Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets from the Caribbean, with a preface from Kwame Dawes, features poems from Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, Danielle Jennings, Ruel Johnson, Monica Minott, Debra Providence, Shivanee Ramlochan, Colin Robinson, and Sassy Ross. There is a variety of poems in this collection that speak to the culture of the Caribbean, but also to the loss of culture among those who move away to the United States or other locations. Some poems beautifully capture the dialect of the language and the beat of the culture without detracting from the readers’ enjoyment, but there are a few poems that can be difficult to understand and will require additional attention if readers are unfamiliar with the Caribbean dialects used.
Kwame Dawes says in the preface, “It is important and admirable that this gathering of poets allows us to explore the meaning of these ides of home.” This is an apt description of this collection because in it are poems that range from finding a place in a college classroom, even among those with a similar culture, to a mother explaining to her child that she is not a home or a mother, though her “womb” knows her. These narrators are looking for that feeling of belonging, being able to settle down and be content. Their lives are in flux, and some are embroiled in violence or destructive behavior, but all of these voices are strong and determined. They rely on their heritage from the cultural nuances they were taught by family to the ones they have learned on their own.
In “The Haunting of His Name” by Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné’s narrator talks about how the love of a man can be haunting even if that man is abusive or not good to you. There’s prescription here for how to get over him: “You must not love him,/so you bind yourself/with hunger and smoke,/sing hard against/your body’s silence.” This is a man who will not leave you, so you must wash “him from the temple of your heart.” In her poem, “Learning to Breathe in Luminous Water,” the narrator explains that you only need to teach yourself to breathe underwater, learn to deal with the hardships and transform or overcome the obstacles ahead. Almost by a matter of sheer will, the woman can find a way through.
Like Monica Minott’s “Penelope to Calypso,” women must learn to accept what has happened or how the world has come to pass, but they have the power to move forward or accept a new path that they carve on their own. Penelope says to Calypso, “Odysseus is like driftwood;/long before he met you and me/he belonged to the sea./When driftwood wash up,/they make interesting furnishings/and conversation piece/” It is clear that these women are strong enough to stand on their own. On the other side of the coin, when the connections are right, women should know how that feels, even if it is a little like the snapper trapped by the “Fisherman’s Net.”
Coming Up Hot: Eight New Poets from the Caribbean is a collection of empowerment for women and men alike, for the immigrants searching for new opportunities. Like all opportunities, there are challenges that must be met and overcome, but seeking strength from the outside is not always the best solution. Inner strength can ensure the path is endurable and that opportunities are not lost.