When Kei Miller describes these as essays and prophecies, he shares with the reader a sensibility in which the sacred and the secular, belief and scepticism, and vision and analysis engage in profound and lively debate. Two moments shape the space in which these essays take place. He writes about the occasion when as a youth who was a favoured spiritual leader in his charismatic church he found himself listening to the rhetoric of the sermons for their “careful craft of prophecy”; but when he writes about losing his religion, he recognises that a way of being and seeing in the world lives on – a sense of wonder, of spiritual empowerment and the conviction that the world cannot be understood, or accepted, without embracing visions that challenge the way it appears to be.
Generating this collection is the conviction that telling stories is the most powerful means to revelation. So, there are stories about the experience of migration, of leaving familiar places (Jamaica in all its wondrous and sometimes hellish reality) and making connections with new ones (Glasgow); stories about the grief and joy of family, friendship, and nation; pieces on tourism, cosmopolitanism and dub poetry; and autobiographical essays on influences and the rituals of writing. There is prophetic truth-telling about social and economic injustice and with the corrosive power of violence and homophobia – and playful celebrations of transgressive sexual cultures in the Caribbean from lisping Anansi to cross-dressing dons. As Kei Miller writes, there are “some things… worth shouting about.” And, as anyone who has encountered Kei Miller on the page or in performance will expect, this does not preclude the use of humour.
Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978. His first collection of short fiction, The Fear of Stones, was short-listed in 2007 for the Commonwealth Writers First Book Prize. He currently teaches Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.
Published: 25 November 2013