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This article is taken from PN Review 241, Volume 44 Number 5, May - June 2018.

the Fat Black Woman

In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume
Kei Miller

THERE IS A POEM from The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion that I almost never read in England. There is something of the volume of that poem which seems out of place – even crude – in the supposed quiet of a British landscape. It is poem xxiii, in which the Rastaman chants most loudly, calling for the fall of Babylon – a proper nyabinghi chant, a summoning of fire and brimstone. The first time I read that poem in public was in Trinidad. I really was in no state to give a reading that night. Thirty hours earlier, I had been in the Middle East – in Northern Iraq, giving poetry workshops in the shadow of bombed-out buildings. I had flown a torturous route – Iraq to Vienna, Vienna to London, then London to Trinidad. My body was confused by all the climate changes – starting from the dry desert, going through the last strains of a European winter, and deposited at last into the tropical heat of the Caribbean. I should have gone straight to sleep, but instead they drove me from the airport to the reading venue. I am not certain now why I chose to read that particular bit of verse; perhaps it was an instinctive knowing that some poems have within them their own energy and need little help from their readers. Still it surprised me how, given voice, the poem was such a different animal from how it sat tamely on the page. It wasn’t the poem’s own volume that surprised me, but how it in turn ...

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