Bocas Lit Fest

by Barbara Jenkins

I’ve come back home after a September spent in the UK to discover that NALIS and Bocas, supported by the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, have organised nine established reading groups in South & East Trinidad and Windward & Leeward Tobago to read Sic Transit Wagon. Fuh true? I ask. Yes, Bocas tells me. Each group is to arrange a date for the next meeting when the writer, yours truly, will be present to read and discuss and chat and generally love-up reading as a pleasurable and rewarding activity. Yes! Sic Transit Wagon is on tour!

Since the schedule seems to be a roll call of places where lotto winners live – Arima, San Fernando, Princes Town, Debe, Sangre Grande, Point Fortin, Charlotteville, Scarborough and Mayaro – I, who don’t usually buy lotto, am determined that, as I was being magicked to lucky locations, I should make use of the opportunity to try my fortune at five dollars a throw. But as luck would have it, while I’ve forgotten to do so everywhere except Point Fortin, I did strike lucky in one very singular way, and that is, in spending a few precious hours each trip with some of the nicest people in T&T – ardent readers.

Due at the Arima Library at five in the afternoon, our four paranderos set out from the Bocas office in St Clair, Port of Spain, at two fifteen. We are: Funso, hype man and driver; Shivanee, camera and recording; Marielle, production; and me, vocals. We arrive at the dot of five and pass through the children’s library –  beautifully Halloween themed, cobwebs trailing across the ceiling, jack-o-lanterns, and witches’ hats – to the room where the reading group is awaiting us.

Heavy rain and a rival TARP event have conspired to reduce numbers but enthusiasm is not dimmed. The Bocas Reading Group at the Arima Library has read STW and members are anxious to talk about the stories. We chat and discuss for about an hour about a wide range of issues that STW raised. Are the characters real people? They want to know. Do you know anybody like them? Yes. Well, then, they are real. Why that title? Long story involving the name of the original MFA manuscript, Peepal Tree’s opinion, the Latin tag, sic transit gloria mundi, and its relevance to the collection. I read an excerpt from “It’s Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”. Still chatting, we enjoy the refreshments that Marielle has so thoughtfully prepared and brought with her. A quick clearing up, many thank yous to our hosts and to the patient security guard who has waited for us to finish so that the library could be closed at the end of the day, and we step out into a starry, freshly rain washed Arima night.

All photos by Shivanee Ramlochan.

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