The festivals are back. The U.S. Virgin Islands Literary Festival and Book Fair and Trinidad and Tobago’s Bocas Lit Fest returned to in-person programming in April. The Calabash International Literary Festival returned to Treasure Beach, Jamaica, in May. And a few days after this issue is published, the B.V.I Lit Fest shall be in full swing in its third edition. The guava season endured by littérateurs who are nourished and sustained, year after year, by these vibrant gatherings is over. Good riddance covid-19.

Festivals are places where all sorts of people come together, including critics and artists. Such encounters are, naturally, fraught with peril (writers of book reviews will know that sinking feeling that occurs when they are approached by an irate author who has taken umbrage to a single sentence in an otherwise glowing review) but these encounters are largely rewarding. Consider how many critics might come away with a newfound appreciation of a particular poet or author after hearing them bring their words to life before an audience instead of by just reading them on a page. Or imagine the sparks that often go off in a writer’s head when a critic shares a unique insight or lays bare some problem of analysis with which she has been grappling.

Of course, the separation between critic and artist is an artificial one. And by this, I refer to more than just the fact that criticism is an art and art can, through ekphrasis, be criticism. I refer to the reality that most writers, at some stage or another, end up being critics. In fact, writing book reviews has been a bread and butter staple of what it means to earn one’s living from writing since time immemorial. Much ink has been spilt on that beast known as the poet-critic. This collapsing of the distinction between the critic and the artist is even more so in a small space such as the Caribbean.

This issue is dedicated, largely, to the idea that, increasingly, the people who review Caribbean literary output are the ones who produce it. Put another way: the Caribbean has a long, rich tradition of the critic and artist being interchangeable. I asked the reviewers in this issue to send me creative work. The results were gratifying. Sharon Millar, who here reviews Kenneth Ramchand’s recent essay collection, submitted new fiction, her first published in almost half a decade. Multi-hyphenate Sharda Patasar, who meditates on the writing of the poet and musician Ruth Osman, produced a poem. Book reviewer Rol-J Williams, too, gifted me with poetry.

Of course, because of the smallness of the Caribbean space, it is inevitable that writers will know one another, just as many will also be aware of those working within the space of literary criticism. Much potential for bacchanal arises from such conflicts of interest but not so much that they cannot be managed by the usual safeguard of full disclosure. Transparency allows the reader to put what weight they may wish onto the views of such an artist-as-critic, while nonetheless allowing readers unique insight into things that only someone close to an author might know. I think, here, of the famous critic Roger Ebert’s long friendship with Martin Scorsese and the ways that access enhanced his insight. Such is the case in this issue with Caroline Mackenzie’s belter of a review of her friend Breanne Mc Ivor’s debut novel The God of Good Looks. As stated in a new section of the magazine entitled ‘On Our Reading Radar’, in which we preview brand new releases and upcoming reviews, Mc Ivor will herself review the work of another Trinidadian novelist of note in an upcoming issue. Stay tuned.

This issue features the winner of the 2023 BCLF Elizabeth Nunez Award for Writers in the Caribbean, published in partnership with the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival, another literary festival that has returned to in-person events with a bang, doing so in September with a line-up that included Jonathan Escoffrey, who has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Kevin Jared Hosein, Roland Watson Grant and more. Meanwhile, I’d like to take the opportunity to offer congratulations to Moko alum Jason Allen-Paisant, who was recently awarded the Forward Prize for Best Collection for his book Self-Portrait as Othello, some poems of which were first published in this magazine. Congratulations are also due to Sharda Patasar, who was recently named an independent senator in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament. Finally, I am grateful to Joy Luk Pat for supplying art to this issue. Joy’s art seems to be itself an emblem of the fact that she straddles several different roles and worlds, and is as such a fitting addition to this issue.

–Andre Bagoo, Managing Editor


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