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View from Mount Diablo

Written by Michael Reckord for Jamaica Gleaner on no date provided

RALPH THOMPSON, C.D., has described his long narrative poem, View From Mount Diablo, as a 'scream'. It is a scream which is restrained only by the tight verse form in which the poem is written. Otherwise, the scream would have been 'hysterical'.

The poem has been published by Peepal Tree Press in the form of a book which was launched at Terra Nova Hotel last week Sunday. Thompson’s comments were made after the ceremony to a handful of lingering guests.

Earlier, the main speaker, poet Wayne Brown, referred to Thompson’s pessimistic voice in the poem, saying that the writer shared that life view (in the poem), with Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul. Brown also compared Thompson’s poetic imagery with that of William Wordsworth and Derek Walcott.
Brown described the work as 'a story in verse of modern Jamaica,' a story which coincides with the author’s own life. He quoted Louis Simpson, a Jamaican-American Pulitzer Prize-winning poet as saying the work 'lifts Jamaican poetry to a level that has not been attempted before.'

In the book’s cover notes, Simpson continues: 'The poetry is strong, imaginative, fascinating in detail. It describes terrible things with understatement, yet with compassion...This is narrative poetry at its best.'

Also in the cover notes is the information that the poem, about 'the transformation of Jamaica from a sleepy colonial society to a post-colonial nation where political corruption, armed gangs, drug wars, and an avenging police and army have made life hell,' won the 2001 Jamaican National Literary Award, and that Thompson’s previous books of poetry were The Denting of a Wave and Moving On.

Toward the end of the ceremony held a specially mounted air-conditioned tent on the hotel’s grounds, Thompson addressed the audience. His talk comprised some of his poems, the Prologue to his new book, and reminiscences of his childhood. Thompson is a businessman. painter and occasional newspaper commentator on education and culture.

This is a review of View from Mount Diablo

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