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Raymond Ramcharitar

Read Raymond Ramcharitar's interview conducted with himself, on the publication of his new book, Modern, Age and c. Expect strong language! Born in Trinidad, Raymond Ramcharitar worked as a journalist and is the author of a controversial and provocative study of the deficiencies of the Trinidadian press, Breaking the News: Media & Culture in Trinidad.

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.




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