Slave Song is unquestionably one of the most important collections of Caribbean/Black British poetry to have been published in the last twenty years. On its first publication in 1984 it won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and established Dabydeen as a provocative and paradigm-shifting writer.
At the heart of Slave Song are the voices of African slaves and Indian labourers expressing, in a Guyanese Creole that is as far removed from Standard English as it is possible to get, their songs of defiance, of a thwarted erotic energy. But surrounding this harsh and lyrical core of Creole expression is an elaborate critical apparatus of translations (which deliberately reveal the actual untranslatability of the Creole) and a parody of the kind of critical commentary that does no more than paraphrase or at best contextualise the original poem.
It took some time for the displaced critics to recognise that this prosaic apparatus was as much part of the meaning of the whole as the poems themselves, that Dabydeen was engaged in a play of masks, an expression of his own duality and a critique of the relationship which is at the core of Caribbean writing: that between the articulate writer and the supposedly voiceless workers and peasants.
This new edition has an afterword by David Dabydeen that briefly explores his response to these poems after more than twenty years.
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David Dabydeen was born in Guyana. He has published six acclaimed novels and three collections of poetry. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Professor of Literary Studies at the University of Warwick.