Caribbean Canadian Poetry: A Critical Reading of Horace Goddard's Poetic Works

Article excerpt

Horace Ishmael Goddard was born in Christ Church, Barbados on February 10, 1947. On completing basic formal education in Barbados, he began what was to be a lifelong academic career. Before he immigrated to Canada, Goddard was the Vice-Principal for St. Anthony's High school, a private high school where he had also served as one of the founding members. His journey to Canada opened up educational opportunities for Goddard, one of the reasons he has never regretted his move there. Nevertheless, like other immigrants of Caribbean ancestry elsewhere, Goddard has always carried within him a consciousness of being "other" even as he sought to make a home there.

Currently, Goddard is an active writer and literary critic, and he has conducted several significant interviews with other black diaspora writers. He has also worked as Secretary-Treasurer of CACLALS, the Canadian Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language, and since 2001 he has been Editor of Kola, a black literary magazine published by the Black Writers Guild in Montreal. In addition to other positions he holds in various organizations, Goddard now serves as Secretary of the Black Theatre Workshop, a non-profit arts and cultural organization also located in Montreal, Quebec, but he is never far from his writing. In the evenings after work Goddard relaxes with his books, reading and writing to his heart's content. His love of literature has made him an eclectic reader, sampling literature from diverse regions and within all the genres, and much of his writing integrates the material he consumes (Goddard Interview).

In general, Goddard's poetry is rooted in history, African history becoming the fuel that fires his writing. In 1997, he published Paradise Revisited, an autobiographical novel that deals with the expatriate writer's return to his homeland and the self-questioning his visit occasions. Between 1982 and 1988 he published three collections of poetry: The Awakening and Song of the Antilles (1988), The Long Drums (1986), Rastaman: Poems for Leonta (1982). Since then he has published a growing collection in Kola and in 2012 he published his fourth collection, The Journey Home.

Goddard's early poetry collections retrace closely the poetic oeuvre of the expatriate poet who has chosen to live and work in his new home in Canada, while making frequent visits to his other home in Barbados. Residing in Canada has created space for meditation and renewed perspective and makes him look differently at the Caribbean. It has also imbued in him a strong desire to get to know more about his African identity. His pursuit of higher education was shaped by this desire and so Goddard engrossed himself in African studies at the university. His studies of Africa and the African diaspora gave him the images he needed for his collections of poetry.

Explaining the manifestation of black nationalism in Caribbean Canadian literature, George Elliott Clarke's Odysseys Home: Mapping African Canadian Literature (from here on Odysseys) suggests that, "this nationalism enacts a counterinfluence to the pervasive identification of Canada as northern, white, wanna-be empire ... which reduces blackness to the status of problematic and pitiable Other" (45). Goddard's expression of his need to acquire and "pass on [his] knowledge of his African heritage to future generations" supports Clarke's observation (Goddard Interview). Frequently keeping in touch with other black writers in Canada, and returning for yearly visits to Barbados, have also helped the poet maintain a strong sense of African heritage, and of working within a Black diaspora tradition. This in turn has inspired him to create a triadic framework for his poetry collections. Moving freely between the geographical spaces of Canada, Britain and the Caribbean, Goddard's poetry resonates with afro-centric spirituality. Memory and history, important themes in diaspora literature, are the twin forces shaping the poems in Goddard's collections, as the poet-persona, guided by an ironic consciousness, reflects insistently on the gaps between reality and appearance. …