Engaging lyric poetry that manages to be sensual and cerebral, fun and profound.
Readers willing to dig deeper than the work of poets Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Anthony Joseph will find that exciting new worlds of Caribbean poetry await. Although some lesser-known Caribbean writers tend to get bogged down in the exotic fecundity of their island landscapes, others write with a grace and steadiness that highlights personal experience within the larger context of culture and environment to reveal something universal. Trinidadian novelist, painter and poet Drayton (The Crystal Bird, 2012, etc.) most decidedly falls into the latter category. Her personal poems often focus on singular moments in her past, yet her evocation of the slippage between past and present, of how we manage to exist in both times simultaneously, speaks directly to readers. The exploration of how “time…magically overlaps generations” pervades this collection. Her narrators are buffeted by nostalgia but are never fatalistic or cloying; instead, they treasure the past and the present as a single fabric of interwoven threads. One narrator, for instance, revisits a memorable beach and finds that the “scenery I knew has all but gone, / except for the sea. / Longing and waiting, I dream of the days / that never can be again. / The sea waits while I dream a dream / where I stand on the balcony of this precious day.” Drayton invests symbols with a similar complexity; the titular brown dove, for instance, is at once a symbol of maternal devotion, sexual allure, rebellion and quiet endurance, and is rife with gender and racial resonances. Occasionally, her more contemplative poems suffer from excess erudition, and she is sometimes prone to distracting alliteration, but she also delivers unmatched similes such as, “The morning stormed my day / like a drunken party crasher / with streams of gold and white ribbons / coming through the window.”
Wise, kind and lively verse that truly “dances to a tune that’s / gloriously redeeming / of anger, hate, and envy. / It’s an awesome authority / with boundless energy.”