Poetry is an art of considering the present. Like music, the performative aspect of poetry forces us to be alert to the possibility of the moment, to experience and capture it fully.
About Anthony Joseph
Anthony Joseph is a Trinidad-born poet, novelist, musician and lecturer. He began writing as a young child, and cites his main influences as calypso, surrealism, jazz, the spiritual Baptist church that his grandparents attended, and the rhythms of Caribbean speech. He has lived in the UK since 1989.
Joseph is the author of four poetry collections: Desafinado (1994), Teragaton (1998), Bird Head Son (2009), Rubber Orchestras (2011), and a novel, The African Origins of UFOs (2006). Described as an "afro-psychedelic-noir, a poetic work of metafiction, mythology and afro-futurism", the book was endorsed by Kamau Brathwaite, Linton Kwesi Johnson, and Lauri Ramey, who hailed it in her introduction as "a future fiction classic." Ali Alizadeh of the book remarked that "contemporary literature doesn't come a lot more sophisticated and intriguing than this."
Joseph has taught poetry and fiction at Goldsmiths University, London Metropolitan University, and currently lectures in Creative Writing at Birkbeck College. He was chosen in 2004 by Decibel and the Arts Council of England as one of fifty Black and Asian writers who have influenced contemporary British literature. In 2005 he served as the British Council's first poet in residence at California State University, Los Angeles. He also performs internationally as the lead vocalist for his band, The Spasm Band, with which he has released three critically acclaimed albums, all timed to coincide with book publications.
The two long poems presented here by the Poetry Archive are the perfect introduction to Joseph's distinctive and compound style – incorporating the insistent rhythms and reasoning that seem to emerge from his childhood among Baptist preachers; an agile density of phrasing that places him in the lineage of Caribbean poetry; as well as an eye for techniques of fragmentation and collage more recognisable from the Modernist tradition. His poems are perhaps most remarkable for their use of strongly descriptive and melodious aspects, which in Joseph's reading of 'Michael X (Narcissus)' escalate through the meeting and departure of recurring sounds into a mournful and striking litany about a semi-folkloric figure of recent Caribbean history. It is the Joseph's sense of restraint in the treatment of his subject that proves so consistently effective, as if a stake in the powers of quietness, control and patience has allowed his poems able to discover the memorably visceral moments at their hearts. One is made aware, too, of Joseph's unusual ability to create a sense of serious listening in his poems, a genuine response to, rather than urge to command, his subjects and surroundings. That he is not content to simply continue within established poetic traditions, but at once complicates, agitates and renovates them from within, has caused Ali Alizadeh to describe Joseph as "both a faithful heir and an agnostic rebel; a Black poet haunted by Africa's past as well as a bilingual post-modernist amused by the possibilities of the future."
Anthony Joseph's favourite poetry sayings:
You only become a Caribbean poet when you leave the Caribbean. – Kamau Brathwaite
A poem is a machine made of words – William Carlos Williams
I poem my life to poetry…I visit rubber orchestras – Ted Joans