Border Zone by John Agard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This amusing collection of poems combines autobiography with biography. It’s autobiographical in that it shines light on the poet’s experience growing up in the Caribbean and then living as an expat in the United Kingdom. It’s biographical in that it reflects the author’s interests in people and history, interests that are most boldly combined in the book’s final poem, “Casanova the Philosopher,” a long poem (though broken in to forty bite-sized chunks) that riffs on the life and legend of Casanova. The poems draw on literature, historical events, and mythology, and also include a few elegies.
The lighthearted tone — even when dealing with evocative subjects such as racism, censorship, and death – makes for a read that is at once pleasant and thought-provoking. A couple of my favorites were “The Migration of Coconut Water,” which plays with the panacea-like qualities that people attribute to their local favorite consumables, and “We Mosquitoes” which is from the perspective of the annoying little malaria-vectors.
Much of the collection is rhymed verse, often featuring the lyrical qualities that come of short lines. If you enjoy poetry with and international flavor and no shortage of humor, this collection is well worth checking out.
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