“… I must go wandering again/ across green pastures of my mind/ I must hurl words/ across drawbridges…”
Jan Carew wrote this in a 2008 poem, “Why Have I Walled in My Poet’s Voice?” At the time, he was 88. He had completed — to his almost final satisfaction — new collection of poetry. But, it was “almost final,” because, even as he moved into his 90th year, he was still tweaking and refining his writing. Nothing was really final, as Jan Carew was a perfectionist.
Reprising the name of his first collection published in 1952 while Jan was still in Guyana, then British Guiana, this new collection has been named Return to Streets of Eternity (Smokestack Books, 2015). This collection, coming out 63 years later, however, is of necessity much larger. It spans a lifetime of experience, as a restless energy pushed him into a larger and larger world, both geographically and experientially.
Jan’s commitment to the global struggle of the ‘have-nots’ is clear here, as many of his poems speak to the anti-colonial, civil rights, Black Power, and liberation struggles. And though Jan spent the majority of his life away from his home country, his poetry repeatedly returns to vistas of home as nostalgia and by way of comparison.
The contemporaneous publication of Jan’s second volume of his memoirs, Episodes in My Life: the Autobiography of Jan Carew (Peepal Tree Press, 2015), is a perfect companion work. Tracing his life from his early professional experiences in British Guiana; through his education in the US and Europe; into his years as a successful writer, broadcaster, and playwright; into his activism in the anti-colonial struggle and his encounters with world leaders Malcolm X, Kwame Nkrumah and Cheddi Jagan, among others; and, in the last third of his life, into his immersion into the Black Power struggles of Canada and US.
The excitement over the double book launch in London, England in November is palpable. It will give us a chance to celebrate Jan’s work as we launch this new set of publications. Though posthumous, we let Jan ‘un-wall’ his voice and once again remind us of the power of his convictions and passion to be in service of people struggling to liberate themselves. Jan delighted in the warmth and affection at the tribute program held for him during his last visit to London in 2010 at the Tabernacle. This one at the Claudia Jones Organization hall ( 103 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 8BX. United Kingdom) is sure to be as enthusiastic, for Jan’s work is not yet done. And we, who live on, must pick up the standard and carry on.
For those of you in London, or with friends and colleagues there, be sure to join us:
Thursday, November 26, 2015, 7 PM.
Claudia Jones Organization Hall at 103 Stoke Newington Rd, London N16 8BX. United Kingdom.