The Puritan Presents: ‘Membering Austin Clarke, a special summer issue

POSTED: July 31st, 2017



Dear Readers,

We are excited to present our special summer issue, dedicated to the work of the late Austin Clarke.

As guest editor Paul Barrett notes in his introductory essay, “On Austin Clarke’s Style,” Clarke is one of Canadian literature’s “earliest, most widely published, best awarded, and least studied Canadian authors.” In this issue, we have invited writers and academics from across Canada, the United States, and the West Indies to reflect on, critique, and offer work inspired by Austin Clarke’s remarkable legacy.

Camille Isaacs and Leslie Sanders wrestle with the thorny issue of misogyny in Clarke’s work, Kate Siklosi offers a close reading of a Clarke poem that shows his Romantic side, Katherine McKittrick writes about what Clarke’s bookshelves say about how he thought, and Sharon Morgan Beckford and Ira Halpern and Megan Suttie give us close readings that shed new light on his early novels.

Clarke was part of a network of West Indian writers that spanned the trans-Atlantic world. Winfried Siemerling’s essay on Clarke’s memoir, “Membering, Kris Singh’s piece on food and Clarke’s correspondence with the Trinidadian writer Sam Selvon, Asha Varadharajan’s essay on Clarke and Paule Marshall, and Marquita Smith’s “Of Kin and Kind” tease out the complicated internationalism of Clarke’s work.

We are also fortunate enough to have personal reminiscences from writers who knew Clarke. John Harewood, a Barbadian-Canadian academic who grew up with Clarke mines their correspondence to offer an insight into the man behind the work, and Canadian poet Sonnet L’Abbé writes about meeting Clarke as a graduate student, Clarke’s biographer, Stella Algoo-Baksh, contributes a recollection of their first meeting, and the Jamaican academic Michael Bucknor writes about Clarke’s last days.

In addition to presenting two previously unpublished stories by Clarke himself, “The Robber” and “That Man, That Man—Stories and Confabulations,” the fiction section also includes up-and-coming Canadian novelist Jean Marc Ah-Sen’s “Underside of Love,” inspired by Clarke’s work and perspective, and Giovanna Riccio’s response to Clarke’s “Sometimes, a Motherless Child.”

While Clarke was less well-known as a poet, it was the craft to which he first apprenticed himself, and it remained one of his great loves. “Do Not Let Them Choose The Fragrance” and “Let Me Stand Up” offer a glimpse into a dimension of Clarke’s craft that is often overlooked, while the Saint Lucian poet John R. Lee’s “hyphen (For Austin “Tom” Clarke 1934-2016)” offers a meditation on many of the themes Clarke’s own work engaged with.

From early on in his career, Austin Clarke was a prolific journalist and broadcaster, and he knew much about the art of the interview, having interviewed such luminaries of the Civil Rights Movement as Malcolm X and LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka). This issue features an archived interview between Clarke and Leslie Sanders on politics, race, and art, and a conversation between editor Paul Barrett and George Elliott Clarke on the impact Austin Clarke had on Black Canadian writing.

We are also pleased to present a soundtrack to your reading, created by Toronto DJ Peter Pesic and based on the music of Clarke’s Toronto.

Happy reading!


The Editors

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