Five Questions about Pamela Mordecai’s “de book of Mary”


Here are a two short excerpts from “Five Questions about de book of Mary with Pamela Mordecai,” published yesterday on Poéfrika—a fascinating read. I can’t believe I missed this book the first time around; now I feel compelled to find it. A new edition will be out in November 2015, published by Mawenzi House Publishers Ltd. [Many thanks to Loretta Collins Koblah for sharing the link.]

What made you decide to tackle a project as big as de book of Mary? The story of de book of Mary begins in 1993, with my writing de Man: a performance poem, which is a report of the crucifixion of Jesus by two by-standers that’s written entirely in Jamaican Creole. Sister Vision Press published it in Canada in 1995, and though it received excellent reviews, they were few. So it’s not been very well known, though that’s recently been changing. It occurred to me pretty quickly after writing de Man that I ought to write something in Jamaican Creole or patwa about Mary’s life. [. . .]

So what was your biggest challenge in writing de book of Mary? How to put the creole down on the page! I had choices. I could have used a standard orthography, like the Cassidy-LePage writing system, or the International Phonetic Alphabet. The problem with both of those systems is that they aren’t easy to read until you are familiar with them. I’m hoping for a big audience of creole speaking Caribbean people, but I hope for a big audience of English speakers too. So I decided to suggest what the creole sounds like rather than represent it faithfully. To that end, I’ve changed th’s to d’s (dem, dat, dey for them, that they) and some th’s to t’s in a few important contexts (thief to tief, thing to ting, so, for example, God is “De-One-Who-Run-tings!) In this way, I hope to convey the flavour of Jamaican patwa. [. . .]

Read the full interview at

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