Words by Dimitry Elias Léger
After he did such a fine job last year with his round-up of 2015’s Best Caribbean Books, we reached out to Dimitry Elias Léger, author of the critically-acclaimed novel God Loves Haiti (Amistad/Harpercollins, 2015), and had him take stock of this year’s crop of books from Caribbean authors. Here’s what he chose…
2016 offered a great harvest of Caribbean writing, with Jamaican poets leading the pack. These are five of my favorites.
Safiya Sinclair, Cannibal (Jamaica)
Montego Bay-born Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal is filled with stunning poems that explore the very origin of the Caribbean as we now know it, starting with Christopher Columbus needing to create the excuse that the native Americans he intruded upon were savages so he and his pirate could savagely conquer them. Priceless poems in this collection include “Portrait of Eve as Anaconda,” “Women, 26, Remains Optimistic as Body Turns to Stone,” and “In the Event of the Last Unhappiness, Return to the Sea.”
Ishion Hutchinson, House of Lords and Commons (Jamaica)
Another born Jamaican, the poet Ishion Hutchinson, lets his imagination run free in House of Lords and Commons. Exploring the complicated beauty of loving countries with difficult landscapes, he connects the 17th century English Civil War to mythic sea wanderers. He had me with his epigraph: “Praise the barbarians invading your sleep/ Their exploding horses hurting the snow.”
Yoani Sanchez, Havana Real: One Woman Fights To Tell The Truth About Cuba Today
Veteran Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez reveals her struggle to let her singular voice be heard in the world of the brutal Castro brothers in Havana Real: One Woman Fights To Tell The Truth About Cuba Today.
Derek Walcott and Peter Doig, Morning, Paramin
The god Derek Walcott, the Nobel-prize winning poet from St. Lucia, seems to have a lot of fun in Morning, Paramin, marrying his poignant poems to figurative paintings by Peter Doig. A dialogue that travels from the Caribbean to Edmonton, Canada, it reveaks the tender pleasures and pains of loving, observing, and aging from sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains.
In Haiti, poets are like rap stars. Their wit and sorrows tells us what time it is. James Noel’s magnificent Anthologie de Poésie Haitienne Contemporaine is a crackling dinner party featuring Haiti’s 73 finest poets. Available only in French so far, it’s a great, complete guide to the souls of a people seemingly impervious to disasters and rotten luck.