Traveller’s Palm – Pruned and Re-invigorated

front_coverThis book carries an experiment with a particular kind of poetry to its limits and perhaps beyond. All my adult life – my life as a poet in Trinidad, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and now Portugal – I have been oppressed with a sense of rich experience, a wealth of poetic material, unused and unusable. For an audience in Britain, anticipating reports on “the other”, there was always so much to explain before the poem could begin. Yet for me, poetry began when I lost my sense of the exotic, when – as number 46 puts it, describing my family surrounded by Kalashnikovs – “at the time, this all seemed normal”. Added to this, dated as it may now appear, was a Puritan sense of a need to correct colonial misrepresentations by a scrupulous regard for the truth of what I lived and witnessed. No need for clever hyperbole, making the familiar seem strange, when the material itself was so strong. So, taking Luís de Camões – that most literal-minded of poets – as model, I have attempted what I called in The View from the Stockade “a poetry of fact”. The “pure”, the “plain”, the “limpid”, bordering the “prosaic”: it is the tightrope Wordsworth trod. At whatever different level, I am writing in an honourable tradition, driven by something both Camões and Wordsworth implicitly recognised, that there is no such person as “the other”.

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Poetry Library recording

A recording from The Poetry Library’s Special Edition series. Featuring Jack Mapanje and Landeg White in conversation, chaired by David Constantine. Recorded in The Poetry Library on Wednesday 4th May 2016.

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