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The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion

Kei Miller

Cover of The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion by Kei Miller
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Categories: 21st Century, BAME, Bestsellers, Caribbean, LGBTQ+
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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Paperback (72 pages)
(Pub. May 2014)
£9.95 £8.96
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(Pub. May 2014)
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  • Description
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  •                                                                   A question
    has wedged itself between his learning and his awakening:
    how does one map a place that is not quite a place? How does one draw
    towards the heart?

    In his new collection, acclaimed Jamaican poet Kei Miller dramatises what happens when one system of knowledge, one method of understanding place and territory, comes up against another. We watch as the cartographer, used to the scientific methods of assuming control over a place by mapping it (‘I never get involved / with the muddy affairs of land’), is gradually compelled to recognise – even to envy – a wholly different understanding of place, as he tries to map his way to the rastaman’s eternal city of Zion. As the book unfolds the cartographer learns that, on this island of roads that ‘constrict like throats’, every place-name comes freighted with history, and not every place that can be named can be found.
    The Shrug of Jah
    Establishing the Metre
    Quashie’s Verse
    What the Mapmaker Ought to Know
    The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion
      i. in which the cartographer explains himself
      ii. in which the rastaman disagrees
      v. in which the rastaman offers an invitation
    A Prayer for the Unflummoxed Beaver
      ix. in which the cartographer travels lengths and breadths
    Place Name: Me-No-Sen-You-No-Come
      x. in which the cartographer asks for directions
    A Ghazal for the Tethered Goats
      xii. in which the rastaman begins to feel uncomfortable
    Place Name: Swamp
    For the Croaking Lizards
    Place Name: Wait-A-Bit
      xvi. in which every song is singing Zion
    Place Name: Shotover
    Place Name: Corn Puss Gap
      xx. in which the cartographer tells off the rastaman
    Place Name: Half Way Tree
    Place Name: Edinburgh Castle
    Hymn to the Birds
    Filop Plays the Role of Papa Ghede (2010)
    When Considering the Long, Long Journey of 28,000 Rubber Ducks
      xxiv. in which the cartographer attends Reggae Sumfest
    The Blood Cloths
    Place Name: Bloody Bay
    For Pat Saunders, West Indian Literature Critic, after her Dream
    In Praise of Maps
    My Mother’s Atlas of Dolls
    Place Name: Flog Man
    Place Name: Try See
    What River Mumma Knows
      xxvi. in which the rastaman gives a sermon
      xxvii. in which the rastaman says a benediction

    Kei Miller was born in Jamaica in 1978 and has written several books across a range of genres. His 2014 collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, won the Forward Prize for Best Collection while his 2017 Novel, Augustown, won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, ... read more
    Awards won by Kei Miller Short-listed, 2020 The Derek Walcott Prize (In Nearby Bushes) Long-listed, 2020 The Polari Prize (In Nearby Bushes) Winner, 2014 Forward Prize for Best Collection (The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion) Short-listed, 2014 Costa Book Awards for Poetry (The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion) Short-listed, 2014 International Dylan Thomas Prize (The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion)
    'The verse movement here, the interplay of sound values in inner rhyme and consonantal pairing, in fact the whole lyrical movement of the text, I find exemplary.'
    Peter Riley, Fortnightly Review
    Praise for Kei Miller This is a book that offers a wise, colourful and unflinching look at contemporary Jamaica - good and bad - and anyone who loves language will find it utterly intoxicating.'
    Roger Cox, The Scotsman
    'Lyrical contemplation brings to the fore the Jamaican landscape in which the collection is set and its inextricable relationship to racialized violence... The frequency with which these poems deploy the signifier bush but nevertheless find ways to reimagine its social, political, and aesthetic potentials suggests that we may no sooner exhaust our compulsion for clarity than our desire for obscurity.'
    Joseph Fritsch, Public Books
    'Miller's lush, contemplative poetic style is on full display, as is formal innovation with a boundary-breaking structure setting critical 'micro-essays' in conversation with verse ... This collection is a powerful testament to his acuity as both poet and critic.'

    Sarah-Jean Zubair, Magma

    'Miller deftly uses caesuras,line breaks and antimetabole to keep the reader pivoting between meanings, between growth and rot.'
    'Kei Miller has always had a distinct relationship to ideas of place, able - as the best cartographers are - to make sense of territory new or previously overlooked, and point us to why we should be looking there, and what we should be looking for: the stories that are being buried, being forgotten... It's also a sharp reminder that crisis - endings - will find us, wherever we are. What are - what could be - beautiful refuges don't exist, and are the real nowhere places.'
    Rishi Dastidar, Poetry London
    'Miller's formal and linguistic inventiveness are at their best in his lively analysis of patois and etymology... Miller combines reportage, poetry, essay, psalmistry and erasure to show... the book of poems as a site of potential'
    Dominic Leonard, Times Literary Supplement
    'Kei Miller has always had a distinct relationship to ideas of place, able - as the best cartographers are - to make sense of territory new or previously overlooked, and point us to why we should be looking there, and what we should be looking for: the stories that are being buried, being forgotten... This method of directing us to what we really need to pay attention to, and where it is happening, is at the core of Miller's latest collection'
    Rishi Dastidar, Poetry London

    'In Kei Miller's case, perceptions of Jamaica play out wittily through dialect and toponym, and are set against violent circumstances, explored with a profound awareness of their cultural and historical causes.'
    W. N. Herbert, The Poetry Review
     'This grab-you-by-the-collar collection uses the undergrowth as a symbol for Jamaica's dark side.'
    Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph

    'Miller surpasses expectations for a book to be about something, as if a book's purpose were merely to convey information, or to create an experience. To read In Nearby Bushes is to be guided into thinking through things, however uncomfortable or uncanny.'
    Vahni Capildeo

    'A tremendous range of writing as excellent Jamaican poets rub shoulders with peers from Haiti, Trinidad and the Bahamas. Diverse and stimulating.'
    Independent on Sunday
    'These captivating poets write from the heart with poems which range from the spare and haunting to the risky and experimental. There are surprises, there is beauty, there are pleasures to be discovered, there is much to be enjoyed.'
    Bernardine Evaristo
    'Some of the most exciting poetry I've read in years. Radiant utterance that speaks of island experiences and gender politics from a deep well of understanding, with empathy, humour and insight. An extraordinary new voice singing with clarity and grace.'
    Olive Senior
    'Raise high the roofbeams, here comes a strong new presence in poetry...Kei Miller's is a voice we will hear much more of, for it speaks and sings with rare confidence and authority.'
    Lorna Goodison
      'Miller's charming second collection [There Is an Anger that Moves] is an affectionately jaunty glimpse of a life caught between the cold and baffling England he has adopted and the fiery warmth of his Jamaican home.'
    No. 7 in 'The Ten Best New poetry collections' - The Independent, 2007
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