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Cyril Dabydeen

Cyril Dabydeen was born in Canje, Guyana, and worked as a teacher prior to leaving Guyana.  Dabydeen came to Canada in 1970 to pursue post-secondary studies and completed a B.A. at Lakehead University and both an M.A. and M.P.A. at Queen’s University. His M.A. thesis was on the poetry of Sylvia Plath. Dabydeen is a prolific author of poetry and prose and his work has been included in numerous anthologies and literary journals published in Canada, the U.S.A., the U.K., India and New Zealand (e.g., Poetry (Chicago), The Critical Quarterly (UK), and Canadian Literature). Dabydeen served as Poet Laureate of Ottawa from 1984-1987. He worked for many years in the areas of human rights and race relations and later taught English at Algonquin College in Ottawa. He was a sessional instructor of writing, including creative writing at the University of Ottawa for fifteen years. In 2016, Dabydeen received the Exemplary Award from the Guyana Cultural Association of New York for his accomplishments as a Guyanese-Canadian writer of poetry, short stories, novels, essays, compiler of anthologies and for his work as an educator and race relations professional. He won The Caribbean Writer‘s The Canute A. Brodhurst Prize for his short story “How Far Do We Go?” published in vol. 33 (2019) of the journal.
Dabydeen’s most recent contributions to a poetry anthology are found in Singing in the Dark: A Global Anthology of Poetry Under Lockdown, eds. K. Satchidanandan & Nishi Chawla (Delhi: Vintage Books/Penguin, 2020).

Fiction (Short stories)

Berbice Crossing and Other Stories

Leeds, England: Peepal Tree, 1996.
PS8557 .A25 B47 1996

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Whether in the unsettling landscapes of rural Berbice in Guyana (with its ferocious crocodiles and even a spliff-toting Rasta), the wilderness of the Canadian North, or the urban melting pot of Toronto, Dabydeen’s characters are memorably alert to what makes them feel either at home or alien in their various landscapes. Ranging from the extremely funny to the tragic, these stories are full of poetry, tension and sometimes terror. Cyril Dabydeen involves the reader creatively in a world of shifting grounds.

Fiction (Short stories)

Black Jesus and Other Stories

Toronto: TSAR, 1996.
PS8557 .A25 B57 1996

Fiction (Novel)

Dark Swirl

Leeds, England: Peepal Tree Press, 1989, c1988.
PS8557 .A25 D37 1989

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

When a European naturalist arrives in a remote South American village, how are the villagers to respond to his promise to remove the monstrous massacouraman from the creek? Is he a saviour freeing them from its danger, or is he threatening to take away something which is uniquely theirs for display in an American or European zoo? Folk belief confronts rationalistic science in this poetic fable which sees events through both European and village eyes.


Drums of My Flesh: A Novel

Toronto: TSAR, 2005.
PS8557 .A25 D78 2005

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

In a central park in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill, Gabe, an immigrant from Guyana (South America), explores the past in the company of his young Canadian-born daughter.

Awards and Honours

2006 Guyana Prize for Literature–Best Book of Fiction (Winner)

Fiction (Short stories)

Jogging in Havana

Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 1992.
PS8557 .A25 J64 1992

Publisher’s Synopsis

Jogging in Havana are stories of an illuminating cast of characters: earthy, vibrant, humorous– full of the foibles and passion for life. … [Dabydeen] writes about cultures in transition: people on the move and coping with dramatic changes around them. About minorities on the edge of society–either in the Caribbean and South America, or in Canada–yet who are invariably human– are always determined to survive!

Fiction (Short stories)

My Brahmin Days and Other Stories

Toronto: TSAR, 2000.
PS8557.A25 M9 2000

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Closely observed, finely ironic stories confront Dabydeen’s Asian and Caribbean identity with his life experience of life in Canada.

My Multi-ethnic Friends & Other Stories book cover

Fiction (Short stories)

My Multi-ethnic Friends & Other Stories

Toronto: Guernica Editions, 2013.
PS8557 .A25 M93 2013

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)


From the jungles of Guyana to the urban jungle of Ottawa, Cyril Dabydeen’s My Multi-Ethnic Friends & Other Stories highlights the struggles of immigrant life in a society that talks multiculturalism but doesn’t always walk it. The characters straddle many worlds and tend to feel comfortable in none — all overlaid with a healthy dose of humour, satire and subtle insights.

Fiction (Short stories)

My Undiscovered Country

Oarkville, ON: Mosaic Press, 2017.
PS8557 .A25 M98 2017

Publisher’s Synopsis

Odyssey and discovery are what Cyril Dabydeen delves into in Undiscovered Country – stories about place, identity and longings that ask: who is a Canadian, and what it means to be a Canadian? Critics have called Dabydeen a “short story master” (Canadian Literature). And in this latest collection, his stories of life in Guyana are interspersed with the urban landscape of Canada where Dabydeen has lived for decades. His stories are distinctive with a strong narrative voice that encompasses fantasy and reality as ethnic, and cultural roots co-mingle. The author’s inflexion is mixed in with motifs when the tropics and the temperate merge.

Fiction (Short stories)

North of the Equator: Stories

Vancouver: Beach Holme Pub., 2001.
PS8557 .A25 N67 2001

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

[This work] looks at the polarities of tropical and temperate places. …

In the tropics the outside world beckons and tempts. Characters are transported over vast distances by memories triggered by simple things such as the equatorial heat of a sauna on a wintry day in Ottawa, rain falling at a funeral, or an all-consuming obsession with the game of cricket. The result is cultural hybridity, a creolization in which geography means much more than just the place where you live.

Fiction (Short stories)

Play a Song Somebody: New and Selected Stories

Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 2004.
PS8557 .A25 P55 2004

Publisher’s Synopsis

… brings together some of the very best of Cyril Dabydeen’s short fiction. We are taken to exotic landscapes where South America, the Caribbean and North America intertwine. The stories define perceptions of who we are and who we are becoming as the far corners of the world draw closer.

Fiction (Novel)

Sometimes Hard

Harlow, Essex, England: Longman Caribbean, 1994.
Kingston, Jamaica: Longman Caribbean, 1994.

Publisher’s Synopsis

In Trinidad, 12-year-old Leroy Blue is at a crossroads in his life. He is about to go live with his aunt in New York, the city where dreams become real! But he has mixed feelings about leaving his island home, his estranged parents, schoolfriends and neighbors. The story climaxes around the events of the island’s annual jamboree, the Sylvester Ball.


Fiction (Short stories)

Still Close to the Island

Ottawa: Commoner’s Publishing, 1980.

Fiction (Short stories)

To Monkey Jungle

London, Ont.: Third Eye, 1988.

Fiction (Novel)

The Wizard Swami

Calcutta, India: Writers Workshop, 1985.
Leeds, England: Peepal Tree Press, 1989, c1988.
PS8557 .A25 W59 1989

Publisher’s Synopsis (Peepal from its website)

When Devan, the awkward boy from Providence Village, finds his vocation as a teacher of Hinduism to the rural Indians of the Corentyne Coast of Guyana, his life and his troubles begin. In this richly comic novel, Cyril Dabydeen creates a vibrant picture of the Guyanese Hindu community struggling for a place in what is for Devan a confusingly multi-racial country.


Born in Amazonia

Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 1995.
PS8557 .A25 B67 1995

Publisher’s Synopsis

Born in Amazonia explores the formidable legend of the jaguar associated with its continuing myth-making capacity in South America; the jaguar also informs the region’s destiny. …

This unique collection combines heterogenous peoples, landscape, ecology and climate with ongoing social and historical forces as Dabydeen juxtaposes past and present in an evolving mythology of time and place making its strong impact on the imagination.


Coastland: New and Selected Poems, 1973-1989 [i.e. 1987]

Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 1989.
PS857 .A25 C63 1989


Discussing Columbus

Leeds, England: Peepal Tree, 1997.
PS8557 .A25 D57 1997

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

This collection of poems grows out of a consciousness of a world made up of layers of journeyings and settlement, of the meeting of heterogeneous cultures and the results of their mingling.



Vancouver: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1977.


Elephants Make Good Stepladders: Poems

London, Ont.: Third Eye, 1982.



Illustrated by Sharon Katz.
Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press/Valley Editions, 1977.

 God's Spider book cover


God’s Spider

Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 2014.
PS8557 .A25 G64 2014

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

What is at the heart of Cyril Dabydeen’s poetry is an acute sense of geography as both space and time. It is a sense that begins in personal biography, of the writer born in Guyana, long settled in Canada and conscious of his ancestral connections to India.

Place frequently provides the subject matter and the metaphorical threads that run through the collection. Poems are drawn to hinterlands and interiors both as actual places and as mental landscapes and as a metaphor for the interior life of the poem – frequently independent of the writer’s conscious intentions. Poems investigate journeyings and borders that connect to the adventure of engaging with the otherness of encountered people. Poems celebrate identities that can never be other than as multi-layered as the places that shaped them.

Cyril Dabydeen writes with lyric grace, but perhaps his most characteristic voice is conversational, often witty and amused in its sharing of experiences as diverse as the incidents of travel, cricket, and the absurd pretensions of the literary world.


Heart’s Frame: Poems

Cornwall, Ont.: Vesta Publications, 1979.


Hemisphere of Love

Toronto: TSAR, 2003.
PS8557 .A25 H45 2003

Publisher’s Synopsis (from its website)

Hemisphere of Love reflects the author’s passion and honesty as he delves into the mystery of love and strives to bring order to human experience. In this collection a range of scenes and situations is carefully carved in words and couched in metaphor. Geographical and spiritual boundaries, shifting tonalities and moods carry the reader into Dabydeen’s complex universe.


Imaginary Origins: Selected Poems

Leeds, England: Peepal Tree Press, 2004.
PS8557 .A25 I52 2004

Publisher’s Synopsis

From his roots as an Asian whose great-grandparents migrated as indentured labourers from 19th century India to the Caribbean, from his experiences as a Guyanese growing up during a period of intense national ferment, and his life as an adult in Canada, Cyril Dabydeen has shaped a vision that makes an enlightening virtue of heterogeneity. Not merely a Guyanese exile, though Guyanese memories and concerns are vivid in his work, but a writer who has immersed himself in the landscapes, histroy and lived experience of Canada, Dabydeen’s poetry shows the rich possibilities of combining immigrant and diasporic selves.


Islands Lovelier Than a Vision

Ottawa: Jerusalem International, 1984.
Leeds: Peepal Tree, Press, 1986.
PS8557 .A25 I57 1986


Poems in Recession

Georgetown, [Guyana]: Sadeek Press, 1972.

Poetry (Broadside, folded)

River in Me

Ottawa: League of Canadian Poets, 1980.


Stoning the Wind: Poems

Toronto: TSAR, 1994.
PS8557 .A25 S87 1994

Publisher’s Synopsis

Stoning the Wind is a unique collection of poems arousing the twin impulse to charm and discharm, akin to WH Auden, as Dabydeen moves from grandeur to a spirited simplicity.


This Planet Earth

Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1979.


Unanimous Night

Windsor, Ont.: Black Moss Press, 2009.
PS8557 .A25 U596 2009

Publisher’s Synopsis

… traces origins in what has long been described of his work as going back “through consciousness or history to describe an original condition of unfragmented wholeness.” This wholeness stems from Daybdeen’s Asian-Caribbean and Canadian background in a voice reflecting identity in a changing world seen in often unique and formative ways and expressed through his distinctive poetic idiom. In these poems of changing spaces, Dabydeen gets to the core of lived experience with imagery that makes him immediately appealing and fascinating.


Uncharted Heart

Ottawa: Borealis Press, 2008.
PS8557 .A25 U63 2008

Publisher’s Synopsis

… poems about formed and unformed spaces rarely seen in previous work by Cyril Dabydeen. Rhythms and feelings extend boundaries to a wider, more intricate world, as the poems aim for epiphanies in awakening to mythologies by delving into the inner recesses of our beings. … Beliefs about destiny and journeying are spontaneously expressed, even if elegiac, but always with love and a deep understanding.


Another Way to Dance: Contemporary Asian Poetry from Canada and the United States

Edited by Cyril Dabydeen.
Toronto: TSAR, 1996.
PS8283.A8 A67 1996

Publisher’s Synopsis

This anthology includes selected works of some of the most active and dynamic contemporary poets writing in North America. Reflecting to varying degrees sensibilities based on ancestral Asian homelands and on lives in Canada and the United States, the poetry reproduced here is of a wide-ranging appeal and refreshing modernity, depicting a shifting, kaleidoscopic landscape of cultural and spiritual heterogeneity and individual interpretations.


Beyond Sangre Grande: Caribbean Writing Today

Edited by Cyril Dabydeen.
Toronto: TSAR, 2011.
PR9205.5 .B49 2011

Publisher’s Synopsis

Beyond Sangre Grande brings together a contemporary selection in English from some of the key writers living in Canada, the US, and the UK, as well as various countries of the Caribbean. Reflecting a changing world, and admitting diverse cultural influences and generational differences, these writers maintain a distinct Caribbean-ness in their acute historical awareness and in the cadences and rhythms of their language.

Reading Writers Reading book cover


Reading Writers Reading: Canadian Authors’ Reflections

Z1039 .A87 R43 2006

Dabydeen, Cyril. “Reading/Another Space.” In Reading Writers Reading: Canadian Authors’ Reflections. Danielle Schaub, photographer and ed. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2006, 170-171.

Non-fiction (Literary criticism)

A Shapely Fire: Changing the Literary Landscape

Edited by Cyril Dabydeen.
Oakville, Ont.: Mosaic Press, 1987.
PS8235 .B5 S48 1987

Selected Criticism and Interpretation

Begum, Jameela. Cyril Dabydeen. Jaipur, India: Rawat Publications, 2000.
PS8557.A25 Z53 2000

Bucknor, Micheal Andrew.  “Postcolonial Crosses: Body-memory and Inter-nationalism in Caribbean/Canadian Writing.” Ph.D. diss., University of Western Ontario, 1998.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Chilana, Rajwant Singh. “Cyril Dabydeen.” In South Asian Writers in Canada: A Bio-Bibliographical Study. Surrey, BC: Asian Publications, 2017, 182.
Z1376 .S68 C45 2017

Dabydeen, Cyril. “Cyril Dabydeen.” Interview by Kwame Dawes. In Talk Yuh Talk: Interviews with Anglophone Caribbean Poets.  Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001, 86-98.
PR9205.2 .T35 2001

Dabydeen, Cyril. “Shaping the Environment: Sugar Plantation or Life After.” In Writers of the Caribbean Diaspora: Shifting Homelands, Travelling Identities.  New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2008, 11-25.
PR9205 .W75 2008

Kandiuk, Mary. “Cyril Dabydeen.” In Caribbean and South Asian Writers in Canada: A Bibliography of Their Works and of English-language Criticism.  Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2007, 45-50.
PS8089.5 .C37 K36 2007

Khan, Aliyah R.  “”Calling the Magician”: The Metamorphic Indo-Caribbean.”  Ph.D. diss., University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012.
Available from Proquest Dissertations and Theses

Labelle, Amanda. “Mapping the Self: The Sense of Space, Place, Home, and Belonging In Contemporary Caribbean Canadian Poetry.” M.A. thesis, Dalhousie University, 2012. Accessed August 30, 2013.
Available as an open access thesis from

Mukherjee, Arun. “The poetry of Michael Ondaatje and Cyril Dabydeen: Two Responses to Otherness.” In Oppositional Aesthetics: Readings from a Hyphenated Space.  Toronto: TSAR, 1994, 112-132.
PS8089.5 .M5 M85 1994

Sarbadhikary, Krishna. “”I Come to You with Crossings in my Mind…”: Cyril Dabydeen.” In Surviving the Fracture: Writers of the Indo-Caribbean Diaspora.  New Delhi: Creative Books, 2007, 27-65.
PS8089.5 .S68 S37 2007


Cyril Dabydeen page on the journal Canadian Literature’s CanLit Poets project website

Publisher Beach Holme Publishing

Publisher Black Moss Press

Publisher Peepal Tree Press

Publisher Mawenzi House Publishers (formerly TSAR)