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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Preserving our literary heritage



Profiles of 10 writers with birth anniversaries in October
by Petamber Persaud
OF THE ten Guyanese writers known to this author with birth anniversaries in the month of October, five are women; all five have made varying degrees of impact on Guyanese literature by eking a niche on that landscape as they showed the value and import of women writing in a developing society. Three of the five women have made contributions to the small category of children’s literature, filling that lacuna.

However, all ten writers are worthy of note.

Ada Debidin, born October 1, 1913, is definitely the oldest writer to publish a first book. In 2004, when she was ninety-one, she published `Short Stories’, a collection of seven stories for children. She was fifty-four when, `Lines at Bartica’, her first published poem came out in `The Chronicle Christmas Annual’ of 1967.

She has a collection of poems titled `The Search’ to be published soon.

Chandr Paul Persaud also known as Paul O’Hara born October 2, 1913, has about 17 pen-names. A clever pen-man of class and quality, Guyana’s oldest living reporter/journalist, Uncle Paul has also written songs, the story of a local movie and edited the `Guiana Review’,` Indian Opinion’ and `New Outlook’.

He is still packaging and churning out fascinating sets of facts (similar to the nature of this article) in an instructive and entertaining manner in order to make them stick, forever burnished on the brain. (Oh, he claims many books that made their authors were written at his feet!)

Cleveland Hamilton, (please see Sunday Chronicle May 15, 2005, for details) born on October 3, 1919, was a poet who immortalised our heroes and heroines, also capturing the life of significant world events and the noteworthy nature of places. He was profuse in praise for womanhood.

Paloma Mohamed, born October 4, is not yet 40 but is a prolific writer who has already won the Guyana Prize for Literature three times! She has published a collection of plays, two books of poems, and written numerous plays. She has also produced a number of films and has written literature for children and studies on child abuse.

Rajkumari Singh, (please see Sunday Chronicle September 11, 2005, for details) born October 13, 1923, was a poet, playwright, broadcaster, and political activist who established herself as the first recognised East Indian woman writer in Guyana. She pioneered and enhanced the slighted ‘coolie art forms’ and became the surrogate cultural and artistic mother to younger writers and artists.

John Campbell, born October 19, 1925, was a poet, playwright, actor and artist. In 1957, he won the University of the West Indies award with the play `Come Back to Melda’. He published seven collections of poems, a collection of famous murder stories, a collection of five one-act plays and a monograph. He edited `Writers in Uniform’, the police magazine and the police copper newspaper. He placed third in the Ghandi Memorial Art Competition with a painting titled, `Crosby Office’. He also acted as ‘Charlie’ in `Moon on the Rainbow Shawl’ and as ‘Chief’ in a play by Slade Hopkinson entitled `Fall of a Chief’. Campbell fell from the stage of life sometime in the late 1980s.

Janet Jagan, born October 20, 1920, edited the `Thunder’ journal and the `Mirror’ newspaper, both organs of the People’s Progressive Party. To date, she has written five children books and edited `The Lure of the Mermaid and other Children’s Stories’ and `The Alligator Ferry Service and other stories from Guyana’, making her the most prolific writer of children’s literature in Guyana.

Dennis Craig, (please see Sunday Chronicle April 10, 2005 for details) born October 22, 1929, was an educator, linguist, painter and poet who won the Guyana Prize for Literature for Best First Book of Poetry in 1998. His poem ‘Flowers’ was his most anthologised piece and one of the best-known poems throughout the Caribbean.

Mahadai Das, (please see Sunday Chronicle February 20, 2005 for details) born October 22, 1954, published three collections of poems. Peepal Tree Press is to honour her memory with a forthcoming anthology, `A Leaf in his Ear: Selected Poems’.

In 1998, Merlin October Persaud born October 23, 1985, took up an unlikely challenge from the Secondary Schools Reform Project, Ministry of Education, by writing a collection of 24 poems. Soon after, two of those poems found their way into the `Guyana Christmas Annual 1999’. In the 2001 issue of the same magazine, his short story `Overkill’ was published.

The evidence is clear that from the oldest to the youngest - man, woman or child - the climate for writing is encouraging. The future for Guyanese literature is bright.

(Literature trivia: the ninth month of the year, September, produced nine Guyanese writers including Jan Carew, Lloyd Rohlehr, Sheila King, Sasenarine Persaud, Sharon Maas and Ruel Johnson, all still writing.)

(www.guyanachronicle.com)

Posted by jebratt :: Sunday, October 09, 2005 :: 0 comments

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