Thoughts on the Calabash Literary Festival









10:30am (Mon)

The Calabash Literary Festival went on as planned but I didn’t get to go. There were omens and mishaps and haunting dreams. I spent Saturday juggling the mundanity of weekends, shopping at the market, hands weighed down with fruit, meat, greens and bread. I cleaned the house, ironed church clothes while waiting, wondering if I’d made the right choice. Should I have overlooked the cobwebbed doubts that shadowed my mind? Should I have ignored the ill omens and taken a trip down to Treasure Beach, four-plus taxis away? Should I have made the ultimate sacrifice?

Sometimes it’s not easy making decisions, especially when you’ve had things all planned out for months and the unexpected happens. This time I’d set my goals down. You know how when you right something on paper you think seeing the ink mar the white emptiness of a blank sheet solidifies everything? I felt I had it all under control, like my plans would inevitably come to fruition.

But sometimes even goals set down on paper crumble. It’s like the mold of wet dust in the air sets in, eating away at the crisp edges of your dreams. Sometimes the inevitable gets compromised by the unexpected. Things happen and you have no choice but to concede.

You could try ignoring the obvious. In a sense, I could have pretended I hadn’t had a dream that forewarned a journey of doom on Saturday morning. I could have pretended my heart wasn’t in knots after finding out that a girl I knew had days ago stabbed a fourteen year old to death. I could have pretended that my mind was somewhere else instead of Wonderland wondering how all of this had happened. I could have tried. But what was the sense of that? I might as well follow my instincts, that inner sensibility that spoke the obvious: this trip to the Calabash Literary Festival should not happen, could not happen, will not happen now.

On Saturday night my former lecturer at UWI called. We’d been planning to meet at Calabash and he asked me where I was. “I couldn’t make it,” I said. His response left me feeling uncertain about my former convictions.

“You should have made the ultimate sacrifice to come,” he said.

I thought to myself if I’d done what I should have and if it mattered. I’d missed superb novelists like Zadie Smith and Ngugi Wa Thiongo. I’d missed hearing the lilt of poets in motion like Mervin Morris, Ann Margaret Lim, and Millicent Graham. I’d missed voicing poetry at the open mike, meeting Kwame Dawes and rubbing shoulders with those who’d achieved something of what I hope to accomplish in life. I’d missed the hope of making a mark — even the most minuscule of marks – in the Caribbean literary scene. I’d missed stepping out of the shadows.

The thoughts clogged up my mind until much later when I’d written down my thoughts in a journal and gone on my knees in the quiet of night to talk to someone who understood. Perhaps I was thinking too much, as I so often do. Perhaps I’d not missed anything at all. Sometimes we just got to suck our stomachs in and follow how we feel inside. It just wasn’t time — not yet my time. Sometimes we just got to wait.


11 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Calabash Literary Festival”

  1. Oh goodness. I can relate to this so much. I too did not go, although I know I should have done so. But like you, sometimes a small event, a casual remark can make me feel, “No, I’m not going.” I had just returned from The Drawing Room Writers’ Retreat in Highgate the weekend before and just something said to me, “No.” It’s just one of those things. An opportunity missed – maybe, but there will be others…


    1. True. We just have to follow that feeling no matter how convenient it’s revelation. The worst thing is when we don’t listen and we end up saying, “You know wah mind did tell me say me neva did fi go. Mi shoulda did listen.” Don’t want to have those regrets. So I guess next time for Calabash.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. As always, great post. I notice there’s a difference in your voice when you write from your heart (as in this post) versus your head (as in telecom post). I love your use of metaphors in third paragraph.
    I often reflect on things I did versus should have done, and I’ve come to the conclusion that decisions are neither right nor wrong – we usually do what’s best for us at the time, and we move on.
    The writers I’d love to have seen/heard are Salman Rusdie (more curiosity) and Jamaica Kincaid (of all her books, I like Lucy best, although I didn’t particularly like her last book).
    I met Colin Channer years ago (absolutely love his writing – The Girl with the Golden Shoes is one of my favorite books).
    Calabash is on my list for 2016; perhaps we’ll meet then.


    1. I heard the reading from Rushdie and Kincaid were great! I’ve only read Kincaid’s A Small Place and Annie John. Saw Channer’s book at the library but never read it either.

      2016 it will be then! And you should never give up on your dreams by the way. I noticed you said last time you wanted to be one of the readers at the Calabash Festival. You never know. It might just happen so keep you fingers crossed and start writing again 🙂

      By the way, I’d love to know about your experience in China. I’ve been longing to ask. Maybe I’ll need to send an email if you don’t want to talk here.


      1. Colin Channer is no longer involved with Calabash (as of 2 years ago) and was not there, this year. Did you go to the readings at Bookophilia in Kingston last night (June 6)? Several writers from Calabash were there…


  3. I almost went, almost. On Sunday I realized how close Mandeville was to St. Elizabeth and wanted to try and make the trip. But things didn’t work out and yet again I ended up Calabash-less.

    I know the disappointment you’re talking about and it sucks. The regret of not doing is so much worse that regret of having done, but we have to stick it out. Our day will come. It has to.


    1. Yup, disappointment is always a tough one but keeping positive. By the way, I haven’t heard anything from Digicel about the blogging competition. Guess they’ll eventually announce the winners even though that should have occurred last week.


  4. I always feel even more proud of u when I read your work. You’ve evolved a lot sis. Continue to keep writing and follow your dreams. U will make your mark but like mom always says ‘nothing happens before its time’. It shall soon be your time just continue to work hard. I’m proud of u sis.


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