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Soundin' Canaan

Black Canadian Poetry, Music, and Citizenship

By Paul D.B. Watkins
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Paperback : 9781771126212, 400 pages, August 2024
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771126229, 400 pages, August 2024
Ebook (PDF) : 9781771126236, 400 pages, August 2024

Table of contents

Coda: Dialogue and Dissonance
Chapter 1: Resounding the Past: Music, Listening, and Multicultural Citizenship
Chapter 2: Blues Vernacular and “Harmonious Dissonance” in George Elliott Clarke’s Colouring Pentateuch: Blue, Black, Red, Gold, and White
Chapter 3: Listening to a Listening: The Disruptive Jazz Poetics of Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries and The Blue Clerk (A Call Toward Freedom)
Chapter 4: Dub Poetics and Improvised Chant in M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong!Chapter 5: Wavin’ The Multicultural Flag: Canadian Hip Hop and Global Citizenship in K’naan’s music
Chapter 6: Recovery And Remix: Wayde Compton’s Turntable Poetics
Outro: The New Black Can(Aan)Lit And The Community To Come


Part exploration of a key group of Black Canadian poets, part literary, cultural, and musical history, Soundin’ Canaan demonstrates how music in Black Canadian poetry is not solely aesthetic, but a form of social, ethical, and political expression.
Soundin' Canaan refers to the code name often used for Canada during the Black migration to Canada. The book analyzes the contributions of key Black Canadian poets, including their poetic styles and their performances. The book has several key objectives, including recuperating the collision of the historical and the Biblically derived figure of Canaan, the promised land of freedom and security for an African American population seeking to leave the shackles of slavery behind and the northern terminus of the underground railroad. Centering around the poetry of George Elliott Clarke, Dionne Brand, M. NourbeSe Philip, Wayde Compton, and rapper K’naan, it delves into how these poets draw inspiration from African American and Afro-diasporic musical genres, such as blues, jazz, reggae and dub, hip-hop, and remix, to reshape the notions of identity and citizenship. Soundin' Canaan asks: what does Canadian citizenship sound like, especially when voiced by Black Canadian poets who embrace a fluid and multicultural form of citizenship that moves between local and global spaces, much like music does?
Using a DJ Methodology, the author mixes in close readings of poetry, music, cultural and literary history, as well as various interviews with the poets. The book includes an accompanying soundtrack to further enhance the reading experience. Moreover, the book uses musical and sonic terms to analyze the poets’ works and reveals their engagement with ideals and exclusions of state-authorized multiculturalism in a society built upon settler colonialism and anti-Black racism. What happens when those not normally seen as citizens with full rights are brought more into the picture and seen as co-performers of the Canadian remix project? No longer for the elite alone, citizenship is to be universally conferred for all Canadians.