Writing yesterday's post about getting back to some serious reading of poetry put me in mind of how easy it is these days to come across excellent contemporary stuff in English, such that it's almost impossible to get a handle on the breadth of talent and achievement out there. Simple example: a few days back I took a bit of a breather and picked out, almost at random, a poem from Ruth Padel's tasty little tome 52 Ways of Looking at a Poem, basically just to pass the time. The piece in question was Fred D'Aguiar's Mama Dot Warns Against An Easter Rising.
I'd vaguely glanced at it before, read a line or two and somewhat patronizingly put it to one side thinking it looked like a worthy attempt at injecting a bit of lively patois into the old standard language, creating a distinctly Caribbean voice, but not too much more than that. This time round, reading it with reasonable attention, it was obvious that, yes, the voice was the superficially dominating feature but the poem had so much more to offer than a skilful kind of ventriloquism, transcending my casual placing of it. It helped that Ms Padel's sympathetic commentary served to alert me to a broader context that I'd only been able to vaguely guess at in just glancing at the poem. For a magical fifteen minutes or so I was able to surrender to the spell cast by the writer.
But the thing is this. Now I know just how good Mr D'Aguiar is, and a quick search online tells me there's a fair bit more of where this comes from. So do I put him on my impossibly long 'must read' list? Of course I do. And long for a couple more lifetimes in which to clear said list. And in the meantime I'm just off to read the poem in question again.