As you may know, I’m thrilled to be one of five UK bloggers acting as shadow judge for The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award this year. You’ll find more about the award here on Linda’s Book Bag and on The Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer’s Award website.
Today it gives me enormous pleasure to feature one of those shortlisted authors, Raymond Antrobus and his poetry collection The Perseverance.
Published by Penned in the Margins, The Perseverance is available for purchase though the links here.
An extraordinary debut from a young British-Jamaican poet, The Perseverance is a book of loss, language and praise. One of the most crucial new voices to emerge from Britain, Raymond Antrobus explores the d/Deaf experience, the death of his father and the failure to communicate. Ranging across history, time zones and continents, The Perseverance operates in the in betweens of dual heritages, of form and expression emerging to show us what it means to exist, and to flourish.
My Review of The Perseverance
An anthology of writing on the theme of d/Deaf.
The Perseverance is an eclectic collection that truly took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting quite such a perfectly poised balance of personal experience and international cultural and historical references. This style lodges the writing within both familiar and unknown eras and events for the reader, making it an immersive experience. I thoroughly appreciated the illustrations that accompany some of the work because they give a credence to another form of language than the written words on the page.
A times, Raymond Antrobus made me feel quite uncomfortable as he uncovered my ignorance and he sent me scurrying off to investigate some of the references I hadn’t known about. The murder of three deaf women in Haiti explored in For Jesula Gelin, Vanessa Previl and Monique Vincent, for example, simply hadn’t crossed my consciousness before and I rather feel I may have had a similar attitude to deaf youngsters illustrated in Ted Hughes’ redacted poem that Antrobus counters so movingly in After Reading ‘Deaf School’ by the Mississippi. In The Perseverance Raymond Antrobus forces the reader to contemplate themselves as well as read the poetry and frequently I was found wanting.
The writing is elegantly crafted and yet at times is raw with anger, loss and grief so that the more I read of The Perseverance the more it touched me. Frequently techniques illustrate the content of the writing, from the sibilance in Echo, as if indeed echoing the sounds a person might experience in their ears or on their lips as they attempt to speak, to the broken text of Samantha’s mother’s dementia, giving an extra depth that ensnared me as I read. The one sided conversation in Miami Airport stirred a rage in me that helped me understand and appreciate not just the work in The Perseverance, but the writer himself. It made me glad to be me and taught me to appreciate what I have. Indeed, I experienced a range of emotions as a result of reading The Perseverance, and almost felt a sense of relief when the final poem Happy Birthday Moon because it concluded the anthology with greater possitivity than I had encountered in some of the other poems.
I was curious about the many references to water, wondering if they represented birth fluids or the possibility of suicidal death, or indeed both, in Raymond Antrobus’s complex and occasionally disturbing verse. The author’s poignant desire for acknowledged identity and belonging underpins so much of this collection. Feeling neither Jamaican nor British, he longs for acceptance from society, but more importantly, for recognition from his father whose time is so often spent in The Perseverance pub. There’s a brittle honesty here that insinuates itself into the reader’s mind and makes them empathise with the writer.
The Perseverance is more than just an anthology. It is a eulogy to the deaf, the dead, the disappeared, the silent and the invisible members of society who deserve more than so many of us have afforded them in the past. Reading The Perseverance has altered my perceptions and my attitudes and I have to thank Raymond Antrobus for the beauty of his writing and the depth of his enlightenment. This is a thought provoking, provocative and intriguing anthology.
About Raymond Antrobus
Raymond Antrobus was born in Hackney to an English mother and Jamaican father. He is the recipient of fellowships from Cave Canem, Complete Works III and Jerwood Compton Poetry. He is one of the world’s first recipients of an MA in Spoken Word Education from Goldsmiths, University of London. Raymond is a founding member of Chill Pill and Keats House Poets Forum. He has had multiple residencies in deaf and hearing schools around London, as well as Pupil Referral Units. In 2018 he was awarded the Geoffrey Dearmer Award by the Poetry Society (judged by Ocean Vuong).
The Perseverance (Penned in the Margins, 2018), was a Poetry Book Society Choice, the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize and the Ted Hughes Award, and was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and Forward Prize for Best First Collection.