The Almond Leaf
Earl McKenzie’s poems are deceptively simple, but their crystalline observations record life in all its complexity. Patricia Harkins, in The Caribbean Writer described his earlier Against Linearity as a ‘book to cherish’ for the particularity of its images from nature and ‘his keen insight into human hearts’. These qualities are deepened in this new collection, where the whiff of mortality demands an even stronger sense of continuance, affirmation and joy in love, family, music, art and, above all, in his beloved Jamaica.
Earl McKenzie
ISBN number
Country setting
Publication date
28 Apr 2008

If this Eden is a fallen one, Adam has not been expelled from the garden where, with his mate, ‘Together/we share the temptation of the snake/in the garden of rocks and flowers’ (‘Adam to his Maker’). But McKenzie’s vision is never one that gilds. Sitting enjoying the morning and the sight of an egret in flight, a dog that has effected its freedom and an ancient, enduring tree, the mood is poisoned when ‘with an accuracy/ bowlers could envy,/ the newspaperman/ hurls the day’s sad tidings/ to my doorstep.’ 

I forget the tree’s fabled endurance; 
the egret’s unconscious geometry; 
the dog’s hard-earned freedom.

I sip my coffee and read; 
suddenly it tastes bitter.

In these poems of quirky, unassuming observations, McKenzie never preaches, but he does find sermons in lilies, and what he discovers for himself provides a way of wisdom for those readers inclined to look for it. And beyond the personal, he locates the sources of endurance in his grasp of Jamaican/Caribbean history. In ‘Philosophers in the Crossing’, for instance, he writes of the African philosophers who ‘volunteered to join the victims/in their crossing...’ for there had to be someone ‘to say something/ to those who would be thrown/into the sea’, and concludes that:

These philosophers endured it all,/ and survive/ in our proverbs and songs,/ in kumina, myal and rastafari/ and in the tongues of Garvey and Marley..

Earl McKenzie was born and lives in Jamaica. In addition to Against Linearity he is the author of A Boy Named Ossie and Two Roads to Mount Joyful & Other Stories."


Earl McKenzie

Earl McKenzie was born in rural Mount Charles, St. Andrew Jamaica in 1943. He attended Oberlin High School and Mico Teachers College. Then he lived for some years in the USA and Canada where he obtained a BA and MFA from Columbia University and a Ph D from the University of British Columbia.
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