Back to the future
Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it
'the way it really was'. It means appropriating a memory as it
flashes up in a moment of danger.
Walter Benjamin, 'On the Concept of History'
This chapter introduces the central issues that have preoccupied postcolonial poets in English across the twentieth century— language, history, locality, and displacement—through a reading of three volumes published during the period 1989–2002. Recent poetry is used as a vantage point from which to begin mapping the contours of the large and variegated territory of poetic concerns addressed in Parts II and III. Each volume undertakes a radical revision of the poet's relation to her own historicity in poems of striking force, precision, and originality. Such writing demonstrates the responsibility undertaken by poets towards the practice of a vocation that is energized rather than disabled by the traumas of a colonial past.
I did not go to Africa looking for my 'roots'. These are very
deeply embedded in the black earth of the West Indies. But my
much maligned ancestors came from Africa. I wanted to stand
where they might have stood. I did.
Claire Harris, Fables from the Women's Quarter
Marlene Nourbese Philip (b. 1947) writes poems, plays, and fiction. She was born in Tobago, and lives in Canada, where she studied and