The Caribbean literary world was plunged into mourning yesterday with the news that Trinidad-born distinguished writer, poet and former Express columnist Wayne Brown had died at his home in Stony Hill, Jamaica. He was 65.
For over two decades, Brown had combined techniques of fiction and prose, writing of uncanny clarity and perception into a weekly column titled "In Our Time" in the Daily Express. It was a style that inspired and spawned a new generation of writers. It was this same journalistic insight that led him to begin in February 2008, in the Sunday Express, a column on Barack Obama's campaign for the White House. After Obama's inauguration, the column was titled "In The Obama Era", the last appearing on June 21, 2009.
Asked for a comment yesterday, columnist BC Pires said the late writer had been a mentor and friend and a huge influence on his own work, which could not have existed without Brown's inspiration. He described the loss as being "too big to comprehend".
His good friend of many years, Trinidad Theatre Workshop actor Nigel Scott, said Brown discovered he had lung cancer late last year.
In a statement issued to the Express yesterday, Scott said: "He was given six months to live but made it for nine months, during which time he had two radiotherapy treatment sessions. Wayne had a chance to prepare himself and his children, Mariel and Saffrey, for his passing; he slipped into a coma two days ago and died peacefully at his Stony Hill home in Jamaica. Some of his close friends from Trinidad and around the world have visited over the past few months saying their goodbyes. His influence spanned the Caribbean, and many of his students who have published works are eternally grateful for his teachings."
Scott said his wife, Minnie, and himself visited Brown in April of this year, and "he looked great then" and was able to sail his yacht a couple weeks ago.
Scott also spoke of the generation of writers inspired by Brown, including two recently-published works, Raymond Ramcharitar's The Island Quintet and Amanda Smyth's Black Rock.
"Both writers in their foreword acknowledged his influence on their work, going so far as to say it could not exist without him," Scott said.
Speaking from Jamaica yesterday, Brown's daughter, Mariel, whose documentary film, The Solitary Alchemist, is currently being shown in the 2009 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, said a private memorial for family and very close friends would be held for her father this weekend in Jamaica. Brown is being cremated in Jamaica this week.
Brown won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1973 for his first collection On the Coast. He held various fellowships at universities in Britain and the US and taught and lectured at secondary and tertiary level in English and Creative Writing in the US, Trinidad and Jamaica. He also wrote two biographies on the late Jamaican sculptor Edna Manley. Brown emigrated to Jamaica in 1997 where in addition to teaching, he edited the literary supplement for the Jamaica Observer.
He leaves to mourn his daughters, Mariel and Saffrey.