‘God Child', Eintou's new collection of stories and poems for children was recently launched at the audio-visual room of National Library in Port of Spain. The book was very warmly reviewed by Joan Osborne, Director of the Heritage Library Division, the Unit originally founded by Ms. Springer.
The collection includes the Christmas story, ‘Anansi and the Poinsettia Tree', which was adapted into a play by the author and performed at NAPA by the children of Morvant Anglican School during Christmas 2010. The content spans historical poems, Christmas and Carnival poems and stories, poems on the environment, Paramin, Queen's Park Savannah, as well as the well loved performance piece, ‘Survivor'.
Please enjoy Mrs. Osborne review in which she calls for the book to be incorporated into the school curriculum and used as part of the training programme for educators:
"I wish to congratulate Mrs. Springer for her unstinting commitment and perseverance in dedicating her life to engendering a sense of self in the Afro Trinidadian and Tobagonian by producing poems, stories and plays for all age groups.
As a storyteller I am always on the lookout for good material that is relevant to our children in our Caribbean space. Unfortunately there is a paucity of relevant material for our children so I truly treasure the good ones which have been produced by our Caribbean authors. I continue to be embarrassed when I go the children's library where I see only one shelf of Caribbean fiction books out of the eighteen shelves of fiction writing. When I move to the young adult section there is one spinner with about 60 fiction books from our Caribbean authors out of the thirteen shelves of fiction writing. I wish to congratulate Mrs. Springer for her unstinting commitment and perseverance in dedicating her life to engendering a sense of self in the Afro Trinidadian and Tobagonian by producing poems, stories and plays for all age groups.
There is a proverb which says that "Good things come in small packages. " God child is a small book only seventy (70) pages. When it was published twenty three (23) years ago it consisted of only fifty (56) pages so this new edition has been expanded to include additional stories and warm and colourful illustrations. However notwithstanding its size it is a powerful addition to the oral tradition which has now been committed to print. In this edition there are six (6) stories and fourteen (14) poems. Her love for children and her recognition of the need to present them with the sights, sound and images which are relevant to them and which are so critical for their development is evident in the stories as well as the poems, beginning with the poem Godchild:
"Who am I
I am God's child
put to catch the sun and rain
and grow and flower for a while. ………..
With every right to know LOVE"
All social studies programmes from primary school begin with who am I think that this poem is one which should be used in the classroom to begin that module.
I wear many hats; I am a librarian, teacher, storyteller, actress to name a few so I have been using Godchild both the stories and the poems for storytelling with both my pre -school and primary school children when I do storytelling at the library. As a storyteller I love to incorporate music, songs and dance in my stories and I have found that Godchild fits in beautifully because the stories are rich in music , sounds, and dance as a matter of fact the style was made for telling. In addition as an historian I find it rich in the history of the Caribbean and they have been put together in a very powerful creative way. I am a lecturer at COSTAATT. I facilitate the course Caribbeana which was developed by Mrs. Springer. I have found that the poems in Godchild are quite appropriate for the teaching of history particularly to adults who have never done history. Many of my library studies students who do the course Caribbeana have never done history , they do not have a clue about the history of the Caribbean or the literature. On the first day of the course I begin with reading of poetry to identify what poetry can tell us about ourselves as Caribbean people. And I begin with the poem God child Then I move to the poem The Caribbean Sea
" Sea ! real Sea!
Come swim with me. "
…. White sand
Warm on bare feet
Stretched the length of the tree-lined beach….
It's sea my sea
for centuries have known
such terrible stories
of great glory.
Pirates and Buccaneers……..
It has cradled the bodies
of Carib warriors
swimming, fighting losing their arrows…..
My sea moans over the bodies of slaves fed to sharks……..
This is sea real sea."
This poem in my view is a classic. It is timeless. It is full of contrasts which take you from the heights of joy of a wonderful day at the beach to the depths of pain and sorrow that the sea has witnessed.
It weighs on me every time I sail to Tobago and I stand on deck looking outward to the five islands, to the disappearing coastline in Chaguaramas; and when I go to the beach. My students have told me that they have begun to look at the sea in a different way since our first class. This poem could be used to teach the history of the Caribbean, social studies, geography.
The poem I want to know is another very effective piece which stimulates the discussion on the history of Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean by extension from 1492 weaving in aspects of the culture of steel band and calypso.
Survivor a poem of powerful imagery I consider a poem of hope that after all that African people have suffered they survived ….
"They make me a slave
a tree dig out from the roots but ah name survivor….
In these new lands the Caribbean I grow new roots and spread branch too
cause I name survivor"
I love the eight (8) short poems Paramin, Cane Ready to Harvest, Herons in flight, Hill Touches Cloud, Queens Park Savannah, San Fernando Hill, Fort George Tobago and Mt St Benedict which on the surface appears to give , like a camera snapshots of some of the beautiful scenery and sights of Trinidad and Tobago, but do not be fooled when you look deeper we see snapshots of the bitter sweet history which make up this twin island Republic.
"Chimes among the chives are sounds of mingled roots echoing facets of our history distilled in purity" When I read this poem I think about all the enslaved Africans who were able to escape enslavement by hiding in the caves in those very hills and those when freed were relegated to those hills because they could not get lands in the flat areas
"Hills watch savannah greens in movement from Peschier privacy to public property humming always with activity" When I read this poem my mind goes back to the French in Trinidad
[ SAN FERNANDO HILL]
" Stone cold rocks tell achingly of savage denudation from primal greens to nakedness….by uncaring chisel. Hill sacrificed." When I read this poem I think about the degradation of the environment
[ FORT GEORGE]
"Aged Sentinel buttressed by the spreading Samaan…… History's booted stories rests heavy on you." When I read this poem I think about the many wars the Europeans fought over Tobago.
Two stories are presented to the front of the collection and four after the poems. In all there are six (6) stories which represent a rich addition to the folklore of Trinidad and Tobago. Speaking to our traditions and culture. Many positive lessons and woven neatly and creatively into each one. Her love for children and her passion for nurturing a sense of identity are evident throughout this work. Tales dealing with deception, Honesty, forgiveness crafted to promote a high moral fibre in the youth is strong.
The story which I feel stands out as a classic is Anansi and the Poinsettia Tree.
It should be produced separately in a picture book for children. As a matter of fact the other stories are also strong and I would like to see all of them produced separately in a well illustrated form for children.
The stories are rich in the images of our flora such as the poinsettia, samaan trees, and the silk cotton tree; our sounds such parang, calypso; language such as patois showing our French influence; foods – such as toolum, sugar cake, sweet bread, pawpaw balls, guava jam, sorrel, ginger beer, pastelle, pigeon peas, corn, cassava pimentos, souse and black pudding, callaloo with crab, steam fish cassava dumpling, breadfruit steam with dasheen bush leaf and coconut milk and saltfish, our traditions and festivals.
I wish to recommend that Mrs. Springer should produce the recipe book for children and young adults from the delicious dishes she has described in some of the stories in this book. Through these stories one can see clearly a commitment to the preservation of our cultural traditions.
The stories and poems are grounded in sound and the sound is grounded in the rhythm of the drum beat and the people their laughter their joys and their pain and sorrow. It was joy to see the classic story Anasi and the Poinsettia tree performed as a full length dramatic piece by primary school children directed by Mrs. Springer in December 2010. When I saw the performance I said this story has places to go. This should be filmed and made available for all children.
This work is saying so much that I feel lot more could be done to expand it and package for different markets, perhaps the poems should be in one publication and the stories in another. The stories can all stand on their own and perhaps as I mentioned before made into separate picture books for children. Colouring books also. In the first edition it was stated that the book was for children and this edition the publisher has indicated that it is for young adults, so the process has begun but there is need to pay some attention to this.
It was the late Patricia Ismond who wrote that
"Eintou Springer is a poet in a quite different key, she shows a an equally strong level of artistic control. She is committed to radically revolutionary struggle- black and feminist causes, and cultural activism. Her power consists not in the themes and causes in themselves.
She achieves power because of the imaginative concentration- the fusion of intelligence and deep feeling- which gives reality to the faiths and passion she espouses." This is always evident in her work and this work is no exception.
Congratulations again on another fine achievement and I look forward to the other editions which will follow.
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