Christian Campbell takes us to dusk, what the French call l’heure entre chien et loup, the hour between dog and wolf, to explore ambiguity and intersection, danger and desire, loss and possibility. These poems of wild imagination shift shape and shift generation, remapping Caribbean, British and African American geographies: Oxford becomes Oxfraud; Shabba Ranks duets with Césaire; Sidney Poitier is reconsidered in an exam question; market women hawk poetry beside knock-off Gucci bags; elegies for ancestors are also for land and sea. Here is dancing at the crossroads between reverence and irreverence. Dusk is memory, dusk is dream, dusk is a way to re-imagine the past.
Running the Dusk won the 2010 Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the 2010 Forward Poetry Prize for the Best First Book in the UK. It was also named a finalist for the Cave Canem Prize by Sonia Sanchez.
Running the Dusk gives us a new voice for Caribbean arts and letters, and Christian Campbell is one of the few perfectly suited to accept this mantle. His poems don't address the obvious in a tumultuous, beautiful landscape of hearts and minds, personal and public rituals, but his voice dares to take a step beyond, to bridge the diaspora of the spirit. If you're holding Running the Dusk in your hands, you are lucky to be facing the gutsy work of a long-distance runner who possesses the wit and endurance, the staying power of authentic genius. This first collection is controlled beauty and strength, and the exhilaration of images and music encountered are necessary and believable. There's great celebration here.
--Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet and Global Distinguished Professor of English at NYU
A truly auspicious debut by a brilliant young writer of wide-open ear and
versatile tongue. Campbell’s imagery slices through fog; these poems are
nourished by New World etymologies and old-school ways and wisdoms. His use of poetic form is drum-tight and yet these poems unfold like the infinity of a coast-line, sinuous and generous. In the black diaspora Campbell writes from and about, “all angels have afros” and all poems are song. Running the Dusk is deep-souled, keen-eyed, knowing, honed, gorgeous. This is a heralding book we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.
--Elizabeth Alexander, Obama's Inaugural Poet and Chair of African American Studies at Yale University
What I find remarkable in Christian Campbell’s Running the Dusk is the vibrancy of sound and image throughout the collection. Campbell’s attention to the specifics of terrain (emotional and physical) through color (molasses, rum, bronze, blue chiffon) and through his tonal palette that distinguishes this book. Campbell shows himself here as a true craftsman. “… But she is just twirling, / which her singing tells and tells. It is just that. / Her plaits are countless today, full of blue / bird barrettes. All else are staring, /sensible and still. The girl gives a whirl.” It is wonderful to experience the collision of sounds here, the excitement of telling. Running the Dusk places Campbell firmly on the map. I cherish this collection and (hear this), I look forward to his next, and next.
--Martha Rhodes, Award-Winning Poet and Founder of Four Way Books
The eight poets brought together in New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthology, edited by Kei Miller (Carcanet, £12.95), present an often dark and complex retort to the cliché of languorous island living, with much sorrow told through the polyglot voices. Christian Campbell stands out with his elastic persona, from astute bystander in the Caribbean to mournful outsider in New York.
In the community fire everything gets blazed: “straw dolls, Hey Mon/T-shirts, African statues made in Japan…the cries of Prettygirl/and Walcott poems.” This is Christian Campbell’s “A Dream of Fire.” A dream where poetry is hawked on the street besides “knock-off Louis Vitton bags.” There is something very beautiful and very radical about this. Dear E. M. Roach, this is the thing that was so soft you couldn’t hear. This is the thing that is saving us.
--Calabash: A Journal of Caribbean Arts and Letters
My friend from Guyana
was asked in Philadelphia
if she was from “Iguana.”
Iguana, which crawls and then
stills, which flicks its tongue at the sun.
In History we learned that Lucayans
ate iguana, that Caribs
(my grandmother’s people)
ate Lucayans (the people of Guanahani).
Guiana (the colonial way,
with an i, southernmost
of the Caribbean) is iguana; Inagua
(southernmost of The Bahamas,
northernmost of the Caribbean)
is iguana— Inagua, crossroads with Haiti,
Inagua of the salt and flamingos.
The Spanish called it Heneagua,
“water is to be found there,”
water, water everywhere.
Guyana (in the language of Arawaks,
Wai Ana, “Land of Many Waters”)
is iguana, veins running through land,
grooves between green scales.
My grandmother from Moruga
(southern-most in Trinidad)
knew the names of things.
She rubbed iguana with bird pepper,
she cooked its sweet meat.
The earth is on the back
of an ageless iguana.
We are all from the Land of Iguana,
Hewanorra, Carib name for St. Lucia.
And all the iguanas scurry away from me.
And all the iguanas are dying.
© Christian Campbell