So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets

Editors Kwame Dawes and Colin Channer have brought together 100 poems by participants of the Calabash International Literary Festival, an annual event held in Jamaica that hosts thousands of writers, readers, and listeners of poetry. The Festival has been praised by the New York Times as "a mini-Woodstock on the Caribbean." It began in 2001 with the mission to "transform the literary arts in the Caribbean by being the region's best-managed producer of workshops, seminars and performances."

This anthology features an international group of writers, and their differences give the book its charm. American readers who expect to find a distilled representation of what is currently being written in the Caribbean island will instead find an array of voices, circling the same geographical place but interested in a variety of forms and styles—from Derek Walcott's series, "cored in cobalt green, / the breadfruit's broad, open palm, coralita embroidering the full hedges" to Kendel Hippolyte's "Reggae Rant" that begins: "Doom / !Scatter / Doom / !Scatter / Doom."

Dawes and Channer organized the anthology based on the poems' length—which creates a momentum and serves as an aid to anyone who might want to "dip in and select poems depending on how much time [they] have to take the plunge." This sourcebook casts a wide net and delivers that catch generously, though it makes no claims of being comprehensive. It is simply an interesting survey of what the Calabash Festival has produced thus far.

So Much Things to Say celebrates the diversity of contemporary Caribbean poetry—as well as the work of a number of mainlanders who have participated in the annual events. Poets represented here include Elizabeth AlexanderAmiri BarakaMartín EspadaTerrance HayesMichael OndaatjeRobert PinskySonia SanchezLouis Simpson, and many others.

Sample Poems:

Old Photographs
by Gabeba Baderoon

Summer Rice
by Linda Susan Jackson

Cape Coast Castle
by Yusef Komunyakaa

The Children's Hour
by Li-Young Lee

by Valzhyna Mort

You Can't Survive on Salt Water
by Kalamu ya Salaam

Dead Straight
by Olive Senior 

Six a.m. Halfway Tree, Kingston 10
Adziko Simba

Jamaican Idol
by Terese Svoboda

Vespertina Cognito
by Natasha Trethewey