CYRIL DABYDEEN was born in Canje, Berbice, in Guyana, where he won the Sandbach Parker Gold Medal for Poetry in 1964 and the first A.J. Seymour Lyric Poetry Prize (1967). His first chapbook was published in Guyana; during this early period he frequently participated in literary “meetings” organized by the National History and Arts Council under the behest of A.J. Seymour. He emigrated to Canada in 1970 and earned his BA (First Class Hons.) from Lakehead University (Ontario), and his Master of Arts and Master Public Administration degrees from Queen’s University (Ontario). In his varied career he has worked as an educator, mainly as professor or writing at Algonquin College, and at the University of Ottawa, and was actively involved in social activism and race relations work with the federal and municipal governments travelling across Canada. He was appointed the official Poet Laureate of Ottawa from 1984-87.
Dabydeen’s work has appeared in over 60 literary magazines and anthologized in over 20 volumes in eight countries, including the Oxford, Penguin and Heinemann Books of Caribbean Verse and Fiction. His prose and poetry have appeared in numerous journals, including The Critical Quarterly, The Queen’s Quarterly, Descant, Grain, The Fiddlehead, The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, The Canadian Forum, The Globe and Mail (Christmas issue), Canadian Literature, The Literary Quarterly, Short Story, World Literature Today, Kunapipi , Wasafiri, Prairie Schooner, The Warwick Review, Planet: The Welsh International, etc.
Among his published books are the short story collections Jogging in Havana (1992), Black Jesus and Other Stories (1996), Berbice Crossing (1997), My Brahmin Days (2000), North of the Equator (2001), Play a Song Somebody: New and Selected Short Stories (2003), and My Multi-Ethnic Friends and Other Stories (2013). His poetry books y include God’s Spider (2014), Unanimous Night (2009), Uncharted Heart (2008), and Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (2005); his novels include The Wizard Swami (1989 rpt.), Dark Swirl (1989 rpt.), and Drums of My Flesh (2006), which was longlisted for prestigious IMPAC/Dublin Literary Prize, and won the Guyana Prize for Fiction. He also edited A Shapely Fire: Changing the Literary Landscape/ l987 (Mosaic Press, Canada), Another Way to Dance: Contemporary Asian Poetry in Canada and the USA/ l997 (TSAR, Toronto), and Beyond Sangre Grande: Caribbean Writing Today, 2013 (TSAR, Toronto).
Dabydeen has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (US), the Journey Prize and the National Magazine Award, and twice won the Okanagan Fiction Prize via the Canadian Author and Bookman. He has also achieved Canada Council and Ontario Arts Councils awards over the years. He has done over 300 readings across Canada, USA, UK and Europe, India, and in the Caribbean (Cuba, Trinidad, Guadeloupe, St Lucia, Guyana, and Jamaica). He has published numerous books reviews, and was a regular book critic for World Literature Today (University of Oklahoma) for almost a decade.
He adjudicated for Canada’s Governor General’s Award for Literature (Poetry) in 2000 and 2006; the Neustadt International Literature Prize, Oklahoma, 2000; the Small Axe Magazine Poetry Prize, 2011; the Bocas Poetry Prize, 2013; and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Poetry prize, 2014, among others. He received the Guyana Folk Festival Award/New York, in 2006 (Guyana Cultural Association, NYC), and a Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence from the Guyana Awards Council (Toronto), 2010.