Eric Roach and Flowering Rock

Eric Roach and Flowering Rock


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



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.



Books on Caribbean Writers


Kenneth Ramchand, ed. West Indian Narrative: An Introductory Anthology.  Nelson Thornes Ltd; Rev Ed edition (June 1980)


Laurence A. Breiner, Black Yeats: Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry. Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 2007


Laurence A. Breiner, An Introduction toe West Indian Poetry. Cambridge University Press,  2003


Eric Roach, The Flowering Rock. Peepal Tree Press Ltd, 1991

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Eric Roach and the Flowering Rock

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.

Source: Eric Roach Collection

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The Flowering Rock: Collected Poems, 1938-1974

By Eric Merton Roach

This collection brings together for the first time the work of one of the Caribbean’s major poets. It collects the poems published in journals between 1938-1973, Roach’s early pseudonymous work and a substantial selection of his unpublished poems from manuscript. The collection is edited and introduced by Professor Kenneth Ramchand.—Publisher, Peepal Tree Press, 1992

This is an extremely important book. Before its appearance no literary historian or critic, let alone lover of poetry, will have been able to measure the full richness of West Indian poetic creation. One always suspected that Eric Roach was one of the major West Indian poets. This book consolidates his name in a pantheon which includes at least Claude McKay, Derek Walcott, Louise Bennett, Martin Carter and Kamau Brathwaite.

I think what I respond to most is Roach’s passion for the land and the people, both of which are so clearly and categorically West Indian. The intense feeling that informs his best poetry – and so much of the poetry is good—expresses a very specific yearning for a shared identity which will leap over island isolation and bind together our fragmented historical consciousness into a coherent whole.—Ian McDonald

The most splendid voice of the Caribbean Renaissance (1948-1972) . . . precious confounded Yeatsian & still utterly Caribbean statements.

—Kamau Brathwaite

This first publication of Roach’s poetic corpus is quite simply a major literary event.— Laurence Breiner


Source: Peepal Tree Press

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Poems by Eric Roach


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 silence silence a man has passed into the heart of darkness

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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

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Black Yeats

Eric Roach and the Politics of Caribbean Poetry

By Laurence A. Breiner

In this impressive and much-needed book, Laurence Breiner sets out to present a study of Eric Roach “as a publishing poet . . . concentrating on how Roach in fact presented himself—or found himself presented—before the world of his contemporaries.” This means that while the work of Roach the Tobagonian playwright, fiction writer, and journalist exists as a sort of sunk context surrounding or permeating much within the scope of Breiner’s consideration, by the time page 279 (or page 297, for those who read endnotes) is reached, Roach stands forth from the crowd of named and unnamed tragic Caribbean figures who have pre-empted their natural time, forcing the sea to swallow them up (his suicide was in 1974)—to be known as himself, as much more than the author of the occasional anthologised federationist verse or the “hurt hawk” subject of posthumous tributes . . .

It is through his literary skill as writer and reader, working with his historical knowledge, that Breiner establishes his interpretations of Roach’s evolving sense of self as a federationist poet, and the tragedy of this rural Tobagonian whose voice did not find itself heard in time for the times according to which it launched song and endeavoured speech.—

Vahni Capildeo, Caribbean Review of Books

Laurence A. Breiner is the author of An Introduction to West Indian Poetry and a member of the African-American studies faculty at Boston University, where he teaches Caribbean, postcolonial, and 17th-century literatures. He lives in Boston.

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update 11 January 2012




Home  Inside the Caribbean  West Indian Narrative   Guest Poets

Related files:  Eric Roach and Flowering Rock  Kam Williams Interviews Colin Roach 

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