Words need love too: Review of Loretta Collins Klobah’s “The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman”


One of the many gems in the newly reestablished Caribbean Review of Books is Vladimir Lucien’s review of The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman (Peepal Tree Press), a poetry collection by Loretta Collins Klobah. He writes:

Loretta Collins Klobah’s poetry collection The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman is a book of ordinary concerns. Here are the citizen in a crime-ridden society, and the frailty and ephemerality of all safety; the vacillating sense of responsibility for the overwhelming afflictions that surround her; the woman dealing with solitude after her man has deserted her; the mother who tearfully receives an orange from her estranged son; Grenada in the aftermath of “de revo”; hurricanes; police brutality — and so on. This book reflects on society in all its immediacy and urgency and now-ness. It is like the news, but with greater respect for words, and a belief that — along with young Yashira, killed by a stray bullet, or Yohaira Giminez, used as a drug mule, or the patos that face persecution, and even the person who survives them all — words need love too, and the world can be loved and comforted through words, through bearing witness. [. . .].

For all these “Puerto Rico” poems that spread like roots under our gaze in Collins Klobah’s book, her narrators travel considerably. We find them in Carriacou after Hurricane Lenny, in a Chicago bus terminal, in a cold-water flat in Peckham, in St Lucia, in Jamaica, and on the small island of academia. But they refuse to moult and drop the skins of their other roles: the poet does not become soukouyan, does not become the abstract voice of reason or epiphany or warning, or even of bearing witness. The voice remains a room cluttered with real furniture placed thoughtfully, or luggage with lives folded and tucked neatly inside of it.

In a 2011 interview, V.S. Naipaul said, “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I can tell whether it is written by a woman or not.” Reading The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, I agree with Naipaul, to a point (though not with his further comment about women as “unequal” to him). What I feel, reading Collins Klobah’s book, is a robust gentleness, a strong perfume meant for our ears. You can hear in the writing the poet with book in one hand and daughter in the other, rushing here, going there, having to cook, worrying about safety. What I mean is that there is something very motherly, or mothering, in the verse. Or they exist like a kind of feminine principle. The presiding spirit could be Haiti’s Ezili Danto, the lwa of motherhood. And I’m tempted to ask the question people whisper to themselves when they see a woman triumphing over the mundane adversities and overwhelming responsibilities of daily domestic life: How does she do it?

For full article, see http://caribbeanreviewofbooks.com/crb-archive/30-november-2013/words-need-love-too/

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