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About this poet

Kendel Hippolyte was born in Castries, St. Lucia, in 1952. In the 1970s he studied and lived in Jamaica, receiving a BA from the University of the West Indies in 1976.

Hippolyte is the author of several books of poetry, including Fault Lines (Peepal Tree Press, 2012), Night Vision (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2005), and Birthright (Peepal Tree Press, 1997). Of his work, Kwame Dawes writes, “One gets the sense of a writer working in a laboratory patiently, waiting for the right image to come, and then placing it there only when it comes.”

Hippolyte, who is also a playwright and a director, is known for writing in Standard English, the varieties of Caribbean English, and in Kewyol, his nation language. He is the editor of Confluence: Nine St. Lucian Poets (The Source, 1988) and the author of several plays, including The Drum-Maker in 1976 and Triptych in 2000. With his wife, the poet Jane King, he founded the Lighthouse Theatre Company in St. Lucia in 1984.

In 2000, Hippolyte received the St. Lucia Medal of Merit for his service in the arts. He is also the recipient of the Bridget Jones Travel Award and Minvielle & Chastanet Fine Arts Awards in both literature and directing, among other honors and awards.

Hippolyte taught theater arts and literature at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College from 1992 to 2007. He lives in St. Lucia.


Selected Bibliography

Fault Lines (Peepal Tree Press, 2012)
Night Vision (Triquarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2005)
Birthright (Peepal Tree Press, 1997)
The Labyrinth (The Source, 1993)
Island in the Sun – Side Two (V.W.I. Extra Mural Department, 1980)

Advice To a Young Poet

“What is poetry which does not save nations or people?” – Czselaw Milosz

Ask the question.
Not once but forty-nine times.
And, perhaps at the fiftieth,
you will make an answer.
Or perhaps not. Then
ask it again. This time
till seventy times seven. Ask
as you open the door
of every book of poems that you enter.
Ask it of every poem,
regardless of how beautiful,
that whispers: “Lie with me.”
Do not spare your newborn.
If the first cry, first line
is not a wailing for an answer,
abandon it. As for the stillborn,
turn the next blank white sheet over,
shroud it. Ask the clamouring procession
of all the poems of the ages –
each measured, white-haired epic,
every flouncing free verse debutante –
to state their names, where they have come from
and what their business is with you.
You live in the caesura of our times,
the sound of nations, persons, breaking around you.
If poetry can only save itself,
then who will hear it after it has fled
from the nations and the people that it could not save
even a remnant of for a remembering?


From Fault Lines. Copyright © 2012 by Kendel Hippolyte. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.

From Fault Lines. Copyright © 2012 by Kendel Hippolyte. Used with the permission of Peepal Tree Press.

Kendel Hippolyte

Kendel Hippolyte

Kendel Hippolyte was born in Castries, St. Lucia, in 1952. He is the author of several books of poetry, including Fault Lines (Peepal Tree Press, 2012).

by this poet

poem

(for my son, Daniel)

The child is sleeping,
folded in among the brown boughs of my arms,
and a promise, formed beyond language, drawn upward
like sap through a pith, stirs through me.
In its slow course, i feel a vow so deep
it does not reach the flower and fade of word

poem

They were walking—he, left she, right—on a winding path below the speckled foliage,
he speaking quietly, she listening easily, so neither saw or heard at first
when the ground cracked and a long fissure wavered ahead of

poem

Towards the end he got the d.t.’s. He would see
a smiling girl in a white first communion dress
waving at him. He’d smile back, point her out to me
and i stopped arguing because she, more than i, could bless
even a little, those last days when my presence
only made heavier a weight of guilt