Eric Merton Roach
1915 - 1974. Trinidad y Tobago
Eric Merton Roach nació en Mount Pleasant, Tobago, en 1915. Poeta, docente y periodista. Se trata, sin dudas, de una de las más firmes y controversiales voces de la poesía de West Indies. En 1960, a pesar de que había acumulado una abundante producción poética, incluyendo poemas en antologías y en revistas culturales prestigiosas, no tuvo ofertas de publicación y regresó a la enseñanza.
En 1961 se mudó a Trinidad, donde trabajó como periodista. Escribió poemas singularmente referenciales de la producción poética caribeña. El poeta Kamau Brathwaite definió a Roach como “la más espléndida voz del Renacimiento del Caribe”.
En 1974, el poeta bebió insecticida y nadó hacia mar abierto en Quinam Bay, Trinidad. Su libro The Flowering Rock: Poems 1938-1974 tuvo edición en 1992.
LA ROCA QUE FLORECE
En el calor feroz de los mediodías
Bajo los árboles de la cabaña
Las jóvenes de nuestro pueblo
Amamantan a sus niños
Cuya cuna es una canción,
Y en nuestro valle
Las corrientes de agua tararean
Ritmos gratos entre las piedras.
Nuestros corazones no se rompen
A pesar de que están rotos,
Una espuma de risas
Supera nuestro mar de penas,
Nuestro canto suspira como un zafiro
En el silencio de la noche:
Nuestras voces sobrellevan los trazos de las
El peso de su cadencia.
Oh desde la roca desolada
Tan blanca como la santidad
Las flores de lirio:
Esencia de la oscuridad que es
Demasiado pura para ser fragancia,
La piedra destilada,
La voz aún del esqueleto.
Éste es nuestro símbolo –
Belleza famosa de las barriadas;
El niño hambriento que
Mañana se volverá
El héroe del país;
La grava negra lo soporta,
El engendra repetidamente
En nuestro vientre fértil.
Amanece, mi querida:
La noche, fundida con sueños de terror
Se encoge desde estas costas,
Destellos de luz en el horizonte;
Nuestras almas como girasoles
Se vuelven hacia el alba:
Nuestra esperanza comienza sus plegarias.
Versiones en español de los poemas:
Eduardo Dalter, María Luz Fernández
y Daniel Borrachia
Eric Merton Roach, father of Colin Roach, was born 1915 at Mount Pleasant Tobago. After a secondary education at Bishop's High School, Tobago, he entered the teaching profession. In 1939, he joined the army in Trinidad and served as a volunteer with the South Caribbean forces during World War II. His first poems, some written as Merton Maloney, date from this period. After a short stint in the Civil Service, he worked as a journalist with the Trinidad Guardian and The Nation. He was also a regular contributor to the BBC Caribbean Voices programme.
At the age of 39, he turned his attention to writing and produced many short stories, poems, plays, articles, and a radio serial. He married in 1952 and in 1954 he left his job to devote his time to writing. By 1960, though he had accumulated an impressive body of work, including many anthologised poems and publication in Bim, Kyk-over-Al and other journals, there were no offers of publication and he returned to teaching.
In 1961, he moved to Trinidad where he worked chiefly as a journalist. In 1973, he again resigned in order to devote more time to his writing. In 1972, he had published a fiercely critical review of the new Caribbean poetry published in Savacou ¾ (‘Tribe Boys vs Afro-Saxons’) and in the absence of the publication of his own poetry of this period, which was indeed much closer in spirit to the Savacou collection than his somewhat intemperate review suggested, he was widely castigated for what were perceived as reactionary views.
Almost equally, he was taken up as a stick with which to beat the leading figures in the Caribbean revolution in the arts by its opponents. In the process, Roach’s own poetry was ignored. In 1974, leaving behind ‘Finis’, a suicide note transformed into art, Roach drank insecticide and swam out to sea at Quinam Bay, itself the subject of a fine poem ‘At Quinam Bay’ full of intimations of wearied ending.
I AM THE ARCHIPELAGO
I am the archipelago hope
Would mould into dominion; each hot green island
Buffeted, broken by the press of tides
And all the tales come mocking me
Out of the slave plantations where I grubbed
Yam and cane; where heat and hate sprawled down
Among the cane – my sister sired without
Love or law. In that gross bed was bred
The third estate of colour. And now
My language, history and my names are dead
And buried with my tribal soul. And now
I drown in the groundswell of poverty
No love will quell. I am the shanty town,
Banana, sugarcane and cotton man;
Economies are soldered with my sweat
Here, everywhere; in hate’s dominion;
In Congo, Kenya, in free, unfree America.
I herd in my divided skin
Under a monomaniac sullen sun
Disnomia deep in artery and marrow.
I burn the tropic texture from my hair;
Marry the mongrel woman or the white;
Let my black spinster sisters tend the church,
Earn meagre wages, mate illegally,
Breed secret bastards, murder them in womb;
Their fate is written in unwritten law,
The vogue of colour hardened into custom
In the tradition of the slave plantation.
The cock, the totem of his craft, his luck,
The obeahman infects me to my heart
Although I wear my Jesus on my breast
And burn a holy candle for my saint.
I am a shaker and a shouter and a myal man;
My voodoo passion swings sweet chariots low.
My manhood died on the imperial wheels
That bound and ground too many generations;
From pain and terror and ignominy
I cower in the island of my skin,
The hot unhappy jungle of my spirit
Broken by my haunting foe my fear,
The jackal after centuries of subjection.
But now the intellect must outrun time
Out of my lost, through all man’s future years,
Challenging Atalanta for my life,
To die or live a man in history,
My totem also on the human earth.
O drummers, fall to silence in my blood
You thrum against the moon; break up the rhetoric
Of these poems I must speak. O seas,
O Trades, drive wrath from destinations.
night casts its blanket
on the wood
blacker than blindness
nothing breaks midnight now
the fireflies died
life’s candles flickered out
darkness has entered
at the pores of love
and joy and grief
and art and song
now sound is silence
a man has passed
into the heart of darkness
The Flowering Rock
In fierce hot noons
Neath homestead trees
Our village girls
Breastfeed their young
Whose cradle is a song,
And in our valley
The stream water croons
Cool rhythms among stones.
Our hearts break not
Though they are ever broken,
A froth of laughter
Tops our sea of sorrows,
our singing sighs like zephyrs
In night silence:
Our voices bear the tracery of tears,
The burden of their cadence.
Oh from gaunt rock
As white as sanctity
The lily blooms:
Essence of darkness is
Too pure for fragrance,
The distilled stone,
The still voice of the skeleton.
This is our symbol -
Beauty famous in the slum;
The hungry boy who
Tomorrow shall become
The country’s hero;
The black loam bears him,
He breeds recurrent
In our fertile womb.
Day breaks, my darling:
Night, cast with eldritch dreams
Shrinks from these shores,
Light flickers on horizons;
Our souls like sunflowers
Turn toward the dawning:
Our hope begins its orisons.
Source: Eric Merton Roach
The Flowering Rock: Collected Poems, 1938-1974