Monday, September 21, 2009
Two remarkable giants of the local (Jamaica) literary scene died Wednesday, September 16th: of course Trevor Rhone, that great playwright and story-teller. I didn’t know him personally, just saw him a few times around the capital but by all accounts, Mr. Rhone was a real ‘yardie’…as reflected into his stunning interpretative plays. The other giant lost was the Trinidad-born Wayne Brown. I’m sure many read the literary pages on Sunday (both Gleaner & Observer) without being aware of Mr. Brown’s contribution towards both dallies wizening up to the fact that there is (was) a huge swathe of literature lovers, hungrily waiting to devour any worthy local talent being unleashed. Note I said ‘worthy talent’….to get that call from him, telling you that your submission (poetry, short story, ect) was earth-shattering…you felt that you were worthy of The Literary Arts, thus publication would ensue. That was the secondary thrill actually because in this small writers pool that in Jamaica, Wayne Brown had found a way to unite a group that is notoriously hermetic. He didn’t just involve those writers who were already established but also those just on the fringe of such success. Also, he made new, emerging writers like me feel not so tentative at experimenting wildly with styles not inherently used locally. He had the workshops that unfortunately I could not be a part of and I’m sure I have missed out on a huge slice of camaraderie there but Mr. Brown understood and always encouraged. He gave me my break into the literary scene in 2002 and my first international publication in Kunapipi (for a poem I thought no good but he thought had ‘umph’)
Of course his own work inspired me greatly…..the ‘In our Time’ column was a staple of my Sunday reading because along with John Maxwell one was witness to the finest, most stubborn minds that local print had to offer. He wasn’t just an intellectual for the sake of being one but he used it in print to challenge age-old positions. That is the truest form of opinion journalism and, finally, a writer. Alas, one on of my local writing mentors has left the stage but he has played his part well. Now, I’m sure he’d want everyone whom he touched with his gift to continue playing their parts as well.