Celebrating Wayne Brown


A report by MARSHELLE HASELEY for Trinidad’s Newsday.

THE NGC BOCAS Lit Fest honoured the late TT poet, fiction-writer, editor and mentor, Wayne Brown on Friday, when a panel including one of his daughters, filmmaker Mariel Brown, discussed his literary legacy and personal impact.

He was a man who faced tragic realities in his early life, as his mother died during childbirth, and his stepmother died when he was 10.

Panellist, writer and journalist Lisa Allen-Agostini read one of her most meaningful conversations with Brown, which unfolded via e-mail. It was about a piece she was working on, and effectively portrayed Brown as a detail-oriented mentor and warm friend.

Jamaican poet, novelist, essayist, blogger, and winner of the 2017 OCM Bocas Prize Kei Miller was also on the panel. Miller said he was an unofficial mentee of Brown, who he said was a protégé of Derek Walcott.

In remembering Brown, at the National Library, Port of Spain, he said, “He was deeply passionate. He was fascinated by Anthony ‘Tony’ McNeill, and in his fascination, a lot of his writings were responses to other writers,”

Miller said Brown was technically the most sophisticated poet of his era, and the supplement he created in the Jamaica Observer created space for a new generation of Jamaican writers, a space for which Miller said he is eternally grateful.

Writer and editor, Anu Lakhan, who moderated the panel discussion, did a reading of Cat by Brown. She said he was a man who lived enormously, and worked in that way – as if to fit the whole world in a sentence.

Lakhan said the birth of Unfinished Sentences, a film by Mariel Brown, was the most fitting tribute. She said Mariel followed in the creative footsteps of her father by creating a work of art “filled with love and raw nerve endings,”

Poet & filmmaker: Poet Kei Miller and filmmaker Mariel Brown at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest last Friday where the work of her father, writer and editor Wayne Brown, National Library, Port of Spain

Mariel said during the time when her father would have done most of his writing, and even now, the genius dwelling within the Caribbean is yet to be known by the rest of the world. She said, “When people think of the Caribbean they think of palm trees, beaches, athletes and crime. They do not think of a place of intellectual rigour, thoughtfulness or profound nuances.

“So if you are a person presenting a picture of this place you know and love so well, that is nuanced, layered and complex, it is very hard to find a market.

“I think he was a generation too early, before Facebook and Instagram.”

The panel, all of whom were profoundly affected by Brown, collectively said he mentored and affected the lives of many – and loved it. He was a man with unending curiosity, who would modify his poetry even 40 years after writing it. They said Brown allowed them to process the world through his column in Jamaican and TT newspapers, In Our Time.

Mariel gave some insight into the man behind the art telling Sunday Newsday of her fondest memories of her father.

“We loved movies, he was a movie-lover. We went to the cinema to watch a lot of films together.

“But throughout our time together, it would have to be sailing. We loved sailing. The sea and sailing was something that brought us together. Even in Jamaica we would sail from Kingston harbour out to Lime Cay.

“It was the thing he was happiest doing, and it was something my sister and I were happiest doing with him.”

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