Through a close reading of selected poets born in the Caribbean and working from the 1910s to the present, Lee Jenkins analyzes the language and intertextuality of Caribbean poetry, revising notions of the relationship of this poetry to modernism. Focusing on how Caribbean writers respond to their literary inheritances inside and outside the region, she illuminates the interactions of Caribbean poetry with Anglo-American modernism, with English, Scottish, and Irish regional modernisms, and with postmodern avant-garde movements such as the Language Movement. Modernism emerges as a tradition that has been assimilated, transformed, and turned in fresh directions by Caribbean poets. Previous studies have stressed the influence of the African-American protest tradition on Caribbean poetry, alleging a lack of interest in formal innovation in black poetry. Jenkins counters that Caribbean poetry is informed by many textualities and accomplishes the goals of the modernist experiment through diction, metaphor, and allusion. Jenkins examines the peculiar influence of T. S. Eliot on Anglophone Caribbean poetry. She pays special attention to the early Jamaican dialect poetry of Claude McKay and the undervalued poetics and wider cultural work of Una Marson, the first major Caribbean woman poet. She evaluates the current burgeoning interest in poet and historian Kamau Brathwaite and also discusses the work of less-noticed poets David Dabydeen, Lorna Goodison, and M. NourbeSe Philip, offering the first critical discussion of Philip's poem-sequence Zong! This revisionary and groundbreaking work relates not only to the fields of Caribbean literature and 20th-century poetry but to recent reevaluations of the Harlem Renaissance; it is also relevant for students of women's poetry and African-American literature.
Lee M. Jenkins is lecturer in English literature at University College Cork in Ireland. She is the author of Wallace Stevens: Rage for Order and the coeditor of The Locations of Literary Modernism: Region and Nation in British and American Modernist Poetry.