October 3, 2017
96 PAGES | ISBN 978-1-928088-42-4
*Winner of the Windham-Campbell Prize*
*Shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award*
Voodoo Hypothesis is a subversion of the imperial construct of "blackness" and a rejection of the contemporary and historical systems that paint black people as inferior, through constant parallel representations of "evil" and "savagery." Pulling from pop culture, science, pseudo-science and contemporary news stories about race, Lubrin asks: What happens if the systems of belief that give science, religion and culture their importance were actually applied to the contemporary "black experience"? With its irreverence toward colonialism, and the related obsession with post-colonialism and anti-colonialism, and her wide-ranging lines, deftly touched with an intermingling of Caribbean Creole, English patois and baroque language, Lubrin has created a book that holds up a torch to the narratives of the ruling class, and shows us the restorative possibilities that exist in language itself.
"In Canisia Lubrin's debut collection of poetry, she pointedly observes that 'the alien we think we know is the alien we only dream up.' Voodoo Hypothesis is an imperative invocation of black dreams, an invitation for the living and the dead to define themselves. With poems at once epic and intimate, Voodoo Hypothesis requires a reverence for the individual word, to bear witness to Lubrin’s ‘brilliance indistinguishable from magic.'" – Vivek Shraya, author of even this page is white and She of the Mountains
"Canisia Lubrin's lush, winding poetic lines are the incantations of a furious imagining. Lubrin's speakers seem to have lived in generations of bodies of the African diaspora, and through centuries of migrations, slavery and neo-capitalism. Yet hers is still one single, contemporary vision – grieving, mongrel-cultured, exiled from the Caribbean archipelago’s sun. Here is a brilliant new Canadian voice, in the lyric lineage of Dionne Brand and M. NourbeSe Philip, raising up language like a shield against European histories and sciences, raising up poetry like a sacrifice of sweat and blood." – Sonnet L'Abbé, author of Killarnoe and Sonnet’s Shakespeare
"Voodoo Hypothesis is an interior in motion: a gorgeous, searching intelligence. It is a womb/tomb of luminous inquiry. A semi-permeable ship where your mind is in concert with Lubrin's forward propagating lineation, a participatory dreamscape that leads you back to your own culpability. This is a work that reads you, too." – Liz Howard, author of Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent and winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize
on reading maps and memory (Amílcar Sanatan, sx salon: a small axe literary platform, Feburary 2020)
"The lexical precision and references to mythological and scientific terms create a complex world of meaning poem by poem. Almost entirely, the collection explores cartography as an extended metaphor that plays itself out through questions of scale, measurement, time, distance, and even the relations among planets. Essentially, Lubrin grates against colonial and imperialist constructions of places and bodies."
Short-form Shout Out VOODOO HYPOTHESIS. Canisia Lubrin (Jami Macarty, The Maynard, 16/07/2019)
"Canisia Lubrin's poems are 'Blunt forms of cosmology and physics.' Her collection is a lush, urgent, cosmological accounting of generations of the African diaspora."
Bearing and Scale (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Canadian Literature, 05/10/2018)
"In Voodoo Hypothesis, Canisia Lubrin adopts a dense lyrical voice that bends together the geographical and historical intimacies of life in the wake of the Atlantic slave trade. Her work collapses moments, events, spaces, and relations into a deft and difficult examination that opens at the planetary scale, imagining the first imperial steps of humankind onto the soon to be pulverized surface of Mars."
Unraveling Time, Space, and Human Existence: A Review of Voodoo hypothesis by Canisia Lubrin (Anna Graue, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, 15/08/2018)
"Canisia Lubrin’s Voodoo Hypothesis is a stunning collection that retells and reveals the terrible truths about colonialism and institutional racism. The poems serve as reminders and warnings, predictions of what future colonies might endure as far away as Mars or Saturn."
Voodoo Hypothesis — Canisia Lubrin (A Buckrider Book/Wolsak & Wynn) (Michael Dennis, Today's Book of Poetry, 12/05/2018)
"Canisia Lubrin is a poet you are going to want to stay in tune with, her voice is the next generation of strong Canadian women. This is a vibrant voice keening with history, richly tempered by the lessons of systemic diaspora and frantic with love disguised as hope and reason."
Becoming-Gods: Canisia Lubrin's Army of Revolutionary Zombies (Jessica MacEachern, The Puritan, 05/03/2018)
"In a mongrel language of lyric, scientific, and metaphysical credos, Lubrin fashions a text of such power that it threatens to veer up and walk over the unsteadied body of its reader. The book’s experiments in syntax and powerful disruptions of linear temporality present a poetics that spans eons and geographies beyond traditional appraisals of space and time; its promise is of an infinitely-expanding universe wherein we may consult the ancient ocean-spanning tapestries of ancestral memory and, by weaving stories out of darkness, awaken back to life those lost to racialized violence."
Today Is a Good Day to Dream: Canisia Lubrin’s VOODOO HYPOTHESIS (Julie Mannell, Vallum Magazine, 05/01/2018)
"Canisia Lubrin’s seminal book of poetry Voodoo Hypothesis is one of the most artful and influential works to emerge in Canada in 2017. It raises the bar for what can be expected of debut collections. Voodoo Hypothesis reconstructs history as visceral, bodily, and endured as perpetual, intergenerational psychic injury. The poems are a map of historical displacement depicted by Lubrin as mental and physical manifestations that are both purposeful and lyrical."
Benjamin Hertwig’s Slow War and Canisia Lubrin’s Voodoo Hypothesis
Reviewed by Domenica Martinello (Domenica Martinello, Canadian Notes & Queries, Winter 2018)
"Voodoo Hypothesis does not feel like a first book. Lubrin merges the music of a strange, ornate syntax with Caribbean Creole, patois, and formal fragments. Each stanza [...] makes us feel like we’re moving from room to room under the roof of something expansive, all encompassing. [...] The poems are so rich and pleasurable that they earn a slow and considered attention. Readers readily sign on [...] as Lubrin re-narrativizes a complex and contemporary black selfhood with power, tenderness, and grace."
REVIEW: Canisia Lubrin’s first poetry collection tackles pop culture, science, and news on race (Jessica Rose, THIS Magazine, 22/12/2017)
"Lubrin’s crisp, pointed poems and keen sense of observation are breathtaking, quickly making it obvious why this collection is garnering attention across the country."
Wanderlust and Relative Need for Lightspeed (Geoffrey Morrison, Debutantes, 30/11/2017)
"Reading Voodoo Hypothesis can feel like seeing the world for the first time – not because of an absence but rather an abundance of attention to history, and to the future, too. Lubrin’s cosmic-scale visions of movement, captivity, and displacement work like a magnetic force that detaches all commonplace associations from one another."
Two Marrow Reviews on Buckrider titles: Graham’s The Celery Forest and Lubrin’s Voodo Hypothesis (Catherine Owen, Marrow Reviews, 09/11/2017)
"Lubrin’s opus is not only an impressive initial foray, but a crucial expansion of poetic modes and voicings in Canada, an antidote to the predominant narrowings that can occur as language drastically flattens out into utter comprehensibility and the accessible, in the process being starved of its wild sonatas."
A Review of Canisia Lubrin's Voodoo Hypothesis (Carl Watts, Hamilton Review of Books, 01/11/2017)
"Lubrin’s approach is refreshing. I’ve long been frustrated by poets whose work is purported to be immediate and innovative yet whose actual poems are built entirely of the mythological references that have propped up English verse for hundreds of years. Lubrin seems interested more in draining these references of their remaining meaning and then discarding them."
Debut Poets Mark the Latest Collections for Poetry Lovers (Barbara Carey, The Toronto Star, 01/11/2017)
"Lubrin's poems are dense with ideas and striking turns of phrase, as she attempts to chart the 'maps of speechless centuries' and 'the Morse events of smallest things.' This density makes her work challenging at times, but also immensely rewarding."
An interview with Canisia Lubrin (Train. a poetry journal., 10/12/2018)
"No matter how I feel about it, editing is important for the ways it stems from our being in the world. It is a special focus on improvement. It is a form of sculpting that brings the world into sharper relief."
Poetry is a way for women to survive: Canadian poets in conversation (Rabble, 06/12/2018)
"In Voodoo Hypothesis I arrived at an awareness that I was staring into something inimical and attempting to dismantle it. The poems in the book exist in nonlinear time like pinballs, searching for brief illuminations to their questions before quickly moving on to unknown dispersals of their/my family tree before they must, inevitably, end."
Canisia Lubrin talks about how poetry helps us to ask better questions (Dana Patrascu-Kingsley, yFile, 18/11/2018)
"'I intended for discomfort. I intended to disturb,' she said. 'Poetry is not about answers. It's about trying to find better questions to ask.' Her poems look closely at the world and invite us to ask different questions about it, so that we may see it differently."
Canisia Lubrin : part one (Thomas Whyte, poetry mini interviews, 09/10/2018)
"What are you working on?"
How growing up in St. Lucia nurtured poet Canisia Lubrin's imagination (Shelagh Rogers, CBC Radio, 24/08/2018)
"There's this rawness to St. Lucia and the landscape itself, a certain beauty and lushness to that place that feeds into the imagination. You can't help but be constantly astonished by waking up every day and seeing how the light falls and how the light slants through the valley and just being in a community setting that's unhindered by a lot of technology."
The Poetry Extension's Poet of the Month (Natalya Anderson, The Poetry Extension, 15/05/2018)
"I was born [...] into an orally-rich cultural tradition. A lot of storytelling, folk tales, and community theatre. What I like to think of as embodied art. For me, art is something that has always been intimately tied to the voice. And St. Lucia is largely mountainous. The landscape itself is loud, dramatic. What I inherited is in no way minimalist. This has to have translated into my writing, into poetry that mirrors those experiences."
Why poet Canisia Lubrin embraces chaos (CBC Books, 01/03/2018)
"Poetry and prose may not be as trapped in polarity as their legends suggest. And I am not sure I have an answer you should take to the bank, yet, I think that a significant difference between the two may be that poetry is the work of artful expressions of compressed language, while prose is language bound and lengthened primarily through narrative cause and effect."
How growing up in St. Lucia nurtured poet Canisia Lubrin's imagination (Shelagh Rogers, The Next Chapter, 19/02/2018)
"Language has the capacity not just to expand the mind, but to contain a certain significance that is otherwise lost. Because of this capacity, poetry in particular has the opportunity to show us that there is so much more to what language actually is and what it does. It traverses boundaries and landscapes."
First Books: Canisia Lubrin (Guelph Creative Writing MFA blog, 23/01/2018)
"One of the most impressive debuts of recent reading for me comes in the compassionate anger of Vladimir Lucien's Sounding Ground, a book full of intelligent, colloquial, punny, witty, memorable reflections on the personal, psychosocial and historical soundscape of the poet's homeland of St. Lucia and its regional 'commonwealth.' If you invite a first book to a party and hope that it comes with an awareness of a Caribbean beyond over-simple curio or colonial utility, and if you want that book to give you a new sense of what you already thought familiar, Sounding Ground just might be that book."
An Interview with Canisia Lubrin (James Lindsay, Open Book, 21/11/2017)
"I think poetry is a heck of a chameleon of an art form. It can’t be tethered to singularity but it operates through particularity. What makes poetry such a badass is its multivocal, world-bending ability to express things that often escape expression. The work of poetry is beauty and clarity and possibility by way of language."
Books for International Women's Day (All Lit Up, 08/03/2021)
Canisia's book makes All Lit Up's list of Books for International Women's Day
Need something to read while you isolate? Here are 73 Canadian short stories available free online (Kevin Hardcastle, CBC Books, 15/05/2020)
Canisia's short story "The Origin of the Lullaby" is listed as one of 73 Canadian short stories available free online.
5 emerging Canadian writers named 2020 Writers' Trust Rising Stars (Samraweet Yohannes, CBC Books, 04/05/2020)
Canisia is named on of the Writers' Trust's Rising Stars of 2020!
Black Futures Month: Five Torontonians push for progressive change (Kelsey Adams, Chaka V. Grier, Neil Price, Christine Clarke, NOW Magazine, 29/01/2020)
"Creative writing keeps us rooted ourselves, but also in relation to the world and beyond still."
A Year in Reading: Nick Moran (Nick Moran, The Millions, 8/12/2019)
"There's a recursive desire to move inward, to burrow, to coil like the Guggenheim in Bilbao. When I tell you this line haunts me, I mean it, and I want you to know [it] automatically; I don't want to explain [it] further."
Gift Guide Week: Téa Mutonji (Téa Mutonji, All Lit Up, 19/11/2019)
Téa picks Canisia's book for this week's holiday Gift Guide.
Writers weave path as wordsmiths in panel (Claudia Rupnik, The Queen's Journal, 16/11/2018)
Canisia gives a guest lecture at Queen's University about how there's no one way to become a writer.
Why Canisia Lubrin reads and re-reads Dionne Brand's 'pristine' long poem Inventory (CBC Radio, 03/09/2018)
Listen to Canisia read Dionne Brand's poem Inventory.
Canadian Poets Rocking Worlds (Rayanne Haines, Edmonton Public Library Blog, 11/08/2018)
Canisia's book is on the Canadian Poets Rocking Worlds list of general recommended poetry curated by author Rayanne Haines.
100 writers in Canada you need to know now (CBC Books, 16/07/2018)
18 writers to watch in 2018 (CBC Books, 08/06/2018)
"Alight with magic, Lubrin's collection Voodoo Hypothesis traverses time and space, exploring topics of race, oppression and colonialism through a folkloric lens."
14 Canadian poets to watch in 2018 (Ryan B. Patrick, CBC Books, 13/04/2018)
"Voodoo Hypothesis uses both modern language and folklore to explore race, oppression and colonialism."
6 Black Canadian writers to watch in 2018 (Ryan B. Patrick, CBC Books, 13/02/2018)
"Lubrin's work is dedicated to speaking truth to power and future works from this writer promise to run along the same wavelength."
On women in publishing and an intersectional feminist booklist (BookNet Canada, 24/01/2018)
Canisia's book makes the list of LPG staff–recommended books for the intersectional feminist.
10 Must-read Books of 2017 (League of Canadian Poets, 21/12/2017)
Our Holiday Reads (Kerry Clare, 49th Shelf, 21/12/2017)
The best Canadian poetry of 2017 (CBC Books, 18/12/2017)
"Leaning in on magical imagery, Canisia Lubrin's poetry collection is the result of her Caribbean upbringing, listening to fantastic tales and learning the power of language on her grandmother's lap."
2017 Holiday Gift List (Another Story Book Shop, 08/12/2017)
Collections of Canadian Poems that Made Me Fall in Love with Poetry (Kait Fowlie, She Does the City, 07/12/2017)
"With references pulling from pop culture, news stories, science and folklore, Voodoo Hypothesis responds to representations of people of colour as inferior, and asks, why is 'othering' so essential to Western myth? Canisia uses a combination of Caribbean Creole, English patois and baroque language to weave a super intensely political, artful web."
Canisia Lubrin: That Instrument of Laughter (Canisia Lubrin, Lemonhound 3.0, 03/11/2017)
How I Wrote It: Canisia Lubrin evokes the folkloric magic of St. Lucia in a poetic takedown of contemporary racism (CBC Books, 01/11/2017)
Alight with magic, Canisia Lubrin's poetry collection Voodoo Hypothesis traverses time and space, exploring topics of race, oppression and colonialism through a folkloric lens. This, she explains, is the result of her Caribbean upbringing, listening to fantastic tales and learning the power of language on her grandmother's lap.
Canisia Lubrin is an acclaimed poet, editor and writer. Her books include The Dyzgraphxst (M&S, 2020) and her debut Voodoo Hypothesis (Wolsak & Wynn, 2017), named a CBC Best Book and listed for the Gerald Lampert award, the Pat Lowther award, and the Raymond Souster award. Lubrin's other honours include the prestigious Windham-Campbell prize for a body of work, OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Derek Walcott Prize, Canada Council’s Joseph S. Stauffer prize for literary achievement, and finalist for the Governor General’s Award and Trillium Book Award for Poetry. Anthologies that include her fiction were finalists for the Toronto Book Award and the Shirley Jackson Award. Lubrin was twice longlisted for the Journey Prize. 2022 Civitella Ranieri Fellow, Lubrin’s residencies include the Banff Centre, Queen’s University, an inaugural appointment as 2021 Shaftesbury Writer in Residence at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and a 2022 Literature Haus LCB residency in Berlin. In 2021, the Globe & Mail named Lubrin Poetry Ambassador of the Year. She completed her MFA at the University of Guelph, where she also teaches.