Reflections from the Heart of Waitukubuli…

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Cover of “Verses from atop the Mountain”… Photo by author. (c)

When I started making plans to have my fourth book, Verses from atop the Mountain, published, I thought of a number of individuals whom I wanted to ask to write the Foreword. I wanted someone whom I could identify with as a villager from St. Joseph and one who was aware of the literary road I had travelled to this point.

Forewords to my previous books had been written by Alwin Bully, Lenox Honeychurch, and Edward “King Shakey” James, so I decided it would be a good idea to add a new voice to my work and I believed it would be great to have that new perspective on my work. I have worked with Alwin, Lennox and Shakey in various aspects of my past publications and I wanted a new voice.

After careful consideration, I finally decided upon Ted Serrant; a young man from my home village, St. Joseph, Dominica. I knew Ted growing up and I also had the opportunity to have him as a student during my short stint as a teacher at the St. Joseph Government School. However, I did not get the opportunity to have him as a student at the St. Mary’s Academy where I later taught, since he went to the Dominica Grammar School. I wonder what that would have been like!!! Ted was a very challenging student back then and as an inexperienced teacher stepping into the classroom, I had to muster all the skills I could to do a good job and, yes, to sound, “smart and educated.” I was dedicating Verses from atop the Mountain, to the children of St. Joseph and I felt Ted represented most of the children that I had in mind.

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A view of Senjo sitting on the fringes of the Caribbean Sea… Photoby author (c)

I also recognized the role Ted, who just recently attained his Ph. D from the University of Pittsburgh, had begun to play in the field of education in Dominica and also because he, of humble beginnings, had surmounted many odds and had now become a great example to the young people of St. Joseph. I saw in him one that the young people could emulate and know that with determination, their goals are attainable especially in an era when good role models are difficult to find.

I contacted Ted and I was extremely pleased when he agreed to write the Foreword. I sent him a copy of the manuscript and waited as I worked feverishly on getting my second full-length book of poetry ready. When Ted sent the write-up, I realized I had made a good choice. Not because what he wrote pleased me, (that was good) but because of the way he “painted” the collection of poems. I felt pleased that one of my own: a past student; neighbor, villager and community minded person, had worked with me and my small team that included Lionel Leslie, Kalinago Woryi and Ophelia Olivaccé-Marie, in putting together what I hope will be a well-received publication. The journey was proceeding well!

 

This is what Ted wrote:

Lotka’s law posits that most people will write one article or one book in their lifetime. This, I believe, is Giftus’ fourth anthology of poems. Giftus has defied the odds. He has been defying the odds for a long time. I know! He taught me years ago. I congratulate you on a provoking piece of work, and thank you for inviting me to present the foreword for this anthology. I am honored that the teacher can turn it over to his student.

Verses From Atop The Mountain signals a proclamation; a call; a cry. This proclamation is symbolized both by the verses and the location from which they are proclaimed. The mountains, therefore, are metaphors for heights attained and the universality of the messages embedded in these verses. They are also symbolic of Giftus’ mountainous island origin and the land that remains almost like an unsettled bargain in these verses. “The Migrant Song” captures that unsettled existence derived from residence in an adopted homeland. Much of the work in this anthology, then, comes from lived experiences and a persistent banter between what is and what used to be, what is left behind and what one now contends with. In “The Land Beckons Me,” he finds solace and the assurance that he is not a castaway confirming the temporariness of the migrant tension between the homeland and the adopted homeland.

The work is a “literary hopscotch” (and I mean it in a flattering way,) of themes that addresses love, nature, reality, expectations, dreams and ambitions lined with hope and restoration: “The Sun Rises Tomorrow;” “The Morning Awakens.” This hopscotching, to me, is the art of a multifaceted artist, and Giftus is multifaceted. He is painter, writer, and poet. This book bears this out as he weaves together pieces on the spring, fall and the snow; things that are transient and yet in “Ode to a Tree Stump,” he finds not just death, decay, and a break from the past, but endurance of that past. With its roots buried deeply, the stump remains as a lasting memory of its legacy. For him, the more things change the more they remain the same. That sentiment comes through in his serious treatises on politics and freedom, two of the things that vex us most.

This anthology traverses the human emotion as well: From an elusive love to solitude, nightmare, cowardice, and death—his mom’s. Then almost in a ‘tantalizing soliloquy,’ he asked, “For whom does the church bell toll?” Despite the hopscotching, Giftus returns again and again to the theme of his beloved land and community, a microcosm of the returning nature of West Indian migration. In the end he reckons that we all are cut form the same cloth. Simply, this anthology is all of us, reflects all of us and speaks to all of us from the mountaintop. Listen!

 

Ted D. Serrant, PhD
Senior Fellow
Rise Institute
Washington, DC

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Hopscotch—Spotlight on Dominica’s Youth

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Hopscotch-Ophelia Olivacce’-Marie-Author

When Ophelia Olivacce’-Marie—Lady O, as I affectionately refer to her—reached out to me for some guidance about publishing a book, I did not have to think twice about helping her. Ophelia and I go back a long way; first when she was a teacher at the Convent High School, then as a co-worker at the Youth Development Division and co-producer of the Youth Radio Program, Search (the forerunner to Youth Vibes)- and then as a friend.

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Marcia Baptiste-Miss Dominica 2010

I know Ophelia as a singer—La Grande Dame de Chanson de la Caribe—not as a writer, but I did not think about questioning her. I believed, with her experience and knowledge, she was quite capable of writing on anything she wanted. She is smart, quick witted and very friendly and outgoing and I was sure she was capable of writing a book.

However, after reading through Hopscotch, I believe my perception was right. I read the book within a day because I was very enthralled by the profiles of the fifty young persons she highlighted. I wanted to stay in the moment, so to speak. It was very refreshing reading about what these young people have achieved through hard work, dedication, love of community and love of country. These are the people who will one day be our cultural, artistic, social, religious and political leaders and yes, there are many more, but these  in some way, have stood out and Ophelia has been impressed with what they’ve been doing.

Hopscotch is a refreshing look at what young Dominicans have been able to achieve in various aspects of life and with various challenges. It is a heartwarming collection of perseverance, faith, personal sacrifice, imagination and dedication of young people who each represent a number of young people like themselves, throughout Dominica. Yet, as young people they will need our guidance and role models and what better person to start with than others like themselves and undoubtedly, also Ophelia; a community minded individual. A national icon-I dare say who has been at the front, leading in all that’s good for this country from the time she’s been singing.

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Ian “Linton” St. Louis

It is said so many times that we highlight the bad sides of our youth, and yes it does happen, but I must give all the kudos to Ophelia for going out there and bringing the stories of young people to the fore; telling their story; sharing their hopes and dreams and aspirations; their highs and lows; their faith in what is good. Hopscotch is a symbol of hope for Dominica.

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Karessa-2015 Calypso King

As I read the book it brought back my own cry for something to be done about preserving the memory of those who have made sacrifices to elevate the cultural heritage of this country in all aspects. I would again like to see the responsible parties take the initiative and allow our famed historian, Dr. Lenox Honychurch to write a book for use in all our schools detailing the activities of some of the people that these young entrepreneurs; the young artistes and future leaders have noted as being their “heroes:” The people who helped lay the groundwork for them and assisted them along the way.

I thank and applaud Ophelia for taking that step in regard to our youth. She has done a splendid job and though I am sure that there are others just like those she profiled, it is a testimony of what our young people can achieve with guidance, faith in themselves and their abilities and the confidence to do the things they want. I hope the authorities will follow her lead and do the same for the elders who have blazed the trail for our young, dedicated and patriotic Dominicans.

Well done Lady-O.