“Shamelessly beautiful,” leading Bahamian writer publishes new book in St. Martin


The new edition of Guanahani, My Love by Bahamian poet Marion Bethel has just been published here by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP).

Bahamian history, culture, family, and Caribbean connections are explored critically and exposed creatively in the award-wining poetry collection, said HNP president Jacqueline Sample. Guanahani is the Amerindian name for The Bahamas.

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And in a Caribbean country that is uniquely more sea than land, "the water is shamelessly beautiful," writes Bethel in the poem "In the Shallow Seas."

Guyanese critic Petamber Persaud wrote in the book’s introduction that, "This phrase ‘shamelessly beautiful’ alone can market Bethel’s work. But there are other awesome turns of phrase like ‘rocks of accident,’ ‘bubbles of bonanza burst,’ (and) ‘where minds recoil and reason stammers’."

Bethel, a Cambridge-trained attorney in Nassau, is also a James Michener and Harvard University fellow. Her Guanahani poems are "entries into Caribbean magical realism" said Kamau Brathwaite, author and literature professor at New York University.

To Persuad "The influence of Bethel’s literary ancestors of the Caribbean" is found in Guanahani, My Love. "With the contextual mention of Caliban, for instance, Bethel is extending the discourse of Saint-John Perse, Brathwaite, and Walcott."

Contemporary themes such as foreign investment, tourism, junkanoo metaphors are featured in the handsomely designed book too. But according to Jacqueline Bishop, editor of the US literary journal Calabash, there are no lack of "Sensuous poems of honor and touching reverence."

"Guanahani, my Love is the metaphor for a place of more sea than land, of sugar and salt, ‘the Caribbean, a home’," said Yolanda Wood, director of Caribe Casa de las Américas, and readers everywhere are summoned to "share the profound mystery which blankets them all."

Bethel’s writings have appeared in Lignum Vitae, The Massachusetts Review, Callaloo, and The Caribbean Writer, From The Shallow Seas, and Moving Beyond Boundaries. She has recited her poetry in the Caribbean, South America, North America, Asia, and Europe.

In 1994, Bethel won the prestigious Casa de las Americas Prize for Guanahaní, Mi Amor y otros poemas, which was published in Cuba as a bilingual edition by Casa that same year.

The Bahamian author Dr. Christian Campbell said that the new edition of Guanahani, My Love is indeed a "Taino rebirth."

In 2009, this "first book of contemporary Bahamian poetry to receive critical acclaim, comes at a time of unprecedented excitement and productivity for Bahamian writers," said Dr. Campbell. Guanahani, my Love is at Van Dorp and Arnia’s bookstores and amazon.com.