Oh Witness Dey! by Shani Mootoo

Oh Witness Dey! by Shani Mootoo

Publication Date: March 26, 2024
6 x 8 inches
188 pages
Trade Paperback
ISBN 9781771668767

Trade Paperback
(In stock)
(In stock)
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Two-timer I am, infatuated 
With the country in which I love 
Yearning in corners, around bends 
For the one I grew up in 

Shani Mootoo’s great-great-grandparents were brought to Trinidad as indentured labourers by the British. There is no record of where they were from in India or whether it was kidnapping, trickery, or false promises of wealth that took them to the Caribbean.

In Oh Witness Dey! Mootoo expands the question of origins, from ancestry percentages and journey narratives, through memory, story, and lyric fragments. These vibrant poems transcend the tropes of colonial violence through saints and spices, rebellion and joy, to reimagine tensions and solidarities among various diasporas. They circumvent traditional conventions of style to find new routes toward understanding. They invite the reader to witness history, displacements, and the legacies of our inheritance.

Praise for Oh Witness Dey!

Oh Witness Dey! reminds us that we see through the eyes of past generations as readers and as people of the Americas. These poems remind us of the importance of looking back, because history defines our present and our future, as the past is not past, and the greed and violence echo down generations. Shani Mootoo’s voice captures that echo and yet transmutes it, elevates it into song. Oh Witness Dey! fuses emotional momentum with discursive energy, which is underscored by carefully researched knowledge of colonial practices dating back to Columbus. The story of how Europe’s rapacity accelerated in the wake of ’discovery’ is timely and inexhaustible, and these poems bear impassioned witness to a world that has raced past its precipice.” —Kaie Kellough, Griffin Poetry Prize–winning author of Magnetic Equator

“A formidable, bold, and expansive collection of poetry that highlights Shani Mootoo’s aesthetic and intellectual prowess. Rich in luminous detail, Oh Witness Dey! is an unflinching exploration of colonial histories, one that opens up space for supple, nuanced insights.” —Linda Morra, Writer/Host, Getting Lit With Linda

Press Coverage

2024 Spring Preview: Short Fiction and Poetry —Quill & Quire

Most Anticipated: Our 2024 Spring Poetry Preview —49th Shelf

37 Poetry Collections to Watch For in Spring 2024 —CBC Books

There’s a Poem for That: Shani Mootoo + Oh Witness Dey!All Lit Up

“Grounded in sharp emotional insight and a keen understanding of the past, Oh Witness Dey! is frequently devastating and solemn, but at times hopeful, compassionate and even playful as it shirks poetic conventions and leans into its unflinching momentum.” —Nour Abi-Nakhoul, Maisonneuve Magazine

“Biting and gritty, each poem is a snapshot of the ‘flotsam and jetsam’ of the world, ‘the origins of you and me / In the crucible of nuclear reaction.’ Oh Witness Dey! confronts the politics of belonging and reflects on how individual experiences—those crucial “umbilical cords’—connect us to our common history.” —Sharon D. Engbrecht, Literary Review of Canada

“In addition to an invigorating use of documentary poetics, Mootoo uses linguistic maximalism to propel and punctuate the text. One such example is a list…she repeats throughout the book, and it functions to draw connections between disparate peoples’ experiences across the vast scope of the text.” —melanie

About the Author

SHANI MOOTOO was born in Ireland and raised in Trinidad. Her poetry books include Oh Witness Dey!, Cane | Fire, and The Predicament of Or. She is the author of several novels, including Cereus Blooms at Night, now a Penguin Modern Classic and a Vintage Classics book, and Polar Vortexboth shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Mootoo’s novels have been long and shortlisted for the Booker Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prizeand the Dublin Literary Award, among others. Her prose and poetry have been widely anthologized, including in Trinidad Noir, Trinidad Noir: The Classics, and The Haunted Tropics, and her poetry has appeared in Wasafiri, Poetry MagazineAudemas, and Room Magazine, among other magazines and journals. She has been awarded the Doctor of Letters honoris causa degree from Western University and is a recipient of Lambda Literary’s James Duggins Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize and the Writers’ Trust Engel Findley Award. She lives in Southern Ontario, Canada.