In Castaway Yvette Christianse presents an epic yet fragmented poetic story set off the coast of Africa on the island of St. Helena: Napoleon Bonaparte's final place of exile, a port of call for the slave trade, and birthplace of the poet's grandmother. Amid echoes of racialized identity and issues of displacement, the poems in Castaway speak with a multiplicity of voices-from Fernao Lopez (the island's first exile) and Napoleon to that of a contemporary black woman. Castaway is simultaneously a song of discovery, an anthem of conquest, and a tortured lamentation of exiles and slaves.
Instead of offering a linear narrative, Christianse renders the poems as if they were emerging from the pages of imaginary books, documents now disrupted and scattered. An emperor's point of view is juxtaposed with the perspectives of various explorers, sailors, and unknown slaves until finally they all open upon the book's "castaway," the authorial female voice that negotiates a way to write about love and desire after centuries of oppression and exploitation.
Daring and sophisticated, Castaway challenges and captivates the reader with not only its lyrical richness and conceptual depth but also its implicit and haunting reflections on diaspora and postcolonialism. It will be highly regarded by readers and writers of poetry and will appeal to those engaged with issues of race, gender, exile, multiculturalism, colonialism, and history.
Yvette Christianse was born and raised in South Africa. In her late teens her family moved to Australia to escape aparteid. She now lives in New York where she is an Assistant Professor of English at Fordham University.
The Name of the Island 1 The Island Sings Its Name 5 And All Things Come to Pass 10 On Being Restless 11 Letter to General D'Albuquerque- On the Pleasures of Taste 12 Letter to General D'Albuquerque- On the Pleasures of Touch 14 Letter to General D'Albuquerque- On Desire 16 Letter to General D'Albuquerque- On Solitude 17 Letter to General D'Albuquerque- On Forgiveness 19 For the Devout Mouth 21 For the Rrecord 23 Sleigh Ride 27 The Enemies of Progress 29 Necessary Things 31 The Emperor Considers the Fate of His Book 32 Last Battles 33 A Very Sick Man 34 One More Mile, One More Town 35 Face to Face 36 Brotherhood 38 ANd What of Africa? 39 Another Strange Night 41 For the Arrival of a Serious Enemy 43 Gold 45 Sunday School 47 The Sleeper 48 Blow the WInd Southerly 49 And Bring Him to Me 51 Courtship 52 Fire on Board 53 Man in a Room 55 What the Girl who was a Cabin Boy Hears of Said- Which is not Clear 56 Geography Lesson 57 On Hearing of the Exiled Prophet 59 In the Hull 61 Under the Feet of Angels 62 When All else Fails 63 Felony 64 Contagion 65 The Englightenment Sees Its Face in a Different Light 66 Even when the Smile they Smolder 68 Sometimes the Surface of Water, Sometimes a Mirror- the Horror 69 Nightwatch 70 A Dictionary of Survival 71 Memorial 72 Floating 73 Middle Passage 74 She Feels the Vanishing Sickness Move behind Her Navel 75 The Face of the Deep 76 Eclipse 77 Adrift 78 In the Maw 79 In the Wake 81 An Easter Confession, of Sorts 85 For Strength in the Face of a Powerful Enemy 86 Desire 87 Devilry 88 Aubade 89 For a Lover Who Keeps to Another Hemipshere 90 Sweeter and Dearer 91 Is It Not Sweet? 92 Southerly, Southerly 93 Moon 94 Now That She is a Woman Herself 95 With the Art of Birds 96 She Observes the Blue Bird 97 A Riddle to Save Face 98 The Cabin Girl Sees on All SIdes Evidence of the Dream 99 She Looks up and Points 100 The Beautiful Flood 101 What Is Out there? 102 Some of the Women 103 Behind my Back 104 She Confesses 105 Land Ahead 107 Headwind 108 The Cabin Girl Sings, of Love, Reluctantly and into an Empty Sky 109 And When I Write the Muscles in My Chest Move as if in Flight 110 The Voyage Out 111 St. Helena-- Time Line 113