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A Light Song of Light
RRP: GBP 9.95
ISBN: 978 1 847779 23 6
Categories: 21st Century, Caribbean
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: August 2010
80 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: Paperback, eBook (Kindle), eBook (PDF)
A light song of light swells up in the dark
times, in wolf time and knife time,
in knuckle and blood times; it blooms
nocturnally, like a Chinese flower,
bright against the midnight.
from 'Twelve Notes for a Light Song of Light'
Kei Miller's work was acclaimed by the distinguished Jamaican writer Olive Senior as 'Some of the most exciting poetry I’ve read in years... An extraordinary new voice singing with clarity and grace.' A Light Song of Light sings in the rhythms of ritual and folktale, praise songs and anecdotes, blending lyricism with a cool wit, finding the languages in which poetry can sing in dark times.
The book is in two parts: Day Time and Night Time, each exploring the inseparable elements that together make a whole. Behind the daylight world of community lies another, disordered, landscape: stories of ghosts and bandits, a darkness violent and seductive. At the heart of the collection is the Singerman, a member of Jamaica's road gangs in the 1930s, whose job was to sing while the rest of the gang broke stones. He is a presence both mundane and shamanic. Kei Miller’s poems celebrate 'our incredible and abundant lives', facing the darkness and making from it a song of the light.
Cover photograph: Detail of balmyard constructed from zinc, Jamaica. Copyright © Kei Miller.
Twelve Notes for a Light Song of Light
This Zinc Roof
Some Definitions for Song
Until you too have journeyed
Some Definitions for Light (I)
If this short poem stretches
Notice to the Public, Please Observe
Some Definitions for Light (II)
The Longest Song
A Short Biography of the Singerman
What Can Be Accommodated
The Singerman’s Papa
The Colour of the Singerman’s Songs
In Defence of Obeah
Questions for Martin Carter
Call this apocalyptic propaganda if you must
For Cornelius Eady
Some Definitions for Light (III)
The Lost Prophecy of Alexander Bedward
De True Story of Rolling Calf
De True Story of Nathaniel Morgan
De True Story of Coolie Duppy
De True Story of deLaurence
A Praise Song for Sudden Lights
A Smaller Song
For the Pilots
A Short History of Beds We Have Slept in Together
The Law Concerning Mermaids
What We Thought Were Signs
On the Ninth Night
The Singerman’s Other Job
A Parting Song
A Nine Night Song
Some Definitions for Night
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)
Praise for Kei Miller
'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.'
Wasafari issue 103
'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
'[T]his 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.'
'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
'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 '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 '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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