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.

These three books demonstrate that identification quite clearly. Barbadian Anthony Kellman’s poems inhabit the straits of memory as he identifies them, between the gnarled skyscraper and the water’s edge. These are highly musical poems blending formal style with the oral and popular traditions; long metaphorical narratives that fuse dialect and prose, the popular Caribbean voice with the lyric first person - We can’t escape this rhythm. / We can’t escape the blessing. The poems inhabit a land of exile - from childhood, from cultural roots - and play out notions of colonial betrayal - where all history congeals in a sick embrace as well as domestic betrayal in acutely observed personal histories and narratives. That the poems do this through the mythic use of metaphor (alongside a folk and popular use of metaphor) gives the poems a disconcerting literary (with a capital L) feel. The political concerns are most overt in poems like FREEDOM MAN, a passionate description of the Mandela release celebrations.

Andy Brown
Poetry Quarterly Review