Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies


325 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7710-1952-1
DDC 811.009'9729




Reviewed by Kenrick E.A. Moses

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


Although this book assesses the problems and successes of West Indian
poetic expression with reference to other traditions of poetry written
in English, the essential background against which the development of
West Indian expression is viewed is that of West Indian society itself.
The author, a literary and social scholar, links history and life and
language, going back to slavery to trace the need to heal a fractured
identity, a process in which language played a central role.

We witness the early attempts to forge an image of self and
surroundings through tentative explorations of local dialect. We proceed
to the more steady and increasingly confident advances of the 1960s, a
period when poets like Derek Walcott and Edward Kamau Brathwaite gave
new expression to the West Indian condition. These poets paved the way
for a later generation (represented by Lorna Goodison) that was able to
embrace its heritage of sensibility and language with greater ease.
Finally, we hear the multitudinous voices of the present day, with its
many registers of expression, including dub and performance poetry. In
this entire development, Chamberlain traces the interaction between
society, artist, and language in an ascendant movement to freedom,
anchoring his discussion in contemporary linguistic theories.

This refreshing and engaging study communicates the author’s passion
for his subject—the evolution of a poetic tradition in the West


Chamberlin, J. Edward., “Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,