WINNER of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature 2020
Set in the immediate aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Irma, the most catastrophic storm to strike the British Virgin Islands, Richard Georges’ Epiphaneia stands as a collection of rich, transcendental verse. Beyond the loss and devastation that such a natural disaster brings, Georges’ ideas span beyond the physical world, asking us to consider the ways in which families and communities come together amidst such tragedy.
Blood runs under the earth. A father will instruct his daughter to the hills where their ancestors are buried. A flying man opens a door in the sky. Children play in the twisted roots of a landscape both dangerous and triumphant. Constantly attuned to the devastating power of nature and where the body, too, is ‘a precarious house’, these poems are hymns to the resilience of the human spirit. Georges locates in the negative space of aftermath both the ghosts of history, and the mythic beginnings of a yet unlived, rejuvenated world.
“An island browns in the sea, a boy beats a drum, tongues swell up with language. These poems are astonishing, largely unprecedented. Georges has written a truly living text.” - Kaveh Akbar
Written during the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Epiphaneia is a collection which explores life, loss, grief and community. From the very beginning, Georges speaks with maturity, experience and wisdom; immediately placing Epiphaneia above several, current poetry releases as its poetic calibre ensures it deserves a space on everyone’s bookshelf.
At times, Georges’ writing is reminiscent of some of the greatest modern poets. In ‘On Remembering’ I caught echoes of Plath, whilst pieces like ‘Pathfinder’ and ‘A Longer Loneliness’ recalled the way Heaney wrote about Ireland. But, Georges’ individual voice is loud and stark. It is rare every poem in a collection causes you to pause, recognise you are in the grip of an incredibly talented writer, and then continue. With each poem, I savoured the poignant truth in Georges’ verses; in his ability to communicate ancient soul-deep feelings with enviable piquancy.
“goodbye comes in languages I cannot remember,
I cannot understand anymore.”
(Too Full of Vermouth and Cigarette Smoke)
“to submerge in this gorgeous too full life.”
(The Logic of Perceiving)
Georges writes with a taste of life lived with love and fear in both hands. Thus, as Epiphaneia moves on to poems directly inspired by Hurricane Irma, the grief, hope and sense of community is palpable.
‘The Storm is Here...’ and ‘An Inventory for Survival’ both vividly capture the ecological destruction wrought by the hurricane and how we always seek to rebuild what we have lost - even in our heartache, even in the knowledge we cannot recover everything. Consequently, there is great sadness at times but Georges continues to uncover hope wherever it can be found.
“birds loops like kites, the sun remains a star
and we are still here”
(Still Life of a Ruin)
“I’ve begun to learn that devastateddoes not mean dead,
that ruin can be resplendent,
that what has been emptied can be filled.”
(The Year Has Become More Beautiful)
‘Altricial’ too, is a beautiful commentary on beginning again.
Georges does not miss a beat. Every poem reaches out and touches the reader - comforts and consoles them, shares universal truths with the hope to swallow them.
Epiphaneia finishes with the strength it opens with. The prosetry piece ‘Notes on the Road Town’ alongside ‘Heartache is for Lovers...’ and ‘A Mixtape for Tortola’ leave you with the bittersweet reminder that nothing in life lasts forever yet some things (like our capability to love and lose) will never change.
I published my debut poetry collection, Between The Trees, in May 2019. I act as EIC for Free Verse Revolution: a platform which showcases the work of writers from all over the globe. And when I'm not teaching English at a high school, I freelance as an editor for indie writers.