I CAN remember watching my son and his friends doing rap music. They had talent but had not lived in the moment of that genre to understand its deeper contentions, and they didn’t understand the trafficking in music that preyed on young talent, clueless but eager; eager enough not to listen. Talent and creativity whether in the sciences or the arts come from that special spark that enables the shape of the clay right; compose the commanding colours of the landscape and capture that expression of mood that becomes eternal.
I will not explore the character of the Guyana Prize, but I will, through experience, say my piece on the notion on what advantages location has on writers, which in respect to creative talent is not even debatable. What the first world has developed is a system of marketing into stores and other media, worldwide distribution and agents who can explore other avenues of expression. But initially, the work has got to be good, to expand into the commercial world from the work of an author to the desk of a screen writer’s project. The location matters only when the writer’s subject involves his immediate environment, if not, then the writer’s mind will travel to wherever the source of his inspiration is rooted.
There are few books written in the drama of the moment, Anne Frank’s Diary captured a moment, but that writer did not survive the moment. She died in a Nazi concentration camp after her concealed family was discovered. The fact is that many talented writers left Guyana because of the absence of any official understanding to take their work to the next level to enable them to make a proper living; this is not to say that they encountered the success of their imaginations in those proposed greener pastures. Rather than have Minister Norton explore whether the Guyana Prize is worth the finances dispensed, the objective should be to explore collaborative efforts to market local literature overseas, and that the Guyana Prize exists is why this discourse is exchanged.
The last novel produced was Mike Jordon’s ‘KAMARANG’. The last graphic story was ‘Mighty Itanami’ and the recent non-fiction ‘A Survey of Guyanese History’ by Dr Mc Gowan. I mention these three because of the self-publishing effort involved. There are no indicators of involvement by any entity but themselves to promote, market, or to use local publishing to enhance reading, nor to include books in any national drive. This is the issue, not lamentations over the Guyana Prize, that institution has served its purpose, despite the criticisms. Where though are the people who interview writers, evaluate literature on its movement and passions? Where are those special minds – possibly not writers, but engrossed in the territory of books? It is easy to point to the plagiarist and to recognise expansions into unusual organs of the recognised ‘being’ where there is no evaluation of publishing. There is no year-end summary of what has been done in any area of the arts. We have not reasserted ourselves though now Independent nations. Our year-end summaries in the media are centred on the same power hunting substance-less politicians who have imposed self-serving fictions and mirage ideas on us throughout the year. It’s as if we have no social or creative content to celebrate, and we do, then it is an incapacity to place value that is evident. A new perspective must come from writers. So much fretting over a competition alludes to a herd instinct- paddock mentality- and it is surprising that in the lengthy narratives no new perspective has been advocated and when hinted at, received a response with evidence of awakened realisation.
I should emphasise that the Guyana Prize should continue to exist as a competition, especially for young writers, and that a State attitude should view our literature differently.
I must also implore understanding that the world of competitive literature from novel, non-fiction to graphic novel is less forgiving. It commands the literature to emerge from a world of its own, and whatever form the poetic license takes, whether the drama is enveloped on the periphery of that world. It must step forward to grip its audience with a specific character, which is nourished by a soul who has lived sometimes varied lives; perhaps had walked into the darkness and had wrestled with its keeper to achieve self-redemption, or from an eager and attentive heir of that soul whose hundreds of questions in the quest for time travelling answers to be fulfilled were so done; empowering a landscape, its human geography and flawed customs understood, as the characters emerge to draw the reader into its today and yesterday, so they too can travel, enjoy and be irritated by its lack of pretensions or the writer’s neurosis in books such as ‘To Sir with Love’, ‘Other Leopards’ or ‘My Bones and my Flute’- to glance back at classic old school Guyanese writings.