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"Edited and .with an Introductionby Thomas Glave:

DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS Durham.e.London zoox


Desire through the Archipelago

Ai; a child of Jamaican immigrants to the United States, and one who regularly spent extended time with family in Jamaica, I couldn't know how much, over the accumulating years, a book like this would someday mean to me. It j~ both fair and accurate to say that this anthology - this gathering, as it is titled, which makes its own contribution to an ever increasing conversation - is a book that I and others have been waiting for and have wanted for all our lives. It is in no wayan exaggeration to say that this gathering originated as an idea born out of the most extreme longing: the desire to know finally, and with complete certainty, that a book such as this one actually existed and could exist. Could exist in spite of thundering condemnation from Christian fundamentalist ministers and, from those in churches, mosques, and other places, Sidelong disapproving - and sometimes baleful- glances. Could exist despite proscriptions, banishments, ostracisms, and, in more than a few cases, extreme violence. 1 Could exist: a book like this that, though someincluding a number of our most renowned, if not always most generous, Caribbean minds - might wish to ignore or dismiss it, none would ultimately be able to deny or wish away. Numerous writers whose work I have long admired have consistently expressed a sentiment similar to the one that motivated this collection, also centered in desire; they wrote the books they did, thev said, because they wished deeply to read those texts, texts that up until the moment of that writer's yearning had not been written. Those writers wanted to know that the stories they conunitted to paper actually existed - indeed, could exist. Exist for the passing along, the making known from consciousness to uttered word to the next watchful, waiting eye.

I wouldn't be truthful if I didn't admit that this gathering also owes its genesis to the most painful, inexpressible loneliness: one that, as the years passed me from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, grew increasingly agonizing, made more so by the sorts ofintransigent silences I fervently hope

the voices in these pages will unsettle. That loneliness stretched through every hour of the silent and silenced wondering one couldn't possibly dare, when young, to ever express out loud to anyone else, or -- perhaps most dangerously, terrifyingly - to oneself. Wondering: could there somewhere "out there" be others like me? Wherever "out there" was, I knew it to be a place beyond tile supposed safety of family (which was not always so safe) - a place where I was despised, even hated, by those who ranted that hatred publicly and shouted it joyously in church. Were there others in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean who also pondered "unspeakable" things and thought, in tile depths of their own silences, "unmentionable" thoughts? Were there others immobilized and cowed by silence and mired in the same shame that colluded with that silence and its creeping shadows? Shadows that, like the heavily weighted silence, invariably led to rage, self-loathing and desperation. Desperation backed tile thoughts: I hope someday I can get out of here. I hope I survive long e1wugh not to walk,forthe last time, with open eyes and open mouth into the swil'ling sea. I hope that star-apple trees and bougainvillea blooms never learn my secrets - no, not any of them - and that the hummingbird that adores scarlet hibiscus never penetrates 1n;' dreams. I hope that this silence doesn't kill me or make me kill myself, because (some of us thought and continue to think) it Mesn't seem as though I can possibly be myself, my fullest truest self, the self that everyone would love to know and hug and laugh with,greetwith open hands and arms, if I remain here ... remain here. Some of us, myself included, thought those things, Some of us, in spite of those thoughts, did not leave the Caribbean, and will not leave it still. Although some opted to stay, many had - and continue to have - no choice. Green cards are not always easy to secure, nor are visas, for those who need them most. And families, families often are in need of help. The desire for Home or "home" often abides in the traveler. Our history - perhaps especially the history we find most intolerable to remember, that began for some of us with harsh voyages across the sea, but never ended there- is about nothing if not movement, memory. Dis-placement. This book began, crept to its knees, and shakily, then more assuredly, began to walk through all of that and more.

Walking, though slowly, and increasingly aware of its flesh taking shape, the book began to ask questions - pester, even. Through all the hours of its more groggy, wobbly-kneed state, it wanted to know the same things I did: things about the people like me whom I longed so much to know (and who, it seemed, were so often impossible to find) in Jamaica, Martinique, St. Lucia, Trinidad. People whose eyes would say something recognizable, friendly even, in the Dominican Republic, Sint Maarten, and Guyane Fran-

caise. People "out there" who also gazed across that water that simultaneously divided and united us all and who dreamed -yearned their way through those emotions and all that desire: women for women, men for men, women and men for women-men. That erotic-emotional desire for people of our own gender that it seemed no one-not anyone at all-ever spoke about, much less wished to hear about unless in the realm of "scandal" and "disgrace."

Those people, yes. The people of "out there" and, as I would later learn, nearer. But where did they live? How did they dream?

What colors would their stories have taken, if one could have seen them?

Read them? How would they have sounded?

Who, through love and desire, loneliness and pleasure, were we hoping to be, imagining ourselves to be, and becoming through our many Antilles? Our Antilles of Creole and English, Kreyol and French, and Spanish, Papiamentu~ Dutch. Our many Carib beans of cricket and biisbol, soccer and fltbol, and Carnival, jouvert, crop-over. Our islands and memories of zonas coloniales; ciudades viejas, a very well known Soufriere, and Basse-Terre, GrandTerre - all traversed by mountains, rivers, ghosts, diablesses, duppies, soucouyants, jumbles, and more.

And all of our music! Zouk. Salsa. Rara. Bouyon. Reggae. Rumba. Calypso. Ska. Son. Tumba. Biguine. Bomba. Dancehall. Soca. Merengue. And still so much more.

\Vbat would it be like to attend - to truly hear, for once - the many conversations that we have had with each other and still need so very much to have? What would it be like to listen to and now, by way of a gathering of voices like this one, actually observe those conversations between ourselves?

"That would it be like to bear witness to the conversations between mati


women-loving women, in Suriname and their distant sisters and brothers in St. Eustatius, Saba, and Bonaire?

But then close your eyes) a certain tree tells you, in order to hear better the words of those two: two women together, or two men, or two women-men or men-women. They are in Haiti -yes, in JenSmie, this time. There, in that near-darkness, overlooking dlesighing shoals and what remains of the everentangled mangroves, they are holding each oilier, those two. Holding, caressing each other's most secret parts, and whispering things into each oilier's neck - things, the tree says, that their brethren and sistrcn in Fort-deFrance, Marie-Galante, and even all the way over in Cayenne, Guyane, would like to hear. We too would like to hear it, the tree tells us. (In its own, old way, it is one of us, that tree. Of course. It always has been.) We would like to hear

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all of it, for the expansion of our imaginations and our very lives-our survival. It is so very important for us each to know that we are not, no matter what anyone tells us, throughout the archipelago and beyond it, alone.


When I first conceived of this gathering as a viable project, I was taken aback - though in the increasingly corporate-minded publishing world, sadly not entirely surprised - by the opinion of a few myopic editors and one remarkably uninsightful literary agent, who felt that an anthology like this one would be a "narrow" book: "a slice of a slice;' as one extremely marketminded editor put it; that is, the (non-Latino) Caribbean "market" as perceived by some continental North American editors was a "slice;' and a lesbian and gay text within that category an even more selective "slice." (Prompting the question of who or what was looking down from somewhere, holding the determining slicing knife? )

After hearing this editor's words - an assessment that instantly struck me as informed mostly by ignorance and prejudice - I immediately lost faith in her judgment. Fortunately for this book's ultimate existence, I eventually made contact with a more broadminded editor - one in possession of the imagination and generous vision the naysayers lacked, who not only decided to take on this project but from the very start voiced his unstinting support for it and belief in its importance.

This gathering's blessed fortune in that regard notwithstanding, I remained deeply troubled by those people's summary dismissal of Caribbean lesbian and gay lives. How, I wondered, could they feel so confident in their arrogance? Confident enough to use the dismissive word "narrow' about our very complex and, to them, unknown and unseen lives? What, I wondered, did they in their continental North American worlds - contexts rife with spurious images and conjurings of the Caribbean as a fetishized "paradise" for tourists - really know about our lives? The Caribbean, as packaged globally for tourists, purposely obscures quotidian (and often poor) Antillean lives - existences rendered as of scant importance beyond obsequious servitude in the generally consumer-directed packaging. Lesbian and gay lives generally do not enter into this truncated representation at all, unless they surface in some momentary wink of sexual tourism. The naysayers, editors and agent, were not Caribbean themselves. None among them, as far as I knew, self-identified as lesbian or gay (although I remain uncertain even

today that an editor from either group would have seen things any differently). If they considered a book containing texts about our lives "narrow;' what would they have considered the opposite? An anthology containing work by U. S., Canadian, or European heterosexuals]

I recount these challenges in order to bring to light the very difficult, unwelcoming context out of which this anthology fought - and was required to fight - for its fight to exist; to point out how, in that context, many in the "global north" or "first world" think little of those in the "global south" or "third world" and frequently have no problem in saying so; and to briefly delineate the reprehensible attitudes (narrowness, actually) of some publishers (including, in this case, mare than one very respectable university press) who retain the power to decide which ideas achieve visibility under their aegis and which do not - including books by and about people whose life (and death) experiences are continually rendered invisible, or silent, or both.


Sometime during the late winter to early spring of 2002, when I realized, startled, that my longstanding wish to see and hear Caribbean lesbian and gay voices in conversation could actually be a book, I began to speak with and write to people who I very much hoped might be interested. Whatever else occurred, I knew from the beginning that I wanted this proj ect to move, as much as possible, as a grassroots effort: one that reached out to people across and through the varying Caribbean communities I had known and of which I had been a part, as well as those unknown to me, but viable. These communities included women-loving women and men-loving men, all of whom were in one way or another aware of and affected by the issues that have always weighed heavily upon us: racism, xenophobia, sexual and gender violence, economic stresses, the need for voluntary or forced migration (as in the case of poll tical asylum seekers), the erasing or silencing of ourselves (and, in some cases, the murdering of ourselves) because of our sexualities, and more. The book I yearned to read was One that would disclose how we wrote and continued to write. And why. And where. That book would suggest questions like: writing and thinking as we did, did we remain in the Caribbean? Was that decision ours to make, or someone else's? Could we remain in that place-the place we might have called home-as the people we were and continued to become? That is, as our fullest, most realized selves? Would those places we thought of as home provide a wel-

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come for us whomever we turned out to be and whatever we decided to do or say in artistic, creative, and intellectual response to those places and to ourselves as people ancestrally, imaginatively, and culturally part of them? For whatever else happened, we were part of those places and their people ( our people) in just about every way. We remained connected to them, even as - perhaps especially as - members of an enormous diaspora, What effect would the decisions we made and the actions we took - artistically, intellectually, politically - extend not only to our literal movements, but also to our internal ones in the realm of our imaginations where, as people involved with language and words, we think in each of our very different locales about the ways in which we might not only express ourselves, but also challenge ourselves and others? How might a journey to our particulardiaspora, a

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settling in at iaspora, an a return to lome rom a roreign p a e

affect or not affect our choice of literary topic and the way we chose to imagine it, shape it, inhabit it?

As same-gender-interested people, what was and will be our relationship to the colonial powers that impressed their languages upon us and convinced us that their tongue was not only the "correct" one, but the word of the Almighty (Christian) God? Such questions arose for me and for many other writers featured here as the collection developed.

It was not my intention to focus on anyone piece of writing in this gathering, but partly in response to some of the questions above and others to come, and also for additional amplification, I wish to draw attention to the rarely seen, little known essay "Of Generators and Survival: Hugo Letter;' by the U.S. born, Caribbean descended author and activist Audre Lorde. This work, though written by someone who constantly, energetically identified herself as a lesbian - indeed, as a black, feminist lesbian - concerns itself not at all with matters explicitly lesbian or gay, but with the devastation wreaked by a Caribbean hurricane in the "developing" world and its lingering, dire effects of poverty, colonialism, racism, and imperialism: realities beneath which all Caribbean peoples, especially the poorest, suffer, and which a natural disaster, in its damage of infrastructures and vital resources, horrendously highlights. In this regard, Lorde's essay strikes me as bearing particular relevance to all Antilles-connected people, including those of us - perhaps especially those of us - erotically and romantically inclined toward those of our own gender. "Of Generators and Survival;' as all of Lorde's lifelong writing and activism, reveals to us that even in the most integrated, humane world possible, none of us can afford to indulge in single-focus politics, irrespective of how we name ourselves or are named by

those who have the power to do so. For the majority of us, the practice of single-focus politics is essentially always impossible, given that virtually none of us on this planet occupies a single-focus existence. Lorde's blackness, womanness, and lesbianness, though barely discussed in political terms in "Of Generators and Survival;' nonetheless occupy center stage in the black, female, lesbian body she physically moved to help her fellow citizens in St. Croix after Hurricane Hugo. Like Lorde's essay, the works in this book demonstrate their authors' concern with the varying issues that impact on the lives of Antilles-connected people. These issues, which originated in our labyrinthine history, still have neither been completely confronted nor fully understood by many Caribbean peoples; by the empires that conquered, enslaved, and transformed us; or by the tourists and wider public who think of us (when they think of us at all) as people of ''the islands."

With this book's emergence, I anticipate that the voices collected herein will provoke radically different interpretations of all of these considerations and of innumerable others. Above all, I hope that each reader will journey through this gathering and garner much pleasure along the way from the questions and possibilities that not only will loom but also will deepen, widen.


Language itself posed one of the most vexing questions at the center of this project's development, principally in the consideration of a title. What tide might appeal to and invite into the collection as many as possible, especially those most in need of it, while representing as generously as possible all our vasdy different ways of being Caribbean, as well as our reflections on our experiences as same-gender-interested people? What words could evoke and, if possible, encapsulate the nuances, complexities, and powers of these gathered works?

At first, quite ethnocentrically and with the blithe naivete that some ethnocentrism brings, I considered a tide that would have used Jamaican Creole words. If any tongue were to represent dIe collection, I reasoned, surely a Creole or "patois" language would be the most appropriate offering, given the often rancorous debates among Caribbean people about Creole languages and the outright contempt frequently expressed for those tongues as dialects and "broken" or "bastardized" versions of a more "proper" language. I tll0ught that I would choose a Creole language thar, like many of the people who routinely used it, was regularly overlooked, disdained, triv-


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ialized, and regarded with irritated amusement and condescension, if not outright disgust: a tongue developed out of the mouths and memories of slaves and others whose presence had made possible the Caribbean of our lives today. Fortunately, I quickly realized that given this gathering's pan-' Caribbeanness, my working as a Jamaican "supremacist" in this regard would be an inexcusable act of nationalism thickened by naive nostalgia.

That said, not long afterward, I threw up my hands in resignation at the realization that, for a variety of reasons, I could see no way around the decision - an editorial decision, entirely my own - to make English the book's representational language, with all of the texts originally written in other languages produced in these pages in translation. In respect to my Caribbean sistren and brethren whose first tongue is not English, including those in English-speaking Antillean nations, I remain uncomfortably aware of the difficult and problematic realities surrounding my decision, especially given the English language's controlling force in the world at large and its potential to erase, here and elsewhere, the tongues of those who do not (and do not necessarily have any wish to) write, speak, think, dream, or imagine in English. For many reasons, this particular language dilemma was one that I could finally bring to no truly satisfactory conclusion. Yet with the supreme importance of our diverse tongues acknowledged and grasped, I am gladat least in this incipient moment, though some of us speak here through the scrim. of translation-that we are in this gathering truly present: speaking and listening to each other as the neighbors we are and have always been. It is this speaking and listening that I am certain will lead us closer to what one poet long ago imagined out loud as the dream of a common language; as we acknowledge me fierce reality that (to paraphrase the title of another poem, one featured in this gatllering) 110 language-not any language-can ever he neutral.?

For me, this collection's title remains partly vexing for its use of the words

lesbian andgay-for what exactly, I wondered along the way and wonder ever more today, is - can be - "lesbian and gay writing"? Is it writing with "lesbian" or "gay" (or "queer"?) content? Writing by those who consider themselves to be lesbian or gay? By those who consider themselves to be simply not heterosexual' But there are several individuals whose work is featured here who would most definitely not identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisex .. rual, zami, "that way:' asi, "so;' or - as presently heard among some in the English-speaking areas of North America and Europe - queer. What of those who write about erotic and romantic same-gender interests, but who would refuse to consider naming in any "lesbo" or "homo" way their

erotic inclinations and ideals-those who might say about themselves, if they said anything at all, that they were women interested in other women


men focused on other men, and leave it at that] How, if only for the purposes

of a project like this one, to define or place their work] I use the words "a project like this one" not at all lightly. For if anything, the works in this book are deeply concerned with, rooted in, the efficacies and intricacies of a variety of different languages arid words that have historically been forbidden, taboo. If some of us choose to name ourselves with the more defining (or at least, in many quarters, familiar) words lesbian andgay, and speak of our writing in such terms, we face the challenge put forth by those whose selfnaming desires differ from ours of brunping straight up against a language that, like most if not all languages, simply will not, cannot, serve nor satisfy everyone. Yet this frustrating fact has a potentially productive conflict at its center and can make possible for all of us new, greatly unsettling journeys. At the very least, it illustrates our enormous diversity Contrary to the opinion of some, we are not - cannot possibly be - all the same.

And so, to complicate matters further, what exactly is - can be - "Caribbean lesbian and gay writing"?

The words lesbian and gay in the title lost this gathering at least two writers: one a woman of Caribbean background who, while erotically interested in other women, has long refused to call herself a lesbian and' as she told me, wished not to have her work involved with any text that' would categorize her writing as either lesbian. in content or as authored by a les bian, In the other instance, the wordgay in the title gave pause to the executors of the estate of Severo Sarduy, the marvelous Cuban writer whose work I have long admired for, among other things, its formidable experimentation with form and content. I wished very much to include his work here, and would have done so but for objections raised by those who, now overseeing his work, did not wish any of it to be associated with a gay volume. Such objections - by the woman writer mentioned, and others - are real, enduring, and, for an editor working on a project like this one, both painful and fmstrating, even enraging; yet the very powerful unwillingness of some people to be associated with anything lesbian, gay, or "queer" illustrates dramatically and often sadly the very great need for this book. If it is impossible to know how many people might steer clear of this collection because of its subject matter, we know that it is Simultaneously possible to dream, in the most lustrous colors imaginable, of all those who will be drawn to these pages precisely because a/their contents." Such dreams bring great pleasure. All pitfalls and initial concerns considered, I am finally very pleased with the


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title, and especially with its claiming of tile Caribbean as "our" place - for in whichever Caribbean we originate (including those we ourselves invent, reinvent, and re-imagine}, it all remains ours, irrespective of what those who would rather pretend that we do not exist or who actually would wish us harm have to say.


It is a great pleasure to present this book to readers - readers everywhere and, I hope, as many in the Caribbean and of Caribbean background as possible, . For all of us, wher~er we may be and however we may ultimately decide to identify ourselves and pursue our lives, an ending of silences and invisibilities begins here. In the pages that follow, the conversations that began long ago in imagining and desire continue. For as you surely know, and as I have learned and am still learning, the coming together that is this one, and others like it, widens, deepens, and - as far as I can see - has no end.

No end, like the sea: that sea not far from which this all began. Its water still stretches a broad, restless belly out to the sky; just now, the sun meets it, gently wetting first its chin in those waves, then its wide brow; palms flanking the shore murmur as seabirds dip, scolding but more weary at the day's end; cane stalks rustle in the breeze, insects 'wither, and the evening's peepers commence their choral chants. The water continues to gaze calmly, as it has always enjoyed doing, at the light-speclded shorelines suddenly retreating beneath dusk's guiet step. Quite soon the moon, lumbering up over those hills in the east, will have something to say about all this. But for now, over all that glistening water and beneath it, gathered voices are rising. Rising as they call Now) as they call Here. As they utter, so softly, Listen.

THOMAS GLAVE Kingston, Jamaica June, 2006


1 By "ext~eme violence" I refer to the violence and rage enacted against same-

gendcr-intercsred people in a place which I know well vividl e b d

. . ' y r mem er, an to

~l~ch I continue to re~rn: Jamaica. As an additional note against me cruelty and

indlfference of .forgettlllg, coupled with me desire to avoid demonizing any locale, I also wish to make clear that extreme violence continues to be Visited upon same-gender-interested people throughout the entire world, including nations w hose populations consider themselves "first world" and "developed."

2 '~The dream of a common language" comes from Adrienne Rich's poen-y collection of the s~e title; "no language ... can ever be neutral" borrows, in paraphrase, from Dionne Brand's poetry collection No Language is Neutral.

3 As I acknowledge the joy that this aniliology's publication brings me and the pl~asure I know it will bring others, I also wish to state here my deep regret in not bemg able, for a variety of reasons, to include so many other writers' work that really should have appeared here, and which will perhaps loom in future an-

thologies that will continue the critical work this collection has begun F .

, . oremost

among those authors is the magnificent Cuban novelist Jose Lezama Lima with-

out question one of me Caribbean's and Latin America's ~ and the wo;ld'sgreatest literary artists. His novel Paradiso remains a supreme masterpiece a .

. I db h ' P

propnate y revere y t ose fortunate enough to have encountered it. In spite of

Ius absence here, I would like to think that Lezama Lima's to .

. . wenng presence-

me fierce lDtelltgence, style, and precision manifest in all his work ~ moves through this book, even if his actual prose does not.


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