"... here in the shadow of the Connors Sardine Factory
She spawns her progeny of air and dies.'
The juxtaposition of images of the salmon's sordid entrapment on a Canadian factory farm, images of its spiritual fulfilment (or nullity) and the tensions between its instincts for freedom and return offer a concentrated motif for this remarkable collection. In making his own return of memory from Canada and South Carolina to a childhood and youth in 1970s Jamaica (in particular as a student of Jamaica College), Kwame Dawes' poems display a powerful narrative thrust, an appealing sense of humour, a gift for characterisation and an acute sense of time and place.
Winner of the prize for the best first collection in the Forward Poetry Prize of 1994, Progeny of Air links inner personal experience and social and historical perspectives to mutually enriching effect. In a review for Poetry Review, Linda France wrote: 'Progeny of Air takes its title from a single poem describing a fishing trip, referring to the life cycle of the salmon, both actual and hypothetical. This also neatly reflects the themes and concerns of the collection: movement and the impulse of natural energy; the need to go back and revisit meaningful times and places in one's life; a way of living an authentic life, the possibility of growth and self-awareness. The leap and dash of the salmon is also caught in the poetry's musical rhythms and striking language. I am grateful to Kwame Dawes for writing this book and bringing some heat to a grey and chilly autumn. Peepal Tree are bringing out two further books, I look forward to seeing what else this man can do.