In Make Us All Islands, Richard Georges’ debut collection of poems, the sea is witness. Not only that, but birds, submerged ships, the historic scroll of ransomed black bodies, and navigating it all, the poet’s tender, remembering hand. Georges is a poet who leads by listening. His rhythms are that elusive thing: gentle, and alert.
“Ghazal of Guyana” rocks in us with the same calm majesty of so many of Georges’ poems. We begin by seeing that “bones of stars are falling, / crashing to the earth like trees, like greyed spears”. We are transported out of ourselves, as the poem bards us in matters celestial and terrestrial. A narrator who consults the leylines of “ritual sweat”, of “muddy rows of cane”, who summons the image of his sister, roasting baigan, carries us through the water of this world, through its dust and quiet and yes, its ocean.
The ghazal form is structured of couplets, and the poet heeds its form. Ghazals often invoke, and are set to, music: what music might we hear, in Georges’ formal, sensitively cultivated lines?
I hear the wind that sings bhajans as it parts the canefields of the Caroni.
I hear the chime-clatter of bangles, circling hands that roast vegetables in Hindu homes.
I hear what I hope is the hinterland.
I hear the boats at Parika, engines gunning, touts gathering humans in like sleepy chicks, bound inward.
Perhaps it’s easy to romanticize a place like Guyana. Perhaps there will never be enough ghazals. Richard Georges agrees. There are no cavalier acts of summation here, no absolutes and definitives. What you get is the movement of water, the susurration of stars, the curling of all the fingers of a place around your skull, reminding you: you can never know me. Only yourself through me.
This is the eighteenth installment of Puncheon and Vetiver, a Caribbean Poetry Codex created to address vacancies of attention, focus and close reading for/of work written by living Caribbean poets, resident in the region and diaspora. During April, which is recognized as ‘National’ Poetry Month, each installment will dialogue with a single Caribbean poem, available to read online. NaPoWriMo encourages the writing of a poem for each day of April. In answering, parallel discourse, Puncheon and Vetiver seeks to honour the verse we Caribbean people make, to herald its visibility, to read our poems, and read them, and say ‘more’.