The only clues are the signs that she has once worn a wedding ring, has a butterfly tattoo and red nail polish on her toes. In the absence of memory, he names her Esther. So begins a remarkable sequence of poems that explores many dimensions of liminality. Back of Mount Peace occupies a space between lyric and narrative, between reflection and story. It explores the space between body and mind, making Esther’s halting discovery of her self through her body, which like a tree bears its indelible history and, unlike the mind, ‘doesn’t forget its grievances’, work both as moving narrative device and a deeply sensed and sensual reminder of the physicality of existence.
Above all, this is a sequence that explores a relationship which begins in a primal Edenic space of innocent discovery in which, as Monty hopes, ‘the hallelujah’s of new love will begin’, but which, like all relationships must enter history, the decay of time and the corruptions of knowledge.
In the use of rhyme and other patterns of sound, Back of Mount Peace shows an exceptional delicacy of formal control that constantly reinforces the poem’s insights and moving conclusions.
Kwame Dawes is widely acknowledged as the foremost Caribbean poet of the post-Walcott generation. He currently holds the position of Distinguished Poet In Residence and Louise Fry Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts at the University of South Carolina.