“A Letter from Paradise” – Sonia Farmer

Image: White hibiscus, posted at Flickr by Susie Blackmon under a Creative Commons License.

Walk vigilant in the garden.

Sonia Farmer‘s “A Letter from Paradise” doesn’t meddle with symbolic flora. It presents a white hibiscus, carmine-centred, in the palm of your hand, promising intoxication and ruin. Mind how you tread, the poem warns. What you think is most comely can yet be your unravelling. Farmer plants the poem’s cares with minute touches that persist in our hothouse imaginations, flowering for us a visual palate of spilled cream, “white fists opening to whiter palms, / to blood-red centers.” The absence of colour is still an undoing, still singes the narrator’s retina, summons a brilliant burning that, Lady Macbethian, does not out.

Petalled in the horticultural and the spiritual, “A Letter from Paradise” gives me what I yearn for in brief, tantalizing poetry: a tableau that is a seeming innocence, but chokes, thicketed with interpretation, with portents of ravage, baleful enchantments dripping from every vine. You can take the poem’s word for it: “The evening does not bring a closing. / No, we will know / what we have lost. Each corolla drops / to the evening ground.” Before you can bend to salvage the hibiscus, the poem shutters its windows.

So much of Farmer’s work is like this, corresponding to needlepoint, to embroidery, to those fine, domestic arts which are misrepresented as docile, biddable. Don’t you know a needle can puncture a viscous eye, break the webbing between the fingers of a cavalier hand? So it is with “A Letter from Paradise”. Look for the flower-stitches of meaning in the spaces the poem weaves: subtle, precious, not casually discerned. Soak in the tropic afternoon of high heat, greenhouse hibiscus bouquets pressed to your cheeks. Drink the spilling cream. Douse your palms with the centres of beckoning red, and wait for paradise to reveal herself, flowering.

Read “A Letter from Paradise” here.
Sonia Farmer’s Infidelities was longlisted for the 2018 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Puncheon and VetiverThis is the twenty-third installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.

The 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest – A Blogger’s Logbook [Day Two]

Those who weren’t involved in the second day of Bocas activities this year, but were in Port of Spain as afternoon dripped into evening, will likely remember it as “that time it rained semi-profusely, and Town flooded”. (My friend and colleague Kevin Hosein blogged briefly about Bocas, and more indepthly about the extreme floodiness of the day, over at his Tumblog, Little Jumbie.) Admittedly, the gushing grey rivers of drainwater looping around the traffic-clogged roads prompted minor alterations to the Bocas schedule’s last few events of the day, since a handful of scheduled panelists were trapped within their hotels, unable to reach the National Library for neither love nor pirogue access.

Despite this, Day Two of #bocas2013 was as engaging and imaginatively challenging as Day One. The Bocas team donned their (mostly metaphorical) galoshes and steered the festival participants and attendees through the evening’s dampness — if you were already at the Library by the time the rains hit, I’ll wager it was one of the few places in Town where the spirits were enthusiastically treading water and clamouring for more words.

Here’s my Blogger’s Logbook, Day Two. Click on the summary titles in bold to go to the full posts on the official Bocas website!

One on One – Marina Warner

Marina Warner responds to a question from the audience, during her panel.
Marina Warner responds to a question from the audience, during her panel.

Writer and mythographer, Marina Warner, in conversation with novelist Lawrence Scott (author of the 2013 OCM Bocas Prize longlisted Light Falling on Bamboo.) Warner spoke principally of her seminal, recently reissued work, Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, as well as her 2011 book, Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights.

New Talent Showcase – Sonia Farmer

Sonia Farmer, with Loretta Collins Klobah's 2012 OCM Bocas Poetry prizewinning collection, The Twelve Foot Neon Woman.
Sonia Farmer, with Loretta Collins Klobah’s 2012 OCM Bocas Poetry prizewinning collection, The Twelve Foot Neon Woman.

The second of this year’s New Talent Showcase readers, Bahamian poet and publisher Sonia Farmer shared selections of her writing. She also displayed stunning handcrafted and letterpressed titles released by her small press, Poinciana Paper Press.

One on One with Olive Senior

Olive Senior addresses her rapt audience during her One on One session.
Olive Senior addresses her rapt audience during her One on One session.

The veteran Jamaican writer held court — if you were there, and witnessed not a solitary free seat to be acquired, you know what I mean! — on her poetry; on the experience of writing a novel later on in her life; on inspiration and advice for young writers, and many other gems, in conversation with Michael Bucknor.

One on One – Irvine Welsh

Scottish author Irvine Welsh, engaging with a question at the Bocas Lit Fest.
Scottish author Irvine Welsh, engaging with a question at the Bocas Lit Fest.

The author of Trainspotting; Skagboys and several other novels; short fiction collections and plays, talked with BC Pires about the “spectacularity” of failure and the ways in which the publishing world has evolved — not necessarily wholly for the better. (Also, kudos were given to Margaret Thatcher.)

Next up – Day Three of the Blogger’s Logbook!

Previous entries:
Blogger’s Logbook, Day One.

All photographs by Maria Nunes, Official Festival Photographer.