What’s on Our Nightstands: “Liviticus” by Kamau Brathwaite

Liviticus_KamauBrathwaite_book cover_2017

Thanks to House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), I am the proud owner/reader of Liviticus, a beautiful work by the distinguished Barbadian poet published in St. Martin. This inspiring tome lends itself to multiple readings, and so, I have been re-reading it daily (with pleasure, pain, and myriad emotions all competing for space). [See previous post “Happy Birthday to Kamau Brathwaite.”] Liviticus was launched as the main book at the closing ceremony of the 15th anniversary of the St. Martin Book Fair, on June 3, 2017. Here are excerpts from the HNP press release, which includes review comments on the book:

At age 87, the distinguished Caribbean poet/scholar offers up Liviticus, his newest poetry book, published here in June by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP), said Lasana M. Sekou of the indie press. Liviticus is “a monument to sorrow that cherishes our origins as we live our lives of Modern distraction,” according to Garrett Hongo, the Pulitzer-nominated USA author. While the poetry could also be cast as a priestly testament, it has a chilling quality that fits Brathwaite’s description of the freshly minted Liviticus as, “The first poem of the Burning of the Body / and the Tearing of the Flesh.”

One reviewer connects to what has been identified elsewhere as the sustained “global importance” of the great Barbadian poet’s works. “Even as Kamau Brathwaite writes eloquently and heartbreakingly about his ‘Cultural Lynching,’ there remains the poet’s steadfast desire to connect to the pasts, presents, and futures of a seemingly indifferent world,” said Kelly Baker Josephs, editor of the literary platform sx salon. [. . .]

The poetry is written in Brathwaite’s Sycorax Video Style (SVS). The book’s 8.5 x 11 size accommodates the SVS wide spacing, punctuations, and font varieties. At times this aesthetically unique style has amounted to a challenge if not a point of editorial contention with major publishers eager to publish the Barbadian poet but may find themselves at odds with the requirements of his SVS brand, said Sekou. [. . .]

Among the 20 and more books by Brathwaite that have maintained his international standing as a distinguished poet, scholar, and dramatist are The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy (1973), X/Self (1987), Middle Passages (1992), The Zea Mexican Diary (1994), Words Need Love Too (HNP, 2000), Born to Slow Horses (2005), and Elegguas (2010). [. . .]

For more information, see http://houseofnehesipublish.com/sxm/

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