Raymond Antrobus in “The best recent poetry”

In “The best recent poetry – review roundup,” Mary Jean Chan (winner of the 2019 Costa poetry prize for her anthology Flèche) includes All the Names Given, by Raymond Antrobus. Others include The Sun Is Open, by Gail McConnell; Single Window, by Daniel Sluman; and The Kids, by Hannah Lowe. See full review at The Guardian.

Raymond Antrobus’s second collection, All the Names Given (Picador), builds on themes in his award-winning debut, The Perseverance, including meditations on the d/Deaf experience. In this book, Antrobus brings history to bear on the present through references to poets ranging from William Blake to Kamau Braithwaite, exploring love, marriage and brotherhood, as well as colonial inheritance, racism, ableism and intergenerational trauma. In “Plantation Paint”, Antrobus responds to “Plantation Burial”, an artwork by the 19th-century painter John Antrobus, and wonders how one might make sense of a surname “so anciently English that it has become foreign to itself”. The speaker asks: “Tell me if I’m closer / to the white painter / with my name than I am / to the black preacher, / his hands wide to the sky, / the mahogany rot / of heaven”. These lyric poems are also linguistically innovative, spanning standard English, Jamaican patois and British sign language. Elsewhere, a sequence of caption poems inspired by Deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim serves as an important riposte to the hegemony of our hearing-centric world:

[sound of strangers arriving]
[squirming in suit]
[sound of light between us]

Moving deftly between tenderness and violence, hope and grief, praise and lament, this is a deeply evocative collection that will linger in the reader’s mind. [. . .]

For full review, see https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/jul/09/the-best-recent-poetry-review-roundup

[Photograph above by Suki Dhanda/The Observer. “Raymond Antrobus explores love, marriage and brotherhood in All the Names Given.”] 

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