'teeth, claws and a dash of surrealism'

Written by Yvonne Reddick for PN Review on Saturday, January 5th, 2019

This collection is heir to Pascale Petit’s poetry of shamanic transformation, but its literary midwife might be Derek Walcott’s Ma Kilman. Boodoo-Fortuné’s rich vocabulary of cornbirds, guyaba juice and bellbirds immerses us in Trinidadian landscapes, while avoiding cliché. Readers of Caribbean poetry in English already have a luscious menu of star-apples, breadfruit and ackee to choose from; it is a welcome change that Boodoo­-Fortuné uses these images to evoke an unsettling wildness. Litany and devotional literature – the novena, the book of hours – lend a religious gravitas to powerful sequences about childbirth and the deaths of loved ones. Elsewhere, as in the extraordinary poem ‘Jaguar Mary, María Lionza’, the mother of wild things is barely Christianised. This poem’s tall spine of verse, with what looks like a pelvis at its base, mirrors the form of Alejandro Colina’s famous statue of Jaguar Mary in Venezuela. Most of the shape-poems deftly challenge a unified conception of the lyric ‘self’ [...] this is a fascinating collection, recommended for readers who like their poetry with teeth, claws and a dash of surrealism.