Shivanee Ramlochan’s Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting was one of the most electrifying books I’ve read in a number of years; a feeling only furthered by hearing her read from it at this year’s Forward Prizes. Across three sections, the book explores Trinidadian identity through folkloric traditions, religious rituals, shared traumas, the language of ‘speculative fiction’, visceral acts of violence, and a panoply of dynamic, non-binary, and radical-feminist voices. The force with which Ramlochan writes is astonishing, the anger and bravery of these poems often leaving me breathless. The book’s central section – ‘The Red Thread Cycle’, a powerful sequence on rape survival – works to forge a new linguistic space where such inarticulable experiences can be expressed and, in so doing, reclaims these moments for their survivors and stands as a furious condemnation of systematic patriarchal power abuses. The book’s final lines offer a perfect snippet into the justified and uncompromising anger of Ramlochan’s speakers, and the retribution these poems herald: ‘You tell him / I am the queen / the comeuppance / the hard heretic that nature intended’.
The Poetry School