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Snowscape With Signature

Written by Laurence A. Breiner for CRNLE Review on no date provided

Slade Hopkinson published his first book at age 20 and soon after became a leading actor in Walcott’s Trinidad Theatre Workshop - like Walcott he was one of that extraordinary group of students who came together at the University of the West Indies in its early years. He has had his share of anthology pieces:'The Madwoman of Papine' and 'Rain Over St. Augustine' are West Indian classics - but this collection of sixty-odd poems demonstrates Hopkinson's assurance of tone and technique across a very wide range. Hopkinson is (with a touch of irony) comfortable with the literary tradition - he begins his book with a sonnet that ends like this: 'And I, ex-slave from sugar's golden times, / Choose my own irons; these free, linked English rhymes' ('Intro'). There are more sonnets along the way ('At the Lookout', 'Reign of Terror 1970'), while several rich poems vividly summon up the particular of the Caribbean ('The Self-Fulfilment of Big Rivers', 'The Jaguar and the Theorist of Negritude', 'Watermelons'). Hopkinson has been a Muslim since the 1960s, and the poems written out of his faith are as trenchant and impressive as the religious poems of Robert Lee and Lorna Goodison. The uncompromising 'Azan' is particularly memorable: in it the poet comes to terms with seeing the ritually-butchered corpse of a man who looks very much like himself hanging by its heels from a minaret.

As a poet, Hopkinson does a great many things with real finesse. This book is too various to be represented by any brief quotation, but a sample of the lithe rhythms of 'Parabola' might whet the reader's appetite:

Like a comet you return regularly,
But rarely -
On you must go,
Surely you must,
Swung round an ellipse of parabola.
Rotate. Revolve. Loop. Swirl. - (And I also).

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