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The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry described Kendel Hippolyte as 'perhaps the outstanding Caribbean poet of his generation'. Until the publication of Birthright his poetry had only been available in anthologies and slim collections which have been little seen outside St. Lucia. Birthright reveals him as a poet who combines acute intelligence and passion, a barbed wit and lyrical tenderness.


Kendel Hippolyte
Date published
1 Feb 1997

He writes with satirical anger from the perspective of an island marginalised by the international money markets in a prophetic voice whose ancestry is Blake, Whitman and Lawrence, married to the contemporary influences of reggae, rastafarian word-play and a dread cosmology. He writes, too, with an acute control of formal structures, of sound, rhythm and rhyme - there are sonnets and even a villanelle - but like 'Bunny Wailer flailing Apollyon with a single song', his poetry has 'a deepdown spiritual chanting rising upfull-I'. Whilst acknowledging a debt of influence and admiration to his fellow St. Lucian, Derek Walcott, Kendel Hippolyte's poetry has a direct force which is in the best sense a corrective to Walcott's tendency to romanticise the St. Lucian landscape and people.

Kwame Dawes writes: 'It is clear that Hippolyte’s social consciousness is subordinated to his fascination with words, with the poetics of language, and so in the end we are left with a sense of having taken a journey with a poet who loves the musicality of his words. His more overtly craft conscious neo-formalist pieces are deft, efficient and never strained. Villanelles, sonnets and interesting rhyming verse show his discipline and the quiet concentration of a poet who does not write for the rat race of the publishing world, but for himself. One gets the sense of a writer working in a laboratory patiently, waiting for the right image to come, and then placing it there only when it comes. This calm, this devotion is enviable for frenetic writers like myself who act as if there is a death wish on our heads or a promise of early passing. Our poetry, one suspects, suffers. Hippolyte shows no such anxiety and the result is verse of remarkable grace and beauty.'

'Perhaps the outstanding poet of his generation' The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry Kendel Hippolyte was born in St.Lucia in 1952, he studied and lived in Jamaica in the 1970s, where he explored his talents as a poet, playwright and director.

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Kendel Hippolyte

Kendel Hippolyte is a poet, playwright and director. Born and living in St Lucia, he has published seven books of poetry, and his work has appeared in journals such as The Greenfield Review and The Massachusetts Review, and in numerous anthologies, including Caribbean Poetry Now, Voiceprint, and West Indian Poetry.

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