Brathwaite’s ‘Liviticus’ published in St. Maarten

Artist Fay Helfer’s portrait of the author appears on the cover of Kamau Brathwaite’s “Liviticus.”

PHILIPSBURG–At the age of 87, Caribbean poet and scholar Kamau Brathwaite published his newest poetry book Liviticus in St. Maarten by House of Nehesi Publishers (HNP). Liviticus was launched as the “main book” at the closing ceremony of the 15th anniversary of the St. Martin Book Fair on June 3.  Liviticus is “a monument to sorrow that cherishes our origins as we live our lives of modern distraction,” according to Pulitzer Prize nominated USA author Garrett Hongo.  While the poetry could also be cast as a priestly testament, it has a chilling quality that fits Brathwaite’s description of the freshly minted Liviticus as, “The first poem of the Burning of the Body and the Tearing of the Flesh.”

 One reviewer connects to what has been identified elsewhere as the sustained “global importance” of Brathwaite’s works. “Even as Kamau Brathwaite writes eloquently and heartbreakingly about his ‘Cultural Lynching,’ there remains the poet’s steadfast desire to connect to the pasts, presents, and futures of a seemingly indifferent world,” said editor of the literary internet platform sx salon Kelly Baker Josephs.

  The poetry is written in Brathwaite’s Sycorax Video Style (SVS). The book’s 8.5×11 size accommodates the SVS wide spacing, punctuations, and font varieties. At times this aesthetically unique style has amounted to a challenge, if not a point of editorial contention with major publishers eager to publish the Bajan poet, but may find themselves at odds with the requirements of his SVS brand, said HNP’s Lasana Sekou.

  Brathwaite was born in Barbados in 1930. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Sussex. The co-founder of the Caribbean Arts Movement in the United Kingdom (UK) has lived and worked in the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and the United States.

  Brathwaite has worked at the Ministry of Education of Ghana and served on the board of directors of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) History of Mankind project as a cultural advisor to the Barbados Government.

  Among the 20 and more books by Brathwaite that have maintained his international standing as a distinguished poet,scholar, and dramatist are The Arrivants: A New World Trilogy(1973),X/Self(1987),Middle Passages(1992),The Zea Mexican Diary(1994),Words Need Love Too(2000), Born to Slow Horses(2005), andElegguas(2010). Words Need Love Toowas published by HNP.

  Brathwaite has taught at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Harvard University, and New York University (NYU). Awards and honours include the Bussa Award, the Casa de las Americas Prize for Literary Criticism, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation, said Sekou.

  Brathwaite is a recipient of the International Griffin Poetry Prize (Canada), the President’s Award (St. Martin Book Fair), and the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. Brathwaite lives in Barbados.

  Liviticus is available at Arnia and Van Dorp bookstores, and online at and

Source: The Daily Herald