The Poems of Sam Selvon

by Shivanee Ramlochan, Paper Based Blogger


Reducing a knowledge of Sam Selvon to A Brighter Sun would be as detrimental as recognizing V. S. Naipaul simply for Miguel Street, or Earl Lovelace for The Dragon Can’t Dance alone. Yet, many readers of Caribbean literature, including those who pride themselves on being well-read, have barely even heard of Selvon’s poetry, making this collection as vital as it is long overdue.

Issued by Cane Arrow Press in 2012, The Poems of Sam Selvon has been collated painstakingly by Roydon Salick, a Trinidadian critical scholar whose previous publications include The Novels of Samuel Selvon: A Critical Study. In a foreword to the collection, penned by fellow Trinidadian scholar, Kenneth Ramchand, Selvon’s poems are described as being “worth attention whether you are a Selvon scholar or not.” Ramchand adds persuasively that “…if (Selvon) had written nothing else, this collection would establish him as a considerable poet, a relevantly West Indian one, and an original.”

What the collection reveals is that, unbeknownst to those who weren’t paying attention (or perhaps weren’t yet born!), Selvon’s poetry has been around — published in various literary journals, including Bim and Savacou. With the principal selection of poems having been printed in the Trinidad Guardian newspapers from 1946 to 1949, Selvon’s poems have undoubtedly existed in the literary landscape of both home and abroad. The poems themselves reveal the development of a keenly thinking mind, one concerned with identity, voice, the immigrant experience, and the pains of love and death.  They are recommended reading for university and secondary school students, and for those who want to learn more of Sam Selvon, beyond the banner of his more celebrated works.

For more information on Cane Arrow Press and their publications, you can visit their official website and browse their catalogue.