02 June 2009

the passing of lenrie peters

We learned last week of the passing of the Gambian doctor and poet, Lenrie Peters. Online coverage has been sparse: a brief note in Gambia's Daily Observer (and subsequent obituary notice) as well as a note on the Senegambia News pages. Sad, but not surprising.

I first encountered Peters' work in graduate school. It was, as with much else in graduate school, read in one of those frenzies, plowing through collections, reading once, for speed and volume moreso than depth and nuance. So there's little that remained of those initial encounters. Hell, I could have sworn I'd read all three of his collections -- Satellites, Katchikali, and Selected Poetry -- but ransacking my shelves turned up only the first and third, lightly marked.

Similarly, there is a dearth of secondary, critical material on his work, though his inclusion in Ken Goodwin's Understanding African Poetry: A Study of Ten Poets amounts to something of a canonization of his work as that of one of the elders in the field.

One gets the sense that such was of little concern to Peters, however:
I am reminded
that scratching the
sky with bare nails
won't bring me heaven

- from Satellites 1 (pg 2)
Let us hope that in his rest he's found his way.

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