This is an anthology to delight both lovers of reggae and lovers of poetry which sings light as a feather, heavy as lead over the bedrock of drum and bass. If in the past Caribbean poetry seemed split between the English literary tradition and the oral performance of dub poetry, Wheel and Come Again brings together work which combines reggae's emotional immediacy, prophetic vision, fire and brimstone protest and sensuous eroticism with all the traditional resources of poetry: verbal inventiveness, richness of metaphor and craft in the handling of patterns of rhythm, sound and poetic structure.
Its range is as wide as reggae itself. There are poems celebrating, and sometimes mourning, the lives and art of such creative geniuses as Don Drummond, Count Ossie, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Bob Marley, Big Youth, Bunny Wailer, Winston Rodney, Patra and Garnett Silk. There are poems of apocalyptic vision, fantasy, humour and storytelling; poems about history, culture, politics, religion, art, human relationships and love; poems which employ standard Caribbean English, poems written in Jamaican nation language and many poems which move easily between the two.
From its birth in the ghettos of Kingston, reggae has become an international musical language, and whilst Jamaicans are inevitably well represented in this anthology, Wheel and Come Again reflects reggae's universal appeal with contributors from the USA, Canada, Britain, Guyana and St. Lucia. What all have found in reggae is an art with a rich aesthetic which, like the poetry they aspire to write, speaks to the body, mind and spirit, which compels a state of heightened expectancy with its combination of pattern and surprise: 'Counting out the unspoken pulse/ then wheel and come again'.
Geoffrey Philp writes in The Caribbean Writer, 'Wheel and Come Again is no academic treatise - it is an attempt to hold a dancehall session in poetry, to take readers to the heart of reggae and carry them into the compelling seduction of the drum and bass’ (26). This bold assertion, made in the introduction of Dawes’s latest work, Wheel and Come Again, could have also added the word ‘celebration’. And there is a lot to celebrate in this anthology.
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Kwame Dawes is the author of over thirty books, and is widely recognized as one the Caribbean’s leading writers. He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and a Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska.