GREAT BAY, St. Martin (June 13, 2017)—At age 87, the distinguished Caribbean poet/scholar offers up Liviticus, his newest poetry book, published here in June by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), said Lasana M. Sekou of the indie press.
Liviticus is “a monument to sorrow that cherishes our origins as we live our lives of Modern distraction,” according to Garrett Hongo, the Pulitzer-nominated USA author.
While the poetry could also be cast as a priestly testament, it has a chilling quality that fits Brathwaite’s description of the freshly minted Liviticus as, “The first poem of the Burning of the Body / and the Tearing of the Flesh.”
One reviewer connects to what has been identified elsewhere as the sustained “global importance” of the great Barbadian poet’s works. “Even as Kamau Brathwaite writes eloquently and heartbreakingly about his ‘Cultural Lynching,’ there remains the poet’s steadfast desire to connect to the pasts, presents, and futures of a seemingly indifferent world,” said Kelly Baker Josephs, editor of the literary platform sx salon.
Liviticus is available at Arnia’s, Van Dorp, Amazon.com, and SPDbooks.org.
The poetry is written in Brathwaite’s Sycorax Video Style (SVS). The book’s 8.5 x 11 size accommodates the SVS wide spacing, punctuations, and font varieties. At times this aesthetically unique style has amounted to a challenge if not a point of editorial contention with major publishers eager to publish the Barbadian poet but may find themselves at odds with the requirements of his SVS brand, said Sekou.
According to his publisher, Kamau Brathwaite was born in Barbados in 1930. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sussex. The co-founder of the Caribbean Arts Movement in the UK has lived and worked in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and the USA.
Brathwaite has worked at the Ministry of Education of Ghana and served on the board of directors of UNESCO’s History of Mankind project as a cultural advisor to the Barbados government.
Among the 20 and more books by Brathwaite that have maintained his international standing as a distinguished poet, scholar, and dramatist are The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973), X/Self (1987), Middle Passages (1992), The Zea Mexican Diary (1994), Words Need Love Too (2000), Born to Slow Horses (2005), and Elegguas (2010). Words Need Love Too was published by HNP.
Brathwaite has taught at the University of the West Indies, Harvard University, and New York University. Awards and honors include the Bussa Award, the Casa de las Americas Prize for Literary Criticism, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, said Sekou.
Brathwaite is a recipient of the International Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada), the Presidents Award (St. Martin Book Fair), and the Frost medal from the Poetry Society of America, said his St. Martin publisher. Kamau Brathwaite lives in Barbados.
Liviticus was launched as the “main book” at the closing ceremony of the 15th anniversary of the St. Martin Book Fair, June 3, 2017.
Liviticus by Kamau Brathwaite (HNP, 2017). St. Martin artist Fay Helfer’s illustration
of the author appears on the cover of the new poetry book.