January 24, 2011
Book Review: "All Things Bright" by Christine Craig
Reviewed by By: Heather Russell, Ph.D.
Florida International University
Christine Craig, daughter of the Jamaican dust, reminds us in her collection, All Things Bright, why she remains one of our most talented, powerful, and relevant poets. The poems in this collection travel. Some demanding, some coercing, some entreating, some coyly teasing us -- Craig's poems take us on journeys deep, deep into the realms of national belonging, nation language, memory, history, myth, tradition, family, culture, exile, life, pain, injustice, and too, in the best possible sense of the word, into righteousness.
Moving dynamically and evocatively across geographies of nation, place, and time, nostalgic African "ancestral roamings" commingle with and ground in evocative ways, contemporary Kingston's dread realities of unemployment, struggle, exploitation, resistance. "We weep" for "women on the streets of Kingston" and with and for her children, even as we sway to the rhythms of gospel, reggae, blues, and stop short at the sharp, abrupt, familiarity of dominos, banging -- urgent reminders of our rituals of survival, and of our cultural wealth.
In her collection, Craig pays homage to the literary forbearers that help to shape our understandings of ourselves, even as she presents this her latest installment reminding us of how much we have missed her own poetic wisdom. Resisting simplified, nostalgic portraitures of home, the poems are infused with the laughter, philosophy, resilience, and complexity of everyday folk -- a cultural grounding as it were for those of us who often feel we have traveled too far away.
And yet, there is nostalgia here too -- as in the poignant recurrence of the phrase: "we should not have been allowed to leave." Here however, the painful reality of exilic existence is given full expression and nuanced articulation as nostalgia quickly gives over to the wonderment of standing at the U.S.'s southernmost point -- the Florida Keys -- the poet contemplating if this is "the end of America," or "her beginning." Migration is a beginning too, a beginning albeit marked by the painful legacies of slavery, indenture, colonialism, but a beginning nonetheless of the possibility and promise that is diaspora community.
In the end, All Things Bright achieves the promise its title portends, to give poetic voice to the great, the small, the wise, the wonderful, to creation…and it is…beautiful!
About Heather Russell
Dr. Heather Russell's research interests examine narrative form and its relationship to configurations of national/racial identities. Her latest book, Legba's Crossing: Narratology in the African Atlantic, was published by the University of of Georgia Press. She has also published inAfrican American Review; Contours; The Massachusetts Review; and American Literature and has essays in a collection on John Edgar Wideman, Jacqueline Bishop's, My Mother Who is Me, and Donna Aza Weir-Soley and Opal Palmer Adisa's Caribbean Erotic.
At the undergraduate level, Dr. Russell regularly teaches C19th and C20th African American Literatures; Major Caribbean Writers; Black Citizenships and Black History and the Fictive Imagination. For the graduate curriculum, she teaches African Diaspora Women Writers andNarratives of Enslavement and Resistance.