From the earliest poems published in the 1950s, Ian McDonald has been a distinctive and admired voice in Caribbean poetry. This volume brings together all his published collections: Jaffo the Calypsonian, Mercy Ward, Essequibo, Between Silence and Silence, The Comfort of All Things and River Dancer. In addition, there are almost two books’ worth of new poems, the product of a remarkable flowering of inspiration and memory that visited Ian McDonald in his eighties.
The poems reflect both a changing Caribbean world and changes in the witnessing self. There are consistencies of vision. Few Caribbean poets have so sensuously observed the region’s natural world, but have also been aware of the dangers of the “gilding eye” glossing over the poverty which is still the lot of so many Caribbean people. Poems celebrate the pleasures of good company, love, marriage, children, food, gardens and books, but set against this the knowledge that whilst his has been a life that has contributed much to the good of the region, it has also been one of the privilege of material security and whiteness. Many poems display a compassionate concern with the suffering of Guyana’s poor, particularly in the stark realism of the Mercy Ward poems.
There is also an inward eye, aware of the passing years. From the son who sees his parents’ ageing, the father of growing children, the keen sportsman facing the decline of middle age, and the man facing his own later years of health anxieties, though nourished by a loving wife and the pleasures of the garden. All these phases of life return to the poetry of the past few years.
From the earliest work published in BIM in 1960, to a recent outpouring of poems that began in his eightieth year, this volume brings together these new poems with poems first published in Selected Poems (1975), Mercy Ward (1988), Essequibo (1992), Jaffo the Calypsonian (1994) Between Silence and Silence (2003), The Comfort of All Things (2012) and River Dancer (2016).