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Approaching Sabbaths

Winner of a Casa de las Américas Prize 2010 -- one of Latin America’s oldest and most prestigious literary awards. The jury said the collection "captures a sense of the complexities of historical, social and cultural aspects of contemporary Caribbean".


Jennifer Rahim
Trinidad and Tobago
Date published
6 Apr 2009

Jennifer Rahim’s poems move seamlessly between the inwardly confessional, an acute sensitivity to the distinctive subjectivities of an immediate circle of family, friends and neighbours, and a powerful sense of Trinidadian place and history. Few have written more movingly or perceptively of what can vex the relationship between daughters and mothers, or with such a mixture of compassion and baffled rage about a daughter’s relationship to her father. If Sylvia Plath comes to mind, acknowledged in the poem ‘Lady Lazarus in the Sun’, the comparison does Rahim no disfavours; Rahim’s voice and world is entirely her own. There is in her work a near perfect balance between the disciplined craft of the poems, and their capacity to deal with the most traumatic of experiences in a cool, reflective way. Equally, she has the capacity to make of the ordinary something special and memorable.
Here is no self-indulgent misery memoir, not least in its compassion and involvement with other lives. The threat and reality of fragmentation – of psyche’s, of lives, of a nation – is ever present, but the shape and order of the poems provide a saving frame of wholeness. Poem after poem offers phrases of a satisfying weight and appositeness, like the description of the killers of a boy as ‘mere children,/ but twisted like neglected fields of cane’.

Jennifer Rahim is Trinidadian. She also writes short fiction and criticism. She is currently Senior Lecturer at The Liberal Arts Department, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad.

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Jennifer Rahim

Jennifer Rahim is Trinidadian. Her first collection of poems, Mothers Are Not the Only Linguists was published in 1992, followed by Between the Fence and the Forest, Approaching Sabbaths, which won a Casa de las Américas Prize 2010, and most recently Ground Level. She also writes short fiction, and published the acclaimed Songster and other stories in 2007, and most recently, Curfew Chronicles in 2017.

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