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, born and raised in London, is of Barbadian heritage. Described as ‘accessible and dynamic’, her poetry appears in several journals and ground-breaking anthologies.