The blurb on the back of this collection of poems from Kendall Hippolyte, a Santa Lucian poet, says “He writes in sonnets and villanelles, in idiomatic dramatic monologues that capture the rhythm of Caribbean speech, blues and rap”. This juxtaposition of the formal and informal, the old and the new, intrigued me.
And I was not disappointed. One of the things that comes through Hippolyte’s poems is his love of language and its rhythms, which he uses to capture moments—and sometimes eras—in time.
Hippolyte’s poems are rooted in his country, the island of Santa Lucia. He worries about the growing distance between people; he writes about soulless high-rise buildings taking over the old, often poor, neighbourhoods, where people formed communities and looked out for each other (“shortcuts that hello past a back door”). He also writes about violence and crime on the island, and its history and beauty—“the uncounted, unaccountable acts of grace”. And he has written what I think is one of the most moving poems, called Mamoyi, for a child. Holding the child, Hippolyte “feels a vow so deep/it does not reach the flower and fade of word”, and he wishes the child “the trust, the self-astonishing joy that he has now/and he can draw from them the strength to make/his true path”.
I am going to look out for more of his work, which for me was a discovery and a real pleasure to read.