Books

Two Guns in the Sky for Daniel Harris: Raymond Antrobus' powerful poem on race, disability and police violence

Watch the British-Jamaican poet deliver a powerful performance of a poem from his award-winning debut poetry collection, The Perseverance.

'When Daniel Harris stepped out of his car the policeman was waiting.'

Award-winning poet Raymond Antrobus performs his poem, "Two Guns in the Sky for Daniel Harris" 1:26

The Raymond Antrobus poem, Two Guns in the Sky for Daniel Harris, is an elegiac work dedicated to Daniel Harris, an American deaf man who was fatally shot by a North Carolina law enforcement officer who didn't understand Daniel's use of sign language. The poem speaks to society's ignorance of language, culture and race.

The poem begins:

"When Daniel Harris stepped out of his car
the policeman was waiting. Gun raised.

I use the past tense though this is irrelevant
in Daniel's language, which is sign."

Antrobus performs the full piece in the video above.

Antrobus is a poet, author and spoken word performer of British and Jamaican heritage. The author's debut poetry collection, The Perseverance, is a work that explores the poet's diagnosis with deafness as a child, his mixed heritage as well as his father's alcoholism and later decline into dementia and death.

The Perseverance is the first book of poetry ever to win the U.K.-based Rathbone Folio Prize ― an annual £30,000 prize awarded to the best work of literature in any category — and was shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Antrobus spoke to CBC Radio's Writers & Company host Eleanor Wachtel in a 2019 interview, where he talked about his Jamaican heritage, his complicated relationship with his late father and his experience growing up deaf ― a diagnosis he received when he was six years old.   

Antrobus's conversation with Wachtel will air on CBC Radio on Sunday, June 16 at 3 p.m. ET & AT, 3:30 p.m. NT, 5 p.m. PT, MT & CT.

  

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