New Book: Unanimous Night by Cyril Dabydeen,
Cyril Dabydeen’s new book, Unanimous Night, promises to garner further literary acclaim for Dabydeen. Dabydeen’s poetry is "filled with the spirit of exploration, fused with the challenges of immigration and indignation at issues of political injustice," says the publisher’s blurb, and that "his language whisks the reader off in a whirlwind of iconic figures and exotic locations" as diverse as Guevara, Havana, Newfoundland, Shimla, New York, and Guyana.
The epigraph juxtaposes American poet Robert Lowell with Jose Marti, known as the father of the Cuban nation, to set the tone for the range in the Guyanese-born Canadian writer’s work. Of note is that this new book is the author’s twentieth, and his ninth collection of poetry; indeed, Dabydeen began his writing career with poetry in Guyana after having won the Sandbach Parker Gold Medal for Poetry before he was 20 and not long after he won the first A.J. Seymour Lyric Poetry Prize (1967). More recently, in 2007, Dabydeen was co-winner of the top Guyana Prize for Fiction with his novel, Drums of My Flesh (TSAR Publications, Toronto): a work noted for its symbolic evocations with Dabydeen splicing time and space, Eastern and Western religions and philosophies, and North and South polarities with Jungian underpinning.
In this new poetry collection, following closely on his Uncharted Heart (Borealis Press, 2008), Dabydeen awakens us to his sense of social justice adumbrated in his first published collection in Canada, Distances (Fiddlehead Books, University of British Columbia, 1977). Then, it was pointed out that Dabydeen goes back "through consciousness or history to describe an original condition of unfragmented wholeness" (Fiddlehead magazine). That same vein is sustained in the new book’s first three sections, beginning with "Out to Sea," with poems that deal with journeying, as the author writes, for instance, of Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator (after his visit to Lisbon, Portugal in 2006), and links it to discovery of a presumed New World a la Columbus; but Dabydeen circumvents linearity with classical touches from Greek mythology as he references, for instance, Odysseus and Poseidon; and throughout the volume, Dabydeen’s imagery is not without the sense of irony in history’s inexorable march.
Dabydeen also introduces to the yearning for solitude or meditation after 9/11 in the USA with his ambitious poem "Cross-legged in Moonlight" which classically introduces to the wide range in the poet’s thinking as he invokes Manu (Indian) and Socrates (Greek), East and West, in his wide sweep. Other poems do the same, for example, "On Meeting Her Excellency Ram Devi"–Governor of Himachel Pradesh, India--as he also touches on language itself in the title poem, "Unanimous Night," an evocation of Dabydeen’s take on famed Argentine writer Borges, the source for this particular poem dealing with the interiority of poetic language and what’s lost and yet sustained in translation, if only be escaping "the solitude of the labyrinth" in almost authentic Borges’ manner.
Dabydeen is keenly aware of language and its poetic use as he writes in "On Liberty Avenue," as he quotes Derek Walcott, that a poem is "perfection’s sweat...fresh as raindrops on a statue’s brow." References to key figures such as Franz Fannon, Joseph Conrad, and Nelson Mandela give the book its focussed socio-political status, as Dabydeen avoids needless self-reflexiveness or solipsism in sometimes minimalist expression.
A poem such as "Revolution" is also about language in the context of metaphor or motifs, and change occurring all around us with rap music and ghetto violence often being hand in hand. In the third section of Unanimous Night named "A Dim Moon," Dabydeen deals with immigration and the fate of personae from the Third World being universalized with their angst, especially in a poem such as "Niece," as Dabydeen works back through memory in his longing for a "condition of unfragmented wholeness."
The final section titled "Simple Pleasures" deals with love where Dabydeen’s tonality maintains its ironic tone by touching on love’s elusiveness in often simple but deft lines, even as he invokes the penumbra of Indian mythology in the god-figure Shiva in one of the most arresting poems in the volume, "Cosmic Dance" (remarkable for its conversational tone and idiomatic rhythms), and cultural icon Marilyn Monroe in contextualizing popular myth with human foibles and tragedy.
Unanimous Night is a numbered publication of Black Moss Press’s Palm Poetry Series, specially designed, according to publisher-poet Marty Gervais of the University of Windsor, who adds that the series is structured along the lines of beat-generation poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books in San Francisco; the Black Moss series is a hit with libraries and regular readers of poetry, according to the book publisher; and Cyril Dabydeen’s Unanimous Night is no exception for its sustained vision.
Book Launch : Oct. 25, from 2 to 4.30Sasquatch Reading Series,Royal Oak Restaurant on Laurier Ave. E.Open set first, before book launch.Free event.
Cyril Dabydeen, Unanimous Night, Poetry. Black Moss Press: Ontario, Canada, 2009. $16.95.