A review of "The Gardens of Attainea Volume II: The Autobiography & Poetry of Anthony Leo E. Toulon"
Anthony Toulon's story of his life and times is a fascinating narrative of Dominica when life was innocent and pure and uncomplicated by modern amenities like smartphones and even smarter television as well as fewer people of the type that Trinidadians often refer to, rather derisively, as "smart men".
It is a story about growing up on a real (not fake) nature island of raging rivers, easy friendship, and doting parents, told in simple language: like telling a tim-tim with all the drama and sincerity but without the "Messier quick? Quack!"
Toulon's stories and poetry are as real as the ocean and rivers that he so revered.
This uncommonly-large book is thick and heavy; (it measures 8.5 inches by 8.5 inches) and begins with "Tribute to Daddy" a story of growing up with "Francis Anthony Toulon" an artist, musician, nature-lover, and civil servant.
"Daddy was very good and tender to me as a child. He very much wanted to see what I would become as a man," writes Anthony. "He gave me my first dog."
Note the simplicity and punchiness of the language.
Toulon follows the story of his relationship with his dad and members of the Toulon family with 21 black-and-white photographs of the family during the mid –Fifties on Queen Mary and Hillsborough Streets in Roseau.
Yes, indeed; the Beatles' hairstyle and bell-bottom pants are ubiquitous.
Later on in "The Gardens of Attainea Volume II: The Autobiography & Poetry of Anthony Leo E. Toulon" the black-and-white images at the beginning of the book are replaced by fascinating colour photographs of whales, scorpions, titiwi, mountains, rivers, hurricane destruction of Maria and David, lakes. And stamps.
These images all illustrate, much better than 1000s of words, the author's profound interest and love for family and nature and devotion to Indian mysticism.
The Gardens of Attainea Volume II is also filled with Toulon's sharp observations about environmental degradation, spirituality, and self-discovery.
You see that, especially in his poetry.
Listen to Toulon in the poem 'The Descant':
"And hold my head and cry
"I wonder if my people will ever learn
"Some of us really care,
"And that sometimes
"Death does not exculpate
"The frozen deeds of mortal man
"Locked in motion
"On the scars
"Of an eternity of barren thought!"
Structured like many books in one, the tome is divided into at least three sections. Sections one and two are stories of Toulon's youth and many of his early and current poetry. Its final portion is devoted to Attainea's (his daughter) recent and childhood poetry.
Recall that "The Gardens of Attainea" (the first volume) published in 1994 contained Anthony Leo E. Toulon's first collection of poems.
Also in "The Gardens of Attainea Volume II: The Autobiography & Poetry of Anthony Leo E. Toulon" the author tells us the story of his journey to India to meet Sai Baba, an Indian spiritual master.
"Then he came to me, and there was a powerful transfer of energy, intelligence, bliss, knowledge and information," Toulon wrote about the encounter with his spiritual leader.
For users of the popular Oil of Ojas, Toulon traces the origin of this popular product that treats acute and chronic joint pain, loss of mobility, stiffness, and soreness of the soft tissue, among other uses.
Disappointingly, but understandably, Toulon does not reveal much about the composition and formula of the Oil of Ojas, one of Dominica's most important recent discoveries with tremendous market potential, except to say that it is very complex and is composed only of herbal extracts and essential oils.
"The specific method of preparation is proprietary and myself and Jolly's Pharmacy hold all the rights to intellectual property," Toulon writes.
Easily, "The Gardens of Attainea Volume II: The Autobiography & Poetry of Anthony Leo E. Toulon" is one of the best and most creatively presented autobiographies by a Dominican author. In any case, Dominicans have written very few autobiographies.
As Alick Lazare wrote in the foreword: "It's a book about family, the bonds of friendship and the togetherness of rural and urban communities".
And the book also unclothed the heart and mind and spirit of Anthony Leo E. Toulon as only Anthony Leo E. Toulon could.
-By Austyn Wei