Poetry is a form of embodiment ? Christian Campbell
About Christian Campbell
Christian Campbell’s debut collection, Running the Dusk, was published to international critical acclaim in 2010. It was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Cave Canem Prize and the Guyana Prize for Literature, won a Lannan Residency Fellowship and received the Aldeburgh Prize for Best First Collection. The latter is further notable for the fact that it made him not only the first Caribbean poet, but also the first poet of colour, to be presented with the long-running award.
Describing himself as ‘a nomad that comes from nomads’, Campbell has lived in the Caribbean, the US, UK and Canada; his background and itinerant lifestyle have had a powerful influence on his work. Asked about his voice in Running the Dusk, in an interview with the Caribbean Review of Books, Campbell responded, ‘Perhaps I’m something of a Protean poet, a shape-shifter (in this book about shape-shifting). “Wonder” is a word I love. By “wonder” I mean both the quality of astonishment and that of uncertainty. A kind of (ir)reverent questioning. “Wander” is a word I love . . .’
An academic as well as a poet, Campbell studied at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, gaining an MPhil in Modern British Literature, and completed his PhD at Duke University. He is currently Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he taught the university’s very first Introduction to Caribbean Literature course. In 2010 he invited Derek Walcott to the University of Toronto (where the Nobel Laureate’s papers are housed) for a televised public conversation, a landmark event.
Campbell’s poems combine linguistic influences from across a wide spectrum, from modernist poetry to soul music, resulting in a kind of precise musicality beautifully conveyed here through his measured, almost hypnotic delivery. His themes are diverse, taking in the body, identity, race, language, insider/outsider perspectives, and much else. Yusef Komunyakaa said of the book, ‘If you’re holding Running the Dusk in your hands, you are lucky to be facing the gutsy work of a long-distance runner who possesses the wit and endurance, the staying power of authentic genius. This first collection is controlled beauty and strength, and the exhilaration of images and music encountered are necessary and believable. There’s great celebration here.’
Christian Campbell's recording was made on 24 September 2013 at The Soundhouse, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.