In his new collection, The Perseverance, Raymond Antrobus writes: ‘We are centuries away from people / believing our stories without / perversion, without pity.’ At every turn, Antrobus pushes back against flattening, against the tidy narrative — an invidious Ted Hughes poem gets radically revised, an aunt’s misheard utterance becomes ‘a faint fog horn, a lost river.’ It’s magic, the way this poet is able to bring together so much — deafness, race, masculinity, a mother’s dementia, a father’s demise — with such dexterity. Raymond Antrobus is as searching a poet as you’re likely to find writing today.
The Perseverance is an insightful, frank and intimate rumination on language, identity, heritage, loss and the art of communication. Ranging from tender elegies about his father to frank interrogations of deafness, Antrobus highlights the persistence of memory and our need to connect. These colloquial, historical and conversational poems plunder the space of missing, and absence in speech/ our conversations — between what we hear and what we do not say. Perseverance is a lyrical translation of a power dynamic always present in conversational exchanges but even more so in the d/Deaf experiences. Thought-provoking and eloquent monologues explore the poet’s Jamaican/ British heritage with such compassion, where the spirit and rhythm of each speaker dominates. These are courageous autobiographical poems of praise, difficulties, testimony and love.
Raymond Antrobus’s compelling debut, The Perseverance, confronts deeply rooted prejudice against deaf people.
The Guardian – Poetry Book of the Year
[A] memorable collection … Antrobus interlaces wit and pathos as he examines his identity as a deaf British-Jamaican man in a world between sign language and speech.
The Sunday Times – Poetry Book of the Year
This book is far bigger than d/Deafness … localising identities in the entire bodyscape, be they physical, social, racial, class or religion-based. The Perseverance starts off like a modern-day Milton (‘Echo’), ends with ‘Happy Birthday Moon’, a tender, deceptively simple pantoum about the author’s father (a keystone of the book), and ranges everywhere in between. It channels Danez Smith, Malika Booker and Caroline Bird, in formal poems, erasures, free verse, innovative use of Makaton symbols, translation, prose, and a blackout version of Ted Hughes’ ‘Deaf School’; probably the best poem I read all year, and it doesn’t even have any words in it.
Will Barrett, Poetry School Books of the Year
Text from Penned in the Margins