Celia A Sorhaindo is a poet from the Caribbean island of Dominica, where she now resides after living many years in the UK. Her poetry has been widely published in journals ranging from The Caribbean Writer to New Daughters of Africa, and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Competition (2017/18). Her first pamphlet, ‘Guabancex’ (Papillote Press, 2020) was longlisted for the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean literature, and her poem ‘Weather Conditions’ was among the winners of Poetry Archive’s WordView 2020 Collection. Her first full length poetry collection, ‘Radical Normalisation’, is due to be published in the autumn of 2022 (Carcanet Press).  

Celia’s poems shout out for a reading both intimate & communal. Ritual both practised and at play can be seen and heard concurrently here; the syntax of each line might at any time expand, melt, re-fuse with its neighbours to unveil new layers of interpretation, to conjure new meaning in the spaces between the sapping sobriety of so-called fact. The closer and more involved the listening audience, the more easily this alchemy might happen, as the poet’s gentle and precise delivery creates a lively canvas for new discoveries.   

The poem In the Air seems itself cognizant to this, possessing a kindly cynicism for the tired sound of well-wrung traditional proclamations. “No one appeared to conjure and divide / loaves and fishes between some people;” save perhaps the poet herself, who recognises that something freshly religious may be happening here. “I thought / fear / faith, / had been uncovered, / illuminated, as I watched”. Sorhaindo takes us to the unreal underbelly of this material tragedy, an event so devastating as to require fresh lyrical deconstruction, its own mythologising, in order to be seen.  

Elsewise its victims are left “mouth and eyes wide black holes of disbelief” unable through more rigid traditions to grapple with the human horror they all share, instead reduced to stale “tales of rampant looting / circled among them like hungry dogs”, an instinctive othering that can only be overcome by the vulnerability of new words, fresh stories.  

This thesis of openness in the face of fear, and resistance of the easy, old-trod paths to avoid it, are a persistent and bravely tackled theme throughout the poet’s works. Survival Tips makes clear the political as well as personal in this; “they are not our star gods” summoning visions of colonial Europe and its narcissistic self-deification, in Celia’s native Dominica and so many other communities around the Globe.  

In What do I Know we see again the alternative, a sympathetic sweetness of a new magic born from trauma; and shared, not enforced. Here the italicised ‘quotations’ begin to slide across stanza and into the world of so-called objective description, not out of dogma but because the beauty and energy of “Mr Elias John-Baptiste’s” reaction to loss, the way in which reality has abandoned him and he in kind returns that favour, compels writer and reader both to do him the courtesy of the title: admit our human fractures, and sit together openly. “He tells me he’s the one God chose to heal the world. / I say – Aren’t we all Mr John-Baptiste, aren’t we all?”  

Recordings provided by Celia from her home in April, 2022.

Poems by Celia A Sorhaindo

Love, A Fear - Celia A Sorhaindo
What Do I Know - Celia A Sorhaindo
Survival Tips - Celia A Sorhaindo
In The Air - Celia A Sorhaindo
ambergris - Celia A Sorhaindo
Creation - Celia A Sorhaindo

Books by Celia A Sorhaindo



Longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature

Prize website

One of the winning Poets in Poetry Archive Now! Wordview project

Prize website

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