Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies
First published in 1993, now featuring a 2019 afterword, Come Back to Me My Language is the classic account of the making of Caribbean poetry that parallels Kenneth Ramchand’s foundational The West Indian Novel and Its Background. Since its publication, another generation of Caribbean poets has emerged, but anyone wanting to see where the Caribbean poetry of the past 25 years has come from will need to consult Chamberlin’s judicious, sensitive, insightful and deeply researched study, not least as a model for how to write the kind of poetry criticism that sends you back to the poems with renewed enthusiasm and understanding.
J. Edward Chamberlin
ISBN number
Caribbean Modern Classics
Literary Criticism
Publication date
31 Jan 2019

The poet and the poem are always central to Chamberlin’s discussion, but he brings a careful knowledge of the way that Caribbean poetry has developed in relationship to the past of slavery, indenture, colonialism and independent national and regional consciousness; to the divergencies and conflicts of race, ethnicity, class and gender within Caribbean societies; to the experience of migration and diasporic existence; and to changing views about the continuum of language forms as the substance of poetry and to poetic models both from within and without the region. Above all, Chamberlin knows that poets engage in dialogue with other poets and his book is full of enriching insights into those poetic conversations.

Chamberlin’s readings of individual poems are always rewarding in saying pertinent things about the poem, the writer and their place within a developing and rich body of work. He writes on poems by John Agard, Edward Baugh, Louise Bennett, Bongo Jerry, Dionne Brand, Kamau Brathwaite, Aimé Césaire, Merle Collins, Fred D’Aguiar, David Dabydeen, Lorna Goodison, Kendel Hippolyte, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Anthony Kellman, Claude McKay, Anthony McNeill, Mervyn Morris, Mutabaruka, Grace Nichols, Victor Questel, Eric Roach, Dennis Scott, Olive Senior, Philip Sherlock, Michael (Mikey) Smith, Bruce St. John, and Derek Walcott.



J. Edward Chamberlin

J. Edward Chamberlin is University Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. He has published and lectured widely on literature, poetry and Aboriginal rights and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
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