Ishion Hutchinson
2023 |

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.

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School of Instructions

A Poem