Olive Senior, Gardening in the Tropics: Poems. Toronto, Canada: McClelland & Stewart, Inc, 1994. 136 pages.
Olive Senior, born and brought up in Jamaica,
won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1987 for her book of short stories,
Summer Lightning. Her gifts as a story teller
translate equally well in to the poems in this, her second poetry collection.
But Gardening in the Tropics is more than a collection of poems. The four themes that structure the sections of the book produce a special effect of surrounding the reader with the thickness of tropical life. The magic, the tragedy and the humor are evoked without ever losing focus.
"The Traveller's Tales," the first section, is skillfully woven together by a series of poems all called "Hurricane Story"— 1903, 1944, 1951 and 1988. "Hurricane Story, 1944" tells of "my father the dandy" for whom "it all came unstruck" when the hurricane struck:
and the story ends with:
Each poem in the third section begins with
the line "Gardening in the Tropics":
I wish I'd thought of that. I wish I had
the skill to pull it off and make it work the way Olive Senior does, to
go beneath the surfaces of Caribbean life and lovingly dig up secrets.
Copyright © Olive Senior