In "After-image", Dennis Scott displays in ever more refined, pared-down ways the qualities that, in his previous collections, established him as a major Caribbean poet. There is his acute intelligence, seriousness worn lightly, and meticulous craft with sound and the appearance of the poem on the page. There is his resolute integrity as a Black and Caribbean poet with a sense of multiple inheritances who refuses to be conscripted into any sentimental or monolithic stance, who goes 'among the fashionable drums/trying to keep true my own blood's subtle beat'. There is the warm humanity of his poems about love and the nourishment of his marriage. There is his actor's ability to get under the skin of those he observes, to see 'so many tales/ in every silent face', his sense of the masks and rituals, the significance of tiny movements in the interactions between people.Particularly arresting in "After-image", poems drawn from the wealth of manuscripts left by Scott after his untimely death in 1991, and edited by his friend and fellow poet, Mervyn Morris, are those that focus on his own coming death, his hope/confidence that 'when this machine is dead/ the poems it made will flare/ wild...' These are poems vibrant with life, with curiosity about this new journey, 'a certain satisfaction from/ questions articulated', poems of an inspiring courage. Though the world becomes confined to a ward, a body, a tirelessly curious mind, there is no sense of diminution when a vase of flowers on a hospital table brings him 'The surprise of wild flowers!/ Walls fall open, roofs melt/ I too grow upwards.' There are the pleasures of travelling light, 'A small bird, bearing/ news from the front', and the pangs and consolations of not knowing what is to come. He sees the bird that 'shits on my neat/ green/ garden// I do not know/ what will grow', but he also draws peace from the sense of continuation when he watches the ocean and thinks 'Let the sea repeat/ unwatched, its long, salt hymn.'And, there is his poet's wit writing about death the editor in the last poem in the collection, the last two lines left artfully incomplete, of waiting on 'that blue hand that/ could be here, now'.
av Dennis Scott
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