In truth, I read this book long, long ago, months now, finishing round about February or March, but for whatever reason didn’t post the review. Perhaps it was because I didn’t know how to review it, didn’t know what to say about this book of poems, Jamaican and other, by Kei Miller, whose work I first met on The Gazebo and PFFA years back. Perhaps it was because somewhere in my I envied his publication (still haven’t finished mine). No matter. It’s time for the review now, and I think I’ve learned how from NaPoReading Kevin Young.
I bought this book by Kei (he has published half a dozen in the past three years) because I thought it just might include some of the poems I remember from the workshops. Sure enough, it did, in particular “The Death of a Fish Woman”. But it contains more, much more.
The book’s divided into six sections, different movements each of them. I prefer some to others (who doesn’t?) and I suspect the preference is entirely subjective, and my subjectivity tends to reject the more personal in favour of the more objective (same with Young — it’s not their fault!!). Kei’s personal poems, though, had elements I enjoyed — like “I” from “The Broken (I)”, where he confronts exactly the same preference in his own writing, thus:
All that time I was writing about coffins
filled with johncrow feathers,
bells that chime five minutes past the hour,
smoke and tall hats. I was hiding
behind sleight-of-hand, behind birds
and unruly clocks — metaphors
that said nothing honestly.
–Kei Miller, “The Broken (I): I”
But the one I really like is from the second “Broken” section, the one called “V”, which concludes:
…My love, if we struggle at first
to fit our chests and our legs together
it is only natural. We are different
islands, our borders salted differently.
Love is how our skin breaks against each other,
how we bleed into each other; how we heal.
–Kei Miller, “The Broken (II): V”
I would be remiss if I didn’t plug tongues of the ocean, where this week we’re featuring an interview with Kei Miller by Nicholas Laughlin of the Caribbean Review of Books and the accompanying Antilles blog. The interview was originally carried on Caribbean Free Radio in 2007, and it’s reproduced with permission on tongues, here.
The two poems that Kei reads in the interview, “For the girl who died by dancing” and “In praise of the contribution of pots” are from the last section in the book.
Go listen, go read, then go buy.