Fawzia Kane’s precise and sensual poems range over Borgesian fantasies to historically informed evocations of the poet’s native Trinidad and Tobago. A society steeped in tradition, folklore and myth is brought vividly to life by Kane in poems like ‘Carnevale’: ‘We repaint our skins,/ tighten our masks… … We bind our smiles / with nets of silk’. There’s a sense of timelessness in her poetry, a fusion of past, present and the everlasting: ‘Your treads cause my life to unfold. / Sparked open by your breath’ ( ‘A Bao a Qu’).
Observations on the ongoing legacy of African slavery is a recurrent motif, as in the chilling ‘Douen’: ‘Children with feet turned backwards, / lost, and waiting with slow smiles /that linger cat-like after moving on’. Using her regional dialect and its scornful ‘Robber talk’ style of storytelling, Kane brings Tantie Diablesse, a 300 year old ex-slave, to our rapt attention. ‘La Diablesse’ is described in Caribbean Creole folklore as a devil woman who hides her corpse-like appearance behind a veiled hat and decorative apparel, and lures men to their deaths. ‘So the quicksand of lost hope has sucked you / in. … Come closer, /see how despair sews bells to my hat. /My kind knows death’s long punch line / and it is hilarious. …Step nearer still. Let me wheel /dance your life to shreds’ (‘Tantie Diablesse counsels’).
This is a truly beguiling debut collection.