I was introduced to Geoffrey Philp many years ago, and fell in love with his poetry. I think perhaps the first of his poems I read was “Easy Skanking.” ‘Skanking’ is a sort of rhythmic dance performed to reggae music or ska, and with that I suppose you’ve guessed that the poet or the poem is related to Jamaica.
What I like indeed in the poems and writing of Mr Philp is precisely the rhythm, this beat that comes up without announcing its presence, like a simple communication between African djembe drums or Sioux smoke signals. I cannot deny that I also immensely like their skank talk about difficult subjects such as politics, oppression and liberty.
What promises will I make
when I climb the stairs
These words have always reminded me of my own father. I don’t know whether he thought them, but our experience as a family attaches me to them, and to the whole poem, in which a parent suffers over a view given to their child by the world. My own experience as a kid is of politics at table and at school and in prayer. I have personally tried to write poems about that very experience, some of it violent. After reading and rereading “A Poem For The Innocents,” I found myself writing more poems about the same experience I’d had as a kid, on top of those I’d already written, using some of the same feelings, but getting fresh strength from Geoffrey’s poem.
Geoffrey Philp, an author from Jamaica, has written three children’s books, Marcus and the Amazons (Mabrak Books, 2011), Grandpa Sydney’s Anancy Stories (Mabrak Books, 2012), and The Christmas Dutch Pot Baby (Mabrak Books, 2012); two collections of short stories, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien (Peepal Tree,1997) and Who’s Your Daddy? (Peepal Tree, 2009); a novel, Benjamin, My Son (Peepal Tree, 2003); and five poetry collections, Exodus and Other Poems (University of the Virgin Islands Press, 1990), Florida Bound (Peepal Tree, 1995), Hurricane Center (Peepal Tree, 1998), Xango Music (Peepal Tree, 2001), and Dub Wise (Peepal Tree, 2010). His work is represented in nearly every anthology of Caribbean literature, and he is one of the few writers whose work has been published in the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories and the Oxford Book of Caribbean Verse. He is currently working on a novel, “Garvey’s Ghost,” and a collection of poems, “The Orishas of Ives Dairy.”