Footnotes: Black Sand, by Edward Baugh

by Nicholas Laughlin on November 20, 2013

“Footnotes” is a series of occasional blog posts giving further information about books reviewed in the CRB

Black Sand, by Edward BaughThe November 2013 CRB includes a review by Ishion Hutchinson of Edward Baugh’s Black Sand: New and Selected Poems. “Baugh’s brand of poetry,” writes Hutchinson, “has given the quotidian Caribbean experience, and often the unexamined Caribbean life, an exhilarating poetic presence.”

Emeritus professor of the University of the West Indies, Baugh is a leading authority on the work of Derek Walcott — and one of the best readers of Walcott’s poems your Antilles blogger has ever heard. He published the first book-length study of Walcott (Derek Walcott: Memory as Vision, 1978), edited the St Lucian Nobel laureate’s 2007 Selected Poems, and has written copiously on Walcott’s poetry and his influence on Caribbean literature.

Baugh spent much of his career at UWI’s Mona campus, where — with colleagues like Kenneth Ramchand and Mervyn Morris — he helped lay the foundations for serious scholarly consideration of West Indian literature. In particular, Baugh’s 1977 essay “The West Indian Writer and His Quarrel with History” has been recognised by a subsequent generation of scholars as a seminal contribution to Caribbean literary criticism.

At UWI-Mona, Baugh also served as the campus’s public orator. His addresses delivered in this role, detailing the achievements of the university’s honorary graduands, are collected in Chancellor, I Present … (1998), which you can read in part at Google Books.

As Hutchinson notes in his review, though Baugh has been writing poems for five decades, he has not been the most prolific of poets. Nonetheless, “Baugh has patiently created an important oeuvre that is indelible.” His previous books of poems, A Tale from the Rainforest (1988) and It Was the Singing (2000), share with Black Sand the quality Hutchinson describes as “the fluid way in which he moves beyond expression into comprehension, articulating with superb intimacy those echolocations outside of the verbal framework.”

Baugh is also a longtime CRB contributor — for example, reviewing Walcott’s book The Prodigal, Lorna Goodison’s Controlling the Silver, and more recently Vahni Capildeo’s Undraining Sea. The CRB archive also includes an essay by Baugh on Frank Collymore, excerpted from his biography of the late Barbadian writer and editor (which was in turn reviewed in the CRB by John Gilmore).

“For most of my life,” Baugh said in a 2006 Caribbean Beat interview, “people knew me simply as a critic. I was writing poems, getting the odd poem published here and there, but here and abroad, except for a few people who were into poetry, people knew me as a critic.

“I always used to say, half in jest, but only half, that the thing I would most have liked to be in the world is a poet. So the fact that sometimes now people refer to me as poet first is a kind of great thrill to me.”

Listen to Edward Baugh reading several of his poems at The Poetry Archive.

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