Baugh’s employment of a range of traditional English form is refreshingly muscular, and ironic enough to show that he is at once deeply enamoured of the possibilities of these forms as he is willing to test them by the particular music of Jamaican English and its own formal possibilities. In the end, his quest is for music and balance, qualities that he achieves in each of his poems. But if there is an elegance that is silkily persuasive, you are left with no doubt that there is a tough, insightful and often vulnerable edginess just below the surface of things, as the poems on the shooting of Amadou Diallo and other difficult subjects reveal.
Black Sand brings together poems selected from Baugh’s two previous collections, A Tale from the Rain Forest (Sandberry Press 1988) and It was the Singing (Sandberry Press, 2000), with a collection’s worth of new poems. Master of the lyric, the salutary narrative and dramatic monologues that inhabit a wide variety of voices, Baugh’s subject matter ranges wide: race, history, cricket, love, the academic life, the consolations of natural beauty and shrewdly analytical eye for a Jamaica that includes the worlds of urbane polish, gated communities, religious enthusiasm and a black majority still struggling to overcome the wrongs inflicted in the past.
Above all, the subject of Baugh’s poetry is the poem, and its struggle to come into existence as a moment of clarity in a world of chaos.
Edward Baugh is one of the Caribbean’s major poets and a literary critic whose distinguished career has been devoted to West Indian literature.He taught at the University of the West Indies for well over thirty years. He lives in Jamaica.