Ubaldimir Guerra

Course Title: Caribbean Poetry

Topic: Intertextuality in Caribbean Literature

Duration: 2 – 75 minute class sessions

Primary text: Kamau Brathwaite: The Voice of African Presence, Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Supplementary texts:

Selected poetry of Aime Cesaire
Selected poetry of Kamau Brathwaite
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Matigari by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
In the Castle of My Skin by George Lamming
A Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

Audio:  Lee Scratch Perry’s Super Ape record, turntable, speaker

Teaching Method: Socratic Seminar

Learning Outcomes: (1) to explore ideas about Kamau Brathwaite’s creative process;
——————————————-(2) to co-create a poem from this exploration

Participants: Professor Joshua and his 12 students

Session One: Socratic Seminar

Scratched across the board’s blackness,
these words
circle around
a sketch of
Campbell’s monomythical structure:
Construct knowledge,
Intertextuality, Visualize
Synthesize, Contextualize

Professor Joshua instructs:

Now class,
open your texts
lift your desks
and form a circle

Let’s contextualize,
visualize and discuss
the renaming ceremony
from Edward
to Kamau
from Bridgetown
to the University of Nairobi
back to UWI
in 1972
as examined by Ngugi
in his Kamau Brathwaite: The Voice of African Presence

Professor Edward
to Professor Ngugi
decolonizing curriculum
with thunder drums of

Question: How do the events around Brathwaite’s visit to Nairobi University in 1972 exemplify orality and intertextuality in Caribbean and African literature?

1 hour of student discussion
15 minutes of Professor Joshua’s synthesis
and instructions for Session 2

Session 2: Co-creation of poem

Professor Joshua reaches into his briefcase
pulls out a record
rises from his chair
lifting the record,
he chants:

My 12 students,
last session
was seminar on

Ngugi invokes Kamau
as mau mau oral warrior
and “connecting spirit”

Give thanks for your words

This session we take
word, sound orality
and co-create
a coral scripture

see this record
scratched upon its body
across 10 tracks,
this is the blood of Zion

Take it
and listen to it

Let the blood and bass of Zion
course through your veins

When the needle
drops on the vinyl
of this almighty record
engineered by his
royal highness,
the dub specialist
himself, Sir Lee Scratch Perry

write to this body of bass
write until the fading
of its static denouement
When you are called upon,
Give voice to this poem,
“It Bring Back Love”
“It Bring Back Love” by Professor Joshua and his 12 disciples

Don’t fall to the pressure
like okonkwo
drumming from the congo

Ride the wave
like wa thiong’o

matigari return the pressure
in pen like Aimé

in Paris
to Martinique

for our history time

black sun
rising up time

for the people

diamond fire
drum drumming

sync in your
sound like
sycorax sound
on eternal sax

tilt the axis

around joyous sound
verse clapping

it bring back

Professor Joshua’s consecration:
do this in memory of
our ancestors’ ascension
from middle passage

end of session 2
there is no end

tomorrow evening
come equipped for our
trip to blue hole
where pressure drops
and our lesson extends
to an outdoor network


Pressure drops

Responsorial psalm:
A reading of excerpts from
Kamau Brathwaite’s Rights of Passage,
Middle Passages and Elegguas
recited into the mouth of
a network of caves
at St. Herman’s blue hole
off the Hummingbird Highway

Echo response:

At nightfall
the pressure drops
the pressure drops

like thunder cloud
erasing light
lighting up the night

and when the pressure drops
the pressure drops

you beat the bass
you beat the bass

until dub mek the bass
pull sound
from landscape

landscape rush to
shift plates
and mek space
for the coral
to bloom
blooming sound
blooming wave
a tidal one
a hurricane jam

bring back the islands
and carry on
with your song

Ubaldimir Guerra was born in Belize City, Belize on September 17, 1980.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Belize and a Master of Arts degree in English with a concentration in Multicultural and Transnational Literature from East Carolina University, North Carolina.  He has been a full-time lecturer in the Faculty of Education and Arts at the University of Belize since 2006, where he teaches courses in literature and composition.  His research and teaching interests include Literature and Healing, Caribbean Literature, Belizean Literature, African Literature, Literary Theory and creative writing.  He is currently working on a collection of poetry and a novel.