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Birthright

Written by Andy Brown for Poetry Quarterly Review on no date provided

PEEPAL TREE produce some excellent books of Caribbean, Black British and South Asian writing. The variety of their list picks up on a wide range of contemporary poetic practice. As Fred D’Aguiar noted in his (oh-so-long-ago) introduction to the Black British poets in THE NEW BRITISH POETRY (Paladin 1988):

Dualisms such as oral and literary, European and African no longer define the work of individual poets, much less explain the differences between them. [...] At the level of composition many poets are moving towards a coalition of the two: the performance poem which also works on the page.

…Kendel Hippolyte was born and lives in St. Lucia. Of the three Peepal Tree books reviewed here, this uses popular Caribbean culture, wordplay, rap, songs, rhythm, rhyme and reggae far more so than the other books do. These are straightforward, passionate poems, raging (amongst other things) against the world money markets, banks and multi-nationals:

Man is going going
gone! Sold to the ghost in the white suit and

gold spectacles
for distribution by his middle men,
mind brokers, the dealers
in reality, his real estate men of the human
soul.

As with the other writers reviewed here, the poems look heavily into cultural change and the Europeanisation of the Caribbean - ‘discovered’ by Columbus / devoured by the British / ‘recovered’ by the French, with the poem going on to indict the Spanish and the Dutch, but these poems, we are told, are not ‘political’. Ultimately, Kendal Hippolyte places his faith in the power of the spoken word:

- The earth is utterance - the strength of the language of his people -
You hold the steel cuffs of the law, 
the silver coins of bribery, the gun.
But when you see a poet writing poems, 
run.

This is a review of Birthright

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