A report by YVONNE WEBB for Trinidad’s Newsday.
Dawad Phillip is a man who has worn many hats in his lifetime. Author, poet, journalist/editor with the Daily Challenge, New York, artist, calypso and steelband advocate, mas bandleader both here and abroad. At one time, not so long ago, he was advisor to the former Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Winston Gypsy Peters.
After living and working in Brooklyn for nearly four decades, Philip has since resettled in his hometown of San Fernando, where he has continued his passion for things cultural. He was instrumental in the genesis of Jazz on the San Fernando Hill and giving birth (with others) to We People Mas, an all-inclusive mas band in South with designs reminiscent of mas icon Peter Minshall.
Among his many accomplishments, Philip is first and foremost a poet and today he will launch his book of poems, A Mural by the Sea, at Theatre One, NAPA, Port of Spain. He will do it again, for his fans in the south, on Sunday at the Tradewinds Hotel, St Joseph Village.
Ahead of its launch, Earl Lovelace, award-winning author of The Dragon Can’t Dance, Salt and Is Just a Movie, gave a critical insight of Philip’s literary mind.
“What we get from Dawad Philip’s well-wrought poems, A Mural by The Sea, is the feel of villages and towns, as we used to know them, on their own, set apart from the continental bustle, Trinidad, not an old Trinidad, a substantial Trinidad starring real people, seamstresses and mas-makers and mas-players, dancers and singers in a love story that rescues for us those people who would have slipped away, but are snatched, held and brought back now to live again forever in all their beauty, the place alive with struggle and hope, calypso and mas and behind it all the quiet grief of loss, of love, of life,” Lovelace wrote.
The book has also received a warm review from acclaimed poet and novelist Ruth Miriam Garnett, whose literary collection includes, Laelia, a novel (Simon & Schuster/Atria 2004), Concerning Violence (Onegin 2012), and A Move Further South (Third World Press 1987).
“This new book by Dawad Philip, someone I have understood for three decades to be a master of the genre, recalls exquisitely what Gwen Brooks once termed ‘a heart hunger for poetry’,” Garnett wrote.
“In this instance, the assuaged heart hunger is my own. The cinematography of the collection will linger, implanting sensuous colour, heat, foliage and delineating a tribe. These are persons linked by the certainty of their rootedness, as much as by their understanding that the crystal stair is no less taxing than the wooden one. Mr Philip’s language is a force of nature. His engagement with life’s minutiae is both fixation and antidote. His is an awesome poetic footprint, caught up in the beauty of landscape, sound and the sanctity of each breath.”
The author of Invocations (1980), Philip’s poems have appeared in several anthologies including Steppingstones, Bomb, Caribbean and Voices. The poem Memories of the Chalkstone Years, first appeared in Bomb; Om, Quarter Moon and After-work at Our Place appeared in Poetry International (7/8 2003-2004); Sando Proper appeared in Voicing Our Vision Vol 1 and New World Language New Rain, Vol 10.
A 1990 recipient of New York State Fellowship on the Arts (poetry), Philip was one of five poets selected to represent Brooklyn in a Brooklyn-Leningrad Literary Exchange in the 1990s. He has performed his works in the Caribbean, US, Canada, Riga, Latvia, Moscow and St Petersburg, and selected poems have been translated into Russian by the former Leningrad Writers Union. Philip, who holds a Masters of Arts (Carnival Arts) degree from the University of Trinidad and Tobago, is still actively involved in TT Carnival and further afield as a costume designer and mas-maker.
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