H. Nigel Thomas, Moving Through Darkness: Book Review.
H. Nigel Thomas' poetry volume Moving through Darkness (AFO Enterprises 1999) stands out among his prose fiction pieces and novels as a signpost for all his writings. The direction in which the poetic consciousness is moving signals the overarching concerns of the writer, whose multi-conscious persona grapples with the perceptible and imperceptible darkness that enshrouds the mind. The volume performs a Canadian Caribbean persona's return to his native homeland (St Vincent, the poet's birthplace), but this is no romantic sojourn, as the postmodern dilemma of the return replaces the joys and ecstasy that memory once sustained.
The volume is replete with nature imagery "gone wrong" as the return home does not yield the Wordsworthian peace and tranquility that memory promises. The opening poem "Return" (2) acts as a false signal to the unsophisticated reader, or to the poetic consciousness that first conceived of the journey. It is but the first stage of "darkness" through which the poetic mind must pass as his persona confronts the treachery of memory. The vision of home that sustained him "in that cold, alien country" where he lives, composed "in memory," which has withstood the "cyclonic winds" of his adopted home, proves cold comfort in the face of reality, a reality that is described as "liquidity."
Like nightmares, the poems (see "Georgetown Cemetery" (4) and "St Lawrence Twilight" (7)) re-configure the Caribbean landscape so that, now devoid of the beauty and charisma it once possessed in memory, Caribbean identity undergoes a numinous change. Section I, "Biomythography," explores the personal sense of identity that is formulated in the mind of the young persona. As the poetic journey progresses, real issues of identity are uncovered, exposed and, ultimately, rejected as we see, for example, in Section II, "Portraits." Here the poetpersona creates a bleak picture album of black diaspora personality types that are ambiguously represented. All are seen as incapable of maintaining any singular identity. Useless figures of ridicule, they are yet to be pitied, or laughed at: "Truth be told," says the poetpersona "we're Job / ... / Midas too / waiting to be or already blessed" (30).
Altogether, the collection of poems enact the persona's ultimate rejection of all forms of identity that are bent by man-made philosophical "-isms," the "darkness" through which we must pass before we "find daylight" (83). Laced with religious acrimony, the poems enact a highly charged personal reading of the black diaspora community. The poetpersona's voice tings true his words laden with ironic wisdom that can come only from the maturing consciousness of one who has made the journey home.