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Ship Shape

Dorothea Smartt connects past and present, presence and absence in this rich new collection of poems. At its heart is a sequence of poems set in Lancaster that excavate the missing history of Samboo, an African slave brought from the Caribbean by a Lancaster sea-captain as a present for his wife.

£7.99

Author(s)
Dorothea Smartt
ISBN
9781845230586
Pages
72
Price
£7.99
Classification
Poetry
Setting
Pan African, Pan Caribbean, Barbados
Date published
3 Nov 2008

Dorothea Smartt connects past and present, presence and absence in this rich new collection of poems. At its heart is a sequence of poems set in Lancaster that excavate the missing history of Samboo, an African slave brought from the Caribbean by a Lancaster sea-captain as a present for his wife. Samboo died within days of his arrival and is presumed buried at Sunderland Point. The sequence both imagines Samboo’s mostly unrecorded experience and draws connections between present day Lancaster and the foundations of its 18th century prosperity in slave trading. Begun as a commission by Lancaster Litfest, the sequence is a deeply personal response to the bicentenary of the abolition of British slave trading. It is accompanied by photographs which place Samboo’s tragedy in the Lancaster landscape.
Surrounding this sequence are contemporary poems that, on one level, in the vitality of lives revealed, provide a counterpoint to the emptiness of Samboo’s too soon curtailed life, but on another level echo a continuity of loss wrought by the fragmentation of African Caribbean families through continuing migrations and death.

The need to imagine who Samboo might have been, to tell his missing story and see through the false identity that others imposed on him connects to a more personal, contemporary sense of obligation in Dorothea Smartt’s work. This is the duty to record family history, to envision a wholeness out of the fragments and dissolve the differences that prejudice may interpose between private and public selves.

"...The pulse of [Dorothea Smartt’s] work rises and falls...images make noise, silences are transformed"
Konrad Keno Foster, Caribbean Times

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Dorothea Smartt

Dorothea Smartt has an international reputation as a respected literary activist, live artist, and established poet. Born and raised in London, with Barbadian heritage, she is described as a 'Brit-born Bajan international’. Over the past twenty years, her credits include engagements with the British Council in Bahrain, South Africa, USA, Egypt, and Hungary. She was keynote speaker at Barbados’ Frank Collymore Literary Endowment Award, 2013. She has two full collections, Connecting Medium and Ship Shape [Peepal Tree Press]. Her recent chapbook, Reader, I Married Him & Other Queer Goings-On, “…is subversive, radical, and surprisingly panoramic...” She is currently researching a live art work, including a third full poetry collection. In it she continues to rework standard narratives, this time imagining same-sex relationships and cross-gender experiences among ‘West Indian’ workers on the Panama Canal in the early 1900’s.

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