Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 2nd 2015 Contents A32
Depending on how you look at these things, you need not go
past Chicago-based Trinidadian poet Roger Bonair-Agard s intro-
duction to his 2013 collection entitled Bury My Clothes to know
what he really means about a lot of things.
The poet s Dear Prologue---sub-titled Two bottles of rum and
the Roaring Lion ---sets the stage for a remarkable reflection on
what foreword writer Patrick Rosal describes as "histories, violence,
rhythms, fusions and disjunctions."
Indeed, as Rosal writes, the collection, published
by Haymarket Books, is packed with poetic rage,
but like his fateful three (not two) half-bottles of
rum with the legendary calypsonian, anger and
violence ride the wave of a tide of ironic poetic
brilliance and beauty.
Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez s multi-
tiered classic Love in the time of Cholera, Bonair-
Agard s opens with A Time of Polio in which
his Uncle Edmund battles with disease and
dies "unknown, but not less loved/than the
pope or the president."
At this point, it s easy to go back to the
chance rum shop lime with the Roaring Lion.
"I cannot believe my eyes. Lion wants a lift
and people are not stopping."
Then comes the poem Afro which recalls
the time the poet was made to realise he
was black and was taken to the tailor to
be dressed to the hilt---ostensibly as a sym-
bol of pride in being black.
"My mother took me/to the tailor for
my first suit./And it was super bad---
light/blue, with lapels like wings."
Back to Two bottles of rum and the
Roaring Lion. Hours after offering the
calypsonian a lift home, and following
an entertaining rum shop detour, the
poet reaches Lion s house in Mt Lam-
bert: "It is four in the morning.
It is an easy 20-minute drive. I drop the Lion off in front of
a two-storey, off-white house, and he says: You re a good young
fella. You will do well. He strides off, suit still immaculate, hat
never having left that spot on his head, tie knotted right at the
It was, of course, the Growling Tiger s timeless refrain "When
ah dead, bury meh clothes," which provided Bonair-Agard with
the name for his collection and which he sees as "a song of lament
"It (the refrain) undulates the shoulders and drives the feet into
the dirt. It lifts the body up and cracks the stick. It draws the
blood. It buries the man, a man, a hero on his own terms." It is
as stick-fighter chant, the poet s bois is directed with ironic force
at violent society---as much in Port-of-Spain as on the streets of
There is gun-talk in Ode to the man who grabbed my arm in
the bar---"When you leaned in and made the decision/to grab my
arm, you did not know/the cautionary tale you would
become." Restraint and reflection in
Ode to the man who leaned
out the truck and called me nig-
ger : "So easily could I have fall-
en/under your truck s wheels. I
was/in search of love and some-
how/knew you had it to give in
There is love and beauty in
Roger, Chicago, 2011, pens a note
for his nine-year-old self, Winnipeg,
1977 which the poet launches with
the lines: "You ve had to leave your
friends/so you will make new
ones./They have taken to calling
you/outside of your name, so you
will/become a stone."
Bury My Clothes is easily the best
of the three collections of Bonair-Agard s
I have been able to put my hands on,
through the kindness of his former
Queen s Royal College (QRC) principal,
William J Carter.
But anyone who likes the eyes through
hich the world is interpreted by this poet
ould do well to also put their hands on
self-published 2007 collection: Extra
ver: to be young, fast and black.
Henry Blofeld opens up the day s play is
the quintessential QRC schoolboy poem.
Carter did well to urge an introduction to Bonair-Agard through
a reading of Extra Cover. Word has it this outstanding Trini poet
will make an appearance at the annual Bocas Lit Fest sometime
in the future. The faster the organisers move on this, the better.
Other titles by Bonair-Agard include:
Gully, 2010, Peepal Tree Press; Tarnish and
Masquerade, 2006, Cypher Books and
Burning Down the House, 2000, Soft Skull
Press, co-authored with Stephen Colman, Guy
Lecharles Gonzalez, Alix Olson, and Lynne
Cover art of Chicago-based Trinidadian poet Roger
Bonair-Agard's 2013 collection Bury My Clothes.
Guardian .guardian.co.tt Monday, November 2, 2015
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