Esther Phillips

What is the first thing you wrote?

I remember the earliest poem I wrote was published in the Bim magazine around 1959. A love poem (naturally) beginning, “This time you’ve left no stone unturned/no shadows wherein I may build my dreams…

I don’t remember the rest. I don’t remember writing poems before then, but I must have tried.


Who do you write for?

I write for all people who love poetry. But I am always mindful of the fact that my immediate readers are Caribbean people who know and understand the social and cultural references, and who are familiar with the natural landscape of our islands.


What was the first Caribbean book you read?

I believe that Naipaul’s novel, A House for Mr. Biswas, was the first C’bbean book I read.


How many Caribbean writers from the 1940s and 50s could you name?

Do you mean born during that time or still writing at that time? Edward Baugh, Mervyn Morris, Lorna Goodison, Austin Clarke, Edgar Mittelholzer, V. S. Naipaul, George Lamming, Kamau Brathwaite, Frank Collymore, Karl Sealy.


How many women?

None.


Which writer do you wish you knew about?

Una Marson.


What is the earliest piece of Caribbean writing you have read?

I don’t remember.


Does the Caribbean’s literary past matter to you?

The Caribbean’s literary past certainly matters to me. I am aware of some of the obstacles they would have encountered as they dared to see themselves as writers. It is also useful to compare those times with the present and to evaluate the ways in which black or Caribbean publishing has or has not become significantly easier. There is also the question as to how wide an audience it reaches even now.


Who are our most important writers today?

I assume you mean the Caribbean writers: Kwame Dawes, Kei Miller, Lawrence Scott, Jacob Ross, Dionne Brand, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Kendel Hippolyte, Robert Lee, Vladimir Lucien, Danielle Boodoo Fortuné, Karen Lord, Anthony Kellman.


What are you reading now?

I am re-reading Shakespeare’s King Lear. I am looking at what I call the “Heath experience” and attempting to draw some comparisons between Lear’s and the Biblical character, Job’s.