Read an excerpt from Shane Book’s collection of poetry “Congotronic,” shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize! April 07 2015

Congotronic, the second collection of poetry from Canadian poet and filmmaker Shane Book, is a “contemporary world music that whirls the reader into the centre of the action at once.” At least, that’s how the Griffin Trustee Judges described the book before announcing that Congotronic had been shortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize.

The entire Anansi team is thrilled about Shane’s nomination, and also celebrates the nominations that a selection of other poets received earlier today. Shane is attending Anansi’s Annual Poetry Bash, and we hope you can join us too! To add to the exciting Poetry Month Shane’s had, Anansi recently published a limited-edition hardcover of Congotronic, which was printed and bound at Coach House Books on bpNichol Lane in Toronto.

You can read “World Town,” a poem from Congotronic, below. A limited-edition, hand-numbered, letterpress-printed broadsheet of “World Town” (which is perfect for framing) is also available for purchase on the Anansi website.

Entirely windless, today’s sea; of these waters’ many names
the best seemed “field-of-pearl-leaves,” for it smelled like the air
in the house he built entirely of doors: pink school door,
gold of the burnt hotel, two old church blues, the abandoned
bank’s steel doors singular and immovably wedged over
the family’s heads though as with everything corroding
the sense of themselves slipping away in the heat,
falling through the day’s brightness the way soldiers
once fell upon him walking home with a bucket of natural
water as he had been recalling the town square
before the tannery’s closing: he and his father shopping
on horseback in the noon Praça where they first saw
a man crouched under a black shroud, what his father called
a camera. His father forgot the incident immediately, but
for years the man asked whomever if they remembered
a camera, vegetable stalls, the butcher holder the cleaver,
a horseshoeing shop, purple berries, the long cassava valley haze,
fishnets, a few crab baskets and browning nets
drying by the ice cream shop, seven taverns,
a small, unused ferry terminal, a map on its wall outlining
the island in blue, the names Good Dispatch, Lover’s Bridge
pointed to by a mermaid of skin whiter than anyone
on this island of Angola’s descendants, her red hair.


Congotronic by Shane BookShortlisted for the 2015 Griffin Poetry Prize. View the limited-edition hardcover of Congotronic here.

The second collection from Canadian poet and filmmaker Shane Book.

At once original, strange, funny, and unnerving, Shane Book’s Congotronic takes the reader into unstable territory, where multiple layers of voice, diction, and music collide. Some of these poems have the sparse directness of a kind of bleak prayer; others mingle the earthbound rhythms of hip-hop with the will-to-transcendence of high Romanticism.

Harnessing techniques of the cinematic and audio arts, Book’s poems splice, sample, collage, and jump-cut language from an array of sources, including slave narratives, Western philosophy, hip hop lyrics, and the diaries of plantation owners.

The book’s anchoring series contains an apocryphal narrative grounded in the journey of the Middle Passage and an older mythic history from the West African epic of Sundiata. Here is a world poet of the Sonic Global South sheathed in a Northern Hemispheric glow suit, high “on Coltrane, on Zeus” but also on the old and new schools of Descartes, M.I.A., Cecil Taylor, Gilbert Ryle, Freud, and Jay-Z, among others — or as one poem puts it, the “aural truths.”