Nicholas Laughlin's

Quick links: my blogsome of my reviews and essaysmy Flickr page

In brief:

I’m a writer and editor, born (6 May, 1975) and bred in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and still here.

I’m the editor of The Caribbean Review of Books (2004–present) and the arts and travel magazine Caribbean Beat (2003–2006, then 2012–present). I’m also a co-director of the contemporary arts space and network
Alice Yard, and programme director of the Bocas Lit Fest, an annual literary festival. My essays (often on Caribbean art and artists), reviews, etc. have been published in various books and periodicals. My book of poems The Strange Years of My Life was published in 2015.

Some notes to flesh out the above, in case anyone’s interested (last updated in January 2010, i.e. fairly out of date):

My professional career began when I was all of fifteen, when I started a holiday job at Sandpiper Ltd., probably the first desktop publishing firm in Trinidad and Tobago. At Sandpiper, under the guidance of my friend Mary Adam, I learned the rudiments of copy-editing and proofreading (as well as some basic design skills), I operated a big old Linotronic machine, and I was a keen assistant in the little bookshop, Folio Books, that occupied the ten-by-ten-foot room at the front of the office. Some years later, after reading English at the University of the West Indies at St. Augustine, I worked for a few months as a sub-editor at the Trinidad Guardian, and have had no desire to work at a newspaper ever since. I then found myself in the publications wing of a large advertising agency. When I’d had enough of that, I quit in order to head off and see the world, etc. I got as far as San Francisco before being summoned back to Trinidad to join the staff of 
Caribbean Beat. (I’d been a sort of freelance books editor for the magazine for a couple years before that.) In 2003 I was made editor of Caribbean Beat, and began working on a revival of The Caribbean Review of Books. (In its original incarnation the CRB was published in Jamaica and edited by the late Samuel B. Bandara.) The first issue of the new CRB appeared in May 2004. At the end of 2006, I started what was meant to be a sabbatical from Caribbean Beat in order to have more time for both the CRB and my own writing. A few months later, I’d decided on something more permanent than a sabbatical.

In the last few years, off and on, I’ve been working on a book about Guyana, tentatively titled “Imaginary Roads”.  When people ask what sort of book it is, I usually tell them if I knew that I’d be much closer to finishing it. I suppose it’s best described as a travel book, with elements of cultural history, autobiography, and maybe even fiction. My research was supported by the one-year Rex Nettleford Fellowship in Cultural Studies, which I was awarded by the Rhodes Trust in July 2007.

When I was an undergraduate at UWI, poking around in the library, I came across a series of essays written by C.L.R. James immediately after he left Trinidad for the United Kingdom, describing his first impressions of London. They were published in the Port of Spain Gazette in 1932 and then all but forgotten (only one of the essays was reprinted in book form). A few years later I edited and collected them in Letters from London (Prospect Press, 2003). In early 2007, I began working on a second major editorial project: a revised and expanded edition of V.S. Naipaul’s Letters Between a Father and Son, published by Picador in 2009. Thanks to this project, I visited the Naipaul archive at the University of Tulsa, where, apart from the correspondence files, I read part of the manuscript of The Enigma of Arrival.

In the last ten years I’ve written more book reviews, long and short, than I care to remember. They’ve been published in the Trinidad Guardian, the Trinidad and Tobago Review, Caribbean Beat, the Stabroek News, and the CRB. I’ve also  published profiles of writers, essays on various subjects, bits of reportage, and, more recently, pieces on contemporary art in the Caribbean. Choosing My Confessions is a sort of online anthology of all the above. I also write poems. I’m slightly shy about this, and if asked am likely to change to subject, but some of my poems have been published in magazines in the Caribbean and elsewhere; see here.

I started my personal weblog, blandly titled Nicholas Laughlin’s blog etc.
, in October 2002, as a sort of experiment that I suppose is still in progress. Back then I wrote: “I’m fascinated by the stream-of-consciousness possibilites of the blog form, though frankly I don’t expect many people will find my personal stream of consciousness particularly gripping.” Experience has shown that my expectations were more or less accurate. In early 2006 I began contributing as a volunteer author to Global Voices, the web-based non-profit that “aggregates, curates, and amplifies the global conversation online” by promoting the efforts of citizen journalists. You can see my GV contributions at my author’s page. At GV’s summits in Delhi in 2006, in Budapest in 2008, and in Santiago de Chile in 2010, I met several dozen of my impressive, accomplished colleagues and was freshly inspired by the do-good possibilities of the WWW. And I tweet. (So does the CRB.)
I was a member of the advisory team for Galvanize 2006, a six-week contemporary arts programme that ran in Port of Spain in September and October. About a year later, I joined the advisory team for
Alice Yard, a small but very lively contemporary arts space in the Woodbrook neighbourhood of west Port of Spain. I’m now a co-director of Alice Yard, along with architect Sean Leonard and artist Christopher Cozier. We’ve hosted an eclectic series of exhibitions, artists’ projects, performances, readings, screenings, and other events, with the support of a growing network of younger artists, designers, musicians, and others. Inspired in part by the creative ferment of Alice Yard, in late 2009, together with my writer friends Vahni Capildeo and Anu Lakhan, I launched Town, a modest journal of literature (mostly poetry) and art, published via broadsides posted in public places in Port of Spain as well as online; an experiment in low- (or no-) budget publishing.

I enjoy travelling and would spend more time on the road if I could afford it. You can read some of my occasional travel observations and meditations at Amours de Voyage, and at my Flickr page you can see photos of some recent trips. (Don’t miss the photoset from my mountain-climbing trip to Venezuela in March and April 2007.) What do I look like? Here’s a set of self-portraits. What do I sound like? I’ve recorded a few podcasts with my friend Georgia Popplewell at Caribbean Free Radio. You can listen to me interviewing Jamaican writer Kei Miller, describing a visit to Yeats’s grave in Drumcliff, Co. Sligo, and rambling through a “soundseeing” tour of Mt. St. Benedict. Afterwards you may agree with me that I have a face for radio and a voice for print.

I like Susan Sontag’s idea of the writer as someone interested in “everything”. When it comes to the game of foxes and hedgehogs, I am decidedly a fox. But I’m trying to develop more hedgehogly habits.

Finally: que sais-je?