Shivanee Ramlochan is in the UK from mid November to mid December 2017. Check out her UK tour dates.
Ramlochan’s poems take the reader through a series of imaginative narratives that are at once emotionally familiar and compelling, even as the characters evoked and the happenings they describe are heavily symbolic. Her poems reference the language and structural patterns of the genres of fantasy or speculative fiction, though with her own distinctive features, including the presence of such folkloric Trinidadian figures as the Duenne, those wandering lost spirits whose feet point backwards. Her characters are variously described as “soldier”, “thaumaturge”, “surgeon” and much else, and her speakers live in a world that is located somewhere between the fantastic and the ordinary, everyday world of school buses, home chores and domesticity.
In these poems, a woman is invariably the protagonist and Ramlochan is eloquent in her exploration of the ways in which gender has to be negotiated. They constantly challenge the stereotypes of the female. The female force that Ramlochan explores in her poems is creative and destructive, vulnerable and untameable. In poem after poem, the female assumes the elemental roles of both saviour and devil. There is, for instance a revision of the role of Eve and the gendering of a Blakean challenge to the false division between God and Satan, most famously realised in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Here, Ramlochan finds great mythical possibilities in the figure of Lilith, a familiar feminist trope. Ramlochan’s Lilith is at home in the Caribbean, and she enacts her powers within the context of the Caribbean spiritual realm.
In Shivanee Ramlochan’s first collection of poems, Trinidad and Caribbean poetry finds an exciting new voice, one that displays a sharp intelligence, and iconoclastic spirit and fertility of imagination.
Praise for Shivanee Ramlochan's Everyone Knows I am a Haunting
Ramlochan’s poetry slays whoever would force an ‘identity’ on it. It alchemizes the roles of grandmothers, abortionists, labourers, clerks, dancers, policemen, cousins, rapists into the greatest intensity of human. The world fucked the Caribbean archipelago, where European-derived shepherdesses and pre-Abrahamic Lilith now wander as peers among manifold beings. The music is consonantal, full of pleasure/pain. Rich as a García Márquez novel, these are uncompromising conversations, intimacy wrestling survival.
—Vahni Capildeo, author of Measures of Expatriation.
This debut book is a subversive tour-de-force, a poetry of Holi powder and sarisilk drifting with beauty; of flayed predators, persistent hunger and thirst, broken bodies of daughters and sons; of cultural keep-down, wedding-weep, rape-ache, and the raw dreaming of rebel lovers; of abeer-streaked bodies’ sex-throb and split and Kali hex words brutally gleaming in the moonlit museum. These stunning poems fiercely and inventively wrestle language of beast, wolf, fishtail, and gods monstrous, singing firesongs of purification for the island dead and survival for the living. In these pages of la sangre viva, “spirit does linger.”
—Loretta Collins Klobah, author of The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman.
These poems crackle with soucouyant ire and the voices of duennes in stanzas so bewitching you will not want to look away. Against a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian backdrop, abortionists, rapists, ancestors, and deities incarnate as grief. Surprise awaits in tightly wrought lines that are “no accidental shrine” to ancestry, femininity, and filial devotion. Always some darkness casts shadows against the beauty of love. Always the ghost of a story beckons the reader close.
—Rajiv Mohabir, author of The Cowherd’s Son and The Taxidermist’s Cut.
In transgressive mode, Shivanee Ramlochan invokes gods, goddesses or demons to do what poetry should do–alarm and ignite us, surprise and blast us and tear at our heartstrings. Welcome to a challenging, unforgettable and courageous new voice.
—Olive Senior, author of The Pain Tree.