Cynthia Ann Caul’s debut collection of poetry and a Peace Corps memoir over ten years in the making. This work examines the role of Peace Corps in community and international development, as well as its position in the historical trajectory of colonialism and neocolonialism through the very human experiences of a public health volunteer living in rural Ghana.
The work is a candid exploration of racial, gender, national, and religious identity and an opportunity for those of white racial identity and those from the “Global North” or the “western,” “developed,” world to consider their unearned privilege, power, and influence alongside the author.
PLEASE NOTE: Certain functions of an e-reader can change the physical integrity of the poems.
These days the Peace Corps does not get the attention it deserves. That is too bad; perhaps this book will help improve that situation. Cynthia Caul’s first book of poetry was several years in the making after her return from Ghana. The time for processing and reflection was well-spent. The young white woman from Pittsburgh stepped far outside of her comfort zone to serve in rural part of the West African nation. It was literally a life-changing situation; no hyperbole is intended.
Initially, there was some reluctance, or perhaps fear, on her part:
I am immature and under-qualified.
I shouldn’t be here, but due to centuries
The book is divided into three parts of almost equal length. These poems resemble character sketches, although the stories are told as well. There is not much description of th physical place beyond the barest details Rather, the people themselves drive this collection.
During her time in Ghana Caul certainly bonded with people; most every poem brings this out. From “Deborah”:
Deborah erupted into my life,
barely three feet tall.
She was invasive,
standing before me,
with her chest and belly
the fronts of my thighs,
shouting the name
of the only other white woman
she had known
by way of a greeting.
A mix of people comes into view. Missionaries, local evangelists, and above all the inhabitants of rural Ghana, these fill the pages.
From “Seasonality”, a scene of festivity:
After the rains,
comes the harvest.
After the harvest,
come the long, lively nights
filled with sounds
of humming generators
fueling cell phones and tvs
and sports commentators
narrating each toe kick, back heel,
yellow card, and goal.
This is one of the more poetic sections of the book. There is a rhythm here, good use of repletion, and depiction of a scene. Most of the time, the poems contain prose-like structures and cadence. They are full of sentences, placed into the structure of poetic lines.
I am a published poet with four books out there of my own, and two in collaboration with artist Carol Worthington-Levy. Additionally I have drafts of a novel and one short story in the process of being sent out.