Land the Colour of Heat | Peter Jarvis
Born to an early-settler family in what was Rhodesia, Peter Jarvis attended university in South Africa and Scotland, where in Fife he taught for 25 years. After retiral in 1994 he returned to Africa as teacher, trainer and adviser with the British Council (Botswana) and after that VSO (Namibia). He has published a poetry pamphlet with HappenStance and written reviews, articles and for Fras a memoir of Doris Lessing. Nostalgic for his African years, he began to attempt poetry encouraged by his membership of Anna Crowe’s poetry class in St Andrews. Many of his poems draw on his experiences in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa. He takes a keen interest in the history and culture of the Kalahari San.
‘With poems characterised by great delicacy of perception and expression, this second collection is full of wonders: the poet finds a voice for Vermeer’s maidservant, for the disappointed couple of Sickert’s ‘Ennui’, and for St Magnus before his martyrdom on Egilsay; readers will encounter Pliny’s bees, a coelacanth, hippos, mole-rats, sea-hares and the Vegetable Lamb. But, at the heart of the book is Africa, that ‘Land the Colour of Heat’. Peter Jarvis was born and grew up in what was then Rhodesia, and his poetry revisits the comedy and tensions of his childhood. Two recent spells of teaching in Botswana and Namibia allowed him space to explore the history and creation myths of the San people, and to share the present anguish of those suffering from AIDS. In ‘Zanzela and Tuba: The Boatmen of the Rapids’, perhaps his finest narrative poem, the poet imagines the dangerous journey down the Zambesi taken by David Livingstone in an attempt to measure the drop of the Victoria Falls; but what he gives us is the back-story of the intrepid boatmen, in whose skill the suddenly powerless Livingstone and Chief Sekeletu have to trust. This collection gives a warm sense of a life lived with eyes and ears open to the world and to its people with their stories needing to be told.’
‘In Land the Colour of Heat, his hugely ambitious and fully achieved debut collection, Peter Jarvis soars effortlessly beyond the vagaries of fashion and the narrow range of much contemporary verse. Technically adroit and intelligent, yes, but beyond that, his poetry is shot through with imagery that is by turns visceral, ebullient, yet always well observed. His descriptions of wildlife, landscapes and those who inhabit them are always convincing, while his evocations of a colonial childhood have an almost dreamlike clarity. This is a memorable body of work by a poet who delights in language and has complete mastery of it.’
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