All The Names Given
“Brave, tender and generous. . . . A haunting study of what we can find in the silences of history when history is recognized as more than a noun, when recognized as something alive and kinetic.” —Camonghne Felix, author of Build Yourself a Boat
On the heels of his much-lauded debut collection, Raymond Antrobus continues his essential investigation into language, miscommunication, place, and memory in All The Names Given, while simultaneously breaking new ground in both form and content.
The collection opens with poems about the author’s surname—one that shouldn’t have survived into modernity—and examines the rich and fraught history carried within it. The book is punctuated with [Caption Poems] partially inspired by Deaf sound artist Christine Sun Kim, which speak to the spaces between the poems as well as the moments inside them. As Antrobus outlines a childhood caught between intimacy and brutality, sound and silence, and conflicting racial and cultural identities, the poem becomes a space in which the poet reckons with his own ancestry, and bears witness to the indelible violence of the legacy wrought by colonialism. The poems travel through space—shifting fluidly between England, South Africa, Jamaica, and the American South—and brilliantly move from an examination of family history into the wandering lust of adolescence and finally, vividly, into a complex array of marriage poems—matured, wiser, and more accepting of love’s fragility.
Formally sophisticated, with a weighty perception and startling directness, All The Names Given is a timely, tender book full of humanity and remembrance from one of the most important young poets of our generation.
“Powerful. . . . Antrobus beautifully pays witness to the legacy of colonialism while providing another gripping meditation on language and communication.”
“Raymond Antrobus [has a] depth of awareness, originality, and empathy—all turned inside out and refracted into prism-like hues of insight.”
“In All The Names Given, the essential tension is knowledge. Knowledge of self, knowledge of others. These poems make the sublime leap or union of witness to ‘with-ness,’ so their knowledge is not speculative but holds together, beautiful and fraught, the broken burden of honesty: love. Antrobus is a phenomenal poet.”
—Ishion Hutchinson, author of House of Lords and Commons
“[Antrobus] reckons with his own ancestry, conflicting racial and cultural identities, and chronicles the damages of colonialism.”
“This collection is a brave, tender and generous piece of music, where family is a cord forever troubled by the process of being named. With a knife-like precision, All the Names Given manages to caption the speaker’s dance with the ghosts of his bloodline, offering us a haunting study on what we can find in the silences of history when history is recognized as more than a noun, when recognized as something alive and kinetic, something constantly in conversation with the present. I can’t wait to see how this timely book ripples through our world.”
—Camonghne Felix, author of Build Yourself a Boat
“What a beautiful book Raymond Antrobus has written! I love it. So much pain, so much tenderness, so much music and invention and passion in All The Names Given. Truly, it is terrific. Antrobus has a special gift of making music from stories and giving his lyrics gravity and urgency that’s inimitable.”
—Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic
“These poems are revelations. This collection is so obviously at the forefront of a new canon whose singular and evocative approach to lyricism and imagistic play demonstrates not only the necessity of our multilingual and multimodal realities, but ‘the volume of their power,’ too.”
—Meg Day, author of Last Psalm at Sea Level