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Handling Stolen Goods

9781845234348
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In these poems Degna Stone connects the trickster god Anansi, transported from West Africa to the Caribbean, to forms of working-class tricksterism amongst poor families in the UK seeking a small share of society’s worldly goods. Recalling the child’s experience of learning that truth-telling is a matter of context, especially when it relates to the presence of “hooky” VCRs in the house, these poems expand on that kind of ambiguity, and doubleness of language. In “Allotment” a child watches her “mum and dad pick over last night’s rows”. “Perfidia” both references a classic ska song and compares a partner’s deceiving communication to an update of the Apple software Siri. “Word of Mouth” conveys the differences in communication between the Caribbean-born generation and their British-born children in Britain. These poems draw on the lives of Black working-class people of Caribbean heritage in the semi-urban, semi-rural North East of England and the cultural mix they create. Their imagery reflects the hybrid nature of the place, in poems inhabited by dogs, crows, birds and foxes. The imagery of the crow is particularly striking, evoking images of the bird as symbol of the ominous, but also of tenacity and boldness. When the poet declares “I want to be as black as the crows” she does more than just embrace blackness in resistance to prejudice; she insists that the crow both represents and expresses a harsh kind of beauty. Degna Stone’s is not the kind of voice that is heard often enough in English poetry and her poems speak out for those who are “thieves, truants, scrappers, vandals. Trying to get what we don’t, what we can’t, have […] We are hard to control. Easy to manipulate. We are loud. We are waiting to be found.”.