cover image The Perseverance

The Perseverance

Raymond Antrobus. Tin House, $16.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-951142-42-1

“All good words in sign are said with the thumb,” a sign language teacher declares in Antrobus’s moving debut. Exploring his early experience of deafness, Antrobus invites the reader to feel the frustration and emotional complexity of navigating through the world: “I was a broken speaker, you were never a broken interpreter.” Language and communication become touchstones of the collection; poems like “Aunt Beryl Meets Castro” evoke Jamaican patois (“Listen listen, you know I/ met Castro in Jamaica in/ ’77 mi work with/ government under Manley”). Equally memorable is Antro-bus’s consideration of his embattled identity: “There is such a thing as a key confidently cut/ that accepts the locks it doesn’t fit.” However, it’s his evocations of his late father, a Jamaican immigrant who battled alcoholism and faced British policemen “who didn’t believe he belonged/ unless they heard his English,/ which was smooth as some uptown roads,” that gives the collection its heart. What might be gimmicky or sentimental—the poem “Thinking of Dad’s Dick,” for instance—becomes moving and memorable: “He knew he wouldn’t live/ to see me grown... He had to give,/ while he could, the length of his life to me.” In these pages, Antrobus’s evocative, musical honesty is unforgettable. (Mar.)