Heron’s Canoe explores the intersections and folds within the history of the collision between the cultures of Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. Focusing on the journey the Yoruba gods made with slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean, on resonances with Amerindian myths concerning the scattering of their gods, and on the transformations of each within the creolising, hybridising culture of the Caribbean, Mark De Brito’s poem is a highly original meditation on the both the nature of the African diaspora and the nature of history. He makes imaginative use of found text from historical sources, translations of Yoruba prayers and invocations, but there is always a deeply personal tone to these carefully crafted poems.
‘Heron’s Canoe’ is the English translation for the Carib name of a constellation that lies in the region of Ursa Major, significant to Amerindian myths of origin, which Mark De Brito’s poem connects to other myths of origin, particularly those of West Africa which reached the Caribbean in the submerged belief systems and religions of the African slaves. De Brito joins that small group of Caribbean poets and novelists whose work explores the existence of a distinctive Caribbean cosmology as the root of a nativist literary aesthetic.
De Brito’s approach is both personal and intellectual: as a Black British person who has explored his Trinidadian family roots and through them the manifestations of Africa in Trinidad in the Orisha chapelles, but also as a writer inspired by the work of Wilson Harris in his emphasis on the importance of the broken and buried legacies of the Caribbean.
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Mark De Brito was born and lives in the UK. His family originated in Trinidad.