Cyril Dabydeen was born in Guyana, S. America, where he won the Sandbach Parker Gold Medal for Poetry and the first A.J. Seymour Lyric Poetry Prize. He emigrated to Canada in 1970 and studied at Lakehead and Queen’s Universities. He earned his BA (First Class Hons.) from Lakehead University, and Master of Arts (English) and Master of Public Administration degrees from Queen’s University. His varied work experiences include a professor at Algonquin College (Ottawa) and the University of Ottawa (where he has taught Creative Writing for many years), and in social justice/race relations issues with the federal and municipal governments (travelling across Canada in this work). He was the official Poet Laureate of Ottawa–1984-87.
Dabydeen’s work has appeared in over 70 literary magazines and anthologies including Poetry/Chicago, the Critical Quarterly, The Warwick Review, Prairie Schooner, Kunapipi, Fiction Review International, Fiddlehead, Wasafiri, Planet: The Welsh Internationalist, World Literature Today, The , Prism International, The Canadian Fiction Magazine, The Queen’s Quarterly, Books in Canada, The Globe and Mall, (Christmas issue); and in the Oxford, Penguin and Heinemann Books of Caribbean Verse and Fiction.
His short story volumes include 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), Short Stories of Cyril Dabydeen ( Classics Series/Caribbean Press/2012), and My Multi-Ethnic Friends and Other Stories (2013) and My Undiscovered Country (2017). His novels include The Wizard Swami (1989), Dark Swirl (1989), and Drums of My Flesh (1995): nominated for the IMPAC/Dublin Literary Prize, and winner of the Guyana Prize for Fiction (2007).
His poetry collections include: God’s Spider (2014), Unanimous Night (2009), Uncharted Heart (2008), and Imaginary Origins: New and Selected Poems (2005). He also edited A Shapely Fire: Changing the Literary Landscape/1987 (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 (Mawenzie House, Toronto).
Dabydeen twice won the Okanagan Fiction Prize via the Canadian Author and Bookman. He is also the recipient of Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council, and City of Ottawa awards for writing. He has done over 300 readings internationally, and has been a guest-writer of the International Conference on the Short Story (in English) at the University of Vienna, York University (Canada), University of Lisbon, New Orleans, and North Little Rock Arkansas, USA. He twice adjudicated for Canada’s Governor General’s Award for Literature (Poetry) in 2000 and 2006; the Neustadt Literature Prize for Literature (University of Oklahoma in 2006); the James Lignon Poetry Prize at New York’s St. Lawrence University, in 2003; the Small Axe Magazine Poetry Prize in 2011; the Caribbean Bocas Literary Prize ( poetry) in 2013; and was a Reader for the CBC (Canada Writes/national Poetry Prize, 2014). He has been described as one of Canada’s most “popular post-colonial writer” (Danforth Review, Toronto).