New Book: Red

Inspired by the word “red,” this collection of poetry by contemporary Black British writers, edited by Kwame Dawes, explores the subjects stirred by a single trigger, from the word’s usual associations with blood, violence, passion, and anger, as well as with sensuality and sexuality, to more surprising interpretations such as the link to a particular mood, the quality of light in the sky, the color of skin, and the sound of a song. This remarkable compilation succeeds in generating poems that find an intriguing resonance with each other while also revealing images and themes unique to the individual poets.

Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry (Peepal Tree Press, 2010) features 80 writers, including established authors and emerging poets. Black British poets with Caribbean roots represented in the collection include John Agard (Guyana), Fred D’Aguiar (Guyana), Kwame Dawes (Jamaica), Linton Kwesi Johnson (Jamaica), Anthony Joseph (Trinidad), Grace Nichols (Guyana), and Dorothea Smartt (Barbados), among others.

A quote from explains: “RED collects poems by Black British poets writing with the word ‘red’ in mind—as a kind of a leap-off point, a context, a germ—the way something small, minor, or grand might spur a poem. It offers the reader the freedom to come to whatever conclusions they want to about what writing as a poet who is also Black and British might mean. The collection succeeds in producing poems that seem to be first about image, and only then about whatever else fascinates the poet. In this sense, RED illustrates the diversity of Black British poetry whether in the richness of the entries, the moods, the humour, the passion, the reflection, the confessional—all confirm that Black British poetry is a lively and defining force in Britain today.”

Kwame Dawes is an award-winning Ghanian-born Jamaican author of several books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction. He teaches at the University of South Carolina, where he is Distinguished Poet in Residence and director of the USC Arts Institute and the SC Poetry Initiative. Dawes is the programmer for the annual Jamaican Calabash International Literary Festival.

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