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Abdhur Rahman Hopkinson

Slade Hopkinson was born into a middle class family in New Amsterdam, Guyana in 1934. His father was a barrister-at-law, his mother a nurse. A few years after the death of his father, his mother took Slade & his sister to live in Barbados where he attended Harrison College. In 1952, he went to the University College of the West Indies on a scholarship, coinciding with Derek Walcott and Mervyn Morris as students. Slade Hopkinson was active in University theatre, performing as Tiresias, Lear (Mervyn Morris writes: 'his processional entrance as decrepit majesty, head tilted at a petulant angle; his visceral howl of suffering in the storm - are remembered still') Joxer Daly, Prospero and others. He directed Oedipus and King Lear. He obtained his BA in 1953 and a Dip. Ed. in 1956.

He worked in Jamaica as a teacher, weekly newspaper editor, and a government information officer. He married (Freda) and had two children, Nalo (now making her name as a fabulist novelist - Brown Girl in the Ring and Midnight Robber) and Keita (an accomplished painter). In 1962 the family went to live in Trinidad and Slade Hopkinson joined Derek Walcott's Trinidad Theatre Workshop and was a celebrated Corporal Lestrade in Dream on Monkey Mountain. He studied at the Yale Drama School on a Rockefeller scholarship between 1965-66, taught at the University of Guyana, 1966-68, then returned to the TTW. However, by 1970 there was a falling out with Walcott and he founded the Caribbean Theatre Guild in 1970.

Sadly by 1970 Slade Hopkinson, now Abdhur-Rahman Slade Hokinson, having become a Muslim in 1964, was suffering from kidney failure and by 1973 was on regular dialysis, bringing to an end his acting career. He worked for the Jamaican Tourist Board for some years before moving to Canada as Vice-Consul for Guyana. Later he worked as a classroom assistant and teacher before taking long-term disability leave.

His writing career began in 1954 with the publication of The Four and Other Poems; the plays, The Blood of a Family, 1957, Fall of a Chief, 1965, The Onliest Fisherman, 1967, Spawning of Eel 1968, rewritten as Sala and The Long Vacation. In 1976 the Government of Guyana published two companion collections of poetry, The Madwoman of Papine, which contained mainly his secular poems ranging over his Caribbean experiences, and The Friend, which contained his religious and philosophical poems, written in the process of discovering the teachings of the Sufis.

In addition, Hopkinson wrote a couple of short stories, and his poetry was widely published in journals such as Bim, Savacou, New World and in anthologies such as Anansesem, The Penguin Book of Caribbean Verse and Voiceprint. Snowscape With Signature, a selection of the poems written between 1952-1992, was published by Peepal Tree in 1993, with an introductory memoir by Mervyn Morris.

Very sadly, Abdhur-Rahman Slade Hopkinson, by then suffering a cancer of the kidneys, died just before the publication of this collection.

He wrote that for him, 'the stern craftsmanship, the deftness, of verse is the basis of the high art and pleasure of poetry: only finely cut stone should be used to build a temple.'

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