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Jamaica, Jamaica 2017 > Kei Miller, "Augustown", "The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion", "The Last Warner Woman", "There Is An Anger That Moves" and more of his writing

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message 1: by Betty (last edited Feb 01, 2017 04:52PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments This is one of the first books of the Jamaica 2017 series. One might immediately wonder whether there is a 'Way to Zion' and how a 'Cartographer' or a Rastaman might get there. The vocabulary and themes are drawn from the Rastafari movement.


message 2: by Missy J (last edited Feb 02, 2017 04:08AM) (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments I will be late for this discussion. My library has ordered this book, but it hasn't arrived yet...

Yesterday I watched this video of Kei Miller and Marlon James at the Jaipur Literature Festival (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgr_s...) and Kei Miller reads a few pages from "The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion" (around 22:56 min). It sounds wonderful the way he reads it!!!

At the beginning of the video they define the terms "zion" and "babylon". I have heard of these terms in many reggae songs but wasn't fully aware what they meant until now.


message 3: by Melaslithos (new)

Melaslithos | 40 comments I absolutely loved this book.

First of all, I haven't read any poetry in a while, and it reminded me how much I liked it and that it was a pity I didn't read more of that.

Secondly, I loved how the poems can be read independently, and yet makes for one long story. And I found impressive how they thread and teached us the history of Jamaica and more especially the rastafarian movement, all in a very natural way.
One can just read the poems in one go, or stop on every small piece of information, do some research on it, and learn a lot.

All in all, that was a great way to start the year in Jamaica! Thanks for this selection!


message 4: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "...Yesterday I watched this video of Kei Miller and Marlon James at the Jaipur Literature Festival ..."

I enjoyed learning more about Miller and James through the video in your message. Yes, Miller begins with the definitions of Zion and Babylon, a theme through The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. In the finale, he adds some more about those places in reference to Africa. Miller's comments fill out more of his life story than I'd known. Thank you.


message 5: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Melaslithos wrote: "I absolutely loved this book..."

More poetry is forthcoming here from Jamaican writers during Jamaica 2017 and more from Miller. The next reading is a short novel of his.

This book of poems tells a story about how the cartographer and the rastaman differently decipher the landscape. Perhaps the cartographer finally becomes convinced of the rastaman's point of view by the end of their dialogue. Poems about the memory of a place or event mingle in the dialogue between the c & the r.

Thanks for the compliment.


message 6: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Among the the poems of Cartographer, one of my favorites is 'Hymn to the Birds'. Throughout it, Kei Miller mentions about nineteen kinds of birds.

Wanda sends a link to Matthew Sweet's recent BBC program about Jamaica and Caribbean Culture in which Miller is a guest in conversation. It has an illustration with the whereabouts and shape of Jamaica. With him, as another guest, is Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, author of Island People: The Caribbean and the World Island People The Caribbean and the World by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro . In that book, Jamaica is the focus of the first three chapters. Chapter 1 is devoted to the country's history and music (February 2017 is Reggae month.) Another guest in the conversation is Colin Grant, whose book is titled The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh, and Wailer The Natural Mystics Marley, Tosh, and Wailer by Colin Grant . The show is currently available for listening. The first twenty-two minutes (to the program break) features the discussion of Miller, Jelly-Schapiro, and Grant.


message 7: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments One of the poems "Quashie's Verse" is shaped like an urn, and the term 'Quashie' is a contemptuous term for someone as happens when Quashie's satisfactory measuring of words to fill an urn with text are quashed by outsiders' different measurement of locution.

The poem next after Quashie, "Unsettled", exemplifies how Miller further paints a picture of Jamaica through its variety of flora and fauna. That still being the early part of the poems, the cartographer doesn't yet notice the landscape in the same way.


message 8: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Asma wrote: "Among the the poems of Cartographer, one of my favorites is 'Hymn to the Birds'. Throughout it, Kei Miller mentions about nineteen kinds of birds.

Wanda sends a link to Matthew Sweet's recent BBC..."


Thank you Asma for the BBC program on Caribbean Culture link. A very interesting discussion, in which the participants agreed that the modern global economy was born in the Caribbean using slave labor.

They also talk aboutAlexander Bedward, a person I have never heard of before. Kei Miller believes that Alexander Bedward's influence was crucial for the formation of Rastafarianism.


message 9: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Thank you, Missy J, for putting forward those two points from Wanda's link to the BBC's "Caribbean Culture" -- first, Caribbean slavery as the birthplace of 'global' capitalism, and, second, Alexander Bedward's contribution to the beginnings of Rastafari. With regard to the first point, an article by Imani Duncan-Price from Kingston's The Gleaner looks to the Scandinavian model for a caring capitalist society; with regard to the second point, Jamaicans' esteem for Bedward catalyzed the founding of the religion Bedwardism (its followers Bedwardites), and Wikipedia's article about Bedward further says, "many of his followers became Garveyites and Rastafarians, bringing with them the experience of resisting the system and demanding changes of the colonial oppression and the white oppression." That last emphasizes what you and Miller noted.


message 10: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Near the end of this volume of poetry, poem xxvi says,
"You find your feet at last
straying off the marl roads, the bauxite roads, the slaving
roads and the marooning roads, and you would be
turning now onto the singing roads and the sweeting
roads that lift you up to such a place
as cannot be held on maps or charts, a place that does not
keep still at the end of paths."
The cartographer's mode of scientific precision confronting the rastaman's narration of historical significance not so obvious reaches its conclusion with the cartographer's desire in xxv to chart a course to Zion. Not so easy the places of 'Crosses' and of 'Turbulation' the rastaman replies,
"only when Jah decide you trod the distance he set out
for you to trod, with Ises in your mouth and cleanness
in your heart, only then, my bredda. Only then."
Perhaps, those two characters are Miller's own deliberations as a Jamaican from his nostalgic prospect in Scotland. The rastaman weaves story poems about Jamaican places and events there. "Half Way Tree", for example, describes a travellers' rest stop under a tall cotton tree, the site becoming Half Way Tree, capital of Saint Andrew's parish. It was present at the coming of British to the island and lasted until its natural death in the nineteenth century. Upon the tree's location is built a clock tower.

Another mention of historical Jamaica, in the same parish, is Devon House.
"her driver had just then turned

his face to Devon House,
a thing wet like pride in his eyes,
and nodding to himself, yes,
is Missa Stiebel build dat.
"--xi
In reading between the lines, Lady Musgrave's resentment of Stiebel's larger property gave rise to a circuitous road, which the cartographer would like to smooth. Besides the places of Half Way Tree and of Devon House, there are many more stories about Jamaican place names.


message 11: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments The Last Warner Woman The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller is a novel in four parts written by Kei Miller. In part 1, a main character is Adamine Bustamante, born and grown to womanhood in a Jamaican leper colony. Having heard a calling and reasoned through a biblical passage about leaving one's parents, she abandons the abandonned, as the narrative says, and pursued by remorse takes leave of her nurturers.


message 12: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma wrote: "The Last Warner Woman The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller is a novel in four parts written by Kei Miller. In part 1, a main character is Adamine Bustamante, born and grown to w..."

I do have access to this novel through my library system. Is this a scheduled read? Sorry I'm late to this thread but I moved on the 1st and am now coming up for air.


message 13: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Congratulations on your new home, Sue. Yes, The Last Warner Woman is current reading in the thread with Miller's The Cartographer.


message 14: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Asma wrote: "Congratulations on your new home, Sue. Yes, The Last Warner Woman is current reading in the thread with Miller's The Cartographer."

I will try to get to it soon and request it from the library.


message 15: by Betty (last edited Feb 13, 2017 03:52PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments In Part 2 of The Warner Woman, instances of 'magic' (voodoo) are introduced into the narrative. That occurs midway at "The Balmyard" chapter. After Adamine's departure from the leper community, she prophesies then becomes involved with the 'Band of Seventh Fire' as Mother Ada. The gardener Captain Lucas Gilles, its minister, is rumored to come from Haiti and is credited with restoring life to hopeless sick people.
"One rumor said he had come to Jamaica on a boat from Haiti. This was supposed to account for both the strength of his magic and the impenetrable silence he could sometimes slip into [...]".
Ada shows her ability with revival as well. Miller portrays in the narrative Gilles's and Ada's method, outfit, and effect. Zora Neale Hurston Zora Neale Hurston wrote about voodoo by way of her involvement with that religion in Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica Tell My Horse Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica by Zora Neale Hurston .


message 16: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Sue, the phrase 'warner woman' made me curious about its meaning. That is self-evident: to warn about future misfortunes and blessings.


message 17: by Missy J (last edited Feb 15, 2017 06:50PM) (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Just finished Part 1 and am enjoying this story. I wasn't able to join the discussion for Miller's poetry. Asma, how does Miller's poetry compare to his work of fiction?

So far, I find his prose very colorful and evocative. There are multiple voices speaking, so I'm reading the novel at a slower pace to get a firmer grasp of what's going on.

When I found out that the story was about a leper colony, my initial reaction was, will this novel be similar to Alan Brennert's Moloka'i, a historical fiction set in a leper colony in Hawaii. Fortunately the stories are very different and Kei Miller employed different narrative techniques. One of the things I find interesting so far is Adamine's relationship with "Mr. Writer Man" .


message 18: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Asma wrote: "Sue, the phrase 'warner woman' made me curious about its meaning. That is self-evident: to warn about future misfortunes and blessings."

True! At first I thought that "Warner" was the surname of somebody... but in fact it's about a woman who has the talent of "warning". Very clever book title!


message 19: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments That's interesting, Missy and Asma. I assumed Warner was a surname too but I really like this other option. I put in the request and hopefully will have the book by the weekend.


message 20: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "...how does Miller's poetry compare to his work of fiction?..Alan Brennert's Moloka'i..."

I like the story poem in The Cartographer. It's realistically detailed; at the same time cerebral in the dialogue between the mapmaker and the rastaman. Your request for a comparison of that work with this novel about Adamine and the Writer-Man I'll comment upon after further reading of Warner Woman. It's an excellent question, Missy J, and I look forward to considering those different genres by one author.

Thank you for recommending Brennert's novel.

I also like how Miller is an unreliable narrator at times, something I wouldn't know but that he gives the other storyline as well.


message 21: by Betty (last edited Feb 14, 2017 04:55PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Part 3 sees Adamine Bustamante, aka Pearline Portious-Dehaney, in England through the influence of Captain Gilles. Jamaican characters henceforth seem forgotten, and the narrative introduces English ones: the Writer Man, the husband Milton Dehaney, St. Osmund's matron Sylvia Lightbourne, its psychiatric nurse Julie Astwood, its gardener Bruce Young, and some fleeting vignette-like roles. Why is Writer Man interviewing Ada and the characters whom she encountered? Are Miller's bifurcated setting and cast of characters counterbalanced by echoes of Jamaica in Ada's birth and in her gift of prophecy?


message 22: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments I'm in the middle of Part 2 and Ada and Lucas are performing a ritual on a sick boy. I've never heard of the term "Revivalism" before and had to look it up. I found this interesting article:
REVIVALISM IN Jamaica evolved out of Myalism, another Afrocentric religion whose purpose was to rid the land of evil charms and to heal the spiritually and physically afflicted.

The emergence of Revivalism came in the 1860s with two different branches: 60 (1860) or Zion; and 61 (1861) or Pocomania.

Revivalists believe in the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), and they see no separation between the earthly and the spiritual realms.

As such, there is communion and communication between the living and the departed through the conduits of spiritual possessions, signs, dreams, and visions. Zion people call upon sky spirits such as archangels and angels, while Pocomania invokes earth spirits, such as fallen angels and water spirits.

Because of the spiritual nature of Revivalism, Revivalists use many artefactual symbols to represent elements of the religion. From their attention-grabbing attires, adorned with sundry paraphernalia, to the objects they use in their services and rituals, Revivalism is replete with symbols.
The article then goes on talking about the Revival "turban", "table" and "yard".

In the chapter "The Cry of the Warner Woman," Miller describes the Warner Woman wearing a red turban, which "is like a siren" (a symbol that people should pay attention to her warnings).


message 23: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Asma wrote: "In Part 2 of The Warner Woman, instances of 'magic' (voodoo) are introduced into the narrative. That occurs midway at "The Balmyard" chapter. After Adamine's departure from the leper community, she..."

Reading this novel makes me quite curious about Zora Neale Hurston's findings on voodoo in Jamaica and Haiti. Have you already read that book, Asma?


message 24: by Betty (last edited Feb 14, 2017 10:47PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "...the Warner Woman wearing a red turban, which "is like a siren" (a symbol that people should pay attention to her warnings)."

Thanks for the example of her outfit as I had remembered reading about it but had forgotten where. As for the word 'voodoo', which Hurston writes about in relation to Jamaica and Haiti, I wondered why Miller had used the word 'magic' and 'revival' as well as biblical quotes instead of Hurston's eye-catching word. If I correctly remember, the voodoo is more related to Haiti; while obeah is more Jamaican. The quotation about revivalism in your message, "to rid the land of evil charms and to heal the spiritually and physically afflicted", is exactly what happens during Gilles's and Mother Ada's healing of lost causes. Miller reveals how that's done through graphic scenes. Surprisingly, the healing is efficacious for the patients in this story.


message 25: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "...Zora Neale Hurston's findings on voodoo in Jamaica and Haiti..."

No, I have not read Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica. I obtained it on the possibility of reading it during this series. I'll peruse it further with the Jamaica itinerary in mind.


message 26: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Part 4 opens, reminding me of a poem by Emily Dickinson, "Tell All the Truth but Tell it Slant" [Poetry Foundation website]. The Writer Man tells several stories of folklore after his initial remark, "Maybe sometimes you have to tell a story crossways, because to tell it straight would ongly mean that it go straight by the person's ears who it intend for." Eventually, he tells it the way he sees it, "If I was to tell my story straight, the whole thing from start to finish, I would tell it like this." I gather from what Miller has stated in an interview, like the video currently on TWL's group page, that each person frames a unique narrative out of many possible, chaotic elements. A different writer would tell it differently.


message 27: by James (last edited Feb 16, 2017 03:21PM) (new)

James F | 123 comments As I got near the end of the novel, I suddenly realized that one of the things Miller is doing is giving a modern retelling of the classic 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. As in that work, the point of view alternates between the Jamaican (and female) perspective of the protagonist, and a British (and male) perspective of the events. The protagonist in both novels leaves Jamaica for England because of her marriage, and is locked up as insane, by or with the connivance of her husband. Both husbands pretend to be single. There is also the detail -- the clue that made me realize the similarity of the two books --of both being denied their own name for another name (Pearline, Bertha) which is actually the mother's name (I remembered this detail from a criticism of Wide Sargasso Sea which made a point of the colonialist's renaming native peoples and places -- which is also a point of contact with the Cartographer poems). Other similarities: the leper colony where Adamine grows up is destroyed and everyone dies; the same thing is true of Antoinette's home, and her retarded brother. We learn details of Bertha's later life from her nurse, Grace Poole; we get the details of Adamine's captivity from the nurse. The Last Warner Woman ends with Adamine on the balcony above the city, as Wide Sargasso Sea has its climax with Bertha on the roof of the mansion. And I think that Miller gives a clue or sort of footnote by having the only book other than the Bible mentioned in the novel be, not Wide Sargasso Sea itself, but the book to which it is a prequel, Jane Eyre.


message 28: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments The poem by Edward Baugh, which opens the epigraph, is found in Black Sand: New and Selected Poems Black Sand New and Selected Poems by Edward Baugh . He is the author of scholarly works and poetry and is an expert on Derek Walcott's writing.

The poem after Baugh is by Grace Nichols Grace Nichols . She reads it here. It's found in I Have Crossed an Ocean Selected Poems by Grace Nichols I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems.


message 29: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments James wrote: "...one of the things Miller is doing is giving a modern retelling of the classic 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. As in that work, the point o..."

James, fascinating parallels. I wonder whether Miller mentions the similar framework elsewhere. There is his mention of Jane Eyre that you point to. I am rereading The Warner Woman now. I wonder if the warner woman is a theme in Jamaican folklore like the Anansi spider.


message 30: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments James wrote: "As I got near the end of the novel, I suddenly realized that one of the things Miller is doing is giving a modern retelling of the classic 1966 novel Wide Sargasso Sea. As in that work, the point o..."

What a brilliant analysis, James! Your insight has really added to my reading experience (and even increased my appreciation of Wide Sargasso Sea).
I read Wide Sargassso Sea a couple of years ago, so my memory of it is a bit blurry and I didn’t think about it when I read The Last Warner Woman. But you have pointed out so many striking similarities and I think Kei Miller was most likely influenced by Jean Rhy’s work and was aiming to write from a post-colonial perspective.
Thank you so much for your thoughts!


message 31: by Missy J (last edited Feb 18, 2017 09:48PM) (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Asma wrote: "Why is Writer Man interviewing Ada and the characters whom she encountered? Are Miller's bifurcated setting and cast of characters counterbalanced by echoes of Jamaica in Ada's birth and in her gift of prophecy? "

I think Mr. Writer Man interviewing different characters (especially in Part 3) and Mother Ada is to emphasize the fact that a story can be told in multiple ways because people's experiences are different. So Mr. Writer Man is compiling these different voices to come as close as possible to the truth.

I'm still thinking about the second question.. :)

Wondering what do you make out of Miller's constant use of the phrase:

"An installment of a testimony spoken to the wind.
Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh"

I'm very perplexed by this. I finished the book yesterday and noticed that towards the end of the book the Matron says "Shhhh. Shhhh. Pearline, calm down, my dear. Calm down." in reference to Ada's request to see her own son, but I'm not sure if that is significant. To me, the "shhhh" sounds more like an interval between scenes.


message 32: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "I think Kei Miller was most likely influenced by Jean Rhy’s work and was aiming to write from a post-colonial perspective."

I think so. The Rhys connection to this story is coherent after having read James's comment about the shared features. One evidence for a post-colonial outlook is the separate consciousness of Jamaica and of England. Warner examines how Adamine's display during periods of making prophecies affects Jamaicans differently. The novel's latter half portrays how her same actions in England cast doubt on her sanity. That's one aspect of the diaspora. In looking back to piece together a story from Adamine and from those characters connected to her life, Miller as in Cartographer paints two points of view which may listen to each other but may never understand each other completely.


message 33: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "To me, the "shhhh" sounds more like an interval between scenes."

An interesting question and hypothesis, Missy J. The sounds seem to offer a pause for a deceleration of the drama, even a moment for reflection about what was just said or done signaled by the quieting finger to the lips. Sort of like, these events may be troubling but there is more to come, so the reader may remain open-minded to listen to the whole story.


message 34: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J, I came across another explanation for the 'shhh sounds'. Actually, the article http://www.academia.edu/12266437/The_... pointed to a place/s in the novel's text for clarification.

I won't divulge that right now...


message 35: by Missy J (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Asma wrote: "Missy J, I came across another explanation for the 'shhh sounds'. Actually, the article http://www.academia.edu/12266437/The_... pointed to a place/s in the novel's text..."

Thanks for the link Asma, a very enlightening article. Basically the 'shhh sound' is like you pointed out a quieting signal to the lips, reminding the reader to listen more carefully instead of just "reading along". As a reader, I found this very engaging and it did spark my attention.

The article also refers to Wide Sargasso Sea and its influence in Caribbean literature, presenting the dichotomy between the colonizer and the colonized.

"Miller’s invocation of the competing narratives brings the reader to question why one perspective should be privileged over the other. By the end of the novel, the reader/listener must understand that he/she is also responsible for these competing stories by the Writer Man and Adamine [...]"


message 36: by Betty (last edited Mar 04, 2017 11:44AM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Missy J wrote: "By the end of the novel, the reader/listener must understand that he/she is also responsible for these competing stories by the Writer Man and Adamine."

The statement by David W. Hart draws attention to the individualistic process of telling stories and interpreting them. Good point, Missy J.

To the listener, Adamine's narrative challenges the truthfulness of Writer Man's version:
"He is writing down my story as if that story was a snake--the snake from the garden--twisting, coiling, bending this way and that. But hear me now, if his words is a snake then mine is a mongoose chasing after him, a terror teeth that him will be scared of. I going to set the record right. I going to unbend the truth. So listen close.

Shhhhhhhhh

That sound is the wind, and this is what I going to write my story on. [...] Mother Lazarus used to tell me, careful or else the four winds will take it up like a kite that loss its owner, take it far, far [...] I going to stand here every night and talk my testimony, I ongly hope that the wind will take it up, and that you is somewhere in the world listening, cause if you read what I did read, that Once Upon A Time There Was a Leper Colony In Jamaica, then you need to understand something straight away: that is a make-up story, a lie from the pit of hell.

Shhhhhhhhh" [pp33-34].
Adamine's assertion of a truthful story uses the descriptive language of nature (the mongoose in pursuit of the snake; winds and snowflakes; urgent feelings to talk).


message 37: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments I like the way in which Miller makes up parables to look obliquely at the truths in his novels. Those are grouped together in "Part Four in which the story invents parables, and speaks a benediction, and then ends". There may be more ways to interpret them with regard to the novel's events and characters but I have sought to identify some of the parables with the principal story.

The parable with Anansi Spider seems to echo Adamine's entrance into England from Jamaica and her awkward reception there, in particular her manners, loudness, costume, and spinning.

The next one contrasts the spirit and the mind. The spirit always finds its way home; whereas the mind needs a map on its forehead in order to return home. That seems significant given that the latter half of this novel happens in a mental hospital.

In the parable about Eve and the snake, the nebulous circumstances by which Adamine becomes pregnant in the dark solitary by Satan (Bruce Young) seem more like a mythological struggle.

In another one, God and the gatekeeper with the keys Jack Mandora reach an impasse when the day's entrance list doesn't allow for God to enter. According to this article Mandora has the ability to turn disadvantage to his favor (in then his becoming the God). In the story, characters rise above their circumstances around them. The psychiatric nurse at St Osmund's, who carries an assortment of keys and can't convince the matron of a possible problem with the gardener and female patients, becomes the nurse doctor, and she'd chosen to pursue a career instead of marrying early like her sisters did; the indifferent, unhinged boy creates beautiful flower gardens; the matron rises out of her apathy to give Adamine a view of her school-age child after Adamine insists on it; and Adamine revives her faith and in doing so calls the shots for herself, canceling Milton's meddling and cruelty.

Finally, a flightless chicken becomes envious of flying birds. It wears their feathers, in place of its own ones, leaving it worse off. I wonder whether this is not a reference to Adamine's harder life in England than she'd had in Jamaica before her being part of a diaspora. Maybe the author also feels some nostalgia.

Besides those aforementioned parables written into the conclusion, the Writer Man in "Part Three in which others bear witness to the story" interviews several contacts of Adamine's English years, who could shed light on his mother. He seems to have reached an affinity with her as mother and son are both warners, "But things is different now. We take the pencils down from behind our ears and now we is writing."


message 38: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments I hope to begin this before the weekend. Interesting discussion from what I've read so far.


message 39: by Betty (last edited Mar 08, 2017 12:48AM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Sue, The Last Warner Woman is amazing and is graceful in narrating potentially horrific subjects (leprosy and insanity and the care given to those infirmities, for instance). The character's description of events keeps shifting. There's doubleness in setting, in voices, in character traits. With regard to the last, the characters aren't one-dimensional but at different times are villainous, neglectful, talented, and virtuous. There is sometimes a disconnect between how others see a character and how they can be surprised. Those surprises with Miller's narration inject humor as well.


message 40: by Betty (last edited Mar 09, 2017 08:27PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments The publication of our trio of Miller books goes backward from 2014, 2010, and 2007. Then, there's the recent appearance in 2017 of his third novel Augustown, a further read if you like his work. The books here in conversation (the poetry collections Cartographer and Anger; the novel Warner) reveal attitudes when cultures collide. In Cartographer, the mapmaker thinks that whatever can be named can be found and measured, whereas the rastaman's idea of a place has its own measurement in social relations in mapping a place which like Zion might not be a place but carries meaning for people who live in Jamaica. The difference of mind by the cartographer and the rastaman makes both interested in each other's view though neither completely understands the other man. The earlier work than Cartographer, about the Warner Woman, looks at how a Jamaican woman must suppress her nature and so lose her memory and self-esteem (somewhat like life lived under oppression). At critical moments in relation to Milton Dehaney and to Sylvia Longbourne, her spirited anger and assertiveness take a figurative leap in the dark. A final scene in Warner alludes to the fear of a literal leap in the dark, which, so unlike the bee episode with Mrs Young and her son Bruce, moves Writer Man's tenderness for his mother.

A current book under discussion, There Is an Anger that Moves, published several years earlier, addresses Jamaican culture and persons, memories of Jamaica when abroad, and social relations. The cover illustration on my reading edition is from a serigraph [EDIT: 'Block Party Ritual'] by Bernard Stanley Hoyes. In forty seconds of this video, Hoyes mentions his birth in a balmyard and his mother's being a spiritual healer there, a reminder of the warner woman and spiritual healer Mother Ada, who also is a healer in a balmyard along with Prophetess Herbert and Lucas Gilles.


message 41: by Sue (new)

Sue | 306 comments Thanks for all of this information, As a. Though I'm behind, I do want to read this. The book for the next read is waiting for me at the library too!


message 42: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Looking forward to your thoughts on this subject, Sue :)


message 43: by Missy J (last edited Mar 08, 2017 08:07PM) (new)

Missy J (missyj333) | 60 comments Asma wrote: "The publication of our trio of Miller books goes backward from 2014, 2010, and 2007. Then, there's the recent appearance in 2017 of his third novel Augustown, a further read if you ..."

Thank you Asma for mentioning Bernard Stanley Hoyes' name. My library only has The Last Warner Woman available, so I won't be able to participate in the poetry discussions. However, the book cover of There Is an Anger that Moves There Is an Anger that Moves by Kei Miller caught my eyes. I wanted to know the name of the artist behind this book cover. I love the colors and there's so much movement in the brush strokes. Definitely suits the title of the book :)

Prior to this book discussion, I've never heard of Kei Miller. Now I'm very keen to look into his latest novel Augustown and I'm seriously considering to purchase The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. A Big Thank You to this book club for expanding my literary horizons :)


message 44: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Thank you, Missy J. The illustration is part of Hoyes's 'Revival' series, from his memories of Jamaica during his youth. His visual art has been adapted into dance performances. The Last Warner Woman revolves around Adamine's experience as a revivalist and her difficulty at subduing its visceral expression to conform to the expectations of a different society.


message 45: by Betty (last edited Mar 09, 2017 10:18PM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Joey Connolly, the author of Long Pass, has a review which includes There Is an Anger that Moves. In the beginning three paragraphs of it, "Make us Dance or Christen us – an introduction to Kei Miller" he considers four poems from Miller's collection.

The one which opens the book, 'How we became the pirates', depicts an English speaker in a pub, disguising his true feelings with a cheery greeting to an English speaker from a once-colonized country (Jamaica). Some disquiet happens when their differences of speaking English arises, the latter being regarded as a 'pirate' of English language and poetry. (Who was the pirate in history?) The gist is that whatever poems written by the immigrant will stand up for as his own and not as English poetry.

In another poem 'Book of Genesis', the word Let appears several times, presumably referring to Genesis 1:3, "And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light." Speaking the word 'let' to create something, to make something come about by the expressing of that verb, is endlessly drawn out by the poet "until even silent dreams had been allowed."

Another reference in Connolly's review is to ‘An allowance for Ula-May'. Instead of piling 'let' after 'let', this poem, presumably speaking of Miller's great-grandmother, focuses on just the opposite, i.e., the absence of 'let', "She believed only in laws that forbade, / none that allowed, so she did-not / more than she ever did." There is the notion of language to catalyze an effect; in Ula-May's context, the absence of let stymies the unfolding of an action. The poet's voice tells her that her rules from a book of a previous time are not the contemporary ones, thus allowing her to dance in the movements and costumes as depicted on the Hoyes book cover.

The last reference is to 'Tangent c'. After a hurricane surprisingly takes off with a woman's house without harming her (she had lit candles as was her religious belief), her belief remains unwavering. The tangent here may be when faith and spirituality meet an instance of nature neither further interferes with the other (a line touching a circle).

Connolly's review continues with comments about Miller's poems A Light Song of Light A Light Song of Light by Kei Miller and about the previously read The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion by Kei Miller .


message 46: by Betty (last edited Mar 12, 2017 03:25AM) (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments An article in "Poetry International Rotterdam" (2015) by Katy Evans-Bush enumerates the sections of There Is An Anger That Moves:
'In This New Country'
'The Broken (I)'
'Tongues and Prophecies'
'The Broken (II)'
'Testament'
'There Is An Anger That Moves'
Two statements of hers stand out about this collection. First, it's
"a representative sample of Miller’s work, as it encapsulates both the sense of belonging (“in my country”) and the alienation; it addresses the need for pretence, and the wish to write honestly, at the same time as writing honestly."
She points to the 'honestly' part in the poem 'II' in which Miller enumerates the subjects on which he would poetize -- physical bodies, homophobia, degenerative disease -- that part in himself seeking a voice.

Second, she says,
"As well as language, Miller’s work is about people and place and, really, about love. He writes gorgeously about women, especially older women, grandmothers. His work brims with empathy and humanness of the most intelligent kind."
The collection has many examples of affection for women. One is the following, 'In praise of the contribution of pots', in which a Florence Bygrave donates her iron cooking pots to be refashioned into tanks.
"And all the boys
who drove thought they were dreaming
when the smell of simmering onions would arise, the sweet morning
aroma of pork sausages. You gave
those boys not only walls, but the metallic fact
of a mother's kitchen calling them home."
In the poem after, 'Hurricane story 2004', a woman wanting to paint sends her children off, divorces her husband, and finds happiness. A hurricane then drenches her paintings and divorce papers, and it's unclear to the poem's voice whether her dampened face is laughter or tears. He marvels at her response without definitively imprinting it. In 'V', 'love' is necessary for 'healing'.
"Love is how our skin breaks against each other,
we bleed into each other, how we heal."
In "Meet Kei Miller (Scroll.in 2016), Shreya Ila Anasuya interviews Miller who says,
"We won’t ever become completely wonderful people with no bad aspects to ourselves, but I believe in honesty."
As above in Evans-Bush, Miller strives for 'honesty', sniffing out 'bias' in himself and in cultural values.

It seems to me that Miller is thoughtful in perceiving himself and the alien culture, an approach honed by thought and experience. In the early poetry collection, There Is An Anger That Moves, he's descriptive and sometimes entertaining, yet restless in Jamaica and uneasy in Britain. In later works like The Last Warner Woman and The Cartographer Maps a Way to Zion he honestly copes with differences with aplomb, humor and solicitude, lifting the humanity out of the confounding mud without clinging to bitterness.

Valerie Duff's article "Mapping Kei Miller’s Zion"" in the journal "The Critical Flame" (2015), notes how The Cartographer subjugates 'anger' through attempts at mutual understanding as the rastaman and mapmaker discover their dissimilar world view. She says
"Miller’s work is less polarizing than that of some other poets of the late British empire. The voices of Irish poet Brendan Kennelly’s Buffún and Oliver Cromwell come to mind. Kennelly’s verse especially contains a deep and abiding anger against the English conquerors that’s wholly missing from Miller’s work. While he doesn’t avoid the issue of colonial legacy by any means, Miller approaches it more playfully—albeit with a sharp final message."
Indeed, in The Cartographer's poem 'Orcabessa', the punch line at the end indicates diffferent values for Jamaica than those hoped for by the explorers in quest of gold. Miller himself reads 'Orcabessa' here.


message 47: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments To me, an interesting comment Miller makes in this video clip is that none of his poems are narratives, with specific mention of the story-like The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion. Oh my, I might have unknowingly used 'narrative' in reference to The Cartographer!

Also in it is a summarization of Miller's themes,
"Recurring themes in his work include the experiences of the Caribbean diaspora, psychic fragmentation, and Caribbean forms of spirituality. Also running through his work is a philosophical exploration of language, including both oral and written forms."
Nice that that's not sprawling but is so succinct. It reiterates our experiences with Miller. The Last Warner Woman covers most or all of those themes.

A Light Song of Light, later poems which are not part of this series here, may be worth a try. Miller reads aloud from that collection as well as from The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, There Is An Anger That Moves, and The Last Warner Woman here.


message 48: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments Miller published a collection of previously published essays, titling the whole Writing Down the Vision: Essays & Prophecies Writing Down the Vision Essays Prophecies by Kei Miller . By reading them, one can learn more about his life, about his entrance into writing and his keeping effigies of elephants for luck, about his feelings during a reading and his affect on audience participants, about the 'transgressive sexual behavior' in some Jamaican spiritual belief and the vicious denunciation of that behavior in conventional life.

There also is an unpublished interview, since then humorously annotated, which appears in this book. He's questioned via a conference conducted by email. The two interviewers are literary women from Nigeria (Gloria) and Canada (Irene). Besides the text of the question and answers, the annotation describes Miller's feelings towards each interviewer's questions. In particular, the subject of the interview is Miller's early poetry books "Kingdom of Empty Bellies", our featured "There Is an Anger that Moves There Is an Anger that Moves by Kei Miller , and a bit about the later collection A Light Song of Light A Light Song of Light by Kei Miller .

In another essay, he examines the topic of Dub Poetry, which came into being with the Jamaican diaspora to England and elsewhere from, possibly, 1970-2000. Emigrants in their new homeland kept intact the kind of life, food, music, clothing, and poetry with which had been familiar in Jamaica.

In an essay about his 'performance art', Miller remembers how he and audiences utilized the 'spaces' between poems for reciprocal connection through voice or gesture.

Those are some of the essays' themes.


message 49: by Betty (new)

Betty Asma (everydayabook) | 3614 comments We are reading and discussing another book by Kei Miller, that being Augustown. His stories and poems prove entertaining reading with something profound left for consideration, as he juxtaposes opposing beliefs. Sometimes, the light-hearted moments of his characters and the magic realism of plot are ways of seeing and coping; while to the reader and narrator, omniscience may portend something more sinister in the environment.


message 50: by James (new)

James F | 123 comments I'll start with my review as usual.

A story that takes place in two times: the present is April 11, 1982, in the Kingston neighborhood of Augustown; the past, presented as a story (merging into a flashback) is December, 1920, when Augustown (a slightly modified version of August Town) was still a separate village far from the city. In the present, we have the Jamaica we have met in Marlon James' A Brief History of Seven Killings, filled with senseless hatred and violence; in the past, under British rule, we have the story of "the flying preacher", Alexander Bedward, the founder of Bedwardism (a somewhat mythical retelling of an actual historical event). Miller says in the book itself, "Look, this isn't magical realism. This is not another story about superstitious island people and their primitive beliefs. No. You don't get off that easy. This is a story about people as real as you are . . ." Of course it is magical realism, but the label is not important; the story of the historic Bedward, true or false or partly both, is a metaphor, or more than a metaphor, for the history of the island and its Black population, which reinforces the modern story of real and symbolic oppression -- or to use the great Rasta word, "downpression".

There are similarities to A Brief History -- this book is also supposedly narrated by a dead person, names are slightly changed from real people and places; and one of the main characters, "Soft-Paws", has the real name Marlon (a kind of footnote, such as I argued in my review that he used in The Last Warner Woman). Another possible literary allusion is that the first time Bedward floats, he is wrapped in the bedsheets -- a possible allusion to the famous floating away with the laundry scene in Garcia Marquez' Cien años de soledad. Miller's style, however, is entirely his own.


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