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Navel String: A poetic call to Identity and Nationhood


Adrian Augier's Navel String is a paradoxical treatise. A fine work that reveals the inexorable pain of displaced souls. It's "Socratic," didactic and compelling, with a palpable sense of foreboding, a looming spectre of a dissociative identity in need of repair.
 Augier, a St Lucian, wobbles, psychologically. No fault of his. It's the way of the authentic poet - blessed and cursed. His work bears this out.

In discursive moments, he tackles the assault on nature, remaining figuratively robust...But it is his psycho-cultural journeys that claw at you, clinging, hauntingly. Where is Augier's navel string? Where are ours? Is it in this land we have forcibly adopted, or is it elsewhere? There is no easy response.

The draw of the drums and the beckoning of the ancestral past cannot be dismissed, although we have tried. We are part of a cultural gestalt. It is suicidal to disengage. "No, it is not forbidden to go fetch what you have left behind, but hurry. And look well, believer, on the glorious Sankofa's tail," he writes in Sankofa, Song of Job.

A people, a nation, and a sense of self are keys to actualization. Lo, this hasn't been our experience. Hence the insomniacal spells, the yearning, the cries to be heard, and the anguish. This is the power of Augier's work
He excels philosophically, and can also rile the burdened from their slumber. A provocateur, he is. His anger boils over.

Meanwhile, lyrically, he waves a hypnotic wand. His words are poetically biting, at times loud, and never short on imaginative clout. In Who Cannot Sleep, he writes: "And fear, recently insubstantial becomes suddenly bone, incarnate muscle, violence so irrepressible that it will find a weapon to avenge the deeds that signed away the future."

In that thematic vein is "Listen to the Dark Young Men." On this socio-historical canvas, the perennial plight of those beaten down is painted in bold colors. His fiery pen talks to you: "They could leap and leave behind the servitude, the persistent poverty, or, just as easily they could stay, and any day, set aflame the city."

Two worlds co-exist, but the author is imprisoned in his home, his native land, the land that evokes beauty and delivers pain. Its folklore is frightening, embedded in magic, the mystical. It's awe inspiring and welcomes the enquiry of the artist, but also horrifies him. The Soukouyan and Ladjablesse mystify and defy explanation.

It is a bitter-sweet pill to swallow, leading Augier to ask rhetorically “You should run, but where? This is the $64,000 question that bestrides "In Return to Lusca." Its ambivalence underscores Augier's undertaking. "Seeking salvation, an early poet eyed her soul and called this island Lusca - an anagram for saint or child, or worse, a blessed abomination, a bolom drunk with laughter caught in the stunning light of early morning-after."

And in the Psalmic reverberations of "Did I not lift Mine Eyes," Augier has produced his most evocative piece. It encapsulates the darkness and extinguished hope of so many of his renditions. It is bold, putting God on the spot. Why? Why can I not hate? Why cannot I exact revenge? Augier asks questions we dare not ask, although we have entertained them, silently, with guilt.

"Did I not hold firm in the heated breath of their brewing storms and pray to you through all temptations?" he asks...."Did I not kneel? Lord, you know all not I, who can only look upon your hills, but if not from you and son then whence, how, and why not now, cometh our help?"

Augier's world is dark, almost. Devastation awaits our progeny as he warns in "Inheritance." May be there is but a sliver of hope. But that seems always smothered by the reality of life's brutality. However, not many poets can lift the spirit with pain. Augier does. There is a light in the abyss - flashes of enlightenment. Augier's pain eventually transcends the physical, till it no longer exists. Curiously, it eventually assumes a transcendental and ineffable emotion that somehow comforts the reader.

Glenville Ashby

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Navel String by Adrian Augier, 2012
Peepal Tree Press


Rating: Good