School of Instructions

A Poem

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Pub Date 21 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023

Description

A stunning memorial work that excavates the forgotten experience of West Indian soldiers during World War I.

Deep-dyed in language both sensuous and biblical, Ishion Hutchinson's School of Instructions memorializes the experience of West Indian soldiers volunteering in British regiments in the Middle East during World War I. The poem narrates the psychic and physical terrors of these young Black fighters in as they struggle against the colonial power they served; their story overlaps with that of Godspeed, a schoolboy living in rural Jamaica of the 1990s. This visionary collision, in which the horizontal, documentary shape of the narrative is interrupted by sudden lyric effusions, unsettles both time and event, mapping great moments of heroism onto the trials of everyday existence It reshapes grand gestures of heroism in a music of supple, vigilant intensity.

Elegiac, epochal and lyrical, School of Instructions confronts the legacy of imperial silencing and weaves shards of remembrance—"your word mass / your mix match / your jamming of elements"—into a unique form of survival. It is a masterpiece of imaginative recuperation by a poet of prodigious gifts.

A stunning memorial work that excavates the forgotten experience of West Indian soldiers during World War I.

Deep-dyed in language both sensuous and biblical, Ishion Hutchinson's School of...


A Note From the Publisher

Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He is the author of the poetry collections Far District, winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and House of Lords and Commons, which was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, and the Whiting Writers Award. Hutchinson is an associate professor of English at Cornell University.

Ishion Hutchinson was born in Port Antonio, Jamaica. He is the author of the poetry collections Far District, winner of the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award, and House of Lords and Commons, which was...


Advance Praise

"Ishion Hutchinson’s School of Instructions defies category—not with philosophy or doctrine, but through illuminating imagery and pace. And, here, the reader must be ready to engage a deeper truth this work brings to light, which seems to be asking through innuendo, Were Jamaican troops fighting in the Middle East during the First World War silenced? What at first may seem symbolic and totemic grows into a profound language embodying a rhythm that is cultural and personal. The subtle details—the officers are British and the Caribbean soldiers, low-ranking fodder dying in the name of the crown—become haunting brushstrokes on a tonal canvas. The poet’s dynamic characters, especially Godspeed, Count Lasher, and Pipecock Jackson, grow instructional when exposing the underbelly of history and folklore. Lived and ritualized through a satire where magical realism resides, this voice betokens more than a bloody enterprise of war in the desert. This poet shows how a sense of place travels as images of home and voices in the head and heart; dreams of the Caribbean Sea become overlays upon maps of sandy battlefields. Such realities are embedded throughout School of Instructions, and in this sense the title is the first trope of irony in a masterful work." —Yusef Komunyakaa, author of Everyday Mojo Songs of Earth

"Ishion Hutchinson's School of Instructions honors the volunteers of the British West Indies Regiment who fought as colonial subjects in the Middle Eastern theater from 1916 to 1918 and later returned home to join the struggle for independence. Hutchinson draws on all the conventions of epic—the proper names and epitaphs, the lists, the materiel, the violence—only to undo them. Instead he reveals the striking language and singular consciousness of his protagonists as they make their way through an ancient landscape they already know as shaped by eternity. By its end, this moving, humane, long poem floods the reader with a sense of their living presence and destiny." —Susan Stewart, author of The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture

“‘Source of echo / madman of prophecies,’ chants the over-voice in Ishion Hutchinson’s majestic School of Instructions. That’s how this lyric-epic works, picking up signals from the Bible, Blake, David Jones’s In Parenthesis, Geoffrey Hill, and Jamaican dub music. To honor the West Indian soldiers who fought for England in the Great War, Hutchinson splices the memory of the Black soldiers into the story of Godspeed, his modern Jamaican ‘boyself’ enduring thrashings at his ‘school of instructions.’ With this radical poem, Hutchinson leaps into the ranks of the visionary company.” —Rosanna Warren, author of So Forth

"Ishion Hutchinson’s School of Instructions defies category—not with philosophy or doctrine, but through illuminating imagery and pace. And, here, the reader must be ready to engage a deeper truth...


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ISBN 9780374610265
PRICE $26.00 (USD)
PAGES 112

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Featured Reviews

It is a true pleasure to live when Ishion Hutchinson is writing. More than the historic legacy and family memoir Hutchinson is engaging in this text, there is a sense of vivid and lively quality to the poems. Whether it's the use of ootomonopeias or locational directions, Hutchinson roots us in a very specific place and time while allowing us to sense the very impetuous nature of memory. I enjoyed this collection greatly!

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