Burn by Andre Bagoo

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Welcome to the 2015 Paper Based Advent Book Blog! Day Three ushers in our first poetry selection in our #paperbasedadvent lineup: Burn, a stunning, intricate and deftly composed sophomore collection from Andre Bagoo, launched at this year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest. An eminently worthy successor to Bagoo’s first book of poems, Trick Vessels, Burn is described by Puerto Rican poet Loretta Collins Klobah as “carnivalesque, enigmatic, experimental, vivid, wild and wonder-inspiring poems full of verve and utterly fresh language.”

Trinidad is both paradise and peculiar playground, in this bold and inventive book that bares human curiosity to the cleansing influence of fire. The poems within question both reader and subject, whether they linger over lost loves, look backwards with the slanted gait of douens, or raze Ramleela effigies back to their base origins.

Here is a collection in which everything is considered: still life; shocks to the human system; the hidden lives and adventures unfurling along Port of Spain streets that commuters cross carelessly. There’s at least one world beneath the bitumen of the one we walk over now; Bagoo’s skill is in making us consider our footsteps and what lies under them, in verses that encourage curiosity, channel hunger and sometimes playfully duke it out with our worst enemies, our best friends. The watchful promise of poems like “Yet Again” compel the reader’s gaze and imagination ever closer to new horizons:

”     Take me to your country.
Make me the independence of this land.
Down the path of fireworks,
Wile me with your hand.
Yet again, your hand.”

As with the poet’s debut, Burn opens itself eagerly to mapping and remapping, transversing seas towards Iceland, tilting on its own clever rotational axis to let new meanings encircle the worlds within it.

We recommend it for: Readers of Nicholas Laughlin and Vahni Capildeo; those who like their poems to be both playful and experimental; fans of W.H. Auden who’d like to consider him through an inventive, fascinating lens.


Trick Vessels by Andre Bagoo

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger

Trick Vessels

“The poems themselves are minefields,” says Vladimir Lucien in his sx salon review of Trick Vessels, and he couldn’t be more precise. The entire review is titled “Andre, the Obeah Man”, and again, one nods reflexively with Lucien’s assessment of this debut collection, by turns ephemeral and kaleidoscopic: a certain kind of poetic magic is unfolding within, as Bagoo conducts electrifying experiments with form and feeling. Here, the poet is also a wily sorcerer, with bags of tricks and secrets of his trade that he only reveals in witty, funny, haunting increments — this collection isn’t for the rigidly traditional (or perhaps it should be, as a deterrent against stuffy poetry collections!).

Published by Shearsman Books in 2012, Trick Vessels tantalizes its reader with possibilities, moving from familiar to alien space within moments. Bagoo’s understanding of both emotional and physical landscapes — and particularly of the relationships between the two — is stunning to behold. “Visa”, an exploration of temporal shifts through an island dweller’s lens, begins with:

“for the world is defined by your island
your garden floods centuries away
over concrete jungle birds congregate
and the latitudes are crutches”

The opening poem of the collection, “The Night Grew Dark Around Us”, sounds out a powerful, near-hypnotic meditation on love, framed as it is in a series of singular yet interwoven addresses from an unnamed, possibly spectral figure. The first stanza of the poem reads:

“Let the daughter of that hibiscus say:
“His love has no end.”
Let the mother of the daughter say:
“His love has no end.”
Let the author of the mother say:
“His love has no end.”

Myriad revelations await the adventurous reader in this thoughtful, ornamented and subtle first collection by Bagoo: these are poems for journeying far, deep and in more directions than seem readily apparent.