Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Guyana Not Ghana

I love this evocative poem by Marc Matthews, with its rich recitation of the things that remind him of home

Thinking about it, evocation is an important element of the work of many Guyanese writers - Pauline Melville, Roy Heath, Edgar Mittelholzer, Martin Carter. Or thinking about it even further, of most writers from the Eastern Caribbean - including Nobel prize winner Derek Walcott

Buxton, Fyrish, Cove-an-John, Bush Lot, Mahaica,
no, ah said Guyana, not Ghana.

Pompeii, Tanta d`oux, Bhagwandeen car for hire
Sai John, Saturdee night, sweet shop, gas light,
shinin on shame-face in de trench water.
No, ah said, Guyana, not Ghana.

Black puddin, corn pone, swank, cuss-cuss an sugar
jinghi seeds, back-dam mettagee,

buxton spice, no mango sweeter
when you eat passion fruit don’ drink wine nor water
is in Buxton, ah say, de first girl ah love,
five years old; she was from Africa

Pass Plaisance? ah ask, no, she say, further
Georgetown was far

she say pass dat
days an nights she spen’ on de water
Africa to de Brazilian border
ah believe her

Pardon, said de English school teacher
I was dreaming of las’ lick, jamoon, rum and coconut water

to John Bull potagee daughter
ah said: Guyana could a’been Africa
but for Brazil and a heap o’ water.
No, ah said, Guyana, not Ghana

I was intrigued by the existence of a town called Buxton - could there be a Derbyshire connection?

Well, only a distant one, if that

Buxton, Guyana was named in honour of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton who piloted the bill for the Emancipation of Slaves through the House of Commons. He was a member of one of those great East Anglian Quaker families who did so much for 19th century social reform.

Robert Crampton picked up on this point recently:

Cadbury, Rowntree, Fry's, Clarks shoes, Barclays bank, Huntley & Palmers, the great state of Pennsylvania, Oxfam, Greenpeace, all set up in whole or in part by Quakers, they've got to have something going for them

Related posts: