Monday, 14 December 2015

Ishion Hutchinson: Honoring the Light

Sunset at Sandals, Negril by Gail Frederick. Used under Creative Commons license

I've been reading Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson for a couple of years. His first collection, Far District (Peepal Tree Press, 2010) is certainly one of my favourite poetry books of recent years. His sonically gorgeous poems often have a surreal reach, but they are also grounded in places which are sensory, sensual and real-world.

I wouldn't call Ishion Hutchinson's work especially similar to that of the great poet of St Lucia, Derek Walcott, but in this Paris Review interview I came across this, which I'd already been thinking of both poets.

Interviewer: In an interview for the Virginia Quarterly Review, you asked Derek Walcott, "What would you regard as your greatest strength as a poet?" That was a hard question - he said at first he couldn't tell. Do you have an answer yourself?

IH: Derek did answer eventually, and his response is spectacular, he said "I think there are lots of times when I have maybe caught the light in certain passages...the Caribbean light at sunrise and sunset." My answer is, I would hope, in my own way I have honored the same light.

I haven't yet visited the Caribbean - the closest I have been is the Caribbean Sea side of Mexico (the Yucatan Peninsula). But when I read both of these these extraordinarily visual poets, I know that I am seeing the Caribbean light.

I recommend Ishion Hutchinson very, very highly. I hope to write more about him at some point, but in the meantime, here are links to two of his poems I've especially enjoyed. There are many others available to read online.

THUNDER IN APRIL (Ishion Hutchinson)

HOMAGE: VALLEJO (Ishion Hutchinson)

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