Monday 2 July 2012

In Defense of Writing

As a writer, one of the hardest tasks we can face is to explain to others our writing style and defend our own forms and choices for our writing. We know why we write, oftentimes it is the insatiable drive to express our thoughts, feelings and emotions about some subject. We do it for the pure pleasure that it brings us, rather than for notoriety or fame. But that is a hard thing to explain to someone else. People tend to want to look behind that stated reason to find the 'real' motivation, the one that benefits us surely in a more concrete manner.

As a writer who prefers to dabble in poetry, it is often difficult to understand, much less explain, the reasons for selection of style, format, words choices, images, etc. Each poem can bring its own subtle nuances. Each can frame itself in unique and sometimes startlingly different forms.

In June of this year, members of the Writer's Circle attempted to explain themselves by writing an 'apology' (defense) of their work. Here are some samples of what they wrote:

Image Link: Google Images


I enjoy writing my journal most of all < I journalize my thoughts, my secrets and what I'm feeling> when the mood of creativity is upon me - I write poetry, short stories, essays, plays, political commentary, social commentary and catholic commentary for print in newspapers and / or performances on the stage.

Tonight I shall attempt to define and defend the art form that is Caymanian Dialect Poetry Writing.

Growing up in the Caribbean, on an island under colonial rule - all school children were taught to speak, write and read proper English; that is to say, the Queen's English. However, that wasn't the language most of us kids spoke at home growing up with mom, dad and the extended family. We spoke in a rather broken English, we used words not found in the Oxford dictionary. Some words, phrases can be found only in the Cayman Islands and among Caymanians. Don't be confused with the Jamaican Patois - which is another language of it's own; but allow me to say here that in the Caymanian lingo you will find a few words borrowed from the Jamaican patois such as "Unno" which becomes "Unna" in Cayman. In standard English = You all.  Please find some other examples: Jamaican = batty // Caymanian = Bonkey // English = Backside, buttom or buttocks.  Caymanian = Norrod // English = North.  Caymanian = Sorrod // English = South.   Caymanian = W'reackly or  A ' reackly // English = Directly, soon or presently.
Never = Nehwa.  England = Cheeky // American = Smart Ass // Caymanian = Foppish.

"Dat yung g yul start'n to smell her piss" or "Dat yung g'yul start'n smell her rank" in standard English means "That teenage girl has become very rude and has no manners". This is often times said of a young girl who backchats her parents or is doing a little more than just holding her boyfriend's hand while out on a date <hint>

I could go on forever. But in many homes in the Cayman Islands this is what we grew up hearing. The mother tongue being dialect.

Instead of our parents telling us "Why don't you speak properly?" They would say "Ya cyant talk betta dan dat a wha?"
So our parents wanted us to speak proper English yet at the same time told us to speak properly with a broken twang themselves.

For along time - it has been looked down on or frowned on if the local dialect is used. People think it sounds unprofessional, it makes one sound uneducated and it's just plain and simply damn low class! (poor & working class).

But I disagree. I defend the Caymanian lingo, the dialect - the local native talk :) I believe that it should be brought to that of an art form. Bring it to the stage. Take a british pantomime - Caymanianize it and you'll end up with a "Rundown" or a "Boil-up" which can be two stage comedies or two pots of delicious Caymanian food! Seriously.

If Caymanians are to find their identity - then it starts with the simple things. This is why I choose to write in the Caymanian language.  Please find two dialect poems attached here.

 “Talk Caymanian”

Da Caymanian talk wha a sweet talk
No one should be shame
Our chilren no longer talk it
Ah wonder who we kin really blame
We gaw teach we gaw  preach
Let’s keep on talkin de talk
Poodin pan grata spoon and folk
Times is change yes and every generation is different
But don’t sell wha is good only to get second best
Be proud to call unna self a Caymanian
Yu puppa yu mumma and yu companion
Now tell me somting why should we want to talk
Like dem we putting um up on pedestal we
Sellin our soul fa de dolla oh wha a sin
Black white chiney lookin notty
Or indian hair – it don’t matter who
Ya is talk Caymanian be Caymanian
Let’s don’t bodda to fight
If we would all live in love
U ga see we all could unite
We is tree islands in de Caribbean comin to com
But lord it pain my heart wen I see
My people on de street lookin like bum
De rich ga get richer and de poor ga get poora
Hard time surely comin here again
Come mama come papa come friend
I na gaw no pile a money gold or a medallion
But we is proud to call ourselves Caymanian.

Miskita tun motocar

Eh! Unna see all dese cars in gran cayman
fa such a small teeny lil islan
wen ya tink 'bout it is like car mus be havin car
so dat's why I na ga be no mo silant

Cousin Martha tell me say it mus be a blessen
caw wen she wa chile it wa donkey or walk
but now we get proud an feget wey we com from
not even 'hello how ya do' or lil sweet ole talk

swaga say in hees day miskita wa tick like sin
he had to had smoke pan to keep um charge off
dey wha biten hard ya see an so much
dat somtime dey would choke cow an mek um coff

miskitas is getten lessa yes sah
it wa a purgatory fa ya to see
but cars is gettin tick now i fansa
soon na ga be no place fa you an me

wen ya stop an tink a wit doe
caymanians com a long way from so far
wid de hep of de modda country
it look like caymanians really tun miskita into motorcar

In defending this type of artistic writing style - I am also defending the very essence of being a native and I am also defending Caymanianness. Is is defined by an attitude, a mood and plenty body language. It represents the house wife cleaning house and cooking over a caboose for the family. It represents the fisher men on the water front of George Town cleaning their daily catch. It misrepresents (by choice) the man or woman born here but who studied  economics in Canada or read law in the UK. He or she now chooses to distant or separate him/herself from the old time Caymanian backyard.

"Neva mek we figet wey wi com from"  // Let us never forget where we've come from.

Thank you!

By: Quincy Brown

Why I Write Stage Plays.

By: C.G. Wilson

I have always loved the theatre. Even as a child I loved to act. I appeared in many plays even when I was 5 years of age. I longed to be someone else. I had a terrible stammer that got worse as I got older but when I acted and said the lines, there was no trace of this stammer.

I never realized how bad it was until I was at technical college and a debate I was in was recorded. I was horrified at how bad it was and I was determined that I would correct it.

I used my acting ‘skills’ to pretend I was on stage and I thought out in my mind that I was going to say before I said it. Bingo. It worked. I got faster and faster at saying the lines in my mind and no one noticed the pause that isn’t even noticeable today – unless I get excited and forget to play it out.

I loved writing stories and someone could give me any theme and I could and can write an intricate plot around it with lots of words. I could easily fill a whole school exercise book with just one tale. However, whilst my speech skills were above average my descriptive skills were (and still are), average.

My English teacher told me to write stage plays. I could become good at that. So I did.

I read a lot of plays and acted on stage at every chance I got. At one time I even tried to become a movie actor, but that’s another story.

I find when I write a play I not only play all the characters out in my mind, I even direct the action and see it happening. Even from which side of the stage that actor should come in from. I get so enwrapped in the dialogue I write down, I actually assume that character – his of her feelings. The character takes me over.

I am often amazed at what I have written as the dialogue and phrases I have used, the style of speech is so different from the real me. When I read back some of my old work from years ago, I do not even remember myself actually writing it.

My best work I have ever done that gives me the greatest pleasure was “the Judith Code” a modern day retelling of the ‘Book of Judith’. It was well-received here when it was staged at two different locations only two years apart. I actually fell in love with Judith. However, as I wrote in one of my lines I gave an elderly Jew who did not agree with a lot of things Judith did, “I admire Judith very much. But I would not like to be married to her.”

I also have turned to writing movie scripts but I am not as comfortable with that medium.

That is why I love writing stage plays.

Defining and Defending My Poetry.

            I enjoy writing poetry. If I had to define the style of poetry I write, I would characterize it as ‘free verse’. Free verse poetry typically has no rhyme scheme or stratified stanza style format. The words flow freely and the line breaks come, with practice, from the natural flow of the language, often to emphasize specific words. The words used are carefully chosen to facilitate the flow (natural rhythm) of the poem, while creating unique and interesting images. To say this is not to suggest that what comes out at first-effort is what remains. A careful read through might detect imprecision in words choice and might commit the poet (me) to searching out that true and precise replacement which will strengthen the poem and transmit the intended meaning more clearly. Clarity, therefore, is an important aspect of my poetry.
            Many of my poems focus on the theme of ‘nature’. Others examine the relationships which exist between people, or people and their environment. I do this from my own background, which is a ‘Christian’ perspective on life. Some of my poems are longer poems, in which the subject chosen is prodded and viewed from a number of angles. The focus of these poems is to elicit a response from the reader by engaging them in a journey of discovery. Some of my poems are quite short, from three to five lines. Many of these focus on the ‘realities’ of life. In the three line poems, there is often a couplet, set somewhat apart from the third contrasting line through the use of a colon or semi-colon. My poetry often contains a bit of a twist, or unique use of language at the end, that catches the reader a bit off guard, or by surprise, and helps give the poem the depth that requires a reader’s thought and personal response. More of my recent poetry has contained a more overt expression of my Christian principles and beliefs, although I prefer to render these by mixing them in to the glimpse of reality that I weave in words on the page. For me, poetry must exist beyond the words on a page. They have their full significance when they enter the reader’s mind and become entwined in their thoughts. They are most successful when they leave some imprint on the heart of the reader.
            I employ a variety of literary devices in my poetry, including the use of metaphors, alliteration, and word images. Although I write for others, I need to be satisfied with what I create before I can take steps to share the work. I can suffer from ‘dry spells’ where I lack the necessary drive and desire to write. These usually do not last for long periods. In this sense, I see my poetry as ‘inspired’. Having said that, on occasion I have forced the issue by deciding in advance that I will write a poem and have chosen a topic that I will write about. Some of these have worked out quite well, but I have noticed that these tend to be poems that thrive only after numerous revision attempts. Usually my poetry flows naturally when I sit to write. Sometimes my writing will be sparked by a single word or image. Quite often, my title is the last thing that comes. Several of my shorter poems, however, begin with the title and then proceed from there.

By: H.M. Peter Westin

My Writing Style
By: Fiona Pimentel

My writing style could be described as journal-writing, although it is still developing and evolving.
It seems I am not possessed with an imaginative style, or rather, my strong sense of logic does not allow me to write in away that bears no resemblance to reality.
I started writing when I noticed that at times someone would say something with which I strongly disagreed, but I couldn’t find the words to state my case in their presence. Thoughts would flood my head afterwards and I would type them up and sometimes send what I had written to the person.
In the summer of 2011, I decided to start writing poetry, even though I didn’t have the faintest idea how to even begin. I didn’t know if there were techniques to be learned, or if you were supposed to wait for inspiration. I decided to just write anything, regardless of how terrible it was. The result was my “Summer Holiday Poems.” I just wrote the first thing that came into my head, usually when someone said something that rhymed unintentionally.
What I have called Coaching Articles emerged in September of that same year. I sat down and wrote for an hour every day, until I had written 12,000 words, and had nothing more to say. I wrote about the 5 basics of overcoming depression: nutrition, sleep, exercise, communication and prayer. When I had finished, I broke them up into small articles and posted them on my blog. I hope and believe these have been useful to people.
Next, I discovered that poetry was a way of expressing my feelings and figuring things out in my head, like a sort of thinking out loud, but on paper. Words would just come to me, and I would write them down, with no conscious effort or thought at all. I would never correct or revise the poems, because they were the honest expression of the emotion of the moment, and to do so would have felt dishonest. The poems told of my spiritual struggles and submission to God. They were both therapeutic to write, and proved helpful to readers of my blog who were experiencing something similar.
Very recently, I have entered a new phase of writing, which is making a conscious effort to write, and not necessarily about something that is true or that I feel strongly about. I find I am able to write from a prompt, through the use of tools like word association, as in my short story and poem entitled “A familiar smell,” or poetic structure, as in my “Acrostic poems.” I enjoyed writing the acrostic poems, because due to the constraints imposed by the starting letters of the words, the imagination is forced to come up with something that may not otherwise have been thought of.
Moving from factual writing to fiction can have its problems, such as the time when I wrote a short story about a lady who was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and one of the members of the Writers Circle thought it was autobiographical, and became worried and upset.
Even when what one is writing about is to be taken literally, there can be errors in communication, and sometimes a phrase may be read in several ways, and the readers may completely misunderstand what is being said. It does make me nervous about writing, but not enough to put me off writing altogether.
There have been times when I have worried that what I have written may cause offense, and have gone to my blog, with the intention of deleting something. However these posts are precisely the ones that readers have thanked me for, and gained some comfort from, so I am persuaded to leave them.
To conclude, my writing style is evolving from autobiographical to creative writing, but is always very simple, honest and unpretentious. It can be summed up by my poem entitled
I just write my mind:”

Serving Fish ‘n’ Chips
as opposed to Gourmet feasts
or Nouvelle Cuisine.

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