Kendel Hippolyte’s poetry moves easily, boldly between the worlds of public engagement and the intimacies of domesticity. What unites this movement are the distinctive sounds and rhythms of his voice, and whilst some poems have a named recipient, and some are addressed to himself, all engage the reader in an implicit dialogue. His is an art of sound, of the rhythms of the long, supple line, of form that sometimes disguises itself as no form, of the beauty of the crooked basket. He wants the poem to draw us in rather than hold us outside in admiration at its skill – and skill and craft are what his poems display in spades. His is a vision that extends outwards in illimitable ways in space and time, but where the scale is always the human body, the human mind.
The challenge comes in the way his poems address the dread reality of a Caribbean world of disappointed dreams, of sovereignty swamped by the new economic and cultural imperialism that masquerades under the mask of globalisation, of waking “one morning and the Caribbean was gone”, of continuing environmental degradation. The questioning comes from looking inwards to wonder why this has happened, what failures of vision, what empty sloganizing, what dishonesties, arrogance and failures of mutual respect led to the defeats so that “the rivers of Babylon clog into vomit…” The comfort comes from both the small loving kindnesses of the domestic – the rituals of coffee-brewing, of bed-making – but also the refusal to retreat, to look to the moment when flint and iron can “flare into the hot bright moment of a spark”.