The Heinemann Book of Caribbean Poetry described Kendel Hippolyte as ’perhaps the outstanding Caribbean poet of his generation’. Until now his poetry has only been available in anthologies and slim collections which have been little seen outside St. Lucia. Birthright reveals him as a poet who combines acute intelligence and passion, a barbed wit and lyrical tenderness.
He writes with satirical anger from the perspective of an island marginalised by the international money markets in a prophetic voice whose ancestry is Blake, Whitman and Lawrence, married to the contemporary influences of reggae, rastafarian word-play and a dread cosmology. He writes, too, with an acute control of formal structures, of sound, rhythm and rhyme - there are sonnets and even a villanelle - but like ’Bunny Wailer flailing Apollyon with a single song’, his poetry has ’a deepdown spiritual chanting rising upfull-I’. Whilst acknowledging a debt of influence and admiration to his fellow St. Lucian, Derek Walcott, Kendel Hippolyte’s poetry has a direct force which is in the best sense a corrective to Walcott’s tendency to romanticise the St. Lucian landscape and people.