Archipelago by Kendel Hippolyte


by Kendel Hippolyte

If you really see the Caribbean archipelago, you will see yourself,
the vivid scattered islands stirring to awakening in a sea of reverie and nightmare,
the goldening light lifting green foliage out of darkness into its illumination
and the surrounding blue immensity brooding an unknown creaturing of what can live only in depth

If you hear the Caribbean archipelago, you will hear it talking to you in tongues
of the original tribes of the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia; you will hear quarrelling, then a blur
and you will hear the simultaneous translation of these languages into the first language,
the sea talking to itself because in the beginning and the end there is no other

If you truly see the Caribbean archipelago, it will become clear
how the fragmented, brittle arc of islands, resisting the onsurge of ocean, makes the sea the sea;
how the ocean, reaching around breached rock, trying to rejoin itself, makes islands islands;
how they both therefore define each other, how they refine your understanding of the selfhood
into an acceptance of the necessary oneness of the known and the unknown

If you can be the Caribbean archipelago, acknowledging that your littoral shape is never final,
that it shifts with your awareness that below the sublunary rise-and-ebb there is an undertow,
a contrary flow that draws you down, deepening to where the separate i-lands reach
beyond the scattered stones of their selves, growing down back into one bedrock, into the original
ground from which the sea, the ocean, the self-dismembered yet defining archipelago rise into their being,
if you can be this, be yond it, you will miracle into impossibility, you will see
how to be broken and yet whole.

From Fault Lines. Copyright © 2012 by Kendel Hippolyte.

PHOTO: Saint Lucia, West Indies, showing the Gros and Petite Pitons, two volcanic spires, located near the town of Soufrière. Photo by Scott Taylor on Unsplash


NOTE: Saint Lucia is a sovereign island country in the West Indies in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. The island was previously called Lyonola, the name given to the island by the native Arawaks and later, Hewanorra, the name given by the native Caribs, two separate Amerindian peoples. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados, and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 238 square miles and reported a population of 165,595 in the 2010 census.  The French were the first Europeans to settle on the island. They signed a treaty with the native Island Caribs in 1660. In ensuing years, the rule of the island changed frequently—it was ruled seven times each by the French and British. In 1814, the British took definitive control of the island. On February 22, 1979, Saint Lucia became an independent state and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.

PHOTO: West Indies island of Saint Lucia. Photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

KendelPic Nov 2013

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kendel Hippolyte was born in Castries, the capital of St. Lucia, and was educated at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. He worked as a teacher at St. Mary’s College in Vigie, Castries, and the Sir Arthur Lewis College at the Morne. He is actively involved as a playwright and director with the Lighthouse Theatre Company, which co-founded. He has written eight plays—his best known, Drum-maker, uses idiomatic Caribbean language to explore the indigenous local culture in a political context. He has published several collections of verse, including Birthright and Night Vision, characterized by its modernist free style. He is also the editor of the anthologies Confluence: Nine Saint Lucian Poets (1988) and So Much Poetry in We People (1990). In 2000, he was awarded the St. Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for Contribution to the Arts. In 2013 he won the poetry category of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature for his 2012 poetry collection Fault Lines. His latest collection is Wordplanting (Peepal Tree Press, 2019).

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