Night Vi­sion – Ken­del Hip­polyte

The Star (St. Lucia) - - BOOK REVIEW - By Clau­dia Elei­box This book is avail­able at the bookYard. Visit us today or email us at bookyard@stlu­ci­as­tar.com or call the Star 450-7827 for more de­tails.

Ken­del Hip­polyte is a well-known con­trib­u­tor to the com­mu­nity of arts in Saint Lucia and po­etry is the most pop­u­lar of his tal­ents. Like other Saint Lu­cians in­volved in the arts, he has ex­plored other forms and is recog­nised as a play­wright and di­rec­tor. In 2013 Hip­polyte won the OCM Bo­cas prize for Caribbean Lit­er­a­ture for his col­lec­tion “Fault Lines”. He has also re­ceived awards lo­cally such as the Saint Lucia Medal of Merit. Derek Wal­cott has in­vited Ken­del Hip­polyte to work with him on a num­ber of projects, which says a lot about the No­bel lau­re­ate’s opin­ion of his col­league.

Hip­polyte’s po­etry al­ways tar­gets the chang­ing en­vi­ron­ment of the Caribbean and for­eign ad­di­tions to its cul­ture. Like many Saint Lu­cians and, by ex­ten­sion, Caribbean writ­ers, Hip­polyte uses his words as a mouth­piece for the masses. He utilises puns, a plethora of al­lit­er­a­tions, rhyme and swear words to make his po­etry deep but en­joy­able. Some of his verse is dark but it ef­fec­tively por­trays the mes­sage. Most im­por­tantly he de­scribes what it’s re­ally like to live in Saint Lucia; us­ing cre­ole words and fa­mil­iar phrases, es­pe­cially the curses, he iden­ti­fies our is­land.

In this par­tic­u­lar col­lec­tion, “Night Vi­sion”, Hip­polyte poses devel­op­ment against cul­ture, tech­nol­ogy against in­ter­ac­tion and money against hu­man­ity. He digs into our past to find memories both pleas­ant and hor­rific, as well as mys­ter­ies un­solved, and so­cial is­sues of which we refuse to ac­knowl­edge the cause.

Hip­polyte be­gins “Night Vi­sion” with the is­sue of the gov­ern­ment re­lo­cat­ing Con­way vil­lage. It won­der­fully de­scribes how the “bureau” built an­gled struc­tures (the CDC build­ings) which did not ex­actly erad­i­cate poverty but in­stead re­moved the depth of char­ac­ter of Con­way. This poem, “Not Made with Hands”, is my favourite and I think Hip­polyte made a won­der­ful choice by pre­sent­ing it as the first in the col­lec­tion.

In the rest of “Night Vi­sion” he touches on var­i­ous is­sues us­ing po­ems of dif­fer­ent lengths and even uses dif­fer­ent shapes in their phys­i­cal lay­out on the page. Hip­polyte ad­dresses Cas­tries be­com­ing pop­u­lated with shops and restau­rants. He de­scribes the cold­ness that has grown in his peo­ple over the years in the name of tourism or fi­nan­cial suc­cess.

Pop­u­lar char­ac­ters such as “Jack Sprat”, “Lit­tle Boy Blue”, “The Piper” and “Tommy Tucker” are recre­ated by Hip­polyte to il­lus­trate the needs of which third world coun­try cit­i­zens are some­times de­prived. He even clar­i­fies that Colum­bus only had one voy­age and de­scribes what his hopes and greed may have been like.

One poem that latched it­self onto me is “The Head of Mary Rack­liffe” where Hip­polyte per­son­i­fies the head of a vic­tim who suf­fered an un­fair, vi­o­lent death. He bleakly car­ries the reader through the places Mary Rack­liffe would have wanted to be and what she would have wanted to say to her beloved who be­headed her. The in­ci­dent hap­pened in 1989 but it res­onates for me of the dead girls whom I have met and known: Christal St. Omer and Chereece Benoit. Imag­in­ing their heads in place of Rack­liffe’s made me more hor­rif­i­cally aware of Hip­polyte’s con­cept.

“Night Vi­sion” is a myr­iad of in­ter­est­ing facts, his­tor­i­cal in­ci­dents and de­scrip­tions that only Ken­del Hip­polyte could have made so ef­fort­lessly lit­er­ary. This col­lec­tion is a must read for any Saint Lu­cian, near or far, old or young.

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