Essays and Other Writing


The excerpts below are from my chapter published in Jamaica in the Canadian Experience, A Multiculturalizing Presence, eds. Carl James and Andrea Davis, Fernwood Publishing (2012), pp. 279-291.

On Nov. 2, 2012, I participated on a panel at the York University Colloquium, 50 Years of Independence, A Colloquium to Mark Jamaica’s and Trinidad & Tobago’s Fifty Years of Independence from Britain, and the Launch of the book, Jamaica in the Canadian Experience. Co-Chaired by Carl James and Andrea Davis, editors of the book. The colloquium was sponsored by the York Centre for Education and Community & the Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Excerpts from:

Where Surf Meets Shore: Reflections from the Edge

by Mary Lou Soutar-Hynes

Incorporating both prose and poetry, this essay touches on two pivotal and defining aspects of my life in Canada, education and writing — poetry, in particular. It sheds light on my life’s trajectory in these two areas since my arrival in Canada, and on the ways in which my Caribbean perspective and my lived experiences revealed themselves and influenced that trajectory. Part I ~ The Path of Education is mainly prose, while Part II ~ Poetry: A Parallel Path and its subsections, Surfacing Issues: Family, Migration, Race, and Island Themes: When Hyphens Open, interweave poetry and prose.


Part II ~ Poetry: A Parallel Path

Poetry chose me many years ago. During my teaching, consulting and co-ordinating years, I shared my poetry and poetic practice with students and teachers in writing courses, and at such workshops as the Writing Workshop Series. Wherever possible during these years, I also invited Caribbean poets into my courses ― Bruce St. John of Barbados, Mervyn Morris of Jamaica, and Ahdri Zena Mandiela of Toronto.

Apart from occasionally submitting a poem or two to a literary journal, a small number of which were accepted, it was only in my fiftieth year that I began to move my work into the public domain. I joined a Women’s Writing Workshop facilitated by the poet Libby Scheier, and began the serious work of engaging and developing my poetic voice. My portfolio of poetry, fine-tuned through these workshops, enabled my acceptance eight years later into the six-week Writing Studio Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts. There, the opportunity to consult with leading poets over a sustained period of time was incredibly affirming, and deepened my commitment to the craft.

Writing, although a solitary occupation, has deep roots. As poets and writers, we draw on influences and antecedents ― the work of both those who went before and those contemporary writers whose words sustain and inspire. My poem “for writers whose work i have loved” acknowledges those influences and antecedents.

Poem: "for writers whose work i have loved"

(right-click on the title to download the poem if the PDF does not open in your browser)

Not surprisingly, island, sea, and Caribbean images and issues would permeate my work. A late-comer to the literary world, I could mine years of memory and the complexities and dilemmas of a long-lived life. This process of exploration began with The Fires of Naming (2001), my first collection of poetry, continued with the second, Travelling Light (2006), and is evident still in my third collection, [Dark Water Songs (2013)] ... It is also evident in poetry that appears in anthologies, essays, and other writings.


II.2 ~ Island Themes:

Although much of my poetry gives voice to the joys, dilemmas and complexities inherent in a long-lived life, I am constantly drawn back to island themes. They surface in unexpected ways, creating and mining the space-time continuum, the cracks through which can surge childhood memories, familiar images, and reflections on life and time.


The poem “off and on” had its beginnings late one cold and rainy night as I listened to the radio on my drive home from work. As often happens, I scrambled to find paper and pen to capture images before they disappeared ― in this case, a conflux of memories of Mandeville nights and an experience in Madrid, merging with Toronto blackouts and Bob Marley.

Poem: "off and on"

(right-click on the title to download the poem if the PDF does not open in your browser)


Education in all its facets remains a passion, even as I continue to seek out and engage new areas of interest ― the field of poetic inquiry and ekphrastic (poetry / art) collaborations with artists. Moving sometimes into prose as well as poetry, I continue “writing my life,” reflecting on ... the incessant, challenging and life-affirming waves ― family, race, class, migration ― that surface upon the shores of one Jamaican-Canadian, born and raised in a multiracial colonial Caribbean.


Buy a Copy:

Copies of Jamaica in the Canadian Experience, A Multiculturalizing Presence can be purchased through Fernwood Publishing.