’Membering Austin Clarke: A Puritan Special Issue


On Austin Clarke’s Style.

by Paul Barrett

Manners Maketh Man –Gladys Clarke’s mantra for her son, Austin, throughout his life   Come to terms with me, I will not come to terms with you. —Aimé Cesaire, Return to My Native Land   These fragments I have shored against my ruin —T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land   When a writer leaves us, we are left only with fragments to draw upon, pore over, and reassess to hold onto some aspect of his being. In the wake of the absence of the writer, words become talismans, echoing a past made present, and animating memories with the tenuous power of narrative. A manuscript’s numerous editions, crossed out sections, and marginal notes of self-doubt and admonishment bespeak the thankless hours and exhausting labour spent revising, rewriting, and reshaping a work. Letters of rejection and disappointment, intermingled with rare accolades and notes of acknowledgement mark the milestones …


Austin Clarke: Defying the Silence.

by John Harewood

Don’t do muh so! I can hear Austin’s voice issuing the reprimand, tongue in cheek, from his study as he looks through the window on to Moss Park which inspired Where The Sun Shines Best, one of the last three books he published. Immediately afterwards, I can hear him adding, “God don’t like ugly.” Those of us who knew him well might justifiably argue that he would have reacted in this way on hearing the news that a special edition of the magazine The Puritan was being published in his honour. He would have reminded us that he had been called many names in his lifetime, but none was ever connected with anything “Puritan.” Such an eventuality could have occurred only after he had departed for Heaven or Hell. I was a junior to Austin at high school in the early ’50s and, like most of his …

Of Kin and Kind.

by Marquita Smith

In his article “‘Our words spoken among us, in fragments’: Austin Clarke’s Aesthetics of Crossing,” Paul Barrett recalls a bold statement from a 199...

Austin A. C. Clarke is the most.

by Kate Siklosi

I cannot walk to the distant friends on nights piercing as these, so I put both hands on the window-pane, and try to think how birds fly, and imitat...

Troubled Meeting Points.

by Megan Suttie and Ira Halpern

The first entry in Austin Clarke’s Toronto Trilogy, The Meeting Point is set in 1960s Toronto and describes the experiences of the first significant...

Austin Clarke's Books.

by Katherine McKittrick

To a book collector, you see, the true freedom of all books is somewhere on his shelves. —Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library,” Does the order of...

The Lessons of Austin Clarke.

by Sonnet L'Abbé

I met Austin Clarke in late 1996, at the University of Guelph, where he was that year’s Writer In Residence. He didn’t yet have the dreads I would l...

All He Wanted to Do Was Type.

by Michael Bucknor

The following was originally presented as a tribute at the Annual West Indian Literature Conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica, October 5, 2016 by Dr. ...


That Man, That Man—Stories and Confabulations.

by Austin Clarke

Austin Clarke’s 1986 collection, Nine Men Who Laughed, includes the stories “A Man” and “How He Do It,” both of which offer accounts of Joshua Miller-Corbaine from two unique perspectives. Miller-Corbaine is a man who dresses and acts the part of a high-powered corporate lawyer but is, in fact, unemployed and entirely dependent on his wife and mistresses for financial support. “A Man” describes Miller-Corbaine’s masculine performances in standard English. “How He Does It,” written in nation language from the perspective of one of Miller-Corbaine’s friends, retells his narrative to further indicate the cracks in his chimerical identity. Both stories offer different takes on performances of masculinity; reading the two in dialogue with one another reveals what can be achieved in these distinct narrative styles. This new, previously-unpublished story takes up Miller-Corbaine’s story from a third perspective: that of an embittered white neighbour. In this story Clarke …

The Robber.

by Austin Clarke

This unpublished story offers a dark satirical take on depictions of Black men in Canada, feelings of Black invisibility, and the anxieties of Black...

Underside of Love.

by Jean Marc Ah-Sen

Author’s Note: The foremost qualities in Austin Clarke’s writing that have appealed to me are his experimentations with style, and his career-...


Let Me Stand Up.

by Austin Clarke

This poem has Clarke grappling with one the central themes of his later writing: aging. The struggle against racism and seemingly relentless procession of police violence and white indifference are all recast here as an exhausting burden for an aging man to contend with. The poet longs for a future in which he might slip into the night unremarked upon and merely walk the “criminal night” with nothing more than a “literary thought on my arm.” This poem is undated but, based on the letterhead and format of the original, is likely from the early 1980s.   Let me be able to stand up, old, When I’m past standing up In youth: when age has bent Me rusty, a hairpin superfluous As neglect; when bed and toilet Sleeping and waking, fade Into one long television afternoon Of snowflakes and of screams; When I can walk …


Clarke on Clarke.

by Paul Barrett

George Elliott Clarke’s poetry and criticism includes a sustained, regular engagement with the work, influence, and style of Austin Clarke. In his two major collections of essays, Odyssey’s Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature (2002) and Directions Home: Approaches to African-Canadian Literature (2011), G.E. Clarke includes a number of essays dedicated to studying Austin Clarke’s work. More recently, he has offered poetic reinterpretations of Austin Clarke’s “When He Was Free And Young And Used to Wear Silks” in his collection of poems, Gold, and in Matrix Magazine. Paul Barrett is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Acadia University and the author of Blackening Canada: Diaspora, Race, Multiculturalism (University of Toronto Press, 2015). His research is at the intersection of Canadian literature, critical race theory, and, most recently, digital humanities. His writing has appeared in Canadian Literature, TOPIA, ARIEL, The Journal of West Indian Literature, The Walrus, NOW Magazine, and The Puritan. His forthcoming …

“Submerging the Politics”: Leslie Sanders Interviews Austin Clarke.

by Leslie Sanders

The following originally appeared as part of the York University series Counterparts, produced by Marjorie Cohen. Leslie Sanders works in African American and Black Canadian literatures. She is the author of The Development of Black Theater in America (Louisiana State University Press), a general editor of the Collected Works of Langston Hughes (University of Missouri Press), and the volume editor for two volumes of plays and other performance works. Aside from publications on Hughes, she has published on such Black Canadian writers as Austin Clarke, Dionne Brand, Nourbese Philip, Claire Harris, George Elliot Clarke, Maxine Tynes and Djanet Sears. She is a founder of the Centre for the Study of Black Cultures in Canada and webmaster for African Canadian Online.   Leslie Sanders: Austin, first your memoir, with that wonderful title, Growing up Stupid Under the Union Jack. Why do you say you grew up stupid? Austin Clarke: Stupid in …...


The Clarke Train: The Music of Austin Clarke's Toronto.

by Peter Pesic

  Peter Pesic is a lifelong appreciator of music, who savours the act of expressing himself through his digital audio workstation DJ mixes, exploring that medium from a hip hop cultural perspective. By leveraging beat making and mix engineering techniques, his goal is to push the limits on what sorts of ideas which can be communicated utilizing the unique advantages audio/music provides. His interest in this project stems from the opportunity to apply his process in a different and collaborative way. As well as the challenge posed with utilizing songs which were not in the familiar territory of 808 sonic booms, neck snapping snares, and droning layers of shoegaze guitars.