Interview logo

Interview with Poet and Author Geoffrey Philp

"Archipelagos" is a call to arms for my readers to take global warming seriously and to do all they can to mitigate the effects of climate change.

By Cendrine MarrouatPublished 8 months ago 7 min read
Geoffrey Philp - Photo courtesy of guest

Today, I am excited to spotlight Geoffrey Philp, another talented member of our Vocal community. .

Geoffrey Philp, a recipient of a Silver Musgrave Medal in Literature from the Institute of Jamaica, is the author of two short story collections, two novels, three children's books, and eight books of poetry, including his most recent collection from Peepal Tree Press, Archipelagos. His poems and short stories have been published in The Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse, sx salon, Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories, World Literature Today, Punch, Visible, Rattle: Poets Respond, and New Voices: Contemporary Writers Confronting the Holocaust. Geoffrey's other awards include a Marcus Garvey Award for Excellence in Education (2022) and a Luminary Award from the Consulate of Jamaica (2015). One of his poems, "A Prayer for my Children," is featured on The Poetry Rail at The Betsy —an homage to 12 writers who have shaped Miami culture.

Geoffrey lives in Miami and is working on a graphic novel about Marcus Garvey, My Name is Marcus.

Cendrine Marrouat: Hello Geoffrey! What triggered your desire to become a writer? Any particular story?

Geoffrey Philp: I was in love with the girl next door and started writing bad poetry. Luckily, I had Dennis Scott as a sixth-form literature teacher at Jamaica College. Dennis taught me a lot about literature and writing poetry, especially haiku. Dennis's teaching (for which I am eternally grateful) helped me to develop my critical abilities to the point where I could devise my own definition of poetry: patterned speech that pays close attention to the line and its effect on the overall composition of the poem.

CM: How does creativity speak to you? And how do you approach your writing process, especially as a multi-genre author?

GP: Robert Frost once said that the first line of a poem is a gift; the rest is work. If a line pops into my head, I know it's a poem. However, if it's a character in an impossible situation, I know it's a story.

CM: How have your upbringing in Jamaica and literary studies influenced the way you craft your poetry and stories?

GP: Many writers have influenced me, including Derek Walcott, Kamau Brathwaite, Dennis Scott, Anthony McNeil, Pamela Mordecai, Olive Senior, Lorna Goodison, Bob Marley, Carl Jung, James Baldwin, and Joseph Campbell. All these writers helped me to think through certain questions not only stylistically but also philosophically. For example, I have begun work on a haiku collection, The Oshun Diaries, which uses the haiku form and a combination of the Tarot and Jungian insights about Ifa. The primary influences in this collection are Kamau Brathwaite, who sparked my interest in Ifa, and Carl Jung, who helped me to understand the archetypal significance of the Orishas.

CM: How would you define your style?

GP: That's a difficult question because I am so many people. I am a son, brother, husband, father, teacher, writer, environmental activist, and Garvey scholar from Jamaica of West African, Scottish, Portuguese, and Jewish ancestry. All these selves inform my poems and short stories.

CM: You have released over 15 books. How do you usually choose your titles?

GP: That's another difficult question, Cendrine! I spend weeks coming up with the individual titles of poems and short stories, so you can imagine the time it takes me to create a book title. It's a slow process, and even after I've chosen the title, I usually wonder if that was the right choice.

CM: What has been your most successful project so far? And why do you think it is the case?

GP: Each poem and each story has been a success. They did not exist before I wrote them. They slowly evolved from an idea into a physical object that connects me with my readers. If that isn't a miracle, I don't know what is.

CM: If you could choose a favorite book among all the ones you have written, which one would it be? Why?

GP: All of my books are my favorites because they capture my ideas and my level of craft at the time I wrote the poems and stories. For example, the central idea in my first two books, Exodus and Florida Bound, is the theme of exile. In contrast, my most recent collection of poems, Archipelagos, examines the connection between colonialism and climate change.

CM: Has the publishing industry changed a lot since your first release in 1990? And where do you think it is headed?

GP: Oh yes! It has changed a lot and for the better. When I first wrote Uncle Obadiah and the Alien, I had no models. It was one of the first sci-fi / speculative fiction stories that combined magical realism with Rastafari. Since then, many authors such as Nalo Hopkinson, Marlon James, and Tobias Buckell have done remarkable work I could never have imagined.

CM: What is one of your writing quirks that you feel makes you unique among your peers?

GP: I'm always uncomfortable answering questions like this, so I will channel my inner critic:

"Thematically, Philp's poems and stories differ from his contemporaries in his poetic exploration of climate change, the investigation of non-dual awareness through the lens of Rastafari, and his resistance to the erasure of Black memory, especially with the legacy of Marcus Garvey."

CM: What do you want people to learn from your work?

GP: There are two epigrams in Archipelagos. The first is from Amitav Ghosh, who wrote in The Nutmeg's Curse:

"The planet will never come alive for you unless your songs and stories give life to all the beings seen and unseen that inhabit a living Earth."

The second epigram is from Bob Marley, who said "The Earth vex" during his Survival tour.

Archipelagos is a call to arms for my readers to take global warming seriously and to do all they can to mitigate the effects of climate change.

CM: According to you, what role do writers and authors play in society? And do you see that role evolving in the near future?

GP: James Baldwin said that artists are disturbers of the peace. He argued that the artist's role is to challenge the status quo by creating work that allows readers to think critically about the injustices we quietly ignore. I think that was what Bob Marley hinted at when he sang, "I want to disturb my neighbor."

Both Baldwin and Marley continued the prophetic tradition in the Black community of speaking truth to power. I hope that my work continues that tradition.

CM: What is your most important piece of advice to other writers?

GP: Again, James Baldwin comes to the rescue: "Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but most of all, endurance."

I've known many talented writers who have never achieved their full potential because they didn't develop the discipline to continue working despite setbacks and rejections. So, my advice, and again I am quoting Bob Marley, "Never give up the fight."

CM: Anything else people should know?

GP: I want readers to be entertained, but I also want them to think about the themes. The metaphors and music in my poems, the setting, characters, and plot in my short stories enable me to "short-circuit the rational centers of the reader's mind" and raise awareness about issues such as climate change and the erasure of black heroic memory.

Support Geoffrey Philp's work!

That's it for today! Thank you for reading!


Interested in being featured too? I would love to hear from you!

Check out my guidelines below:


Cendrine Marrouat is a writer, photographer, podcaster, blogger, anthology editor, and the co-founder of Auroras & Blossoms and A Warm Cup of Cozy. She has authored and co-authored more than 40 books, including The Train: A Short Story (2023), In Her Own Words: A Collection of Short Stories & Flashku (2022), After the Fires of Day: Haiku Inspired by Kahlil Gibran & Alphonse de Lamartine (2021), Rhythm Flourishing: A Collection of Kindku and Sixku (2020), Walks: A Collection of Haiku (2019-2020), and In the Silence of Words: A Three-Act Play (2018).

Cendrine's work has appeared in many publications. She is the creator of the Sixku, Flashku, Sepigram, and Reminigram; as well as the co-creator of the Kindku, Pareiku, Vardhaku, and Hemingku.

Thought LeadersHumanityCreatorsAuthors

About the Creator

Cendrine Marrouat

Writer & Author⎜Photographer⎜Artist⎜Co-founder of Auroras & Blossoms / A Warm Mug of Cozy⎜(Co-)creator of literary forms

"The Train: A Short Story" is out!



Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

Top insights

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

Add your insights

Comments (6)

Sign in to comment
  • Mike Singleton - Mikeydred8 months ago

    Another great interview, and great to get to know more about Geoffrey. Thank you so much for sharing this

  • Heather Hubler8 months ago

    Wonderful way to get to know Geoffrey and his process better. I'm still thinking about his answer to this question, such a thoughtful way to look at writing, "Each poem and each story has been a success. They did not exist before I wrote them. They slowly evolved from an idea into a physical object that connects me with my readers. If that isn't a miracle, I don't know what is." Great interview!

  • River Joy8 months ago

    excellent interview!

  • Dana Crandell8 months ago

    Another great interview and another author to follow. Well done, both of you!

  • Ashley Lima8 months ago

    Amazing interview! I found his insights incredibly inspirational, and I love his use of the James Baldwin quote about disturbing the peace. Just superb

  • Mother Combs8 months ago

    Great interview.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.