A Stroll Through History – Book Review

Book Review: A Stroll Through History

November 4, 2012 | By |      A journey through life’s burdens

By Dr Glenville Ashby  –   glenvilleashby@gmail.com

Poet’s are known to ponder, to reflect on life’s offering – be it love or hate; peace or war; the sacred and the profane. Theirs is a work of depth analysis, sometimes barely understood. The reader must now internalise, interpret the meaning of that spoken or written word.

In many ways, Trinidadian Jerome Teelucksingh is a traditionalist, holding true to the keys of the genre.
He can befuddle with abstraction, and equally un-impress with strong doses of literalism. A Stroll Through History is a melange of poems – each making a case against the fortuity of life.
Here, humankind is enslaved by the senses and the warped generational archetype that withers individualism. We are but automatons, bound to a machine that grinds us into old age, senility, and death.   

This is Providence, and Teelucksingh is its spokesman. “Your Job,” encapsulates the overall motif: “The word accelerates to your speed, as you seldom slip into thoughtless, thinking resignation is blasphemy. Puppets move with vibrant motions, mingling with fashionable puppet-makers…”

Teelucksingh is hardly cryptic, or ambivalent. His message overwhelms – from the opening salvo to the last cadence, racism; alcoholism; homelessness; poverty, death; hubris; and anguish, race through these pages.
Toil, we must, only to die. Teelucksingh is unforgiving, biting:”This claustrophobic home encompasses living proof of life’s futility and grand farce.”

And payback time is nigh at hand for humankind  – wanton abusers of the environment. In apocalyptic tone, he writes in “The Eruption”: “Catalysts in progress as years of abuse now revenged, Long and short angry warnings triggering the white heavens of deadly clouds. Like hell spewing forth….A dying venomous snake gives its final performance as scalding poisons ruins minds and lives.”

Suffering spares none. His “Carnival” proves one of the rare moments of reprieve. Yes, there is colour and merriment, but it is predictably laboured and ephemeral, as ”this maddening joy will continue till the return flight is due.”

The revolutionary idealism of Che in this eponymous undertaking is void of the hagiography usually reserved for this icon.
Even the poetic lines about a mosquito becomes fodder for the poet. The smallest of insects is just another nagging annoyance. Oh yes, Teelucksingh’s world is an existential nightmare. He balks at his own counsel in “Peaceful Revolution, “that “together, we strengthen our resolve to create a better world.” We learn otherwise.

Even love cannot be trusted – “Beauty is irresistible and seductive. All lies,”  he intones in the ontological “Soul versus Mind.”
And as a historian, he well proves his point. Just look at the vestiges of ravished civilizations painfully studied by anthropologists, he argues.

His “Remembering Past Humanity” is emotive  – ever cementing the overriding theme. But we still don’t get it. We are doomed to repeat history.
The poet’s discursive approach makes for an engaging book. He switches from philosophy to a history steeped in slavery, indenturship, and colonialism. His ”For the Indian Indentured Labourers,” introduces East Indian argot to readers, with detailed glossary to boot. It is linguistically rich and well pointed.

It is a clever injection to Teelucksingh’s already fathomless mosaic, and is arguably the poet’s artistic moment. “Some boasted tirelessly of travelling to far away land. All jhoot. Others kidnapped stolen when young, leaving naanaaa and naanee. “NAHEE, NAHEE’ filling the air, They never hear and you never to return…”

Here, the writer meshes the pangs of servitude with the balm of culture: Ëvery year the doomed diaspora celebrate Divali, fasting for Eid and carry tadjahs for Hosay. Heavy arms with godnaa light deeyas ad make sawine….Yes, arms and backs which built school, churches, masjids, mandirs and riverside pyres…..arms that carried loads off cocoa, coconuts, and sugar cane, leepaying the kutiyas.

A Stroll through Life is provocative, with moments of sheer brilliance. And for many, irrefutable. But for those at odds with Teelucksingh’s fatalism, it may prove overly exhausting.

Dr Glenville Ashby,
literary critic – Caribbean Book Review
A Stroll through History
Red Lead Press, 2009Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 1522
ISBN: 978-1-4349-6375-8        Ratings: ***: Good

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Comments

  • needybad4u  On 11/04/2012 at 9:15 pm

    Excellent review. “A Stroll Through History” we need to cherish. Thanks for sharing this poetry book with our readers, Dr Glenville Ashby.

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