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Book#8 Make us all Islands: Richard Georges

Been having to sit on this one for a while, as my review of this book for Stride Magazine was sat waiting for its turn. Having been published I can now, finally get round to blogging it (yes, yes, I know it's been over a week, that's quite quick for me though). I won't retread that here, if you want close reading, click the link.

When my review copy came through, I initially thought this wasn't going to be my cup of tea at all. My poetry reading tends towards the school loosely described as linguistically innovative. I rarely read poetry this straightforward, so I wasn't sure I quite had the toolkit to deal with it. But I realise that I'm getting less dogmatic as I age (there's probably a blog post in there somewhere, so I shelved preconceptions and got stuck in.

Having fretted already about the preponderance of middle aged white blokes in these pages, Georges' starkly lyrical poems, harshly lit by a pitiless Caribbean sun came as a healthy counterbalance. These poems deal with subjects about which I know shamingly little: slavery, the harshness of life on sugar plantations (the fruit of which labours can be easily seen in the fine buildings of Liverpool, which brought it home a touch) and in a voice which, in its clarity, deals unsparingly and unsentimentally with the iniquities of the past.

This is not to say that it's a misery memoir, far from it, there's plenty of shade amidst the light, plenty of subtle tones in poems dealing with more contemporary subjects, a sweet lyricism when dealing with his family, for example. But my main takeaway from the book was the more historical matter, about which I feel more illuminated than when I started reading it. It's easy to forget our colonial past, but it's incumbent upon us to remember how we got to where we are. I'm not going to start banging the political drum, but in these divisive times, there is a certain type of flag-waving dickhead who clearly yearns for the return of Empire. The next time you hear about Britain being a "Trading Nation" remember that it got there, in part, by dealing in death.

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