Sturge Town: Poems

Norton. Jun. 2024. 192p. ISBN 9781324076315. $26.99. POETRY
Award-winning poet and novelist Dawes’s (Bivouac) latest poetry collection takes its title from one of the earliest free villages in post-slavery Jamaica. It feels almost Yeatsian with its haunted past, and like Yeats with his tower, Dawes depicts a journey to an ancestral home in quiet, lyrical, sometimes painful poems, exploring the memories of a lifetime. In a sense, it is a travelogue of nostalgia, a guide to a world of haunted places, each known only by “the blood that has been shed there.” The waves of the Atlantic curling around the ankles of a preacher as he baptizes a young girl are suddenly a “garden of bones,” bearing forgotten fishermen and enslaved people. Filled with lyrical monologues and shimmering like the sand still wet from the waves, this book, like a folk tale or an ancient myth, is possessed by subliminal power.
VERDICT Like one of his heroes, Bob Marley, Dawes changes not just the way readers look at the world but the lens through which they see reality. His is a transcendent vision, filled with tenderness, curiosity, and compassion for what has been and what might be.
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