Ishion Hutchinson has been acclaimed as the finest poet to emerge from Jamaica in recent years. His collection House of Lords and Commons, as the title suggests, points to social inequalities, but also to other dualities: childhood and adulthood, creation and destruction, Jamaica and lands beyond – Hutchinson now lives in the USA and teaches at Cornell. It is perhaps inevitable, yet still noteworthy, that all three of the poets under review make their living in universities, but Hutchinson reveals an entertaining scepticism about academic bores, recalling his experience at a talk in New York, where a ‘tweeded rodent scholar lectured/on his authority of “Caribbean Culture”’.
The rhythms of Jamaican life hum through many of these poems: the ‘hushed,/breaking sea’, and the music too. A remarkable poem on Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the pioneering music producer, explores his building of the Black Ark, the studio that helped to craft Bob Marley’s sound. Hutchinson channels Perry’s thoughts