Channer, author of the novella The Girl with the Golden Shoes, skillfully examines the brutality that permeates Jamaica’s history in this moving debut poetry collection. Poems explore the historical oppression experienced by Channer’s blood ancestors; as the son and grandson of policemen, he also plumbs his connection to the violence that still exists in his homeland. Yet Channer’s book is also an investigation of an expatriate’s relationship with his birthplace and what this distance means to his American-raised son. His gift for narrative is apparent from the book’s opening poem, but is especially evident in “Funeral,” in which he weaves anecdotes from a dead man’s life with snapshots of his funeral without losing the reader. Channer also demonstrates a sharp ear, with lines that take meaning from both definition and sound: “We belongers sieve the fragments// from the midden, make molds./ Shells. Shit. Skin. Seeds. Bone.” Despite the violence that he documents, the poems are not without beauty: “A kite was caught on a telephone pole./ I wanted to be it, see what it could/ the hills, the sea.” Like his kite, Channer’s poems rise to present the reader with a panoramic view of a place “built on old foundations of violence,” of “geographies where genocide and massacre/ hang like smoke from coal fires.” (Sept.)
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.