On My Bookshelf: Providential by Colin Channer

Colin Channer

Channer’s debut poetry collection achieves an intimate and lyric meditation on family, policing, loss, and violence, but the work is enlivened by humour, tenderness, and the rich possibilities that come from honest reflection. Combined with a capacity to offer physical landscapes with painterly sensitivity and care, a graceful mining of the nuances of Jamaican patwa and American English, and a judicious use of metaphor and similie, Providential is a work of “heartical” insight and vulnerability.

No one, since Claude McKay’s folksy Constab Ballads of 1912, has attempted to tackle the unlikely literary figure of the Jamaican policeman. Now, over a century later, drawing on his own family knowledge of the world of the police, on the complex dynamic of his relationship with his father, and framed within the humane principles of Rasta and reggae, Channer has both explored the colonial origins of that police culture and brought us up to date in necessary ways. Here are poems that manage to turn the complex relationships between a man and his father, a man and his mother, and man and his country and a man and his children, into something akin to grace. Providential does not read like a novelist’s one-off flirtation with poetry, but an accomplished overture to what ought to be a remarkable literary journey for a writer of immense talent and versatility.

“…Written with pitch-perfect rhythm and a keen eye for supple, limber turns.” —Lorna Goodison, author of From Harvey River

“Channer writes with a moving vulnerability and much lyric grace, revealing new facets to familiar themes—home, family, history, and the evolving journey of self. A universal, timeless meditation.”
—Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas

Born in Jamaica to a pharmacist and cop. Colin Channer is named by Junot Díaz calls him “one of the Caribbean Diaspora’s finest writers.”


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