Ryan B. Patrick says if you liked The Tradition by Jericho Brown, you'll love Canisia Lubrin's The Dyzgraphxst
Ryan B. Patrick is a CBC Books producer who has read countless books and interviewed many authors about their work. This week, he's in The Next Chapter's guest chair for another instalment of "If you like that, you'll love this."
"The Tradition explores state violence, particularly the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans such as John Crawford, Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The Tradition also looks at personal trauma, family violence and the collective trauma of generations of systemic and racist oppression. It examines the identity and body in terms of being Black in America and the institutions that contain and restrain Blackness.
The Tradition explores state violence, particularly the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans such as John Crawford, Eric Garner and Mike Brown.
"It's modernist poetry about sexual identity, political upheaval, police brutality and street violence. It's both explicit or implicit. It's not 'This is the Black experience.' It's more, 'I am Black — this is the world I live in — and there is a historical basis for who I am and why I am.'"
"Canisia Lubrin is this amazing new Canadian literary voice. She was originally born in St. Lucia and is now based in Whitby, Ont.
"The Dyzgraphxst is her second book of poetry: it won the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in the poetry category and is currently a finalist for the 2021 Griffin Poetry Prize. She was also a recipient of the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize for poetry.
"The Dyzgraphxst's title is a play on words. It's referring to dysgraphia, which is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. She was driven to write this book by a book called In the Wake by American academic Christina Sharpe.
"In that book, Sharpe theorizes there is a cultural 'dysgraphia' as it relates to blackness. The images and narratives of Black people are often reduced to criminality; these tropes and stereotypes proliferate and impact Black people in terms of how they represent and identify with themselves as we go into the world.
The Dyzgraphxst is truly engaging in terms of exploring, much like The Tradition, Black identity and being.
"It's really heady stuff, but Lubrin explores and parses these ideas beautifully.
"The Dyzgraphxst is an epic, long-form poem. It unfolds in acts. You can read it whole, or you can read it in parts. It also looks at contemporary fascism's nationalism and climate disaster in terms of identity and being. The Dyzgraphxst is truly engaging in terms of exploring, much like The Tradition, Black identity and being."
Ryan B. Patrick's comments have been edited for length and clarity.