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