Sturge Town is a stunning collection of poems that connects with the earliest days of Kwame Dawes’ work as a poet, from the roots of childhood in Ghana to the reflections of a man turned sixty who is witnessing his children occupying the space he once considered his own.
It ranges from poems that make something special of the everyday, to poems of the most astonishing imaginative leaps into the numinous. There are poems that speak most movingly of moments of acute self-reflection, family crises and losses through death, and there are the inventive poems of the dramatist drawn to create the stories of a rich variety of characters, many springing from the observation of paintings.
Metrically careful and sonorous, these poems engage in a personal dialogue with the reader, serious, confessional, alarmed and sometimes teasing. They create highly visualised spaces, observed, remembered, imagined, the scenes of both outward and inner journeys. Organised in five sections, Sturge Town is a collection of finely shaped individual poems with the architecture of a densely interconnected whole, with the soaring grandeur and intimacy of a cathedral – both above and below ground.
As the site of the ruined ancestral home of the Dawes, in one of the earliest post-slavery free villages in Jamaica, Sturge Town is both an actual place, a place of myth and a metaphor of the journeying that has taken Kwame Dawes from Ghana, through Jamaica, through South Carolina and now to Nebraska. It parallels a journeying through time, both personal, family and ancestral in which a keen sense of mortality makes life all the more precious. It signals a life deeply in tune with and sometimes shattered by the realities of political engagement, from the legacies of enslavement to the ubiquity of another Black man shot in the USA. It explores a spiritual journey that encompasses both the flawed reality of religious institutions and poems of spiritual transcendence that speak to believer and non-believer alike. It is above all the work of an unremitting investment in the beauty, the emotional depth and the vivid indeterminacy of poetry as an art of making.