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Ship Shape

Written by Carole Boyce Davies for Cornell University on no date provided

In blues-y, well crafted poems of loss, and desire, Ship Shape, uses the sea as its controlling metaphor in order to get to the difficult history of past and contemporary migrations. Its strength is its reclamation of the legendary “Samboo” from degradation and an end on the lonely and bleak Lancaster shore to reinstall him in African Diaspora mythology. The troubled slave trading history of the British is revealed by these means to be the genesis of today’s African Diaspora in the U.K. 

As Smartt provides a mother for Bilal, she imagines his dislocation, aloneness, loss, separation from family, she also gives him the life, bones, flesh and blood to facilitate this recovery. This then is counterpointed with the poet’s own reading of her family, her own losses, and new understandings of being “just a part” of a much larger story. Along the way are wonderful intertextual connections with another Bajan writer – Kamau Brathwaite –the well-known poet of the “crossing.” Dorothea Smartt reveals a poetic intelligence and maturity of form and content which definitely locates her among the best of her generation of poets.

Carole Boyce Davies
Cornell University

This is a review of Ship Shape

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