Anthony Joseph | 'Punk' from 'Bird Head Son'

in ReggaeJAHMlast year

I was really pleased to pick up a copy of this book by one of my favourite Caribbean artists. Published in 2009 by Salt, an independent publisher that specialised in poetry, this book was out-of-print, but I was able to get a brand-new copy, perfect in its dust jacket.

Bird Head Son.jpg

Dust Jacket of Bird Head Son by Anthony Joseph, 2009

The book had never been opened: I had the pleasure of being the first person to touch the matte black end-papers and read the short profile at the beginning and marvel at the family photographs, snapshots from the author's own collection. Although that also struck me as sad: eleven years spent in warehouses and on shelves and never opened.

The poems in this book were written over a five year period, they're autobiographical and cover the poet's 'first life' in Trinidad, before he moved to the UK in 1989. I remember hearing Anthony reading some of them at one of the events I arranged: they were so popular - especially El Socorro, about pig gut roast - that he came back a second time.

from Bird Head Son.jpg

Back of Bird Head Son - love the crinkled black and white photo and the composition - the boy in his smart suit looking away.

I've hardly had time to read them all, but I'll leave one for you today. It made me smile with recognition about being a teenager:


I used to have a ponytail
twisted with beeswax to bud until
it curled like a scorpion's tail.
I uses to twist it and tug it to grow it,
but it grew so slow it got shaved.

I used to have a punk
short front and sides,
the back fat - I used to grease it -
with curl activator - to wave it
but still it sprung tough like spring.

One Saturday (cause Saturday was always
the day for cutting hair)
the barber asked me 'How yuh want it?'
and I said 'High top fade'
cause I was almost grown.

But when I got home the old bull flashed
some serious leather in my waist. He said
'What kinda kiss-me-arse cut is this?
and took me back same time to the barber
to get my head shaved.

From Bird Head Son by Anthony Joseph, 2009.


Interesting and funny poem. That's the first time I hear about that author. Thanks for sharing!

He's very interesting - one of the leading poets here.

 last year 

You know when I see books like this about poetry, I wonder if this trend will continue or will everyone post it on social media ?

I too like that black and white photo, it certainly depicts a Caribbean family hehehe.

That was a nice bit of poetry, not too twisted and confusing in meaning and easy for the target to understand and relate. I went through all those styles expect the first one hehe. I laughed just thinking about that haircut with the fat back 😂

Mmmm, I'm not sure what is going to happen. I read a year or two ago that sales of printed books had overtaken e-books, and there has been a resurgence of vinyl over digital music ... Salt are certainly publishing lots of books. I guess it is okay if there is a way to find your work ... someone said to me once that the Internet is like a library where all the books have been thrown on the floor - you might find what you are looking for if you are lucky, but systematic searching (for an unknown) is very difficult.
I laughed, too, at the end: fathers every where!

I knew a kid in elementary school who moved from Trinidad to New Jersey, and that first chilly day of fall she came in still dressed for summer, teeth chattering. We were all like, "why are you in shorts and a t-shirt??" She said that they hadn't gone cold weather clothes shopping yet because they didn't realize cold weather hit that early, lol. Poor girl was freezing her butt off until her family got to the store later that week!

It must have been a huge shock!

interesting literature, the black and white photographs are beautiful thanks for sharing this Caribbean poetry writer is a way to bring new knowledge to the community and make great writers known greetings @shanibeer ..

Yeah, I like that photograph :)

Right now the Danish newspapers have for three-four days been writing about, obituaried, analysed and mourned the death of a young Poet. Even though this poem is much more mellow it is also a poem from an author in between cultures, the Danish guy was from a Palestinian family. Standing between cultures gives material for some pretty good poetry it seems.

You may be right. Some of the others in the book are much more dense. I chose this one to share because I thought it was accessible and an experience that maybe others would have had. What was the name of your young poet?

The reason I called this mellow was only in comparison. His name was Yahya Hassan, and he was only 24 when he died a week ago. He wrote in Danish so it is of course only Scandinavians who knew about him.

Here's the wikipedia:

Thank you. I'm sorry to hear that he died so young, but also thrilled in a way that poetry could continue to be so powerful.

Yes, it is a rather incredible story in itself. I read the collection after all the fuzz was over. I had an idea that the whole thing had been driven by the terrible discussion about Islam. But when I read the book it was just incredibly moving. Sad that he didn't have time to develop.