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Kamau Brathwaite

The Driftless Series
Wesleyan Poetry Series
2010 • 140 pp. 7 x 8 1/4"

$24.95 Hardcover, 978-0-8195-6943-1

$19.99 Ebook, 978-0-8195-7100-7

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Elegguas sings with anger and righteousness, but the balm of tender creation emanates from its overtones.”—Alexandria Yurkovsky, San Francisco Chronicale

Deeply felt requiems from an internationally celebrated poet

Kamau Brathwaite is a major Caribbean poet of his generation and one of the major world poets of the second half of the twentieth century. Elegguas—a play on “elegy” and “Eleggua,” the Yoruba deity of the threshold, doorway, and crossroad—is a collection of poems for the departed. Modernist and post-modernist in inspiration, Elegguas draws together traditions of speaking with the dead, from Rilke’s Duino Elegies to the Jamaican kumina practice of bringing down spirits of the dead to briefly inhabit the bodies of the faithful, so that the ancestors may provide spiritual assistance and advice to those here on earth. The book is also profoundly political, including elegies for assassinated revolutionaries like in the masterful “Poem for Walter Rodney.”

Throughout his poetry, Brathwaite foregrounds “nation-language,” that difference in syntax, in rhythm, and timbre that is most closely allied to the African experience in the Caribbean, using the computer to explore the graphic rendition of nuances of language. Brathwaite experiments using his own Sycorax fonts, as well as deliberate misspellings (“calibanisms”) and deviations in punctuation. But this is never simple surface aesthetic, rather an expression of the turbulence (in history, in dream) depicted in the poems. This collection is a stunning follow-up to Brathwaite’s Born to Slow Horses (Wesleyan, 2005), winner of the Griffin International Poetry Prize.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Brathwaite is a poet capable of great eloquence and elegance…musical precision…and inventiveness, as in the style of script he has fashioned that is both the reflection of and the antithesis of the spoken word.”—Sima Rabinowitz, NewPages

"This collection is a wonderful experience, highly recommended for both experienced and new Brathwaite readers." —Elaine Savory, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas

“Brathwaite shifts tones as seamlessly as he does dialects; I finished Elegguas filled with melancholy, joy, and an odd, and I hope not inappropriate, envy for the multiple tongues and moods he moves among with such dexterity and eloquence.” —Jeff Gundy, Poetry Salzburg Review

“There is a passion that is universal in these works, a sorrow and a soaring as in jazz, the music a song of protest and promise, pride and hurt. Though perhaps our accents and intonations would make an islander laugh, these poems should be read aloud too (the phrasing and dramatic gravitas almost demands it).”Iconoclast

“Through letters, verses, and songs, Brathwaite’s collection develops an eternal connection between the human world and the divine.”—Sadiqa Beg, Wasafiri

“For nearly half a century, Kamau Brathwaite has been doing nothing short of rewriting the relationship between Africa and the aging ‘new world’—one exquisite and haunting syllable at a time. Elegguas, his newest book, is a tidalectic wave of remembrance and remonstrance. It is, as well, one of Brathwaite’s most compassionate songs.”—Mark Nowak, author of Coal Mountain Elementary

“Kamau Brathwaite is the major Caribbean poet of his generation and one of the great poets of the second part of the 20C anywhere. While framed by elegiac writings of a personal nature, this volume remains profoundly political through a range of elegies for departed public & political figures, and includes what I consider one of the greatest and most poignant political poems of the era, namely Brathwaite’s ‘Poem for Walter Rodney.’ The greatness of the work lies in the fact that the poet never falls into political rhetoric, but that his language, breathtakingly innovative & inventive at the formal level, always carries a lyrical and poetic charge of unequalled intensity.”—Pierre Joris, author of Poasis and A Nomad Poetics

From the Book:

>down evening sun forever & for ever<
Heartease Which is where she is/in that
soft distance shining & i'm suddenly & at
last happy & very very sad & lonely at th
(e) same time because she feelin so lonely
but somehow at peace & there was noth
ing i cd do nothing nothing i cd do any<
more nothing i cd ever do ever & ever a-
gain but to lose her there & that way wh-
ere i cd see her & not see her beyond th-
at valley high up here in the

Author Photo

KAMAU BRATHWAITE, cofounder of the Caribbean Artists Movement, is currently a professor of comparative literature at New York University, and shares his time between his home in CowPastor, Barbados, and New York City.

A Driftless Series Book
This book is the 2010 selection in The Driftless English category,
for English language poetry from an author outside the United States.
The Driftless Series is funded by the
Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation Fund
at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
For more information and a complete list of books in The Driftless Series,
please visit us online at

This project is supported in part by an award from the
National Endowment for the Arts

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:04:47 -0500