Olive Senior

Topics: Poetry, Nicaragua, Family Pages: 3 (363 words) Published: February 4, 2013
Jamaican poet Olive Senior's latest collection of poems Gardening in

the Tropics is an impressive affirmation of Senior's place as one of

the most lucid of Caribbean poets writing today. It is her clarity

of thought, her capacity to construct the clean precise line, and

her direct commitment to political issues that make this collection

such a welcome addition to West Indian writing.

Gardening in the Tropics is a carefully constructed series of poems

that are organized around a quartet of movements: "Traveller's

Tales," a selection of poems that explore the pains and pleasures of

immigration and constant movement by Caribbean people and, at the

same time, chronicle the family history of one simple rural family

through its varied experiences with hurricanes; "Nature Studies," a

cryptic series of witty poems that expand on themes of nature and

the environment; "Gardening in the Tropics," a tumbling movement of

poems that make use of a natural speaking voice to convey the

vicissitudes of living in a "third world space" under the dominating

influence of colonial history and a present of imperialist

exploitation of land and limb; and finally, "Mystery," a homage to

African deities that reads like a series of prayers echoing the

praise poems of Brathwaite's Mask sequence in his trilogy The

Arrivants. Described as they are above, one may get the impression

that these sequences or movements are independent entities with no

thematic or stylistic cohesiveness. But this is just not so. Senior

makes wonderful use of echoes, thematic repetition, and an

intelligence that is at once spiritual and pragmatic to create a

very clear pattern of journeying and discovery in the entire


This collection is outstanding because of Senior's ability to

balance political advocacy, in poems such as "Meditations on Yellow"

and "Amazon Women," with profoundly intimate expositions of soul and...
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