An Adoration of the Black Goddesses of Music

Article excerpt

If I were a woman, I would want George Elliott Clarke to sing my praises and Ricardo Scipio to capture my form with his camera. Alas, I am a man and have the same wish! Elliott's collection of poems was penned in the tropical paradise of Barbados. There is definitely the smell of rum and the taste of molasses in these poems.

George Elliott's new book of poetry, Illuminated Verses, is a collection of praise songs to Black female muses who infuse the poet with moments of delight and wonderment. Scipio's images act as a landscape to the poet's "wordscape," and the admixture creates a delectable form of sights and sounds. The combination produces a beautiful melody in the spheres.

The poems are lyrical and create a gustatory sensation like syrup. The rhythms are dizzying and intoxicating with a tinge of bacchanalian revelry.

The book is divided into different sections: "Daughters of Music," "Calypso," "Soul," "Blues and Jazz," "Poetry," "Reggae," "Anastacia," "Donna Beatrice," "Oxum," "Daughter of Music," "Music Redux," "More Light," and ""Land." The last section is dedicated to Ophelia Callender, also known as Calle Waterman, who is a Barbadian writer sojourning in the Montreal area. I cannot do justice in this review of all aspects of the book, so I shall concentrate on those sections that moved me most.

"Daughter of Music" is a fusion of sights and sounds that creates a kaleidoscopic view of a gap-toothed, chocolate brown woman with her arms outstretched in a cruciform against a backdrop of denuded trees. It is a sacrificial posture and is sexually alluring:

   But her form mimics fluid fire--
   sunlight breaking open, flashing, upon winter. (p.2)

There is rapture and a parallel rupture in these volcanic lines. Fire is both consuming and igniting and these exemplify the passions of the woman in the photograph. She exhibits defiance, resilience and a pliability.

   Amid pining leaves and ganja jungles
   She augurs Joy, matrix of Songs (p.2)

Black woman is primogenitor of the human race and her spirit rebounds repeatedly in "Calypso," for "she's a rebel/minting urgent, insurgent government" (p.6). She turns "theologians into lunatics" and with her beauty and bacchanalia, she lures the ocean tot want to be her lover. This sea nymph enraptures the soul of her listeners and those who gaze upon her. She is provocative and alluring, reminiscent of Soyinka's river goddess, Simi, in his novel, The Interpreters:

   Calypso stokes the bright revolt, rupture, of Dance--
   to kindle the truth
   of smouldering youth
   intercourse that arsons Innocence. (p.8)

The five sections in "Calypso" set the stage for an explosion of sounds and sights that electrify the mind.

Next to Calypso there is Soul. …