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This review is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

TOUCHING THE SCAR KWAME DAWES, New and Selected Poems 1994-2002 (Peepal Tree) £9.99

Kwame Dawes's latest collection of new and selected poems is published by Peepal Tree Press, one of the few small houses in Britain expanding the publishing opportunities for inventive black writing, while developing the range of its audiences. Peepal Tree has been formative in launching a variety of now familiar writers from within and without the Caribbean archipelago, including, for example, Bernadine Evaristo, who, in exuberant verse-novels like Lara and The Emperor's Babe, shares with Dawes, a concerted pushing of the boundaries of received poetic forms and languages so that they may eventually carry the melange of accents, histories and experiences that characterise their many voiced inheritors. In the case of Dawes, the matrix of inheritances and dialogues enacted trace the poetic contours of the Antilles from Walcott to Braithwaite, Harris to Markham and Goodison. In Shook Foil (1997), the most obvious example of Dawes working out of the reggae aesthetic that informs the shape of much of his work, Gerard Manley Hopkins meets Bob Marley, the prophet, in the poet's `unfurling' of tongues, his drawing of `new paths' to understanding this `womb of space' that is the Caribbean, `dubbing' more than `bloody truths from the thin concentric grooves', perusing the reasons why, `Jamaicans', then and now, `die, not for pop icons, but for sweet-mouthed politicians'.

This collection traces the temper of the poet's several displacements and hauntings, personal, familial and cultural, in the individual and collective journeys, the damaged hyphens of old and new transatlantic routes: ...


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