The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English

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DABYDEEN, Cyril ( 1945- ), was born in British Guiana (now Guyana), and educated at Queen's College in Georgetown, and the University of the West Indies. He moved to Canada in 1970, eventually becoming a Canadian citizen. In keeping with the Canadian cultural ethos, his poetry has gradually mellowed and become more relaxed in tone, the concluding couplet of 'As An Immigrant' being characteristic: 'And let the beaver draw me closer | As I quarry silence and talk | In riddles so that the maple leaf | Itself will understand.' He could not have chosen two more familiar symbols of Canada than the beaver and the maple leaf, but by doing so he paradoxically secures his own distinctive vision as a Guyanese who grew up on the periphery of a wilderness. Dabydeen's poetry in general explores borderlines of all kinds, keeping at bay inscrutable tropical and arctic landscapes. His latest collection is titled Coastland: New and Selected Poems 1937-1987 ( New York and London, 1989), and his collection of short stories, Still Close to the Island ( Ottawa, 1980). [MR

DABYDEEN, David ( 1955- ), was born in British Guiana (now Guyana), and educated at the universities of Cambridge and London, completing his doctorate in 1982. Academic appointments have included a research fellowship at Wolfson College, Oxford, and a lectureship at the Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick.

The poems in Slave Song ( Mundelsrup, Denmark, 1984), are distinguished by innovative use of Guyanese Creole dialect. Primarily dramatic monologues, the poems deal with the harsh lives and frustrated sexual fantasies of sugarcane cutters. The cumulative effect is that of an anti-pastoral inferno, the protagonists trapped in physical and spiritual pain, though still capable of being gripped by tender emotion. More wide-ranging and autobiographical, the poems in Coolie Odyssey ( London, 1988) explore the experience of East Indians, both in Britain and in the Caribbean. Dabydeen's views on forms of English, and their often hidden political and cultural implications, are expounded in 'On Not Being Milton: Nigger Talk in England Today', his contribution to The State of the Language, ed. Christopher Ricks and Leonard Michaels ( London and Berkeley, Calif., 1990).

Other books include the studies Hogarth's Blacks ( Manchester, 1987) and Hogarth, Walpole and Commercial Britain ( London, 1987), and The Intended ( London, 1991), his first novel. [MR

D'AGUIAR, Fred(erick) ( 1960- ), was born in London of Guyanese parents. He grew up in Guyana, and returned to London in 1972. He later trained and worked as a psychiatric nurse before reading English and Caribbean studies at the University of Kent.

D'Aguiar's poems are deeply rooted in Caribbean folk-wisdom reinterpreting its homilies in term of the contemporary world. They are also informed by a humane humour quite different from any kind of steely wit, but not at all sentimental. In his first collection, Mama Dot ( London, 1985), the title refers--as E. A. ⋆Markham put it--to the archetypal grandmother, an elemental force'. The ostensibly anecdotal poems about her, some in the vernacular, are in fact subtly rhetorical in structure.


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The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English


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