Jennifer Rahim’s poems move seamlessly between the inwardly confessional, an acute sensitivity to the distinctive subjectivities of an immediate circle of family, friends and neighbours, and a powerful sense of Trinidadian place and history. Few have written more movingly or perceptively of what can vex the relationship between daughters and mothers, or with such a mixture of compassion and baffled rage about a daughter’s relationship to her father. If Sylvia Plath comes to mind, acknowledged in the poem ‘Lady Lazarus in the Sun’, the comparison does Rahim no disfavours; Rahim’s voice and world is entirely her own. There is in her work a near perfect balance between the disciplined craft of the poems, and their capacity to deal with the most traumatic of experiences in a cool, reflective way. Equally, she has the capacity to make of the ordinary something special and memorable.
Here is no self-indulgent misery memoir, not least in its compassion and involvement with other lives. The threat and reality of fragmentation – of psyche’s, of lives, of a nation – is ever present, but the shape and order of the poems provide a saving frame of wholeness. Poem after poem offers phrases of a satisfying weight and appositeness, like the description of the killers of a boy as ‘mere children,/ but twisted like neglected fields of cane’.
Jennifer Rahim is Trinidadian. She also writes short fiction and criticism. She is currently Senior Lecturer at The Liberal Arts Department, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad.