This collection of work by the late Neville Dawes (1926-1984) has several important rewards. It makes available the fine poems that Dawes wrote, mostly between 1950-1970, some of which appeared in a long-vanished, slim volume, Sepia, published in Ghana in the late 1950s. In the poems, the Marxist, modernist, ideologically committed Neville Dawes returns again and again to Sturge Town, the village of his youth, a world of ‘ancestral rooting’.
Secondly, the collection includes the short stories broadcast on Caribbean Voices, hailed with justification as special events by stern editors such as Edgar Mittelholzer.
Thirdly there is a section containing several pieces of autobiographical writing, which in their insight and humour make one wish that Dawes had written much more in this vein.
Lastly there is a section devoted to Neville Dawes’ critical writing, which reveals him to have been an important and visionary critic on the development of Caribbean writing, the place of Africa in Caribbean culture and the importance of seeing the region whole, across language barriers.
There is also a long introductory essay by Kwame Dawes that brings both a scholar’s carefully objective placement of this work in the context of Jamaican and Caribbean writing, and a son’s moving and insightful response to his father’s work in relation to the triumphs and frustrations of his life.
Neville Dawes was born in Nigeria in 1926 of Jamaican parents, but grew up in rural Sturge Town in Jamaica. He studied for an MA at Oxford (Oriel College) and later taught in Jamaica, Ghana and Guyana.