Literaturas de Língua Inglesa

Literatures in English Language


Near The Seashore

Dennis Craig


The Seashore, Collected Poems 1996, by Dennis Craig.     

ISBN 976-8160-44-6   (Pp. 97)

This book won the 1998/99 Guyana Prize For Literature in the category: Best First Book Of Poetry. (The Guyana Prize was estblished in 1987 by the President of the Republic of Guyana.  It is the only national prize for literature in the countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean.) The book has been highly praised by the Panel Of Judges responsible for awarding the Prize.  The report of the Panel reads as follows: Craig's collection Near The Seashore was a real discovery.  Those of us who read the literary journals of the region had come across occasional poems by Dennis Craig over a couple of decades or more but not known that those were just the outcrops of a substantial poetic territory.  What emerges from this collection is a mature poetic voice making sense of personal - and sometimes more public - issues in lines and images that are both measured and wonderfully evocative.  There is a simplicity and directness about the language of Craig's poetry which is refreshing; no overblown descriptions or loud assertions, rather a quiet engagement with places and people and ideas.  To write simply, as anyone who has tried to do it will know. is the hardest task of all.  This is the work of a real poet Preceding the judging of the Prize, the Management Committee for the award had commented on the book as follows: "The writing is varied, containing sensitive, finely crafted poetry with a strong Caribbean sensitivity and a universal vision".

Dennis Craig


Pequena Antologia/Short Anthology



To silent people

poets unspoken

poets of doing

who love without speaking

who feel without singing

to those daughters of our mother earth

the one who carried the pain of my birth

the two who took my name; the others

I also loved, who couldn’t do the same

and my two daughters with their mother’s faces

to those sons of the father whose sun and rain

kissed life into earth in gentle places

the one I called ‘Dad’ who toiled in vain

for the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end; -

his final prayer: may better luck befriend

his children: me, my brothers and all others;

to my son, and those like him still growing

who are not yet speaking, who feel without singing

silent people, poets unspoken

poets of doing


For the word spoken is the thought measured

the flight of the spirit butchered and broken

against the jagged ridge of our world:

a sacrifice that may invoke a treasured

ease of one soul’s pain, but yet remain unfurled

like a wrapped-up flag in a shower of rain

in another’s eye. The frozen void between

our souls may yet itself sustain.

For life itself is a word, true

without speaking, an ecstasy without singing.



In the public gardens

the giant cotton tree is carved

with mazes of entwined hearts and hints

of who loves whom who carved which mark.

These the nursemaids scan each evening

chuckling under white aprons

at what nursemaids do

in place of carving the cotton tree bark.

Unconcerned the infants play

but schoolboys and schoolgirls sometimes pass

and gaze at special marks, and titter

and hurry home before the dark.

Rosalie’s bedroom

faces her mother’s across the corridor

and tear-stains unpolish the wine-wood headpiece

of Rosalie's bed. -'Child,

when we get marry - you father and I -

not a man finger did touch me before that.'

But how many times

must a girl beat her head

for a grandmother's myth

a chaste world broken and dead?

Each day the wind

cleans the road along the seashore

and removes a load of cigarette butts, paper boxes

and spent prophylactics left there the night before.

We go there often -

everyone does at night.

You can see the footprints and car tracks

each day more and more.





Roomwalls were pastry crusts ovenbaked in a noon sun.

We, black meat, simmered inside, talked proud

of negritude, sipped whisky and bitter lemon, rum

though our own, was a trifle vulgar after all.

Dulcie our maid, white cap and apron, had eyes full and soft

in a glossy melody of oval brows and lashes,

charcoal beauty of face and body which, with proper clothes,

with proper clothes, mind you,

and straightened bair, would put her par

with society blonde and brunette in New York and Paree

we all agreed, all regretted her common maidship,

regretted her fleshly share of early bed in low places.

Meanwhile we simmered and sweated, choked

by cool-climate white collar, pendant necktie, occasional

whisky and "good" jobs fit for old colonial whites.








at the corner

I pee on you

and call you




in your ear

while I stick

my prick

in you

and call you


and call you


and you believe

and I

will give you

nothing —

all the money


and if

you don't like it

you must blame

the liquor

not me


your woman-heart

not me


at the corner,


A Dream of the Swamp



Solomon palace

like in the Bible



velvet and gold

hanging gardens

like in the Bible

ferns and orchids

cannas and roses

fountains of perfume

like parson has told

meat in profusion

like in the Bible


in vinegar, - with onions



something with ackee

Sudden come the swamp-wind

smelling of mangrove



stranded anemone


blast the whole palace

marble and velvet

blast the whole garden

flower and tree

blast all the fleshfoods

fish, pig, goat-curry

leave nothing but rot-

ting bones, bush-grass, sandfly

garbage, worm, toad


and stinking huts

scorned by the sea

where my people live

near the foreshore road.




Velma skin smooth

like sea-polished stone

black and firm with power

like a panther own

breasts like nippled

balloons tight

shimmying under silk

and satin. robes - alright


Sheba in the Bible

for Solomon the King

just how parson make

the children sing

back in the countryside

where heaven is a tree

breadfruit, banana

mango, pear, sapodilla.

Sudden come the swamp-wind

smelling of mangrove



stranded anemone

lift her from

the living earth

lay her on

a cloud

blow her from

the countryside

into the town

set her down

in the shanty

near to the sea

blow the men over her

paying and free

blow her to spawn

like a frog

of the swampland


like tadpoles

black and plenty

big head pickney

big bony knee

swollen oversize

big belly


blow hunger

into her skin

crumple its smoothness

dry up the muscles

that dimpled her back

show up her spine

as a row of knobs


bones in a sack

make her dress

droop on her

make her walk


add age to her load

of burdens endless

where my people live

near the foreshore road.



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