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Sanctuaries of Invention

Sanctuaries of Invention

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In the year of Covid-19, lockdowns, and in Trinidad a state
of emergency, it’s not surprising that thoughts turn to the nature of time,
place and the not quite accidental arrival of pandemics of mass death. For
Jennifer Rahim, time is both the history that has shaped the present and the
now of social and geographic constriction. At the beginning of the collection, “A
Tale of the Orbis Spike, 1610” (the recorded dip in carbon dioxide levels when
around fifty million native peoples of the New World were exterminated as the
result of European settler invasion), reminds that pandemics have their own
history, though never without human triggers. At the end of the collection, “No
/Language is a Virus” records the viral power of language for both good and
ill, the latter not least in the era of Trump and the resurgence of racist
white nationalism in Trinidad’s big neighbour to the north. But Rahim also reminds
us how much solace we have derived from poetry this last year, because “Words
fly the grave, steal/ the only thunder a virus can claim,/ and, alive,/ witness
to goodness that quietly thrives.”

Between those two points, the collection expands out of the
restrictions of home, that place where “We’re strategizing for survival/
strip-searching every sneeze/ for an invisible assassin suited in capsid” – though
sanctuaries of invention can be found in the smallest spaces – to map the wider
worlds of memory and desire – in a vivid series of poems (“mapping home”) that
chart journeys from Valencia, through Salybia, Balandra, Rampanalgas, Cumana,
Toco and L’Anse Noir – places that Rahim’s poems bring to sensuous geographic,
human and historical life and make you want to visit,.

With the celebration of heroes who range from the fighting
women of Greek myth, to poetic inspirations from Marian Moore to Eric Roach,
Jennifer Rahim urges that “Hope/ must always be bold/ and sharpened for