- Paperback: 104 pages
- Published: 9/1/15
- IBSN: 9781617754050
- e-IBSN: 9781617754166
- Genre: Poetry
Best-selling writer Colin Channer’s debut poetry collection tackles the unlikely literary figure of the Jamaican policeman.
Longlisted for the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry
“The Caribbean policeman is a character both foreign and familiar at the center of this intimate debut poetry collection. Combining Jamaican patois and American English, it tells the story of violence, loss, and recovery in the wake of colonialism.”
—O, the Oprah Magazine, One of 19 Books to Pick Up This October
One of LargeUp’s Ten Great Books by Caribbean Authors in 2015
“Jamaican-born Channer draws on the rich cultural heritage of the Caribbean and his own unique experience for this energetic, linguistically inventive first collection of poetry. . . . Channer’s lyrics pop and reel in sheer musicality. . . . A dextrous, ambitious collection that delivers enough acoustic acrobatics to keep readers transfixed ’till the starlings sing out.'”
“Channer . . . skillfully examines the brutality that permeates Jamaica’s history in this moving debut poetry collection. . . . Channer’s poems rise to present the reader with a panoramic view of a place ‘built on old foundations of violence,’ of ‘geographies where genocide and massacre/ hang like smoke from coal fires.’”
“[Channer’s] technique and foresight bring the underlying story of the collection, and the history he expounds, into full daylight and the collection succeeds in revealing a life and history as an essay might, but with the beauty of lyric added to narrative in an exercise that is cohesive in its ability to maintain its trajectory. It is a notable accomplishment.”
—New York Journal of Books
“Jamaica’s Colin Channer has been mixing patois in his romantic tales since his 1998 debut novel, Waiting In Vain. In 2015, he blessed us with Providential (Akashic), a poetry collection that touches on the full range of Jamaican languages and dreams.”
“Distinguished by a strong oral sense, it mixes Jamaican patois and American English, Rasta and reggae, also mixing voices in short and long forms as it progresses from the history and nature of the Jamaican police force to moving poems about “mounds of buried hurt” in Caribbean society, where people are caught in an ordained sociology of poverty, humiliation, and other indignities. Providential begins with Channer’s own father and how his days on the force affected his family and the very idea of fatherhood. It includes a retrospective vision (in New England) by the poet of his Jamaican childhood as well as a contemporary exploration of the challenges of trying to be a better father for his own teenage son . . . An interesting volume that escapes the trap of colonial exoticism.”
—World Literature Today
“[Channer’s] strongest offering yet. . . . Providential perfectly clothes the written word with matching tone and atmosphere. Welcome to the hallowed halls of Fine Poetry!”
—Kaieteur News (Guyana)
“Channer has written a fine set of poems that, like classical myth, start with the search for the lost father and end with the found son, the poet in the process replacing the lost father with a found self.”
—Russell Banks, author of The Sweet Hereafter
“The voices and irrepressible human dance of the clan pulsing at this book’s center leave me breathless and I realize how close the voices are to my own, how much I crave this dance.”
—Patricia Smith, author of Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah
“This is such a brilliant ‘toast,’ this swift and pained and skimming history of Jamaica sweetly written by a poet with a cop dad. Providential does justice to the diasporic reality of places being ‘there but not there,’ including of course America, the poet’s current home. Lush lists and light-footedness and keen word choices all restore a limb to our comprehension of colonial trauma and make this one of the most lucid and telling poetry books of this exact time.”
—Eileen Myles, author of Snowflake
“Channer writes with a moving vulnerability and much lyric grace, revealing new facets to familiar themes—home, family, history, and the evolving journey of self. A universal, timeless meditation.”
—Chris Abani, author of The Secret History of Las Vegas
“This one is an audacious and brilliant take on noir, written with pitch-perfect rhythm and a keen eye for supple, limber turns.”
—Lorna Goodison, author of From Harvey River
Channer’s debut poetry collection achieves an intimate and lyric meditation on family, policing, loss, and violence, but the work is enlivened by humor, tenderness, and the rich possibilities that come from honest reflection. Combined with a capacity to offer physical landscapes with painterly sensitivity and care, a graceful mining of the nuances of Jamaican patwa and American English, and a judicious use of metaphor and similie, Providential is a work of “heartical” insight and vulnerability.
Not since Claude McKay’s Constab Ballads of 1912 has a writer attempted to tackle the unlikely literary figure of the Jamaican policeman. Now, over a century later, Channer draws on his own knowledge of Jamaican culture, on his complex relationship with his father (a Jamaican policeman), and frames these poems within the constantly humane principles of Rasta and reggae. The poems within Providential manage to turn the intricate relationships between a man and his father, a man and his mother, and man and his country, and a man and his children into something akin to grace.
Read a feature on Providential at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Read a short feature on Colin Channer at The Common.
Read an excerpted poem from Providential at Harvard Review.
Check out a music playlist compiled by Colin Channer and inspired by Providential at Largehearted Boy.
Read an interview with Colin Channer at Prairie Schooner.
COLIN CHANNER was born in Jamaica to a pharmacist and cop. Junot Díaz calls him “one of the Caribbean Diaspora’s finest writers.” His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Harvard Review, The Common, and Renaissance Noire, among other places. Channer has served as Newhouse Professor in Creative Writing at Wellesley College and Fannie Hurst Writer in Residence at Brandeis University. His many books of prose include the novella The Girl with the Golden Shoes, “a very moving and mesmerizing journey” in the words of Edwidge Danticat. He won the Silver Musgrave Medal in Literature in 2010 and currently lives in New England. Providential is his first poetry book.