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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)

Archipelago

If you really see the Caribbean archipelago, you will see yourself,
the vivid scattered islands stirring to awakening in a sea of reverie and nightmare,
the goldening light lifting green foliage out of darkness into its illumination
and the surrounding blue immensity brooding an unknown creaturing of what can live only in depth

If you hear the Caribbean archipelago, you will hear it talking to you in tongues
of the original tribes of the Americas, Africa, Europe, Asia; you will hear quarrelling, then a blur
and you will hear the simultaneous translation of these languages into the first language,
the sea talking to itself because in the beginning and the end there is no other

If you truly see the Caribbean archipelago, it will become clear
how the fragmented, brittle arc of islands, resisting the onsurge of ocean, makes the sea the sea;
how the ocean, reaching around breached rock, trying to rejoin itself, makes islands islands;
how they both therefore define each other, how they refine your understanding of the selfhood
into an acceptance of the necessary oneness of the known and the unknown

If you can be the Caribbean archipelago, acknowledging that your littoral shape is never final,
that it shifts with your awareness that below the sublunary rise-and-ebb there is an undertow,
a contrary flow that draws you down, deepening to where the separate i-lands reach
beyond the scattered stones of their selves, growing down back into one bedrock, into the original
ground from which the sea, the ocean, the self-dismembered yet defining archipelago rise into their being,
if you can be this, be yond it, you will miracle into impossibility, you will see
how to be broken and yet whole.

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

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

poem

            (from Home Economics—for Wendell Berry)

In those days all shops were called Ma This or Mister That.
One shop my mother used to send me to was called Ma Branch.
i’d go, playing with my shadow all the way,

poem

“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