Creation Fire: A CAFRA Anthology of Caribbean Women's Poetry


371 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations
ISBN 0-920813-02-X
DDC 811




Edited by Ramabai Espinet
Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Mose

Kenrick E.A. Mose is an associate professor of Spanish Studies at the
University of Guelph.


This anthology of Caribbean poetry was written by more than 100 women.
Its genesis was the formation of the Caribbean Association for Feminist
Research and Action in 1985. The poems, almost 300, are largely by poets
from the English-speaking Caribbean, but the book includes several
selections in Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish, and French, with translations
into English. Many of the writers express themselves in various patois,
for which the glossary offers explanation.

The anthology’s perspective is feminist and it focuses on social and
regional concerns. Perspective and focus dictate the headings under
which the poems are grouped: “The Seer,” “The Artist,” “The
Mother,” “The Lover,” “The Exile,” “The Mourner,” “The
Land,” “The Region,” “The Worker,” “The Guerrilla,” “The
Survivor,” and “The Praise Singer.”

The two main impressions the volume creates are variety and
commonality. Regional problems of poverty, suffering, race, and color,
and the historical and economic framework encouraging such problems,
mark the volume. Concerns with gender and art, with love and exile, show
that, while the poems emanate from a feminine sensibility, this approach
does not eclipse human solidarity or the expression of universal
preoccupations. Some of the poems are profoundly philosophical
explorations of nature and death. Some have men as their heroes. Some
identify nature with women, sympathize with the trials of domestic
motherhood, and excoriate gender prejudices and the hierarchical
exclusion of women. The common denominator of the Caribbean and the
Caribbeans lends this anthology a distinctive flavor, but does not
preclude a broader vision.

The greatest variety, however, resides in the register of poetic
voices, and their many adaptations of language to Caribbean life. There
are a very few painfully traditional poems straining for rhyme, and many
bright perceptions and symbols couched in striking expression. In this
mixture lies the volume’s virtue and its weakness: it tries to be
all-inclusive. Eliminating the few weaker compositions would have
benefited this revealing and worthwhile anthology of Caribbean society
as expressed by its women poets.


“Creation Fire: A CAFRA Anthology of Caribbean Women's Poetry,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,