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Moving On

The poems in Moving On recreate moments of change, loss and epiphany. There are vivid glimpses of a prewar Jamaican childhood - of sexual discovery under a billiard table and of the rude ingratitude of a goat saved from dissection in the school biology lab.

£8.99

Author(s)
Ralph Thompson
ISBN
9781900715171
Pages
104
Price
£8.99
Classification
Poetry
Setting
United States of America, Jamaica
Date published
1 Feb 1998

The poems in Moving On recreate moments of change, loss and epiphany. There are vivid glimpses of a prewar Jamaican childhood - of sexual discovery under a billiard table and of the rude ingratitude of a goat saved from dissection in the school biology lab. The long sequence, 'Goodbye Aristotle, So Long America', explores the years of study at a Jesuit university in America and the making both of a lifetime's values and of the sense of irony which has made it possible to live with them.

Other poems reflect on the experience of ageing, of increasing vulnerability, but also of an increased appreciation for what sustains human relationships through time.

Jamaica is present in these poems as a place of aching natural beauty, but whose violent human energies can only be viewed with an ambivalent love and fear, where: 'In the city's bursting funeral parlours/ the corpses glow at night, nimbus of blue/ acetylene burning the darkness under the roof,/ lighting the windows - crunch of bone and sinew/ as a foot curls into a cloven hoof.'

Thomas Reiter writes in The Caribbean Writer: 'One of the many strengths of Moving On is its intricate and intelligent organization, overall and within each of the three units: "Moving On," "Crossings," and "This New Light." The first poem in the book, "Looking Back," is a tuning fork to which texts resonate in their search for meaning through memory, that precious faculty that is forever "trailing behind / like a cut anchor rope." No doubt the poet concurs with Derek Walcott’s statement in his Nobel lecture that "all of the Antilles every island, is an effort of memory." The focus of the initial grouping is "Goodbye Aristotle, So Long America," an ambitious poem in eighteen sections. Topically wide-ranging and set in a variety of forms, the materials are variously political, theological, sexual, familial, and aesthetic. Moreover, those concerns appear in other poems in Moving On. Especially interesting are "Mister Son," a persona poem done in patois, and "Uncle Seymour," an illustration of Thompson’s gift for storytelling, for piecing history together...'

Sheila Garcia-Bisnott writes in The Weekly Gleaner: 'It is exquisite poetry throughout. Images of "the sun turning cynical", "the ocean, washing colonial guilt/like seaweed from an unrepentant beach", of "albino hawks" and "a black Clint Eastwood" mocking; of "an awning pulled up like the lid/of an eye afraid to blink" and of "the lip of the sea and the lip of the sky/zip-locked the horizon" are pure art. Moving On is a feast.

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Ralph Thompson

Ralph Thompson was born in America in 1928. His family on his mother’s side goes back three generations in Jamaica, a mixture of crypto Jewish (Isaacs) and Irish stock (Fielding). It was staunchly Catholic and claimed to be white. His mother’s marriage lasted only three years and she returned to Jamaica and brought up her two children aided and abetted by a household of intellectually brilliant but poor and highly eccentric aunts and uncles.

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