Book review: A passionate appeal to Cayman Identity
Glenville Ashby, Contributor
Title: Reflections from a Broken Mirror
Author: J.A. Bodden
Publisher: Ian Randle Publishers, Jamaica
J.A. Roy Bodden's Reflections from a Broken Mirror is written with a searing and exhaustive passion that leaves little time for apathy. For sure, Bodden manages to invoke a disturbing sentiment in those who survive under the thumb of neo-colonialism. And for the many who wobble in search of an identity, Bodden pierces the loins with a clarion call that is painfully necessary. He is the consummate griot, a bard and provocateur, confident that he can bring about social transformation as he so deftly states in the witty, 'Dis Poem.' "... dis poem will bring the change, dis poem will expand the range, this poem will start the solution, this poem will bring the revolution."
The existential question of Caymanian identity meanders through Bodden's work with definitive lucidity. And while he opts to divide the book, by themes, the thesis is monolithic and indistinguishable. There is no ambiguity or qualms. In truth, the concept of identity is the sin qua non of this driving effort. Reflections appeals to our humanity, our conscience. It is a conjuration of the Caymanian archetype and spirit that are untapped, undiscovered and unknown. Bodden, a renowned academic, lays bare the stench from history that clouds the mind and blurs the vision. He throws down the proverbial mantle with a naked look at a social mosaic on the cusp of implosion.
Bodden takes stock, unwilling to yield to fatalism. He well recognises the immortality of the nation's foreparents, and the detailed 'Ancestral Echoes' offers readers snapshots of Caymanian history, from slavery to contemporary political and economic challenges. His words ring true; pedadogical, even pedantic. "... and now as we review the past, the poet says 'the die is cast,' and, as it is, we should retreat but dare us not to admit defeat, for somewhere in the far-off yonder, our ancestral echoes will roll like thunder, and we shall once again prevail as we rise from this great travail."
Bodden has long explored the shortcomings of Caymanian society with academic rigour. Now, although the social dynamics and narrative are the same, Bodden has regrouped with a far different delivery.
Reflections is crisp, with some well-metered and cadenced verses. But for the most part, Bodden shuns colour and metaphorism. He leans heavily on literalism as if determined to heighten atmospheric exigency. This is conscious poetry, driving and didactic. It speaks to you, instructs you, compels you. Its pages bleed revolution with some nuanced advocacy for social unrest. "Expatriate and native too: You can pretend you have no clue for when the blood begins to flow, there will be nowhere for you to go, So 'Work together' is the call, Or else prepare for one great fall!!"
His resistance runs deep, his ancestral appeal, ever alive. 'In Mia San Mia', he intones, "We have really been denied, demonised and dehumanised. Because we refuse to remain mere hewers of wood, drawers of water and draggers of stone. And just because we aspire to control our own fate they cry 'foul' ... label us corrupt and incapable, And instead of lighting a candle they curse us who are Cayamanians ...".
NO BETTER NOW
The political process, expectant at one time, now disappoints. In 'One Man One Vote' he pens, "The weak/the strong/and all the throng will have their chance/to right the wrong ... One man One vote Brought a false alarm, And politics has lost its charm. We're no better now, than we were then; Except we now know, the question when?"
Immigration policy, too, is not spared as Caymanian identity and livelihood are threatened. Bodden's sentiments are hardly concealed in 'City Boy Just Come.' "City boy in your bespoke suit, Just off the plane and taking root, Ruddy faced and slicked backed hair, you have come for my job ... now that ain't fair."
When Bodden is through, his message of cultural awareness and self-determination never swerves. Emotive, concise, and insightful, Reflections, a compendium of soul-searching poems, is a triumph, far-reaching in its appeal and relevance, especially for a people psychologically displaced by history.
Rating: Highly recommended
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