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Edited by Ayanna Black
Toronto, HarperCollins, 1992. 142pp, paper, $16.95, ISBN 0-00-647413-6. CIP.


Reviewed by Lillian Turner

Volume 20 Number 5
1992 October

The editor of this collection of African-Canadian poetry and prose came to Canada in 1964 from Jamaica. She has had one book of poetry, No Contingencies (Williams-Wallace, 1985), published, and is now working on another collection. She is founding editor of Tiger Lily magazine and co-author of Linked Alive (Trois, 1990). In the foreword of Voices she states her desire to provide "individual and unique voices, ideas, styles, and forms." Together they will represent a "new black creative expression ... but held together by a collective African consciousness."

Fifteen writers are represented. Among them are poet George Elliott Clarke, editor of the recently published Fire on the Water: An Anthology of Black Nova Scotian Writings? who supplied six poems, one "to Milton Acorn":

...You were our Miltonic, Atlantic Lear,
A raging, white-bearded, world-weathered bard,
Who howled against the liars' legislatures.

Norma De Haarte, born in Guyana, provides a short story in the folk-tale genre. Molau Ogundipe-Leslie, Nigerian-born, is known internationally as a women's leader and a noted poet. Her poem "Garland to the Beheaded One" (thoughts after Rajiv Gandhi's assassination) opens this collection. It has its roots in a tradition of her Yoruba culture, the "call and refrain," where the audience gives a vocal response to the poet speaker. This also happens during evangelistic sermons.

Claire Harris, now a Calgary English teacher, has many poetry awards to her credit. Her compelling poem "Under Black Light" deals with child sexual and wife abuse. To me, this was a cry for help to like victims. There was a particularly troubling courtroom scene with the wife on the witness stand: "Judge: I put it to you that you enjoyed these beatings."

Lawrence Hill, of Don Mills, Ontario, whose first novel has just been published, presents a touching short story of a little girl of mixed parentage. The other contributors are equally deserving of mention but space does not permit. A picture and biographical sketch with credits of each writer are included.

Voices is highly recommended for public and academic libraries and those secondary schools where there is a need for ethnic literature for senior students. The book is securely bound, but the attractive trade paperback cover with its African motif tends to curl.

Lillian Turner is a retired teacher-librarian in Toronto, Ontario

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