Edward Brathwaite Hayden Carruth - Essay

Hayden Carruth

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

To convey a sense of the quality of Edward Brathwaite's poetry is difficult. Let me suggest a distinction between poetry that is moving and poetry that is stirring…. H. D.'s poems are the former kind; Brathwaite's are the latter. I don't mean like a Sousa march either, though I've no objection to Sousa. It is a question of vigor and a certain fibrous resiliency. Brathwaite, who is the foremost poet of the English-speaking Caribbean and at least in some sense a revolutionary, is never shrill, is always keen to the pathos of his people's plight, yet the basic exuberance of his feeling cannot be doubted. In part it is revolutionary optimism, in part a closeness to his sources in folk culture. Brathwaite has said that the chief literary influence on his work has been the poetry of T. S. Eliot, but if this is so it has been an influence almost entirely limited to matters of organization and structure, and perhaps to Eliot's manner of rhyming, though this could have come from anywhere. In texture, in verbal technique, in almost everything, nothing could be further from Eliot's poetry than Brathwaite's. Brathwaite has made his reputation on three long poems, Rights of Passage (1967), Masks (1968), and Islands (1969). Now they have been published in one volume, The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy, and it is a book everyone should read. Brathwaite uses many voices, ranging from standard English to dialects of several kinds, and in...

(The entire section is 457 words.)