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Birthplace
Trinidad and Tobago
Residence
Trinidad and Tobago
Identities
Trinidad and Tobago
DOB
Not provided
Gender
Male

Raymond Ramcharitar

Raymond Ramcharitar is a poet, fiction writer and cultural critic from Trinidad and Tobago. The Island Quintet, his first short story collection, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book in 2010. He has published three collections of poetry; American Fall, Here, and most recently, Modern, Age &c.

Raymond Ramcharitar is a poet, fiction writer, and cultural critic from Trinidad and Tobago. He has degrees from the University of the West Indies in Economics, Literature, and History, and his critical work is interdisciplinary and highly polemical. He has also worked as a journalist in Trinidad (from 1991 to the present) and has written a controversial study of the Trinidadian media, Breaking the News: Media and Culture in Trinidad (2005). His latest book is A History of Creole Trinidad, 1956-2010, published in 2021 by Palgrave Macmillan. 

Ramcharitar has been compared to VS Naipaul and Derek Walcott, as his poems are formal rather than the free-verse experimentation common to his contemporaries. He credits Walcott and Naipaul as bedrock poetic and fictional influences, but his evolving work has ingested and projected writers as diverse as Milan Kundera, Frederick Seidel, Philip Levine,Umberto Eco, and Thomas Pynchon.

Outside his creative work, he has also a number of academic publications (five between 2008 and 2012 in international academic journals and edited collections) in areas as diverse as literary criticism, cultural studies and history. He currently lives in Trinidad, and works as a communications consultant for one of the largest conglomerates in the region(ANSA McAL) and occasionally practices as a journalist. 

 

 

Read Raymond Ramcharitar's interview conducted with himself, on the publication of his new book, Modern, Age and c. Expect strong language!

Raymond Ramcharitar interviews himself about his new book, Modern, Age, &c.

 

Q: Ok, let’s get straight to the knotty plot:

You’ve stolen this self-interview thing from Walcott?

 

A: Dear fellow, in short, yes, but that’s inane.

Walcott interviewed himself, because it would be a drain

To be interviewed by anyone else. It was Trinidad

In the sixties. Sparrow was poet laureate. He had

A choice: interview yourself, or let some twat do it

Who thinks every calypsonian is a poet.

 

Q: What is this thing you have with calypso and mas?

You know people think you’re a racist and an ass.

 

A: Nice one, ‘mas’ -- ‘ass’. Maybe I’ve misjudged you.

And yes, I do seem to have a thing with Carnival, it’s true.

But my pique is as much for politics as art.

I mean, who gives a fucking fart

‘bout singing calypso and win’ing like twine?

I have other, serious business to mind.

The thing is this: it’s local politics

And one party’s electoral dirty tricks.

They say it supposed to be a happy fete

Where all o’ we is one. But dissent equal death.

What the fuck? It doesn’t bring money, or tourists –

What is does, is bring on Fanonian sickness…

 

Q:  Whoa there, cowboy. Almost sorry I asked.

Let’s break the gallop and canter through that pass

And mosey down a less contentious trail.

This is PR, remember, a more pleasant quale

Might be better. You wouldn’t want to spook

The readers, would you? Let’s talk about the book.

 

A: Cowboy? What, you think you’re Lil Nas X?

 

Q: Really? One little metaphor and you vex?

Maybe your detractors might have a point

If that’s all it takes to get you out of joint.

 

A: Who’s vexed? Have you gone and lost our sense of humour?

 

Q : Yeah. Funny. You’re as hilarious as a tumour.

But you do talk about a lot of your taste

In music in the book. Though let’s not hasten

To the body without lingering on the face –

The title, to begin: Modern, Age, &c… grace

Us with an explanation, if it pleases.

 

A: Well, “Modern” is about the malaise: the diseases

Of our time: depression, anxiety, isolation —

The broader themes of loss, disintegration.

 

Q: Oooh, just what readers want –  warm and sunny…

 

A: Fuck off. Some bits are weighty, but some are funny.

Anyway, “Age”: I turned fifty recently,

And was struck by the tone of gross indecency

That’s ripped and clawed the social contract to shreds.

And I started to look back to find the threads

That hold me together, as a parent, a man,

And try to find where everything changed: the plan

For utopia, or progress, when did it become

A tweet, or post on Facebook or Instagram?

 

Q : And what about the other bit, the &c.?

 

A: Well, those are the pieces that won’t fit – anomie.

 

Q: I notice you rhymed on the “c”. So you don’t mean

Etcetera? Or is just visual? A symbol on a screen?

 

A: Both or either. I do mean etcetera,

But it could also be read as visual clutter

It’s meant to be playful, whimsical, even cute…

 

 

 

Q: Showing the tender side of the vicious brute?

 

A: Whatever you say. I guess we have to imagine

All kinds of readers will bring their witless spin.

 

QWell, the writer attracts his ideal readers,

Just like the masses attract their ideal leaders.

 

 

A: That’s clever but somehow dumb. Your forte, it seems.

I tried to balance the book among three themes:

The political, personal, the whimsical.

The tone varies from sardonic, to satiric, to lyrical.

 

Q:  I wouldn’t have thought of you as given to whimsy.

 

A: Well, got to try other moods than vexed and mimsy.

 

Q: Your opening poem is to Sinead O’Connor

Explain why the Caribbean wasn’t given that honour.

 

A: Oh, that’s just dumb. Should it have been Papa Bois?

Garvey? Jagan? Or Williams? Too bourgeois?

Someone sweaty, from the fields, a noble farmer…?

 

QActually I thought Marley or Rihanna…

 

A: Nothing wrong with either of them, I guess

But in my youth, I met a time of distress

That nothing could really touch, or speak to,

Until Sinead’s Nothing Compares to U

 

Q: Did some teenage vixen cause you to walk the plank?

Or were you an insufferable artist manque?

 

 

A“Teenage vixen”? I see where your head’s wedged.

It was the hormones. I didn’t become a full-fledged

Scribbler till I was older. The sight of Sinead

The bald head, the beautiful defiance, unmade

 

A lot of things I’d thought about how love

and life worked. It was a revelation from above.

And when I saw his Princeness and Purple Rain,

I heard Vader telling Luke: “you struggle in vain.”

 

Q: Star Wars, Prince, I see you also managed

To get George Michael, OMD and the carnage

of Trainspotting in. Is there a logic in there?

Or is it pastiche, cynical laissez faire?

 

A: I’m sure there is, those signs must spell

Some meaningful mind-word. I just can’t tell

What it is or what it all means. If anything.

 

QIn all the sounds, which has the most pleasing ring?

 

A: What makes me particularly happy with this

Is the poem with Vidia, Derek and Arthur Lewis

“The Modern Caribbean” – long overdue, I think

To render visible that invisible link

Between the Caribbean and the rest of the world.

It’s really time to break that slavish mold.

I go to conferences abroad and see

Academics still have the Caribbean in slavery.

 

Q:  And Freud flashes through the final scene?

 

A: Without Freud, and Oedipus, there’s no Caribbean.

I mean, what’s the original Caribbean dream

If not to kill the King and fuck the Queen?

 

Q: Uh, yeah. Maybe we’d better close off here

While we have some decency to spare.

 

End.

 

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