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Dancing Duppy: Notes from two workshops by Anthony McNeill

Vahni Capildeo has written the essay 'Dancing Duppy: Notes from two workshops by Anthony McNeill' for Axon Journal.

Caribbean experimental writing enjoys a formidable and shadowy inheritance from a writer whose extremes have not yet been met, the American-educated Jamaican poet of many roles, Anthony McNeill (1941-1996). As observed in the analytical as well as informative author page featured on the Peepal Tree Press website, McNeill’s dream was ‘to be a 'jz.' (jazz) pianist’, and as his published work evolved, Coltrane-like exploratory yet resolved shapes emerged, with typos (‘mutants’) incorporated into the work.[1] The desire for a good collected, or selected, edition of McNeill is continually frustrated. New, unpublished material by McNeill keeps emerging; he would write addictively, with illumination, producing multiple texts and books, typing with a ferocity that might punch through the page, gathering up mistakes and creatively incorporating them into the unreeling œuvre. Such poetry as is available has indelibly marked the imagination of Caribbean writers.

The following notes are written up from discussions in two workshops held in 2017, in Canberra and London. The aim was exploration in writing of the hitherto privately nightmarish and/or unwritable. The focus, though not strictly speaking the model, was McNeill’s disquieting poem, ‘Who’s Sammy’. We looked at how perturbation results from the shaping of linguistic material, as well as semantic content.

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