'Place Name' was a new commission, written in response to two exhibitions at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in 2015: From Cairo to Constantinople and Gold. It was premiered at an event at the gallery on 12th February 2015 called 'In the Realms of Gold'

Place Name: Oracabessa

by Kei Miller

Oracabessa – origins disputed but most likely leave over
      from the Spanish. Oracabeza, Golden Head, though
      what gold was here other than light shining off the bay,
      other than bananas bursting out from red flowers? But
      this too is disputed – not the flowers – rather, the origin
      of bananas; they may have come here with Columbus on
      a ship that in 1502 slipped into Orcabessa the way grief
      sometimes slips into a room. In those days the sailor
      tried to name the island Santa Maria, as if not knowing
      we already had a name, in another language, a language
      whose speakers would soon die – though this too is
      disputed – not the deaths, but the completeness of
      genocide. Consider, if you will, such leave-over words as
      barbecue; consider hurricane; consider the word Jamaica,
      land of wood and water – but not of gold. Could someone
      please go back in time and tell Columbus, in Taino there
      is no word for gold. Christopher Columbus, in Italiano
      Cristoforo Colombo, en español Cristóbal Colón. A teacher
      once told me ‘Colón’ is root word for colonist, and though
      I know that was false etymology, there is some truth to it.
      Oracabessa – place where you might find such tranquil
      villas as Golden Cove, Golden Clouds or Goldeneye
      longtime home of Ian Fleming who sat there on cliff’s
      edge, the morning’s breakfast brought to him by a woman
      named Doris, the scent of ackee and crisp-fried
      breadfruit wafting up to his nostrils while between his
      teeth he bit a number 2 pencil, all the time looking out to
      sea as if fishing for a story – maybe a man – an incredible
      man – let’s call him Bond. James Bond. Who knew 007
      wasn’t Scottish, but a barefoot bwoy from St Mary, Jamaica.
      Like so many others, he too would migrate – the brutish
      winter cooling his complexion down to white. Such stories!
      Goldfinger, GoldenEye, The Man with the Golden Gun.
      Did you never stop to wonder where all this gold came
      from? Did you never stop to ask, what was found in El
      Dorado? Well, let me tell you: not a nugget, not an ounce
      of ore – but light gilding the bay, and perhaps bananas, and
      perhaps ackee, and such language as could summon
      wind to capsize Columbus’s ships – and if that’s not gold,
      then what is?

The Poetry Review, 105:3, autumn 2015.
The Poetry Review – autumn issue out now.

“The right word, silences and syllables / Audible at the water’s windy edge.” (from ‘Fifty Years’ by Michael Longley)

Michael Longley, Julia Copus, Billy Ramsell, Phillis Levin, Carol Rumens, Helen Mort and Julian Stannard are among the many contributors to the autumn edition of The Poetry Review – an issue that investigates poetry’s power to provoke and subvert through the work of the controversial American poet Frederick Seidel and the mischievous creativity of Afghan women’s ‘landays’. Sarah Howe and Mark Waldron explore the literary output of Peter Streckfus and Jeff Hilson, and there are reviews of new collections by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Mark Doty, Mona Arshi, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Annie Freud, Andrew McMillan and many more. Selected highlights are published on the issue webpage. Sarah Hanson has produced the issue’s beautiful cover. Look out for Carol Rumens’s upcoming ‘Behind the poem‘ feature on her poem, ‘Glosa on “Woman of Spring” by Joan Margarit’.

Join us at the issue launch in Birmingham on 29 October. Billy Ramsell, Gregory Leadbetter, Helen Mort and Julian Stannard will read – RSVP essential.

Also launched this issue is the digital version of The Poetry Review, produced in association with Exact Editions, which allows readers to browse and search the latest issue – and back issues – on a PC, Mac, iPhone or iPad from anywhere in the world. Full members of The Poetry Society access the digital issue for free, using their membership number. Not yet a member? Join to enjoy this new benefit, and many more.

1 October 2015.

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