Make Us All Islands, a collection of poems by Richard Georges
As part of our ongoing Author Notes series, The Town Crier presents this note from Richard Georges, whose poem “Blue Runner” appeared in The Puritan Issue 35. Here, he talks about some of the poets he admires and who have influenced his work.
There are a few living writers with whom my envy borders on obsession—or hate, or both. Either way, there are a select few who consistently surprise and shatter me the way good literature always must.
The first writer I really found myself admiring was Derek Walcott. My love affair with his poems began in my teenage years, and with two poems in particular: “Sea Grapes” and “Ruins of a Great House.” Both grapple with the intersection of the Caribbean’s violent history and its amnesic present while the voice of the poems explores how those histories operate in a sort of psychic loop. This is powerfully evident when he conflates his painterly portrait of the sea grape trees with the bodies of present day beachgoers and again with the bodies of enslaved peoples centuries removed. Walcott’s later work, specifically White Egrets, shows that if anything, his pen is even sharper now. The poems have shifted away from the historical, and are now intensely personal and unabashedly emotional. Along with that tonal shift, the centrality of the Caribbean landscape remains as he returns again and again to images of hillsides and the sea. His lifelong obsession with the sea (Ishion Hutchinson says his voice is “concomitant” with it) has been poetically inherited by the long list of Caribbean poets who count him among their influences, myself included.
My most recent attentions have been furnished on the work of Rowan Ricardo Phillips. His flirtations with form have inspired me to revisit sonnets with views of breaking them in ways that are fresh and interesting to me.
There are a few living writers with whom my envy borders on obsession—or hate, or both.
Phillips embraces a lyricism that has similar aesthetics to Walcott, and his appreciative eye toward the art that is created by the natural world and the human life within that world is what I most admire and try to arrive at in my own work. The gorgeousness of “The Beatitudes of Malibu” alone makes purchasing his last collection (Heaven, FSG) worth it for aspiring poets.
There are many other contemporary Caribbean poets whose work demands my (and your) attention, but I have had the pleasure of seeing the growth of Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné firsthand. We were both shortlisted for the 2015 Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writer’s prize (which she won), and I was utterly broken hearing her read for the first time a few days prior. Her poems are fantastic in the truest sense. She is able to create whole worlds and mythologies for figures to inhabit. To do that in the constrained space of poetry is particularly impressive, and it is no surprise that she has been able to win several prizes prior to her debut collection. That book of poems is sure to be another must-have for any library of Caribbean poetry—especially mine.
Richard Georges was born in Trinidad and raised in the British Virgin Islands where he lives and works today. His poetry has appeared in Smartish Pace, The Caribbean Writer, sx salon, Wasafiri, and elsewhere.