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A Bath of Herbs

Poems deal frankly with the fragilities of life, but linking the whole is an engagement with the possibilities of healing: as in the bath of herbs in which her grandmother bathed her mother after giving birth; in the physicality of running and purificatory swimming in a river; in the care a hospital gives to her child and in the healing power of the natural world.

£9.99

Author(s)
Emily Zobel Marshall
ISBN
9781845235574
Pages
72
Price
£9.99
Classification
Poetry
Setting
England, Wales, Pan Caribbean
Date published
6 Jul 2023

This first collection is an honest and thoughtful exploration of a variety of experiences and  the attempt to draw them together to make a real if elusive whole. There is her ownership of a writerly inheritance handed down from her grandfather, the Black Martiniquan writer, Joseph Zobel, but also an awareness that this heritage has involved a movement away from the Black peasant world Zobel wrote about towards a comfortable Europeanness of being. Poems address the complexity of recognising that she is, as a woman of mixed race, in Derek Walcott’s words, a ‘shabine’, with the knowledge that whilst this gives her a sense of a difference that can be celebrated, it also involves a distance from blackness that, in the Caribbean context, goes both with social privilege and sometimes also exclusion from the Black world she wants to feel part of. Other poems address the security of a middle-class life and the many pleasures it offers, but also how that world can be broken apart by death, by the serious illness of a child, by the fear that the channels of communication in a marriage have ‘gone down’ and how, as a woman expected to hold everything together, one is sometimes forced to take refuge in the wildest fantasies. Linking the whole is an engagement with the possibilities of healing: as in the bath of herbs in which her grandmother bathed her mother after giving birth; in the physicality of running and purificatory swimming in a river; in the care a hospital gives to her child and in the healing power of the natural world.

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Emily Zobel Marshall

Emily Zobel Marshall is a Reader in Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett University. Emily's research specialisms are Caribbean literature and Caribbean carnival cultures. She is an expert on the trickster figure in the folklore, oral cultures and literature of the African Diaspora and has published widely in these fields. She has also established a Caribbean Carnival Cultures research platform and network that aims to bring the critical, creative, academic and artistic aspects of carnival into dialogue with one another. She is a regular contributor to BBC radio discussions on racial politics and Caribbean culture. Her books focus on the role of the trickster in Caribbean and African American cultures; her first book, Anansi’s Journey: A Story of Jamaican Cultural Resistance (2012) was published by the University of the West Indies Press and her second book, American Trickster: Trauma Tradition and Brer Rabbit, was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2019.

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