Drums of My Flesh
the Guyana Prize for Best Book of Fiction
Nominated for the
International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
Finalist for the
Ottawa Book Award
Cyril Dabydeen’s Drums of my
Flesh is a first novel, a diasporic
account of a family as told by a Guyanese immigrant father to his
young Canadian daughter, set where the Ottawa and the Rideau Rivers
meet. The father’s account of his childhood comes in bits and
spurts, pulling us back like a sudden breath. Indeed, there is a
necessity for the dis-placement; this childhood is so lush, so
intensely tropical that the heat waves threaten to suffocate.
Dabydeen is a short story master, evidenced by several collections
which contain stories that are the genesis for Drums of My Flesh. As
he moves back and forth from present Canada to colonial Guyana,
Dabydeen weaves interlinked stories in a chronological structure
that works as a novel.
The larger cast of characters is
reserved for the childhood past in which there is a further past
revealed to the principle character, Boy, by his parents,
grandmothers, extended family, and Jaffe, his imaginary friend. As
an adult, the stories that he imparts to his daughter are in part
stream-of-consciousness; he does not speak to her directly. They are
at the park and he is watching as she interacts with nature and
other children, struck by her innocence. His reflections on her
childhood are, “what I want to tell Catriona, no other.” He has
chosen to relate his stories to Catriona in the way that Jaffe, the
imaginary world traveler, chose him.
Dabydeen juxtaposes the two worlds:
past tropical Guyana with the large family and present wintery
Canada with the nuclear family. The past and present are only
reflections of each other, both unrecognizable, except in the
narrative form of the narrator. Whereas little Catriona and her
father are in a quiet park surrounded by nature, Boy’s childhood is
full of stories of jaguars, domestic abuse, sugarcane fields,
unemployment, displacement, nightmares, and wasps. But this is also
a place of plentiful mangoes, shrimp, coconut water, and the
Corentyne sea air. Where the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers meet is
clinical and safe, and perhaps it is the only place that Dabydeen’s
hero can finally present Catriona her familial heritage.
—Juliane Okot Bitek
Special to The Epoch
fascinating to come upon Cyril Dabydeen's new novel,
Drums of My Flesh (TSAR Publications, 2006). Dabydeen is
a Caribbean-born writer now residing in Ottawa, Canada. His
new novel has been nominated for the 2007 International
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the world's most prestigious
prize of its kind, worth 100,000 euros. It was also a
finalist for the Ottawa Book Awards in 2006.
My Flesh has complexities that are challenging and
simultaneously enriching for the post-colonial reader (and
readers of other genres of fiction as well), due not least
to its range and its somewhat poetic rendition of place and
Dabydeen has written sixteen other books, including eight
collections of poetry, five of short stories, and three
novels published in the U.K. He has also edited two key
anthologies: A Shapely Fire: Changing the Literary
Landscape (Mosaic Press, l987), and Another Way to
Dance: Contemporary Asian Poetry in Canada and the US
(TSAR Publications, 1992), which contains works by some of
the finest poets currently writing in North America.
own poetry has been acclaimed―he was Poet Laureate of Ottawa
from 1984 to l987, and he has read from his books across
Canada, the U.S., U.K. and other parts of Europe, Asia, and
in the Caribbean, including Cuba and Jamaica. He has read at
the National Library of Canada in Ottawa and at Toronto's
Harbourfront Reading Series.
review of his work in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper
describes his poetry as having "Stravinsky rhythms," and
because of his concerns for the underclass, critic Patricia
Morely more than two decades ago described him as the "Pablo
Neruda of Ottawa."
Poetry Quarterly Review in the U.K. says, "Dabydeen
writes poems more like Borges...musically fluid and
politically charged." The Danforth Review calls him
"one of Canada's most popular post-colonial writers."
'Splicing Time and Space'
of My Flesh, while the narrative seemingly focuses on
one generation, the novel is essentially multi-generational.
It crosses boundaries of East and West, with mythologies
woven together as religions also coalesce. Hinduism,
Christianity, Islam, and the quest for the self permeate the
novel—a theme now more relevant in view of our post-9/11
world and the purported clash of civilizations. The Muslim
faith in particular is given much focus, seen in the
Tiresias-like wandering figure of the half-blind old man
Jaffe (Jaffar) with a "moth-laden" eye.
It is not
strange to see why the book is set in both Canada (Ottawa)
and the tropics (Guyana, part of the Amazon region in South
America), since the latter is where Dabydeen grew up, and
Ottawa is where he currently resides. He teaches English at
the University of Ottawa.
however, is of shifting grounds. It alludes to origins in
India and the sometimes distant Muslim worlds as the
characters intertwine, including with references to the
Irish mythical figure of Cuchulain―all in the novel's range
and overall appeal. Flashbacks to the gritty life lived in a
sugar plantation are dominant, aligned with an almost Edenic
coastal place, all in the context of a post-colonial
In a recent
interview with the Danforth Review , Dabydeen
indicates that it's a novel "where I am splicing time and
space, tropical and temperate worlds."
The story is
that of Boyo, sometimes called Boy, in Ottawa with his young
Canadian-born daughter Catriona as he looks back at his own
difficult childhood in Guyana. Boyo's own growth from
innocence to awareness makes up the essence of what occurs.
and resonances capture the life of a formerly indentured
people, brought from India to Guiana by the British to work
in the sugar plantation after slavery was abolished, forced
to eke out a living and now actualizing themselves. The
search for spiritual meanings and themes of fatherhood,
motherhood, loyalty and distrust mixed with intense longing
inform the novel's texture with key leitmotiv elements.
instance, Fatima ("dark one") is seen almost as an opposite
to the Grandma and Dee figures, and Jaffe (the half-blind
"old" man) is the opposite to Gabe (Boyo's father)...all
seen through the central character's omnipresent―or
overactive―imagination. There's also animal imagery as part
of the overall novelistic pattern. The South American jaguar
is seen alongside India's Bengal tiga , while the
horse and the bull, suggesting Greek mythology, touch on the
daemon and the Minotaur myth.
Ryerson University English professor Dr. Anne-Marie Leeloy
describes Drums of My Flesh as "highly structured
using Jungian psychology and numerous allusions to Western
and South American mythologies as organizing principles...is
beautifully rendered, intellectually challenging, and deeply
satisfying addition to Dabydeen's oeuvre."
"Although it is in many ways a debut novel, it reveals the
masterful craftsmanship of Dabydeen's long years of writing
and the confidence of an author hitting his stride in the
genre of fiction."
I feel the
novel could be seen as the new fiction of diaspora in the
Canadian context of "where do we come from...and who are
we?" I observe distinct rhythmic elements combining with
minimalist prose to portray the story's haunting effects in
affirming life in both Canada and the Amazonian region.
Fractured experiences mixed with the dialectal elements in
the narrative and dialogue make the novel unique, different
from others published in Canada in the Anglo-American
tradition, as has been said.
in the novel has quotations from Michel Foucault and V.S.
Naipaul about memory and consciousness, which set the stage
for the novel's post-colonial framework, and indeed for how
it should be read.
interesting also that the book was edited in part by twice-Giller
prize winner M.G. Vassanji. Overall it adds to Dabydeen's
oeuvre and him being more than an immigrant writer.
magazine says of Dabydeen's latest poetry book, Imaginary
Origins: Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press Ltd., 2004),
is very much relevant to this novel: Dabydeen "has the
rhythms of Al Purdy....His discussions of the life of an
immigrant are subtle and moving, and the distinctions he
makes between knowledge and wisdom, in the context of place
and placelessness, are transformative."
Copyright 2000 - 2007
Epoch Times International (en.epochtimes.com)
about drumbeats is this: You can’t really hear one beat without also
hearing the echo of the beat before it. Each beat merges into that of
its neighbour as the overriding rhythm takes shape. This sense of
convergence between that which was before and that which is now is
particularly poignant when one considers the history of the drum for
those brought to the Caribbean as slaves and indentured labourers. The
drums they and their descendants fashioned and the rhythms they created
were as much a link to their countries of origins as they were
reflections of their new environment. As such, the drum provides a
fitting symbol for the exploration of the convergence of past and
present in the construction of the self in the aptly titled Drums of
My Flesh, Cyril Dabydeen’s long anticipated first full-length novel.
In the novel, an unnamed narrator contemplates his identity as he
considers how he might give his young daughter a sense of roots in
Canada. As the novel shifts between the narrator’s observations of his
daughter and his memories of growing up in colonial Guyana, it becomes
clear that for Dabydeen, cultural and historical memories are inscribed
within the very blood and bones of his characters, becoming integral
components of their unfolding identities.
Dabydeen is perhaps still best known as a poet and Drums of My Flesh
reveals the remarkable lushness of language, precise and powerful
imagery, and keen observations that make his poetry so memorable.
Depictions of Guyana are particularly evocative: one can almost smell
the burning sugar cane that saturates village life in the shadow of Rose
Hall or taste the salt in the sea air of the untamed Corentyne coast.
When Dabydeen turns his poetic gaze to the Canadian landscape, it is
transformed such that an ordinary Ottawa park changes from the everyday
mundane to an environment as rich in haunting beauty and mystery as the
In many ways, the novel feels like an extended poem. Indeed, many of the
themes and concerns that appear in Dabydeen’s poetry, notably an
interest in origins and identity on personal and national levels, are
evident throughout the novel, albeit, presented in a more thorough and
cohesive fashion. This connection with his poetry may, however, be
somewhat problematic from a stylistic point of view. Since Dabydeen’s
poetry is primarily designed for public performance, the sprung rhythm
and brief phrasing characteristic of his writing is effective when
employed to that end. These stylistic devices, also present in the
novel, may have been intended to capture how internal dialogue is
unfettered by grammatical rules. Nevertheless, some readers might find
this style tiring after 230-some odd pages.
Drums of My Flesh is also highly structured using Jungian
psychology and numerous allusions to Western and South American
mythologies as organizing principles. Again, some readers may find such
allusions onerous and difficult, but Dabydeen does provide more than
enough textual clues to allow readers to engage with and enjoy the text
even if they do not have a large amount of expertise in these areas.
More unfortunate, however, is that the use of Jungian psychology as a
structural device hinders the full development of the novel’s
characters. For the most part, the characters are to be understood as
archetypes that the narrator encounters on his journey to
self-discovery; or as the narrator himself puts it : [the other
characters were] a part of me . . . [their] spirits were essentially
one” (p.222). Thus, the reader is presented with a tantalizing community
of characters whom he never gets to fully know.
Despite such vagaries, Drums of My Flesh is a beautifully
rendered, intellectually challenging, and deeply satisfying addition to
Dabydeen’s oeuvre. Although it is in many ways a debut novel, it reveals
the masterful craftsmanship of Dabydeen’s long years of writing and the
confidence of an author hitting his stride in the genre of fiction. In
the end, long-time and new fans of Dabydeen will undoubtedly enjoy this
exploration into the beautiful chaos that underlies the construction of
all identities and celebrate with Dabydeen the basic rhythm that beats
within all such creations: “I AM, I AM” (p. 211).
Cyril Dabydeen was born in Canje, Guyana in 1945, and
worked as a teacher prior to leaving Guyana. Dabydeen came to Canada in
1970 to pursue post-secondary studies and completed a B.A. at Lakehead
University and both an M.A. and M.P.A. at Queen's University. His M.A.
thesis was on the poetry of Sylvia Plath.
Dabydeen is a prolific author of poetry and prose and
served as Poet Laureate of Ottawa from 1984-1987. He worked for many
years in the areas of human rights and race relations and earlier taught
English at Algonquin College in Ottawa. He now teaches creative writing
at the University of Ottawa and lives in the nation's capital. He
recently juried for the Governor General's Award for Literature
Michael Bryson interviewed Cyril Dabydeen by email in
To begin, the basic biographical introduction. Can you tell us a
bit about yourself?
C.D. I was born in British Guiana (now Guyana) in South
America. Guyana is in the greater Amazonia region close to the equator.
It is the only English-speaking country in South America, and is seen as
part of the Caribbean (perhaps similar to island-states such as Jamaica,
Trinidad, and Barbados): with almost the same historical and
socio-political conditions at work; these were all states struggling for
independence when I was growing up, and all of us took part in the
excitement of the times, so to speak, fraught with political upheaval
associated with the anti-colonial struggle. I worked and taught school
there, in a sugar plantation (Rose Hall: one of the largest in the
country) up to my early twenties, then came to Canada l970. I came
primarily to pursue higher education, and maybe to further a career as a
writer (all our writers then tended to go to the metropolitan centres:
London, New York, or Toronto: this latter, where the Barbadian-born
novelist Austin Clarke has lived for decades).
The education I received in Guyana was a somewhat colonial
one–everything geared towards looking outside for our values, our
expectations: "the outward gaze," as it’s called. At the same time the
sense of nationalism burgeoned in us, as we repudiated "self-contempt"
(as Franz Fanon describes the colonial mind’s neurosis), and in the flux
of upheaval and change it was also the preoccupation with who we were
becoming with political ideologies of East and West, North and South,
all very much in our thinking. Then I was enamoured of progressive
social ideals, the sense of wanting transformation; and no doubt I still
Was the education a British-oriented one then?
C.D. We saw everything through the eyes of the colonial powers.
As a result I came to know British history fairly well, especially the
Tudor period: Henry VIII, the period of Queen Elisabeth and Francis
Drake, Walter Raleigh, Humphrey Gilbert and others, their exploits, the
"sea-dogs," as they were called, and the sinking of the Spanish Armada
in 1588. Shakespeare lived during that period, also: really the time of
the English Renaissance. And, you see, our high school exams in Guyana
were marked by Oxford and Cambridge universities, so things had to be of
a fairly high standard, traditional as it was. The education about
Guyana itself, the local peoples, Africans and Indians and the other
races, the indigenous population especially, was marginal, minuscule at
best. We never studied Gandhi in school, for instance. But, to be fair,
we did get a good educational grounding, albeit from a British point of
Then, I remember, how I used to spend lots of time in the British
Council library and read voraciously: Eliot, Edith Sitwell, Auden,
Spender, Dylan Thomas, a host of other poets and novelists, and American
ones as well; all came to me closely, I felt. As a result, I grew
passionate about literature from an early age. At the same time, the
so-called first generation of Caribbean writers, the likes of V.S.
Naipaul, Wilson Harris, George Lamming, Derek Walcott, Sam Selvon, were
very much with me, too; we began seeing possibilities, in ourselves. I
may add, too, that I was largely self-taught.
What sort of perspective did all that give you?
C.D. The perspective relates to history and to the whole
notion of discovery: Who "discovered" the Guianas and the Caribbean, and
so on. I was brought up in a time of an interesting transition, where
the struggle world wide against colonialism was taking place, as I’ve
said before: the tremendous energy exerted towards achieving
independence, the so-called "winds of change" blowing. You see, India
got its independence in 1947, and Ceylon became Sri Lanka, in 1948, and
then Ghana, formerly Gold Coast, in 1957, I think; and other places were
achieving independence too in the '60s: Guyana, in 1966, and the other
Caribbean states, Jamaica, Trinidad, around the same time. So before
coming to Canada, there were the years of angst, agitation, and
excitement--all that I grew up with, being formative elements, shaping
one’s perspective, if you like. Does all this make me a post-colonial
writer? I am not sure.
The young writer as I was beginning to be in Guyana, those
intellectual and social currents I refer to kept shaping my imagination.
And, you see, before I was 20, I won the Sandbach Parker Gold Medal,
Guyana’s highest prize for poetry; and in some sense that gave me
confidence and contributed in a way to how my perspective was being
shaped, even in numinous ways. I may add that my reading was quite
eclectic, all-embracing: besides the British and American and
Caribbean-born authors I was exposed to, I was also reading writers from
India and Africa: Tagore, Chinua Achebe, and others were very much part
of my consciousness. There were Canadian writers too I started reading
then, like Morley Callaghan; and I was glued to my radio, listening in
particular to shows about literature and the intellectual life beamed
from London through the BBC; as well as Voice of America, and the CBC. I
was addicted to my radio, you could say–we had no TV then.
You’ve been writing for a number of decades in a variety of forms.
I’m wondering about continuity and divergence over time. Does it seem to
you that you have a subject that you return to in your work, or do you
find that over time your preoccupations have changed a great deal?
C.D. I try to explore "the bottomless pool of origins" in my
work, the sense of the hinterland landscape, if you think of it in a
pioneering way, because of where I came from. And the idea of memory as
the mother of the Muses feeds into my work a great deal, I suppose. I’ve
often quoted Carl Jung at readings: that "any psychic is Janus-faced, it
looks both forwards and backwards." Maybe it’s just my habit as a
creative person of looking there and here, and searching for congruences,
connections, not intentionally or in any contrived way; but it’s how my
imagination tends to work, with the sense of polarities and
juxtapositions, indeed. So whatever form or genre I am working in at a
given time, you see, memory does play a seminal role...as I explore
"origins." And things ancestral, where my forebears came from, and
history, that past and present melding; and climate, too, tropical and
temperate worlds, all sometimes coming togther as more than metaphor.
Naturally, now that I am in the North–and I have lived here longer
than anywhere else--Canada is shaping my sensibility, feeding my psyche;
maybe geography is destiny: it’s how it is as I find inspiration to
write my poems, short stories, and novels. The sense too of difference
is very much with me, and simultaneously how I interact with other
Canadian writers, the works which I read and dwell on, images altogether
as I mingle these with lore and myth intrinsic to the region I was born
in: these are all very much alive in me, are part of one’s subject
matter; and new experiences and emotions stem from the "spirit of the
place" undergoing change as I explore imagery and try to see the world
as it truly is, and hope to find some kind of epiphany. In my novel
Dark Swirl, published in the UK more than decade ago, you can see
how local myth combines with present feelings and attitudes, in more
than a binary view world.
Maybe this is another question about continuity and divergence.
I’m wondering both how transferring from one culture to another affected
your writing and also, perhaps, how that transfer of cultures has
evolved over the past forty-odd years.
C.D. Canada is always uppermost in my mind, is continually
with me: the vast territory that this country is, which I intermingle
with my hinterland sense and the "idea of the north," and contemplated
Canada’s settler and pioneering days--the experiences of people from
France and Britain: English, Irish, Scotch...drawers of water and hewers
of wood; and of course, this is not to overlook the Native peoples, the
original inhabitants of this land with the sense of the Great Spirit and
injustices done to them–which are all elements that form part of my
artistic space and have an impact on what I write, and how I write. And
do I now want to reflect the Franklin expedition, also? Irony is very
much part of my metier, maybe: the Arctic juxtaposed with my tropical
beginnings, as I am inclined to see things in more than a stereotypical
insider/outsider view of the world.
Of course, in Canada I am considered a minority writer, or an ethnic
writer, and so on: these labels are always problematic. One thing is
clear, however–as one born outside, you tend to see Canada in one clear
glance, as it were; maybe that’s the advantage of being an "outsider."
Also, in my first years in Canada, the early 70's, I lived in the
Lakehead region and worked planting trees around Lake Superior during
the summer months, and lived in bush camps with Native peoples, winos,
drop-outs, American draft-dodgers, all seminal experiences continually
feeding my imagination. I keep interacting with all kinds of people; and
I’ve worked in government, and been an advisor in race and ethnic
relations and travelled to over 30 towns and cities across Canada
advancing this work for a time; and as I write this, I want to say that
yesterday I gave a talk to staff of the Armed Forces and the Department
of National Defence in Ottawa, and briefly discussed being a writer and
the changing landscape of the imagination, a Shapely Fire, as I called
it in an anthology I did many years back. More than anything though, I
see my writing as combining " the alphabet with volatile elements of the
soul" and the quest to find truths about one's self and to understand
human experience as whole.
You teach literature at the University of Ottawa. What is it you
teach exactly? How receptive do you find the students?
C.D. I teach sessionally in the Department of English at the
University of Ottawa, now for a number of years while at the same time
doing other work; I taught the Advanced Fiction writing course for five
years; now I teach mainly a first-year course, essay-writing things
focussing on logic and clear expression and how to make compelling
arguments, and so on. The students, on the whole, I find are very
receptive; and I often introduce topical social issues into the
classroom discussions. One student recently said to me that in my class
he’s learning two things–English and "something else." He’s not sure
what that something else is; maybe it’s a broader view of the world, the
perspective I bring to bear in my teaching and writing. It’s also that
my creative work is not just self-reflexive angst or fancy image-making
for its own sake, as has been said of our current literary trend.
I find it’s good to be in a classroom environment interacting with
students, because you learn from students also, you get a sense of the
world and how it’s evolving with its changing values; and it’s a new and
refreshing perspective each time, a different energy also. Of course,
education is a life-long process, and through teaching and writing,
hopefully you can have some kind of influence, make some kind of impact.
Canadian Literature: What makes you optimistic/pessimistic about
C.D. Canadian literature is continually breaking new ground, I
think. When Margaret Atwood was first nominated for the Booker Prize, I
was in the UK then, and I recall a BBC commentator saying that the image
of Canada as a boring place, is no longer so because of Atwood’s books.
Our literature is now fascinating, it’s changing the perception of our
landscape as a whole, especially in dismantling those stereotypic
perceptions held outside. I recall too when I first met the South
African writer Ezekiel Mphalele in Ottawa, he told me his image of
Canada was that of being in the Arctic, but meeting people like myself
has changed that perception. You see, Canadian literature is extremely
interesting because of its many new directions, new ways of looking at
the world; and writers born outside and living here now and writing
about Canada makes it even more interesting, all so fascinating. New
inner states and new rhythms are all before us, I think.
I formally studied Canadian literature in the early seventies as an
undergraduate and became acquainted with the works of E.J. Pratt, A.M.
Klein, Lampman, D.C. Scott, and the other major Canadian poets,
novelists, and short story writers. I used to spend long hours in the
university library studying literary magazines such as Quarry,
The Fiddlehead, Prism International and so on to see the new
kind of writing taking place; and the short story and poetry keep
fascinating me continually. I recall during this early time first
meeting bp nichol at a reading he did at Lakehead University, in Thunder
Bay, and was excited by his sound poetry. And down the years I’ve read,
and interacted with, other Canadian writers like F.R. Scott, Miriam
Waddington, Michael Ondaatje, Joy Kogawa, Austin Clarke, John Metcalf,
Rohinton Mistry, M.G. Vassanji, Dionne Brand, and sat on a panel with
Margaret Atwood in New Orleans, and so on; and I’ve twice juried for the
Governor General’s Award, and been a poet laureate of Ottawa, as well as
belonged to writers’ organizations like the League of Canadian Poets.
All this has given me a first-hand or close-up view of Canadian
literature, you see, and I am a part of it as I keep making connections
with writers elsewhere and embrace what the Cuban Jose Marti has said,
that "literature is the most beautiful of countries." I keep writing and
studying literature, if not just looking at it subliminally or
consciously, noting other writers’ techniques, and their use of
language, and changing sensibilities.
What is most interesting now is that there are the newer streams of
writers from the immigrant communities who are being well received,
being acclaimed, writers of diverse backgrounds, and the openness of
Canlit to all this, which speaks more importantly to the kind of country
and people we are, and to the generosity of the Canadian spirit as a
whole. Through the literature, I think we are being challenged all the
time; and therein lies the genius of the place, as north and south blend
in someone like myself; and it’s always a new awareness of who one is
becoming, and the infinite capacity of the human spirit and imagination.
What are you working on now? Or what have you completed recently
that you’d like people to know about?
C.D. My recent novel Drums of My Flesh came out, and I
am pleased that’s it’s on the long list, recently announced, of the
prestigious IMPAC Dublin Award; it’s a work that was a finalist for the
City of Ottawa Book Prize, and it has received some good reviews and
comments thus far from people who have read it. Drums was partly
edited by Giller Prize winner M.G. Vassanji, the publisher of TSAR. A
few years back the novel was seriously considered by a Penguin Books
editor, who wanted me to add another character; then she went on
maternity leave, and that was the end of that. It’s a novel, I think
where I am splicing time and space, tropical and temperate worlds,
Ottawa and Guyana; and I think it’s far more than a bildungroman
technique at work here as the main character, Boyo, retells his life’s
story about his own father, Gabe, to his young daughter, Catriona, in
Ottawa. Flashbacks of life in a sugar plantation are everywhere, and an
almost Edenic coastal place juxtaposed with grittiness, in the context
of colonialism and changing spaces. Fractured experiences mixed with
sprung rhythm elements in the narrative and dialogue make the novel
unique, different from other things published in Canada. The epigraph,
quotes from Michel Foucault and V.S. Naipaul about memory and
consciousness, suggests how the novel should be read. It took me about
seven years to write this novel, and maybe it says who I am.
Two other books also came out not so long ago: My Imaginary
Origins: New and Selected Poems (Peepal Tree Press, UK), and Play
A Song Somebody: New and Selected Stories (Mosaic Press); the former
was a finalist for the Archibald Lampman Poetry Award. Both of these
books have been fairly well-received; and the short story collection, in
particular, I read from at the International Short Story in English
conference at the University of Lisbon not so long ago; and the novel
and the poetry collection were launched in New York City in the Fall.
I am currently working on a new collection of stories, and a new set
of poems entitled "Unanimous Night": this title is a take-off from
something Borges, the Argentine writer, said. Some people are now seeing
Latin American influences and connections in my work, especially a few
scholars in Spain and Brazil, which is somewhat interesting. Of course,
these interests and connections have always been there, I think; and
I’ve been called "the Pablo Neruda of Ottawa," by the critic Patricia
Morley two decades ago, and that my reading style has "Stravinsky’s
rhythms," not far unlike how our Maritime perform perhaps, bearing in
mind my background, and the sense of my wanting to get into the absolute
interiority of the poem or story I am writing, and maybe finding ways to
escape the solitude of the labyrinth, as is sometimes said by writers
like Carlos Fuentes and Marquez.