’s the 21st Century. People have smart TVs and email and Ebay and all that. Nobody’s got time for some 300-page poem. Unless there’s sex scenes in it. And there’s not, as far as I could tell.

“Man fights a monster, then goes fishing, then dies. Nothing new about that,” Conlee said. “My signed copy makes a great coaster, though. And a doorstop, in a pinch.”

Fletcher remained unphased by the criticism.

“People on this little rock need heroes, and I’m giving them one, one that could be any one of them in the right circumstances,” he said. “Except one person, but I’m not saying who that is.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean

Blacktip Island Braces For Weekend Underwater Villanelle Fest


Several Blacktip Island dive sites and multiple resort swimming pools will host this weekend’s ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, sponsored by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society. (photo courtesy of Reg Gurnard)

Blacktip Island’s poetry aficionados will gather at multiple venues this weekend for the third annual, two-day ‘Mad Night’ Underwater Villanelle Festival, organized by the Blacktip Island Poetry Society.

“Every yahoo and their cousin participates in the Easter Poetry Slam. It’s a drunken, free-for-all, anything-goes affair,” festival organizer Doris Blenny said. “We came up with the ‘Mad Night’ concept several years ago after people mistook ‘poetry’ for ‘poultry,’ and all hell broke loose.

“This is a separate event, limited to one poetic form, that really separates the wheat from the chaff talent-wise,” Blenny said. “A villanelle shows your chops, or lack of them. There’ll be no ‘cat sat on the mat’ dreck this weekend. Unless it fits the rhyme scheme and line repetition pattern.

“The name’s a hat tip to Sylvia Plath’s ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’ and Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Got Gentle Into That Good Night’ villanelles,” Blenny said. “Plus, it pretty well sums up the last two Fests.”

The two-day event will feature underwater readings of published villanelles as well as sessions for local poets to read their own work aloud.

“The underwater aspect helps with crowd control. And author control,” BIPS sergeant-at-arms Peachy Bottoms said. “There’re separate categories for full-face-mask readings and through-the-regulator readings – both beautiful in their own way. There’ll be interpretive swimmers on hand, too, to enhance the experience.

“We’ll have readings on multiple dive sites, in resort pools and in the Heritage House bathtub,” Bottoms said. “There’s also a kids’ session in the Eagle Ray Cove hot tub with snorkels.”

BIPS judges said the form restriction will be strictly enforced.

“If it’s not a villanelle, we’ll cut the mike. All our participants have been warned,” Reg Gurnard said. “We’ll make an exception for the occasional terzanelle, but sonnets are right out. And don’t get me started on sestinas. We’re still repairing the Heritage House after Antonio Fletcher’s x-rated open-mike debacle.”

Some island poets protested the festival’s limitations.

“It’s not fair, excluding people because we don’t use rhyme or a strict structure,” Lee Helm said. “The elitist judges are biased against us. I mean, what’s next, bloody Epic Greek Lyric Fest?

“My gran wrote villanelles. As a schoolgirl. And hated them,” Helm said. “This is the sort of hidebound, Structuralist mindset that’s holding back Blacktip’s poetry community. And creativity in general.”

Blenny defended the festival’s rules.

“We haven’t replaced the Poetry Slam, we’ve simply created a new, different event with a more refined focus,” she said. “If we hadn’t imposed this strict structure, we never would have heard Dermott Bottoms’ interlocking villanelle cycle about inebriation. His ‘Rumward by Booby Flight’ brought the house down. It truly did.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Blacktip Island Nudibranchs Write Limericks In The Sand

nudibranch writing

Scuba divers discovered a purple-line sea goddess nudibranch finishing a line of poetry Wednesday afternoon during a shore dive on Blacktip Island’s Sailfish Reef. (photo courtesy of Steve Childs)

Blacktip Island scuba divers on an afternoon shore dive Wednesday discovered signs the island’s sea goddess nudibranchs may spell words in the sand with their slime trails.

“There was a film of algae on the sand, the light was just right and I could make out a cursive ‘N,’” Emma Dorris said. “I looked closer and there was ‘Nantucket’ spelled out in a flowing, 19th Century script. And at the end of the ‘t’ there was a tiny yellow-and-purple sea slug.

“You could see traces of other words, but divers had kicked too much sand to read them,” Dorris said. “Nudibranchs could be doing this all over the place but no one ever noticed, what with divers and storms stirring up the sand. But the weather’s been good and the sand was undisturbed.”

Longtime local divers were not surprised.

“There’s been stories for years of divers seeing words on the sand,” Rusty Goby said. “‘Pruitt’ and ‘trucker,’ most often. We always passed that off, but now it all makes sense. Near as we can tell, those little suckers get of on writing bawdy limericks.”

The scientific community said more study is needed.

“Assuming these slugs do leave words in their wake, is it something they do by happenstance or is it a conscious act?” Tiperon University-Blacktip marine biology professor Ernesto Mojarra said. “Is it only one species? Do they all slime in the same script? Indications are the gold-line sea goddesses have the best penmanship, while the tasseled nudis’ slime is damn-near illegible, but it’s early yet.

“We’re building big Plexiglas cubes to lower over nudibranchs to protect the sand writing from surge and current and divers,” Mojarra said. “And we have teams scouring the reef looking for all species of nudibranchs. That’s the real hard work.”

Some on the island scoffed at the idea of sea slugs writing poetry.

“Limericks? Not haiku or Italian sonnets?” said Chrissy Graysby. “And they only write in English? This is another crop-circle hoax.

“Ernie and his gang’re piling on as an excuse to get grant money,” Graysby added. “And free diving under the guise of ‘research.’”

Mojarra was unfazed by the criticism.

“This could be the cross-discipline breakthrough of our generation,” he said. “The engineering department worked up some underwater blacklights that really make the letters pop.

“We’re also teaming up with the English department to study how and why these slugs acquired their literary preferences,” Mojarra said. “They’ve done studies that indicate lettuce sea slugs compulsively slime-write the text of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland.’ Or as much of it as they can before something eats them.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Scuba Diving

Misprint Sparks Mayhem at Blacktip Island Poetry Slam


Blacktip Island Poetry Slam winner Reg Gurnard’s West Indian whistling ducks prepare to take the stage Thursday afternoon on the small Caribbean island. (photo by Charles J. Sharp)


Five Blacktip Island residents were hospitalized and an estimated 14 chickens and four ducks were injured Thursday after flyers for the Heritage Society’s annual Poetry Slam were incorrectly printed as “Poultry Slam.”

“We called the order in to the print shop, same as ever, and I clearly said ‘poetry,’” Heritage Society president Doris Blenny said. “Clete Horn read the text back to me, but he was slurring his words at the time and I guess we both misunderstood.

“The first sign of trouble was when twenty-plus people showed up at the Heritage House with poems in hand and birds under their arms,” Blenny said.

“The announcement said ‘poultry,’” island poet Alison Diesel said. “It seemed odd, but it is Blacktip Island, after all. I practiced for days – thawed Cornish hens, mostly – and wrote two sonnets set to the same beat. Rhyming with a live hen, though, in front of an audience, it’s harder than you’d think.”

Organizers proceeded with the event as advertised, but the performances were halted by animal rights protestors.

“It was crazy enough, with our local bards spouting verse and waving their chickens,” the Heritage Society’s Blenny said. “Then the PETA people stormed the stage and the feathers really flew.”

“Abusing birds so flagrantly, we had to cry foul,” local People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals president Harry Pickett said. “Sure, some of our folks got a bit out of hand, but really, thwacking chickens like that, those so-called artistes deserved a sock in the puss.”

Thirteen participants were charged with animal cruelty. Eight protestors were charged with battery. Several poets also were disqualified due to their over-reliance on duck-related rhyme schemes.

“This is a family event, after all,” Blenny said.

A handful of contestants dodged legal trouble by opting for figurative interpretations of the event’s theme.

“I slammed my Rhode Island Red rooster but good,” contestant Led Waite said. “Insulted him every which way, in rhyme royal, no less. I should’ve won some sort of prize.”

Other finalists substituted fried chicken and roast duck for living poultry. The winner used a gentler approach, with live birds.

“I trained each of my West Indian whistling ducks to quack a different note when I smacked them on the head,” Slam champion Reg Gurnard said. “It made for excellent counterpoint, me rapping and them quacking. And none of them the worse for wear.”


Filed under Caribbean