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England and Nowhere

Written by Valerie Laws for Iron Review on no date provided

If the books or performances of Walcott and Dabydeen have opened you up to the ‘high style’ of Caribbean poetry, Peepal Tree has a fat enough catalogue to feast on. There’s richness here; an accent, as it were, behind many of the writers’ individual voices. A sea-captain’s cabin of polished treasures of language from around the world, in every place and time. Latin and Greek, in the original or as material; an unashamed intellectualism, mingled with slang and dialect terms from Guyana, Jamaica, reminding me of the Silver Latin period, or Huysman’s ‘A Rebours’, but clean, spare, controlled beyond decadence. The writers come from a marvellous mixture of races and cultures, and it shows; some poems deal with black/white tensions, but most are personal rather than political, set in a sensual celebration of nature. The poets might resent being thus bracketed together, but this is my impression.

Kevyn Alan Arthur is an extreme example of this, using learned references and classical tags to punctuate great rolling, mating tirades of slang, anger, lust, irony, to powerful effect: 'I feel, I think, I am. It doesn’t have a thing to do / with being Blacks, or being Kikes. / or being Wops: it never was a case of / ""Cogito, erso sum Aethiops"".' (Excerpt from The Whole Caboodle)

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