cover image Not a Copper Penny in Me House: Poems from the Caribbean

Not a Copper Penny in Me House: Poems from the Caribbean

Monica Gunning. Boyds Mills Press, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56397-050-4

Lessac's luscious gouaches give a rich glimpse of ordinary events on a Caribbean island, the subjects of Gunning's poems. John Canoe dancers appear at Christmastime, ``Masks like devils or horses' heads, / waving pitchforks and sticks,'' while drummers and fifers perform on Grand Market Night (Christmas Eve). Gunning's verse is liveliest when describing characters--like Nana, who walks to church ``carrying her shoes / like a treasure'' and, after stubbing her toe, says, ``Thank you God, / it wasn't me Sunday shoes''--but otherwise her work is more interesting for what it reports than for its language. In spite of the unexceptional text, the exotic details Gunning provides will help American readers understand a foreign culture. Here, a child polishes her shoes with a red hibiscus; on a hot June day the teacher holds class under a breadfruit tree. These plainspoken poems are complemented by Lessac's glowing colors and primitive style, which unlock the simple beauties of a radiant world. All ages. (Sept.)