Afro-Caribbean history, Barbadian Poet Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Barbados/Caribbean Region, Caribbean Poetry, Islands (1969) by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Jamaica/Caribbean Region, Masks (1968) by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Poem “Islands” by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Poetry Collection The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973) by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Rights of Passage (1967) by Edward Kamau Brathwaite, Slavery in the Caribbean
My Poetry Corner February 2021 features the poem “Islands” from the poetry collection, The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, by the Caribbean poet and historian Edward Kamau Brathwaite (1930-2020). Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, into a middle-class family, he won a British scholarship to Pembroke College, Cambridge. There he earned a bachelor’s degree in history in 1953 and gained a diploma in education the following year.
Brathwaite’s illusions of regarding himself as a British citizen were shattered on arrival in the Mother Country. He felt “rootless” and, like other British colonial West Indians of the time, he was ready to become an “Afro-Saxon.” This changed when he took a job as an Education Officer in Ghana, then the West African colony of the Gold Coast. For him, it was a spiritual homecoming. The eight years (1955 to 1962) that he spent travelling to villages across the country also expanded his thinking about history, culture, and ways of perceiving the world.
On returning to the Caribbean, he held teaching posts at the University of the West Indies, first in St. Lucia, and then in Kingston, Jamaica. While working in Jamaica, he began writing Rights of Passage, his first poetry collection, later published in 1967. Set in the Caribbean, the collection traces the movement of the black people’s dispossession of their African homeland, the sufferings of the Middle Passage and slavery, and struggle to find their footing in the new world and beyond. The people lament in “New World A-Comin’”:
It will be a long time before we see this land again, these trees again, drifting inland with the sound of surf, smoke rising It will be a long time before we see these farms again, soft wet slow green again: Aburi, Akwamu, mist risingContinue reading