Marching On

On March 17, 2016 we are hosting the second of the double book launches of “Episodes in My Life: the Autobiography of Jan Carew” and the poetry collection “Return to the Streets” in Jan Carew’s home country of Guyana, South America. The festivities at the Moray House in Georgetown (7-9 PM) look to be as warm and welcoming as the London book launch in November 2015 when the books were first buoyantly sent off. See the wonderful review of the two books from the Morning Star, online on our homepage.

These are some of the last projects upon which Jan was working when he passed and join a growing posthumous Carew collection. These three plus years since Jan Carew passed in December 2012 have been remarkably productive with the appearance not only of these two works, but also volume I of Jan’s memoirs: “Potaro Dreams: My Youth in Guyana” (2014), and his novella for young adults, “The Riverman” (2015). (See Books section for more details.)

Though Jan was born in Guyana (then British Guiana) in 1920, he spent most of his life abroad: in Europe, in Africa, in other parts of the Caribbean, and then in North America. His periodic returns home, some of which he recounted in his autobiography “Episodes,” marked both hopeful arrivals, and bittersweet decisions to go abroad again. Many of these returns also featured meetings with Cheddi Jagan– from his first return from college and meeting the young Cheddi Jagan in the late 1940s; to an early 1960s return and plans to work as Director of Culture under the Jagan government; to his last visit in 1994. Now, President Cheddi Jagan, who had been re-elected two years before, was welcoming Jan as the President of the Association of Caribbean Studies (ACS).

Jan Carew with Cheddi Jagan President of Guyana 1994

Jan’s poems, too, as seen in this newest collection, “Return the Streets of Eternity,” clearly demonstrate that Guyana was never far away from Jan’s heart and mind. And, as much as many pieces reflect on persons, places and events in the larger global community Jan inhabited, many poems also cast a fond eye on Guyana, its beauty and challenges.

In “Tapawatara,” he muses in part:

Drowned flowers
under the running tides
peering out of amber depths
with purple eyes
defying cataracts
adamantine rocks
at Tapawatara

in the moonlight
I hear you
and I’m tempted to answer

And, in “Exile (Toronto),” he writes in part:

November was a dreaming month
when the monotonies of wide blue skies
brought to each day an insane ease.
The sunwheel danced around
eyeless sunflowers, yellow daisies,
flambeaux with stamens like parched tongues
purple anemones and bumble bees
leeching pollen from chaliced flowers
November was the month
when sea-drums echoed in my blood again