Ghosts in the Palimpsest of Cultural Memory:
An Archeology of Faizal Deen's Poetic Memoir Land Without Chocolate
(a.k.a. "the art of writing about authors before they are famous")


Kevin Cryderman

University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Copyright © 2002 by Kevin Cryderman, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. Copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.

    The concept of cultural memory comprises that body of reusable texts, images, and rituals specific to each society in each epoch, whose 'cultivation' serves to stabilize and convey that society's self-image. Upon such collective knowledge, for the most part (but not exclusively) of the past, each group bases its awareness of unity and particularity. . . . Through its cultural heritage a society becomes visible to itself and to others. Which past becomes evident in that heritage and which values emerge in its identificatory appropriation tells us much about the constitution and tendencies of a society.
    -Jan Assman in "Collective Memory and Cultural Identity"

  1. Upon reading Guyanese-Canadian author Faizal Deen's[1] poetic memoir Land Without Chocolate, some readers may feel that there is 'no way into the text' and find themselves like travelers in a foreign country without any maps or touchstones to serve as devices of orientation. Some readers, for instance, do not enjoy any poetry that does not assume language's unproblematic transparency. In contrast, aside from its specific content, one may locate Deen's form within larger trends that involve various strands of modernism and postmodernism (big words upon which few people agree) that interrogate the presupposition of a simple referentiality of words: Gertrude Stein, e. e. cummings, and the American language (a.k.a. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E) poetry movement or, more broadly, 'postmodern American poetry' (see Hoover). Even within a Caribbean and/or Canadian context, the kinds of stylistic, formalistic, and typographical modes in which Deen writes are well-established in poetry and fiction -- bp Nichol, Marlene Nourbese Philip, Di Brandt, Dionne Brand, Erna Brodber, Lorna Goodison, David and Cyril Dabydeen. The overriding concern of my present investigation/excavation is not an evaluation of formalistic virtuosity or linguistic originality. Rather, I am interested in how Deen rhetorically uses the avant-garde formalistic modes as an integral aspect of a particular memoir in a particular set of contexts within a particular set of concerns within particular fragments of memory. The dominant trope of my essay is the palimpsest and its relation to Deen's poetic memoir as it relates to various aspects of postcolonial L/literature and T/theory, such as language, pedagogy, history, memory, mapping, naming, sexuality, and the body.

  2. The word palimpsest originates from a Greek root word that means "scraped again" or "rubbed smooth." In medieval manuscript production, scribes (often monks working in various scriptoria[2]) re-used sheets of vellum (animal skin such as sheep, calf or goat) by rubbing or scraping off existing written material. Palimpsests are "sheets on which the original writing has been rubbed out and new text written over it" or the manuscripts made from such sheets (Dahl 24; Allen 84). Palimpsests are a significant source for the recovery of lost works of classical antiquity (Oxford English Dictionary). The Electronic Labyrinth website explains that the "motive for making palimpsests seems to have been largely economic -- reusing parchment was cheaper than preparing new skin" (Keep, McLaughlin, and Parmar).
    Another motive may have been directed by the desire of Church officials to 'convert' pagan Greek script by overlaying it with the word of God. Modern historians, usually more interested in older writings, have employed infra-red and digital enhancement techniques to recover the erased text, often with remarkable results. (Keep, McLaughlin, and Parmar)
    The palimpsest has been a recurrent trope in various areas of literary and theoretical discourse, especially in the last few centuries. Josephine McDonagh notes that "the palimpsest became a recurrent metaphor in the nineteenth century for the human psyche and for history," such as Matthew Arnold's History of Rome (1838) and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's Aurora Leigh (1856) (McDonagh 208; OED). In her essay "Writings on the Mind," McDonagh notes Thomas De Quincey's ambivalence towards the figuration of the palimpsest in relation to history: "Built on a contradiction, a mode that both erases and retains the past, the palimpsest disrupts a sense of temporality; and the kind of history facilitated by its retentive function is at once restorative and violating" (214). In the twentieth century, H. D. uses the metaphor in her prose work, such as in her first novel, Palimpsest as well as in her poetry, such as "The Walls Do Not Fall" (1944). In the latter, an imagined accusatory voice asks the speaker how s/he can write poetry during wartime trauma or historical catastrophe:
    your stylus is dipped in corrosive sublimate,
    how can you scratch out

    indelible ink of the palimpsest
    of past misadventure? (sub-poem 2, lines 25-28)

    H. D.'s memoir, Tribute to Freud, reveals the connection between psychoanalysis, archeology, mythology, and memoir writing. In "Tribute to Freud and the H. D. Myth," Norman H. Holland describes H. D.'s memoir as "almost like psychoanalysis itself, as a series of free associations"; Holland adds, however, that the "associations are not entirely free" because "she omits so as to protect her privacy" (11).

  3. Sigmund Freud alludes to the idea of the palimpsest as a metaphor for the perceptual and memory apparatus in his 1925 essay "A Note Upon the 'Mystic Writing-Pad.'" This article is a brief meditation on a toy writing instrument that contains a "slab of dark brown resin or wax" underneath a thin sheet of waxed paper and a transparent celluloid sheet. The children's toy allows writing as "a pointed stilus scratches the surface" and 'magically' enables re-use of the writing sheet when one severs the contact between paper and slab. Thus, the mystic writing-pad, like memory, "provides not only a receptive surface that can be used over and over again, like a slate, but also permanent traces of what has been written" upon the wax slab, "legible in suitable lights" (Freud 178-9). For post-structuralist theorists, the palimpsest acts as a useful model of intertextuality,[3] the emergence of texts within a field of other texts, much like the emergence of the fragmented and decentered speaking subject from pre-existing overlapping fields and vectors of language and intersubjectivity. Linguistic enunciation partially overwrites pre-existing language within arbitrary and unstable chains of signification and is, in turn, overwritten. This fluid process thus layers discourse in infinite ways, thereby subverting notions of singular and autonomous authorial control. In "Freud and the Scene of Writing," Jacques Derrida remarks that
    the depth of the Mystic Pad is simultaneously a depth without bottom, an infinite allusion, and a perfectly superficial exteriority: a stratification of surfaces each of whose relation to itself, each of whose interior, is but the implication of another similarly exposed surface. It joins the two empirical certainties by which we are constituted: infinite depth in the implication of meaning, in the unlimited envelopment of the present, and, simultaneously, the pellicular[4] essence of being, the absolute absence of any foundation. (Derrida 224)
    Derrida posits that Freud's frequent use of writing as a metaphor for the psyche bolsters Derrida's own deconstruction of phonologocentrism. According to Derrida, Freud's "Mystic Writing-Pad" reveals not only the primacy of writing but also how humans experience the world retrospectively "through the traces of previous experiences and through the signifiers which are in effect the condition of being" (Keep, McLaughlin, and Parmar). Gérard Genette also uses the trope of the palimpsest, such as in his discussion in Figures of Literary Discourse: "This palimpsest of time and space, these discordant voices, ceaselessly contradicted and ceaselessly brought together by an untiring movement of painful dissociation and impossible synthesis -- this, no doubt, is the Proustian vision" (213).

  4. In postcolonial discourse, the trope of the palimpsest emblematizes colonial history and its series of writings, overwritings, and erasures. The palimpsest implies that colonial trauma is not just singular and discrete events, but an encompassing and long-lasting pattern of writings and erasures on land, colonial bodies, and colonized minds. The palimpsest implies not just a resistance to current oppression and violence but also a remembrance of the past, which informs the present even though there may be only traces or buried silences of 'official' historiography:
    The concept of the palimpsest is a useful way of understanding the developing complexity of culture, as previous 'inscriptions' are erased and overwritten, yet remain as traces within present consciousness. This confirms the dynamic, contestatory and dialogic nature of linguistic, geographic, and cultural space as it emerges in post-colonial experience. (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin Key Concepts 176)
    One can also relate the trope of the palimpsest and postcolonial interrogations to the genre of memoir, especially its connection to memory (both individual and collective), as well as through the mediums of history and power. Patricia Hampl speculates that the "real job of memoir" is to seek the "congruence between stored image and hidden emotion" (302). More significantly, Hampl notes the political ramifications of the memoir genre:
    Memoir must be written because each of us must have a created version of the past. Created: that is, real, tangible, made of the stuff of a life lived in place and in history. And the down side of any created thing as well: we must live with a version that attaches us to our limitations, to the inevitable subjectivity, of our points of view. We must acquiesce to our experience and our gift to transform experience into meaning and value. You tell me your story, I'll tell you my story. If we refuse to do the work of creating this personal version of the past, someone else will do it for us. That is a scary political fact. (303) [5]
    Indeed, the palimpsest seems to embody the historiography and geography of the postcolonial condition -- the Imperial composition of history and inscription on an assumed terra nullius -- as well as the action of the memoir writer. Regarding the title of his 1995 memoir called Palimpsest: A Memoir, Gore Vidal says: "This is pretty much what my kind of writer does anyway. Starts with life; makes a text; then re-vision -- literally, a second seeing, an afterthought, erasing some but not all of the original while writing something new over the first layer of text." Vidal adds, "Palimpsest: discrete archeological layers of a life to be excavated like the different levels of old Troy, where, at some point beneath those cities upon cities, one hopes to find Achilles and his beloved Patroclus, and all that wrath with which the world began" (6).

  5. In his essay "Margin at the Centre," John Beverley argues that memoirs can take the form of testimonial writing, also known as testimonio. Testimonio is a "protean and demotic" form of writing that breaks the boundaries of generic definition, but usually involves a first person account of events done to oneself or others, such as the experience of trauma, akin to "testifying or bearing witness in a legal or religious sense" (25-6). Beverley notes that testimonial writing has been an impetus for social and political action and "important in developing the practice of international human rights and solidarity movements" (31). Memoirs are not an evolution of the self from a point of origination, but attempts to find touchstones in the flux of experience. In "Memory and Imagination," Patricia Hampl remarks that "Personal history, logged in memory, is a sort of slide projector flashing images on the wall of the mind. And there's precious little order to the slides in a rotating carousel"; out of that confusion, the snapshots of memory and emotion, the memoirist attempts to "create a shape" (304).

  6. Likewise, in his Nobel prize-winning speech, "The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory," Derek Walcott comments about poetry (506):
    There is the buried language and there is the individual vocabulary, and the process of poetry is one of excavation and self-discovery. Tonally the individual voice is a dialect; it shapes its own vocabulary and melody in defiance of an imperial concept of language, the language of Ozymandias, libraries and dictionaries, law courts and critics, and churches, universities, political dogma, the diction of institutions. (506)
    Taken together, Beverley, Hampl and Walcott provide some indication of what a memoir in poetry potentially can do. Faizal Deen likewise writes in defiance of the imperial concept of language. Deen's late-twentieth-century memoir Land Without Chocolate is a rotating slide projector of memory within the unusual memoir format of poetry. Deen's collection of poems forms an open-ended and ambiguous palimpsestic system that is a testimony[6] of both the indelible inscription of historical trauma in Guyana and the writing-over of various histories that need to be 'accounted for.' These histories include his ancestors, personal experiences of life in Canada and the romanticization of his childhood in Guyana.

  7. In response to the mention of my essay's title, Deen himself describes his memoir in a simultaneously descriptive and interrogatory form:
    Pages with nothing but a broken, marooned sentence or a pornographic exclamatory and then pages overflowing with words. Words upon words. Palimpsest trope? Palimpsest aesthetics? The Unconscious Palimpsest of the Postcolonial, with compounded histories, movements, languages, memories informing and misinforming the psyche? ("'forgetting'")
    Here, like Land Without Chocolate itself, declarations turn into explorations and questions. Along with the fragmented snapshots of Deen's personal memories transmuted into a poetic voice within a memoir, Land is a palimpsest that explores what is at stake in the use of language within postcolonial discourse and brings to the surface the silences and erasures of Caribbean colonial history (such as Guyana) via: an 'accounting' of personal, familial, and collective experience; the use of textual 'accidentals' as a politically-minded trope: the 'politics of punctuation'; and the proliferation of an embodied language within the smooth code-switching of the "Creole continuum.[7] Finally, Deen uses the neo-Gothic mode of the grotesque along with the body itself to evoke 'body-language' as a conflicted space of contestation for mappings of Eurocentric colonialism, American cultural imperialism, race, and heterocentric frames of reference.


  8. Land Without Chocolate is an 'accounting for' in the sense of a narrative reckoning or record of events as well as a written or oral explanation that bears witness to and remembers events within personal and cultural memory. Deen's memoir is closely linked to memory, both personal and collective: an inscription to register something that may pass into nothingness. One can establish a hypertextual link with Toni Morrison's Beloved, which ends:
    This is not a story to pass on.

    Down by the stream in back of 124 her footprints come and go, come and go. They are so familiar. Should a child, an adult place his feet in them, they will fit. Take them out and they disappear again as though nobody every walked there.

    By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there. The rest is weather. Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly. Just weather. Certainly no clamor for a kiss.

    Beloved. (275)

    In The Location of Culture, Homi K. Bhabha refers to Beloved in order to articulate this sense of a need for recording unofficial histories, those whose stories are not told by History, but also the value of the indirectness of art. Bhabha expresses the impetus to action that such testimonies convey as well as the need to remember within 'our' collective cultural memory -- part of the means by which a 'we' is imagined -- the stories and lives that are overwritten or rubbed off from permanent inscription:
    Although Morrison insistently repeats at the close of Beloved, "This is not a story to pass on," she does this only in order to engrave the event in the deepest resources of our amnesia, of our unconsciousness. When historical visibility has faded, when the present tense of testimony loses it power to arrest, then the displacements of memory and the indirectness of art offer us the image of our psychic survival. (18)
    Likewise, the various "displacements of memory" in Faizal Deen's memoir convey a sense of 'accounting for,' both of the personal memories of his life and the collective memories of Guyana (the "land of waters"[9])-- a place that has been inhabited by waves of settlers, colonizers and workers since the nomadic Arawaks and Caribs settled there 35, 000 years ago. After Columbus 'discovered' the area, it has been occupied by the Spanish, the Dutch[10], British colonialists, African slaves, as well as Portuguese, Chinese, and South Asian workers; the influx of workers followed the transformation of official slavery into wage slavery in the early 1800's, around the time when sugar became the dominant crop.

  9. If one reads Land Without Chocolate in linear order, the last poem before the epilogue is "BURIALS: A Chorus of Ancestors." In this poem, Deen moves through a process of 'accounting for' his ancestors: "It is time to count the dead and with each utterance/ Work the and still we rise magic of screaming testimony" (56).[11] Maya Angelou's "and still we rise" becomes an adjectival phrase for a mode of resistance, an insistence on a telling, on action, on perseverance. Deen's repetition of the clauses "Count. . . let me tell you about the one who lies underneath" and "you must count for something" emphasizes the need for an accounting of ancestors who lay buried underneath layers and years of palimpsestic erasures. Saying "Write me into a chorus of official history," the voices of the past speak to Deen and he registers them and their names -- such as Nazamo, Bebi, and Fazlah. In "EPILOGUE," the speaker shifts to a collective 'we' voice that embraces his ancestors and seems to speak for the memory of the land itself. The personal, familial and ancestral merge in the soil of Guyana; the "hands that buried your father in the ground/ with all the dead Caribs and Arawaks bloodshed/ bloodshed so much in this ground you see you/ see all this is what India found we found/ this hair that falls out in memory. . ." (64). Deen's book unearths the palimpsestic layers of fossilized memory -- the layers of history that have been written over and rubbed out by time, submersion, and trauma, such as the virtual extinction of the indigenous Caribs and Arawaks, nomads who arrived in Guyana 35, 00 years ago. Indeed, set mostly in Guyana and Canada, Deen's memoir paradoxically conflates and unpacks space and time, including the vast connections that occur in the matrix of the speaker's intersecting memories.

  10. In "Intersecting Memories: Bearing Witness to the 1989 Massacre of Women in Montreal," Sharon Rosenberg describes memory as simultaneously individual and collective (120):

    And by memory I mean that which is variously named as social, collective, public, popular -- those remembrances of (a version of) the past that circulate (through television, film, music, monuments, museums, buttons, photographs, writing) in "the present."

    And by memory I mean that which might be named as personal, autobiographical, private, individual -- those remembrances of one's (own and/or family's) past that circulate (if at all) within a limited number of spheres (i.e., family albums, story telling, therapy rooms).

    Similarly, in Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, Dori Laub discusses the relationship between trauma and memory of the past:

    While the trauma uncannily returns in actual life, its reality continues to elude the subject who lives in its grip and unwittingly undergoes its ceaseless repetitions and enactments. The traumatic event, although real, took place outside the parameters of "normal" reality, such as causality, sequence, place and time. . . . Trauma survivors live not with the memories of the past, but with an event that could not and did not proceed through to its completion, has no ending, attained no closure and, therefore, as far as its survivors are concerned, continues into the present and is current in every respect. (68-9)

  11. For trauma in the individual person's memory, there also seems to be an indelible inscription upon the psyche that prevents any real sense of closure for the inscriptions of colonial history. But there is also a paradoxical occurrence of cultural amnesia that buries the trauma as a ghost-like trace within layers of overwriting through time and the shifting movements of 'place.' Various palimpsestic cultural erasures and migrations speak through silences and emerge to be told. In like manner, Deen's memoir both writes people "into a chorus of unofficial history" (59) and confronts a sense of loss for the speaker's childhood home after a dis-placement -- in the sense of a movement in geographic position, linguistic displacement,[12] and a supplanting of psychological roots. Land Without Chocolate is a coming-to-terms for the speaker as a memoir, a remembering in fragments rather than a linear 'progression' of an autonomous individual from a singular point of origination (I was born in ____ in _______.) as in an autobiography or a bildungsroman novel. Deen explains his view of the distinction between autobiography and memoir:
    Land is not autobiography. It comes out of blurred and provocative memory; perhaps, memory is the muse in this instance seeing as it is, for me, seminal. It is the seed that gives birth to the poems, to be literal and precise. But the memories tell specific stories, not of a whole life, but, rather, of moments/fragments of awakening which determine, inform and define a particular boyhood. Importantly, it is a boyhood that happens through, what I call in my second book, Ghosts, "The Chase of Artiface." ("'forgetting'")

  12. Memoir is often presented as just another type of autobiography, a genre that has led to critiques of the form in the wake of various debates within post-structuralism. The 'fictionalizing' aspect of the writing of the self, of one's own history, has come under attack as well by psychological research into the complex phenomenon of memory, something that connects to the very etymological root of the word 'memoir': French mémoire, from the Old French memoire, memory, from the Latin memoria: memory (Oxford English Dictionary). In Stories of Resilience in Childhood, Daniel D. Challener notes the recent contestation of autobiographical modes:
    The problems posed by research on memory and the arguments of deconstructive critics have led many scholars to contend that autobiography, at least as a source of authority about the life of the subject, is dead. In responses to these scholars, other scholars have come to autobiography's defense. They have attacked de Man's assertion that autobiography is "more akin to fiction" and tried to wrestle back a middling position for the authority of autobiography. (15)
    The memoir genre, as distinct from autobiography, seems less firmly entrenched in the presupposition of an autonomous individual and, instead, explores how aspects of subjectivity emerge from the chaotic fragments of simultaneously individual and collective memory. The memoir reveals how quotidian subjectivity, not just autobiographical writing, involves a continuously changing process of self-narrativization that is molded by cultural memory and cultural media. The stories we form in our own minds about ourselves are all fictionalizing in some sense, and thus the memoir is a valid form of the experience of the subject. The memoir is less about how the subject is constructed in discourse than how it actually feels to be a subject, how one thinks about oneself in relation to the discourse and the world, including popular culture. In "forgetting about the things i am not Forgetting about," Deen comments:
    In Land Without Chocolate, the themes of history, parentage, language, imperialism, sexuality and the beautiful take place through the speaker's invention of his own cinema and the tropes of the popular cinema at the time (Guyana in the early 70s) -- Westerns and Action (Hollywood) films being the principal genres here.
    Thus, there is an overriding concern by Deen with the way that colonialization, both formal (such as Dutch or British colonialism) and informal (such as American cultural imperialism) filters the colonial subject's consciousness.

  13. Indeed, Land Without Chocolate opens with "OVERTURES FROM THE PICTURE SHOW" and moves into the speaker's imagination as it is filtered through the schemas and tropes of cinema. Contrary to L. Erin Vollick's claim that "language, more than imagery, plays a pivotal role in reading Deen's poetry," it seems that it is the evocation of images and sensations from fragments of memory that serve to performatively enact various synesthesia as well as a fluvial space before a division of form and content, object and description. Vollick claims that the poems "become embroiled in a myopic academic formalism" as a "'self' searches for words to speak of repression, rather than describing it" (33). It is unclear how Deen could describe repression, since it exists by definition at the level of the unconscious, either submerged into unconscious or prevented, at the expense of psychic energy, from ever appearing in conscious awareness. Like Freud's exploration of the unconscious, the archeology of the psyche must occur indirectly, much like art and poetry, as opposed to essay writing, which nevertheless also relies on tropes and emerges within the unstable and arbitrary nature of language. Similarly, Vollick argues that many of the poems fail "simply because they talk around the issues" (33). Indeed, one could argue that Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, Bob Dylan, and Derek Walcott should also just directly 'come out and say what they mean.' Moreover, one could argue, as Vollick criticizes, that "language, with its high and low diction, levels, is in constant conflict in Land Without Chocolate" (33). That seems to be the point.

  14. Deen's memoir involves the exploration of the ineffable and the polydialectical conflict of language against the constrictions of thought found in colonial education. It is the constrictions of thought that the protean shifts of words in conflict wrestle with, which is also a wrestling with the self. Likewise, the formalistic presentation of the poetry on the page enacts a preconscious awareness that is performative, not mimetic or referential. Within a fairly balanced review, Vollick criticizes "MAPS," for instance, for its "myopic academic formalism" and "elevated, nondescript language" (Vollick 33), but it seems that it is the "mimetic fallacy" of imperialistic cartography and pedagogy that the poem subverts. Admittedly, I am one of those readers who is "into post-colonial and 'representation' theory" whom Vollick mentions could enjoy the poems on "an academic level" (33), though my academic interest growns out of both visceral aesthetic pleasure of Deen's poetry and the passion of theoretical exploration of the social construction of reality. In "Decolonizing the Map," Graham Huggan explains that the "mimetic fallacy" occurs when an "approximate, subjectively reconstituted and historically contingent model of the 'real' world is passed off as an accurate, objectively presented and universally applicable copy" (Huggan 127). In Land Without Chocolate's "elevated, nondescript language," there is an exploration of the internalization of maps.[13] Deen's "MAPS" seems to shatter mimesis in favor of a poetic display of the auto-deconstructing inner search for orientation that is performatively enacted in a language that puts "his" (e.g. the speaker's internalized colonizer) "hollow words to work/ in the field of nightmare" (29). If the colonizer and his maps have been internalized, part of colonial hegemony, then the speaker must pull apart his own subjective consciousness and tell "him" (bear witness to parts of the self) "about the devils/ about the trench about the ocean about/ my stomach" (29). Deen's language conveys the sense that the colonial map, and colonial pedagogy's mapping of the mind, "not only conforms to a particular version of the word but to a version which is specifically designed to empower its makers" (Huggan 127). The colonial maps leave the colonized disoriented and without touchstones within their own lived experience, the "crooked road/ into the darkness of [the speaker's] body," his "heartlands" (29). The shifting linguistic patterning of "MAPS" seems isomorphic to this sense of bewilderment, similar to the "splintered and diffuse identity" that Vollick commends in Deen's "CONFUSE THE GENTLEMAN DEM." Vollick writes, "In this poem Deen at least partially allows the reader a glimpse into his world, an inroad into the mire of politics and yearnings that appear more often in this collection as impressionistic strokes of the pen" (Vollick 33).

  15. Conversely, for me, one strength of Land Without Chocolate is that it conveys the impressionistic surfacing of awareness and voice from silence and repression that occurs in the flux of words and images before the Newtonian-Cartesian bifurcation of immanence and transcendence, subject and object. Likewise, the visual presentation of Deen's memoir heavily uses enjambment to string long lines of words into blocks of text that overlap with the memoir in a non-linear fashion. The strings of words become threads that weave, snap, and reform in infinite combinations. The three-spaced gaps within the lines of text are a silence that speaks to the relative absence of punctuation and capitalization. The textual lacuna also serves as a metonym for the overlapping erasures within the palimpsest of colonial historiography and mapping, the traumas of colonial history -- the ghostly traces that struggle to come to the surface. Indeed, the minute details of Deen's text reveal intricate patterns of usage for punctuation, or lack of it, that denote not a heavily regulated system, but a dynamic flux. The flux of language, however, is not "myopic academic formalism" but a politically-charged interrogation how the 'finer points of grammar' are both a site of inscription of colonial values but also a site of resistance as well.


  16. Formalism can be political and, as Derek Walcott and Dionne Brand say, no language is neutral.[14] From the flickering between presence and absence of textual 'accidentals' in Land Without Chocolate emerges a troping mechanism of resistance to colonial historiography, what I term the 'politics of punctuation,' as well as an embodied language that gives rise to a notion of orality akin to medieval manuscripts and modernist poetry. In his seminal 1949 essay "The Rationale of Copy-Text," as textual scholar W. W. Greg argues against best-text editing[15] and the "tyranny of the copy-text," he differentiates between 'accidental' and 'substantives' of a text. Though he admits his distinction is "practical, not philosophical," Greg remarks that substantive readings of a text are "those namely that affect the author's meaning or essence of his expression," namely the words, as opposed to accidentals, such as "spelling, punctuation, word-division and the like," which affect primarily the text's "formal presentation" (21). In Land Without Chocolate, accidentals speak by their absence and emerge from layers below the text, as if they had been erased by the poet but flicker into visibility under certain lights. Deen's text amplifies the importance of these markings by their relative scarcity, such as: capitalization, parentheses, commas, and periods.


  17. In Mastering Effective English (1937, 1950, 1961), the authors explain the rules of capitalization:
    1. FIRST WORDS Capitalize the first word of (1) a complete sentence, (2) a quoted sentence, and (3) a line of poetry or verse. [. . .] Do not capitalize the first word of (1) a quoted phrase or (2) the second part of a one-sentence broken quotation. [. . .]

    2. PROPER NOUNS, PROPER ADJECTIVES Capitalize proper nouns, proper adjective, and their abbreviations. (Tressler and Lewis 646)

    In "RULES FOR CAPITALIZING PROPER NOUNS AND PROPER ADJECTIVES," Tressler and Lewis go on to explain that proper nouns and proper adjectives are things such as: "the titles of organizations and institutions"; "definitely defined groups of persons"; "geographical names and the names of buildings"; "the names of government bodies and agencies"; and "the names of publications"; "the names of ships, trains, planes"; "North, South, East, West, Southeast, etc., when they refer to particular regions" or "inhabitants of parts of the country," though not when they refer to directions; "proper names, titles of the highest government officers used without proper names, and abbreviations of academic degrees"; "historic events, periods, and documents; "the specific part of the trade name of a product"; Deity, Bible, Letter salutation, each division of a topical outline, part of a book, personification and, finally: "Capitalize the Pronoun I and the interjection O. Do not capitalize oh unless it beings a sentence" (647-9).[16]

  18. In response to the authority of the ineluctable waves of Standardized English in colonial pedagogy, the "school book drowning" (Deen 40), the english of Faizal Deen's Land Without Chocolate (a.k.a. land without chocolate) creates a dynamic flux of capitalization and non-capitalization. For the I/i subject pronoun, this flux creates a poetic voice as a fragmented postcolonial subject flickering in presence and absence within a multi-layered palimpsest. The speaker's I/i eventually becomes a 'we' in the memoir's "EPILOGUE": "we found this hair that falls out in memory we found all/ these pages of monsoon washing all myths away/ leaving you open and bare cruel in the eyes of/ El Dorado you see we found the spirit who coughed" (64). As Mastering Effective English remarks, capitalization denotes authority and the beginning of sentences, as well as Adamically ascribes a proper name to something. The speaker in Land Without Chocolate is and is not Deen, is and is not an 'I' in full presence of itself; 'I' is only a shifting point of enunciation that comes into being and fades away within the text, within the multiple layers of depth within the palimpsestic text. Lines of text sometimes begin with capitalization and sometimes they do not. Deen's subversion of Standard English rules of grammar is nothing new in poetry, but in Land Without Chocolate it becomes a trope to undermine the colonial education system and its interpellation of colonial subjects into subordinate subject-positions in relation to the 'Masters' of English -- the English themselves. Moreover, absent capitalization, in conjunction with the lack of periods, refuses true beginnings or ends but rather connotes a dying and rebirth in words. This self-regenerating momentum cycles in upon itself in a flux of repetition and variation, a cycling that pushes to break frames and boundaries as it wrestles within not just the colonial education system but the interpellation of British novels and American cinema. The "Globe movie house" (i.e. 26, 40) and movies in general figure prominently in Deen's memoir. In "WINTER, 1996," the speaker laments that "winter poems were rational acts of madness/ and reason became a jumbie[17] turning my head into gratercake/ and all i saw on the moviescreen were these sandswept people/ locked with me in the darkness of the theatre mine to give drama/ to drama" (34).

  19. In my interview with him, Deen notes the relationship of the speaker's perspectives and various forms of colonialism and imperialism:
    . . . the Speaker . . . appropriates English fairytales and Victorian Boys Adventure tales as vehicles through which he will represent himself for his "paper people" audience. In an essential postcolonial moment, he can only see the world and himself in it through the fictions of past and present Empires, both the British book and the American film. Before, what Jamaica Kincaid calls in her novel, Lucy, the "disappointment with reality" sets in, before the aborted or postponed film I write about in Ghosts, there is the committing of memory to the artiface [sic] of both film and book. I guess this book is also a memoir of how one finds a life in art through the pathologies of childhood, the make-believe madnesses of a world of toys and playrooms. Land could be masquerading as memoir since I still refuse to accept it as my life in any definitive sense though anyone who knows me knows it is me in there.

    Why do I need to refuse my agency in this way?

    I still don't know. ("'forgetting'")

    Again, as projected upon the face of his art and the art he faces, Deen seems interested in how colonialism interacts with cultural memory and lived existence, how various forms of media and power-knowledge alter the process I call self-narrativization: the stories we tell about ourselves, the narratives of ourselves within our life circumstances -- the running story each of 'us' has about our own lives, with a continually reworked and edited vesion of a recollected past, a constantly produced present, and an anticipated future. In her use of Althusser's concept of interpellation in relation to film, Susan Hayward contends that "cinema, in terms of meaning production, positions the spectator as a subject-effect who takes as real the images emanating from the screen," and thus "meaning is received but not constructed, by the subject" (26). Moreover, Hayward suggests that forms of ideological interpellation occur in narrativistic modes, such as films, which suture the viewer into the filmic text (Hayward 378-385).

  20. Deen's memoir explores how this self-narrativization has the potential to work against one's interpellated subject-positions (in the Althusserian sense) and outside the constrictions of a single viewpoint. This pushing against boundaries within the field of one's experience is enacted in Deen's use of parentheses as simultaneously a grammatical marker and a trope -- 'the politics of punctuation.' In standard grammatical usage, a parenthesis denotes an aside or digression, such as a parenthetical subordination of a clause or phrase, set off from the main clause of the sentence in order to indicate its subordinate relation: extraneous and 'expendable' information that would, if not enclosed in parentheses, interrupt the flow of the sentence but whose absence does not radically alter its meaning. In Land Without Chocolate, in "BURIALS," the "violence of the parenthesis" (61) emerges as a metonym of the over-writings of official colonial historiography upon a parenthetically subordinated Guyana within cultural hybridity. This parenthetical space is an exploration of ways of seeing the abject, making visible the ghosts in the palimpsest of cultural memory. Also in "BURIALS," there is an intertextual link to Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. The phrase "Lily Briscoe's blurred vision" (Deen 58) in "BURIALS" resonates elsewhere in Deen's memoir, where there is an invocation of Woolf's use of the parenthesis [or bracket[18]] to paradoxically amplify the shattering weight and abruptness of an event that enters the text in an ostensibly subordinated manner. For instance, in To The Lighthouse, near the opening of "Time Passes," the death of Mrs. Ramsay, a central character up until that point in the book, is articulated in a brief reference enclosed within brackets by Woolf: "[Mr Ramsay, stumbling along a passage stretched his arms out one dark morning, but, Mrs Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, he stretched his arms out. They remained empty.]"(175).[19] For the rest of Woolf's novel, Mrs. Ramsay exists as a powerful ghost-like trace within the text, much like parenthetical elements in Faizal Deen's text.

  21. Interwoven within Deen's "TALES OF THE MAN IN THE STOMACH WHO KNEW: Daydreaming in the colonial classroom" (11), for instance, is a parentheticalized and italicized voice that emerges to utter various declarations of attempts to come to voice from the depths of lived experience, the sounding board of the body in a cultural space:
    (First try: I will raise one finger and come to know his insides)

    [. . .][20]

    (Second try: I will make a fist and come to know what he know through the first pain)

    [. . .]

    (Third try: I will force my one finger and my one fist down my throat and pull the fairydust out into this telling)

    [. . .]

    (Fourth Try: I will ask you about the bliss of such eating)

    The simultaneity of parenthesis and italics suggests not only a theatrical stage direction within the theatre of the classroom but also as a voice that cannot be integrated fully into the classroom environment (because it is bracketed off from input into the colonial education system), much like 'foreign' words are often italicized to indicate no direct equivalent, no possibility of full incorporation -- another instance of 'the politics of punctuation.' The intuitive, gut-level and preconscious aspects of body-subject, however, gradually come speak.

  22. Like Merleau-Ponty, Deen's "TALES OF THE MAN IN THE STOMACH WHO KNEW" stresses the prelinguistic and bodily origins of language, where bodily gestures and silence eventually become words. Alphonso Lingis argues that Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception "describes our bodies, not as material objects of nature agitated by stimuli, but as organisms capable of perceiving and activating themselves in organized ways -- our bodies as structures of perceptual and behavioral competence" (Lingis 4). From the vantage point of Canada in the late 1990s, the emergence of words in Deen's memoir is both the process of the romanticization of the memories of his boyhood and an unearthing of the ghosts in the cultural memory of Guyana. Deen's body is a palimpsest of memories overwritten by various histories and cultural contexts, both in Guyana and "in Canada where some of the dreams/ can never hold where even though it is said that children/ do not go mad" (33). Merleau-Ponty argues for the link between memory, time, experience, and the body:
    The part played by memory is comprehensible only if memory is, not only the constituting consciousness of the past, but an effort to reopen time on the basis of the implications contained in the present, and if the body, as our means of 'taking up attitudes' and thus constructing pseudo-presents, is the medium of our communication with time as well as with space. (181)
    Similarly, Deen's body is the source of words that emerge from bodily memory, an italicized and parentheticalized energy that gradually comes to voice but begins in the winding Dantean inferno of his intestines and out through the purgatory of the stomach into the paradise of poetic voice, a hyperbolic image that resonates with Deen's mention of Dante's Inferno in "SHOUT OUTS."

  23. The shifting movement in "TALES" from first person (I) to third person (He) suggests not only a dissociated subjectivity but also an isomorphism between grammatical passive voice and passivity in a voice's relation to colonial education systems, the official histories and modes of knowing. The voice in parenthesis is perhaps the "man in the stomach who knew," a kind of visceral knowledge and agency that unconsciously, or at least pre-consciously, exists within the other voice in the poem, the "I" who refers to the 'he' that "knew the beyond ticks of the criss cross/ ancestral claims on a body caught in the mixed-up rattle/ of him knowing all this in translation/ as intimately as him came to know my intestines" (11). The phrase "him came to know my intestines," rather than 'he came to know my intestines' disrupts the Standard English syntax of colonial education with a disjunctive interruption by slippery protean transformations along the Caribbean Creole continuum[21] into various 'lects'.

  24. This inside/outside dynamic also connects to how Standard English defines itself and its authority in relation to 'improper' or 'contaminated' English. In The Empire Writes Back, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin explain that theories of the Creole continuum assert that "the Creole complex of the region is not simply an aggregation of discrete dialect forms but an overlapping of ways of speaking between which individual speakers may move with considerable ease" (45). Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin argue that because it reaffirms "the notion of language as a practice and reintroduces the 'marginal' complexities of speakers' practice as the subject of linguistics," Creole continuum theory complicates post-Saussurian linguistics (46). As noted in The Empire Writes Back, except in its Rastafarian variety, which emphasizes the 'I' as a subject pronoun, Caribbean Creole tends to emphasize object pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us, them), such as 'Me see 'oman in street,' rather than subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, it we, and they), a diction that connotes a subordinate and objectified position in relation to colonial authority (48-9). In Land Without Chocolate's "TALES ," the polydialectical shift of the phrase "him came to know my intestines" also grammatically brings into existence a radical alterity of the self, a 'he/him' that is part of but not reconciled with the double consciousness split between local concerns and imperial authority, suggested by the synecdoche of the classroom, a part that stands in for the whole. This voice 'he/him' in the poem only emerges into consciousness in the last stanza, where it becomes both grammatically and figuratively congruent with the dominant voice of the poem, the subjective pronoun 'I' who had referred to parts of its own split subjectivity in the third person:
    (Fourth Try: I will ask you about the bliss of such eating)
    The last time I tried
    I was with a stripping pain
    > deep in the belly bred by a mother
    who would teach me the bliss
    of eating my way through
    the countries of men (Deen 11)
    The first 'I' of this final stanza (in parenthesis) seems to denote the subordinate 'I' of the poem finally emerging into conversation with the dominant 'I' of the poem. There is finally an 'I am I' construction whereby, at least for a moment, there is an affirmation of subject position and the right to speak out loud and question colonial authority, the pedagogical food upon which both voices had previously nourished. At last there is a desire to eat "through/ the countries of men" (11). One can also note the capitalization of "Try" only in the last stanza, which suggests both authority and subjective awareness.

  25. Elsewhere in Land Without Chocolate, as a counterpoint to official colonial historiography, the parenthesis suggests an excavation of the subordinated relationship of the Guyanese subaltern and its attempt to be written "into a chorus of unofficial history" (59). In "REASON: A Guyanese Coming Out," there is an indication of the connections between colonial mappings, authorized historiography, and the heterosexist marginalization of homosexual orientation. All three contain a ratiocinative guise that hides violent underpinnings. The poem opens:
    I lose my ground in the dreams
    when they take me and i reach
    the gateways of wind where touch
    becomes a national gesture hard
    against the words they pelt
    when he walks into me trembling
    with me through all the reasons
    why we should not stop this

    Trembling reach railing against
    the threats of my reach against
    those cursing stories of reason
    that could write you
    clean off these maps

    (into pieces of paper. . .
    (into free swimmers. . .
    (into the submarine offerings. . .
    (into the forbidden lover. . .
    (into some other happier convergence. . . (Deen 21)

    The open parentheses suggest a subordinated voice that is potentially out in the open (indicated by the ellipses at the end of the lines) but fearful of being silenced by the violence of the "words they pelt," such as "sodom." "Sodom" is a word that the Speaker invokes right after this passage, a word whose violence is underwritten by supposed Biblical authority, much like the crushing weight of colonial historiography, which threatens to write one "clean off these maps"(21).

  26. The following page of the text contains only two short lines halfway down the page:
    And so dem say sodom
    a sodom so dem say (Deen 22)
    Playing upon a slippage between "so dem" and "sodom," the chiasmic syntax and polydialectical shift along the Creole continuum acts as a protean linguistic metamorphosis trying to outmaneuver its wrestling opponent that tries to contain it, an Othered 'dem' [them] that, like Caliban, has discovered a language to curse his oppressors. On one hand, there is a confident voice that emerges with an assertive tone:
    But they cannot blame me best not blame me
    for the cursing will begin again and dem
    will catch fire and burn or dem will get lockjaw
    and stop talk or dem will go mad like thunder
    and talk themselves into death [. . .] (Deen 23)
    On the other hand, a fearful voice emerges with doubt within a dialogue enclosed in parentheses:
    (But I cannot talk about dem in this way dem is your blood
    and blood is thicker)

    (I am beaten every time I talk about them in this way
    these people who hold memories longer than you)

    You have heard them say this: sodom (Deen 23)

    Thus, there is a protean linguistic shift back to the Standard English 'them,' rather than 'dem.' This polydialectical 'dem / them' shift connotes a capitulation to the threat of physical violence and the figurative violence of those who hold the power over official history, those who "hold memories longer than you," and threaten to bracket off one from speaking out or coming out as a homosexual. There is trauma and violence in the very act of being inscribed with the word "sodom," a denial of the validity of the speaker's lived experience, as well as the colonial and heterocentric 'ownership' of memories. At the same time, however, there is also an insistent and charged voice within the polyphony of the poem who says, while playing on the many connotations of the word 'out,' "that sodom in me that sodom in me no broom/ can beat it out."

  27. The poem ends not with a voice of retributive justice or counteracting violence, but a desire for touchstones for both queer and Guyanese identity: "No stones in my pocket brother man at least not the ones that hurt/ touchstones only and no hellfire either" (Deen 25). There is no sense of the charged venom akin to the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible, but a longing for rebirth and cleansing in the sweet pleasures of one's sexuality, in whatever form it may take:
    carry me down to the river where they might bury me
    so we can carry me down to the stone that might kill me so we can
    carry me down to the book that might write me so we
    can carry me down to this boy who might fuck me on this very
    corner where my love waits for you patiently
    in the guises of the bacchanal this corner where I will catch
    it in my mouth all of it and turn him into sugar (Deen 25)
    Thus, the poem contains carnal overtones of oral sex, indications of love, and Biblical allusions to Lot's wife, except this time there is a transmutation not into salt but sugar, a bittersweet reminder of colonialism.

  28. Along with "buller love"[22], homosexual identity thus struggles to emerges out from its parenthetical space within heterocentric discourse, which also occurs within the familial environment. In the poem "VERTIGO," Deen explicitly states the parenthesis trope and its connection to external attempts to suppress identity and sexual orientation:
    (So they built me into a parenthesis
    (So i stopped playing like that like when
    (i first put Natasha's dress on my body
    (Dreaming of him who would lie on my body
    (Dreaming of him who would laugh at the ceiling fan

    But your mama laughed and call you her third daughter

    Your mama laughs and says you are a daughter now (Deen 45)

    The open parentheses suggest the significant, though incomplete, nature of the subordination of his experience of sexual identity by his family as well as bear witness to the simultaneous mocking dismissal of his feelings. In addition, the open parentheses, along with the two lines that follow, suggest his family's attempt to force his sexual identity into gendered sartorial stereotpes and the binary structure of the heterosexual matrix: male and female, something hinted at in "BURIALS," as in the line: "Tell me about the great men who look good now/ flagging down their imploding es dragging behind them" (63). Meaning he, she, or it, the word 'es' is a German personal pronoun that stands in a grammatical gender-ambiguous position that perhaps parallels the speaker's own ambiguities of sexual orientation and de-legitimizing objectification as an 'it.' The word 'es' is a tiny break in the text from the Germanic etymological roots of e/English that bears witness to larger things outside of confinement, a ghost embedded deep within linguistic DNA. Indeed, one can also think of 'es' as word that has imploded in upon itself, a fragment of a word unspoken. Similarly, in the poem "READING," the explicit mention of the parenthesis trope connotes dreams of freedom and testimony within a remembered imagining of the speaker's transformation into a "killing that could break us out/ of the parenthesis screaming we will speak/ we will speak for all of it" (32).


  29. As the MLA Handbook (5th ed.) suggests, the "primary purpose of punctuation is to ensure the clarity and readability of writing. Punctuation clarifies sentence structure, separating some words and grouping others" (50). In addition to its trope of parentheses, Land Without Chocolate also exists within a mode of language that subverts standardized segmentation and ossification of writing by periods and commas in favor of a more fluid and malleable poetic voice, where words and phrases exist in motion on the page in the act of reading, in potentially infinite ways of re-combining. In The Empire Writes Back, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffith and Helen Tiffin note that "one of the main features of imperial oppression is control over language. The imperial education system installs a 'standard' version of the metropolitan language as the norm, and marginalizes all 'variants' as impurities" (7). In the e-mail interview I conducted with Faizal Deen, he comments on the nature of our shared interest in the subversion of the power dynamic embedded within the Standard English of colonial pedagogy, the
    oppositional pedagogy of fucking English up. Of doing things to it, blasphemous, horrible things, like forgetting about these commas I am currently not forgetting about. Or, deciding one day to remove the full stops. Think of English stripped of its Master's Tongue and then you see the words the way I sometimes see them as building blocks which I can arrange and re-arrange. In this way, I come to even regard some of the "rules" of English affectionately because I have been able as a poet to break the rules. Sometimes, one can't know how to effectively break rules unless one has known those rules inside out. ("'forgetting'")
    Deen here alludes to the notion of appropriation, which Ashcroft, Griffith and Tiffin describe as the ways in which post-colonial societies use the elements of the "imperial culture -- language, forms of writing, film, theatre, even modes of thought and argument such as rationalism, logic and analyis -- that may be of use to them in articulating their own social and cultural identities" (Key Concepts 19). Meanwhile, strands of postcolonial theory explore the "ways in which the dominated or colonized culture can use the tools of the dominant discourse to resist its political or cultural control" (19).

  30. In Deen's opening poem "OVERTURE FROM THE PICTURE SHOW," the phrase "noman with no nation" connotes, on one hand, a feeling of the lack of agency or national belonging, such as the "noman fingers no longer missing the secure hardness/ of the cricket ball" of English culture in Guyana (10). On the other hand, the phrase invokes the linguistic trickery of Odysseus in his confrontation with the Cyclops, the outsmarting of brute force and power through trickster language. In the Cyclops Episode of Homer's Odyssey, the trick of calling himself "Noman" (also translated as 'Nobody') allows Odysseus to use language as a tool by which to draw the Cyclops into his own undoing by warding off any help from his fellow giants. Not content to make a clean escape, though, Odysseus taunts the Cyclops and gives Polyphemos his name:
    Cyclops, if any mortal man ever asks you who it was
    That inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding,
    Tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus, sacker of cities.
    Laertes is his father, and he makes his home in Ithaka. (150, lines 502-5)
    Odysseus is not content with surviving trauma without asserting the act of naming towards his oppressor. On the third hand, this naming seems part of the resistance to monocular vision of dominant viewpoints. Naming is one of the mechanisms used by colonizers to inscribe themselves upon the land in an act of ownership. Obviously, in this Homeric instance, one could potentially position Odysseus as either the colonizer or the colonized. On the fourth hand, the phrase "no nation" undermines the constructed and illusory nature of nationhood itself, which can be a negative illusion or a positive antidote to colonial authority. It is the act of naming, forming capitalized proper nouns, that serves to order the colonial landscape, such as "British Guyana"[23]: a heteroglossia that denotes a contestation between the British Empire and the original indigenous name for the area: the word Guiana, "land of waters," which is now often used to describe the region encompassing modern Guyana, as well as Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana) and French Guiana.

  31. The act of naming by colonial authority thus inscribes an identity upon the land, a sense of ownership that persists even after the Independence of Guyana on May 26, 1966. In the context of Australian colonization, specifically Cape Inscription, Paul Carter notes in The Road to Botany Bay that:
    For such a name . . . belongs firmly to the history of travelling. Rewritten and repeated, its serves as a point of departure. But Cape Inscription, the name, is also the result of erasure: it symbolizes the imperial project of permanent possession through dispossession. . . . But Cape Inscription is also a striking figure of speech, an oxymoron yoking writing and landscape in a surprising, even grotesque, way. A geographical feature is made no bigger than a page of writing. (xxiv)

    Carter points out the linkage between place-naming and the way that "space is transformed symbolically into a space, that is a space with a history" (xxiv). Elsewhere in The Road to Botany Bay, Carter again alludes to the palimpsest trope as he argues that the "historical space of the white settlers emerged though the medium of language. . . . Naming words were forms of spatial punctuation, transforming space into an object of knowledge, something that could be explored and read" (67). Indeed, Carter effectively links the project of colonization with the Enlightenment project's obsessions with ordering and classifying the world, a sought-after mastery of both nature and the 'chaosmos' of facts: "Names like 'Nobody' neither classified nor particularized. . . . They were numbers, nothing more. They belonged to the Enlightenment project, not to engage the world dialectically, but through the procedures of classification and taxonomy that reduce its otherness to the uniformity of a universal knowledge" (331). The linkage of power and knowledge obviously evokes Foucault, but in a more specifically colonial and geographical context, Deen brings to mind Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism:

    Imperialism and the culture associated with it affirm both the primacy of geography an ideology about the control of territory. The geographical sense makes projections-imaginative, cartographic, military, economic, historical, or in a general sense cultural. It also makes possible the construction of various kinds of knowledge, all of them in one way or another dependent upon the perceived character and destiny of a particular geography. (78)
    Part of this connection of a perceived destiny of land is the education of the colonized, the inculcation of various Imperialist cultural values through the ostensibly salvific project of colonization.

  32. The colonial hegemony acts to persuade the colonial subject of the colonial Weltanschauung[24] through the pedagogy found in the educational system. Moreover, the various colonizations deeply inscribe trauma at various physical and psychological levels, a process of confusion that includes historiography and threatens to erase memories of, or conceptions about, one's own landscape, history, and sexuality. Colonial historiography's palimpsesting is thus intimately tied to language and voice; the edges of official history are the substance of historiography, much like, according to the theory of the Creole continuum, "the variants or 'edges' of language are the substance of linguistic theory" (The Empire Writes Back 47). Language becomes a battleground for the inscriptions and erasures within the palimpsest of cultural memory and a message of testimony in the very medium of words and sentences. As Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes during a comparison and contrast of poets of the 15th and 16th century with those of the late 18th and early 19th, language is "the armoury of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests" (Coleridge 276-7). Seamus Deane remarks on what is at stake in the use of language when he discusses how James Joyce's Finnegans Wake forms a new language via portmanteau words and the scraps of the linguistic DNA of many languages:
    The book is written in English and also against the English language; it converts itself into English and perverts itself from English. . . . It forces the reader to pay attention to the various genealogies of words and their functions . . . how they are heard and how they are seen, what historical weight and valencies they bear, what psychological, political and social functions they perform, their proximity to and distance from grunts and noises, their liberating and their repressive effects, their dependence upon syntax and grammar and their capacity to generate meaning, wildly and anarchically, when freed from those systems of governance and communication. (Deane viii)
    If there is trauma in the very act of forgetting cultural history, then words bear with them an archeology of history and values that may have been partially overwritten by more authorized accounts.

  33. Likewise, in "forgetting about the things i am not Forgetting about," Faizal Deen comments on the adaptive and political function of words in the romanticization and mythologization of the process of memory. Deen seems to espouse the necessity of a testimony that writes individuals into unofficial history and, at the same time, reclaims the ownership of memories and experience rather than emerges within the empirical paradigm of straight historical facticity. The right to articulate one's cultural memory is an unearthing of palimpsestic layers of colonial traumas and erasures. Deen explains:
    In Land Without Chocolate, I think I was trying to show in some parts of the story how the child not must [sic] "unleash" English but ultimately why the child must appropriate English for the making of his own necessary romanticization, of landscape, of history, and, later, of sexuality. Sometimes we need the romance of even our own histories of catastrophe (slavery, plantations, indentured labour, the shiver and shit of those ships) -- I will come to you a salty wind -- because ultimately we need to be the ones who get to say how we died, how we lived, how we failed, how we triumphed. ("'forgetting'")
    Indeed, part of the this urge to testimony and contribution to historiography is embedded in the very syntax of Deen's scarcity of commas or periods, which produces a language that compels itself to be spoken aloud, rather than scanned visually, and silently, on the page. In my attention to such matters as syntax and punctuation, I have explored in this essay what could be called a postcolonial formalism, a formalism that has fundamentally diffeent asumptions as it counters the 'art object' or 'autoletic text' of the New Critics even as it draws on their useful attention to close reading, even to the point of scrutinizing commas.

  34. Grammarian Diana Hacker notes that "the comma was invented to help readers. Without it, sentence parts can collide into one another unexpectedly, causing misreadings" (Hacker 193). Indeed, this "collision of words" is precisely the kind of rhetorical effect that Deen's poetic memoir, Land Without Chocolate, can have. The scarcity of commas in Deen's text is a formal mode that allows the clash between words and the instability of their 'standardization' in a postcolonial pedagogical context to emerge. Faizal Deen's poetry is similar to how Seamus Deane describes Finnegans Wake; both works, though extremely different, nevertheless illustrate the workings of language, the "dependence [of words] upon syntax and grammar and their capacity to generate meaning, wildly and anarchically, when freed from those systems of governance and communication" (Deane vii). Indeed, the disruption of standard language found in both Joyce and Deen illustrates the link between the standardization of English and the standardization of thought -- the systematic covering up of the instabilities embedded within the flux of ordinary language. For instance, in "CHOCOLATE WARS," the lack of commas allows for various shifts in grouping that allows for various types of meaning generation: "you mouthed the histories of his sweet devils everytime you found/ your prized possessions in him and ushered in the end of the/ chocolate drought with playrooms pens and paper" (12). While the syntax may seem clear, phrases such as "playrooms pens and paper" have a different sense if one thinks of it as a list (playrooms, pens, and paper) or an adjectival phrase. In that flux, the line "you mouthed [...] paper" can generate the sense of potential resistance to the colonial dependence on the sustenance of the colonial system (metonymically embodied by chocolate [trade goods, the colony as a raw material source of sugar and cocoa] and words [the colonial system of education]). Indeed, either the unusual collocation "playrooms pens" or "playrooms paper" connotes both the childlike wonder of language and the subversive potential of playful language to address such issues as history, mapping, and "the chocolate drought."

  35. Moreover, like the orality inherent in chocolate and 'mouthing histories' (the protest of silence and nonparticipation), there is an impetus for orality both explicitly, in certain motifs, and implicitly, in the scarcity of punctuation.[25] This orality is simultaneously linguistically counter-hegemonic and bodily. The speaker in "MANGO SEASON," for instance, reasons to an absent interlocutor: "if you were the buried man i dreamt of finding/ near Sam Lord's castle . . . then it would not be wrong of me to lay down my claims to/ write you into a somewhere" (19). There is a desire by the Speaker to give voice to "inscrutable terrain" and "come a salty wind . . . to read me aloud to all of it" (19). This 'reading aloud' motif continues in the poem as the speaker wants to be tear himself "out of the page" and desires to render "you" into voice, to bear witness to the "facts of [his] blackness/ ruptured by an almost perfect red scar/ begging to be read aloud to be given some/ status of the out loud living" (20). This "living out loud" seems to involve many things, including the connection of voice to the silence of physical trauma, the "almost perfect red scar"(20) -- the "body in limbo defiance against/ a closure"(19) -- as well as the speaker's connection to his own intuitive, "muse man seer of the stomach" (12) who comes to voice in poems such as "CHOCOLATE WARS" and "TALES OF THE MAN IN THE STOMACH WHO KNEW." It is a voice that urges to be read aloud and this emerges through the formalist presentation of the poems.

  36. In The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan argues that in "antiquity and the Middle Ages reading was necessarily reading aloud" (82). McLuhan quotes Frederick Kenyon's Books and Readers in Ancient Rome:
    the lack of assistance to readers, or aids to facilitate reference, in ancient books is very remarkable. The separation of words is practically unknown, except very rarely when an inverted comma or dot is used to mark a separation where some ambiguity might exist. Punctuation is often wholly absent, and in never fully systematic. (McLuhan 84)
    McLuhan's hypertextual link to Kenyon bolsters McLuhan's assertion in Gutenberg Galaxy that "there is no lack of indication that 'reading' through ancient and medieval times meant reading aloud, or even a kind of incantation" (84). McLuhan's general point in that 'textual cluster'[26] is the impetus the ancient and medieval manuscript gave for orality, to be spoken aloud rather than visually scanned, a modern mode that has been accentuated by some schools speed-reading, which argue that reading slows down when "we make incipient word formations with our throat muscles" (83). McLuhan links the medieval manuscript's lack of textual accidentals (see above) with modernist poetry of the early twentieth century:
    It is strange that modern readers have been so slow to recognize that the prose of Gertrude Stein with its lack of punctuation and other visual aids, is a carefully devised strategy to get the passive reader into participant, oral action. So with E. E. Cummings, or Pound, or Eliot. . . . And in Finnegans Wake when Joyce wants to create "thunder," the "shout in the street" indicating a major phase of collective action, he sets up the word exactly like an ancient manuscript word. (McLuhan 83)
    Throughout his career, James Joyce famously continued to stress that his works should be read aloud, an echo of medieval reading communities that 'performed' a text with a participatory audience. Though there has been much scholarship on the "semicolonial" aspects of Joyce's works,[27] in a more explicitly postcolonial discourse, Land Without Chocolate's relative absence of visual clues in the form of standardized punctuation compels the throat to read the poetry aloud, thereby performatively enacting a theme of silence and speech embedded within the palimpsestic layers of the text. McLuhan remarks, "the world of visual perspective is one of unified and homogeneous space. Such a world is alien to the resonating diversity of spoken words. So language was the last art to accept the visual logic of Gutenberg technology, and the first to rebound in the electric age" (136).

  37. The relative absence of standard punctuation markers in Land Without Chocolate is also an impetus for the diversity of spoken words in the text to come alive into flux as readers speak out loud the text and its silences. Deen's text is much like what Wilson Harris describes in Fossil and Psyche as a "mental landscape": "a field of authentic discovery -- a field where 'new' things are 'seen' as though language itself is the ground of an interior and active expedition through and beyond what is already known" (9). [28] For instance, in addition to the memoir text's polyphonic transformations along the Creole continuum, the absence of closing parentheses in some poems (see above) is not just a rubbing out from above in palimpsestic fashion, but one that comes from the layers of overwritten material below, a silence that speaks by its visual absence as a ghost trace. Ghosts in the palimpsest of cultural memory in Land Without Chocolate emerge in a language that constantly outgrows itself, and bursts at the seems [sic] with a silence that overflows and comes into being within "Pages with nothing but a broken, marooned sentence or a pornographic exclamatory and then pages overflowing with words. Words upon words" ("'forgetting'").

  38. This overflowing or excess occurs in all language usage, perhaps, but is accentuated in Deen's use of language and formal presentation, as well as his emphasis on bodily interaction and intestines, which stresses "interchange and an interorientation," where "the beginning and end of life are closely linked and interwoven" (Bakhtin 317). Land Without Chocolate rhetorically constructs the grotesque in a Medieval Bakhtinian sense of overgrowing the constraints of the 'autonomous' European Renaissance subject as well as a Romanticized Gothic sense of breaking open monocular perspective. In The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshal McLuhan discusses John Ruskin's[29] conceptualization of the grotesque in terms of Romantic Gothic medievalism in the nineteenth century: "For Ruskin, Gothic appeared as an indispensable means of breaking open the closed system of perception that Blake spent his life describing and fighting" (266). The Gothic breaks open the neat and ordered single vision Renaissance perspective, which coincided with the rise of British colonialism, in favor of a view later elaborated by Joyce in the twentieth century: "the grotesque as a mode of broken or syncopated manipulation to permit inclusive or simultaneous perception of a total and diversified field" (267).

  39. In "BURIALS," perhaps intoning the voice of an "old massa," the Deen's speaker remarks "I killed so/ much that my part of the story peeped over/ the edges of his modern syntax and fell into/ the free fall of hybrid ellipsis" (62); these lines suggest voices that cannot be contained by the ordering principles of Standard English grammar, historiography, and mapping. In "MAPS," Faizal Deen uses the mode of the grotesque in a cubist kaleidoscope of perspectives and a dialogical voicing within the common postcolonial trope of mapping. Graham Huggan remarks on writers and maps:
    The fascination of Canadian, Australian and other post-colonial writers with the figure of the map has resulted in a wide range of literary responses both to physical (geographical) maps, which are shown to have operated effectively, but often restrictively or coercively, in the implementation of colonial policy, and to conceptual (metaphorical) maps which are perceived to operate as exemplars of, and therefore provide a framework for the critique of, colonial disclosure. (125)
    Faizal Deen self-reflexively conflates the colonial enterprise of mapping and ordering the landscape with the colonial education system's mapping and ordering of the minds and bodies of colonial subjects. Because he is "ravenous for paper chewed and sucked on/ into fine creamy balls that slide smoothly down the throat" ("MAPS" 29), Deen's speaker ingests the colonial paper maps in an act of communion that transubstantiates the colonial authority of "unspeakable leaps/ of imposed alphabets"("READING" 31). In ways that are both gastrointestinal and sexual, Deen's maps break out of the confines of 'what's on the page' of colonial paper maps as they evoke a Gothic sensibility of the grotesque, where limits and circumscriptions are transgressed. Deen's formulation of maps within his body evokes a sense of transgressed boundaries and, like Bakhtin's musings on the "grotesque image of the body" in Rabelais and His World, goes against the ordered Renaissance (and colonial) conceptions of an
    entirely finished, completed, strictly limited body, which is shown from the outside as something individual. That which protrudes, bulges, sprouts, or branches off (when a body transgresses its limits and a new one begins) is eliminated, hidden, or moderated. All orifices of the body are closed. (Bakhtin 320).
    Like the "grotesque body," the maps in Deen's poetry are not assertions and static declarations but always in the act of becoming and "never finished, never completed; it is continually built, created, and builds and creates another body" (Bakhtin 317). The speaker's mapped grotesque colonial subject continuously opens orifices and skin as it "outgrows its own self" and "transgress[es] its own body" (317).

  40. Likewise, Deen concretizes the counter-hegemonic appropriation of such discourse in the transgressive act of stealing an atlas from school: "i once traced maps hidden/ inside of an atlas stolen from school" (29). Deen opens that poem with the line "once there were no roads into me found on any map" (29). He uses the mode of the grotesque to break open boundaries between the inner and outer, between boundary lines, whether on the land to denote colonial territories, or in his search for orientation within the space of his own body. The speaker continues this interiority motif in his search for touchstones and orienting markers for his felt subjectivity, his inner experience of life, with a linguistic movement into the inner recesses of his body, both literally and figuratively. The speaker's body is a place he wants to keep from the ordering and ratiocinative gaze of colonial authority, part of the lofty head of the Enlightenment grand narrative whose head promises human liberation along with its underbelly of colonialism:
    i told myself that the only way here was
    through my intestines but i would keep
    these hidden forever in this great age of reason
    i stopped eating mutton and beef because
    devils lived inside of animals stripped
    of their dreams there were no signs of me
    anywhere there were no roads into me found
    on any map but sometimes in this cold place (Deen 29)

  41. I have cut off Deen's poem arbitrarily even though there is an enjambment to the next line: "grown and lost he steals the hand that taught me/ to trace embroider and seeps from me i can't" (29). While enjambment is common and well known in modernist and postmodernist poetry, the postcolonial context and stress on the body in Deen's memoir connotes an embodied language that urgently and insistently overgrows itself and its colonial circumscriptions. A linguistic excess in Deen defiantly outstrips colonial traumas in an act of memoir testimony that is simultaneously personal and collective. This testimony involves a mapping that begins in the inner recesses of the body -- the stomach, the intestines, the sexual organs -- and bursts outwards to a collective voice, such as the last poem of Deen's memoir. "EPILOGUE" signals not so much an ending or closure but a node of regeneration where the saltatory movement of the speaker's language shifts to 'we': "you see we found the spirit who coughed/ in the souls of tyrants and a father who cheered/ us on in all the tricks of the north we found" (64). Deen's poetry cycles in upon itself in nodal connections within the body of Land Without Chocolate's text -- such as recurrent references to the myth of El Dorado, bone parts hearts, fairydust, an openly tigerly life, the stomach, and chocolate -- as well as the text's self-reflexive situatedness within vertiginous webs of intertextuality.

  42. In a very explicit way, for instance, the paratextual apparatus that concludes the book blurs the line between the text's inside and outside, and Deen self-consciously positions himself in relation to other works as he pays homage to writings that contributed to the "thematic, emotive, and spiritual resonances in the imaginations of Land Without Chocolate" in its process of composition (67). Deen embraces is own intertextuality, both with texts and people. Indeed, with its block capital letters, like the rest of the poems in the work, the "SHOUT OUTS" is another poem, a meditation on both the act of naming and the emergence of an author and his work not only within a pre-existing web of intertextuality but also a constellation of people who support and influence an author's life. At the moment I am writing this, I am thinking of Jerome McGann, the eminent twentieth-century textual scholar who argues that a book is not a product of its author only: the context of a work must be considered, i.e. publishers, editors, and so forth. Books are a product of necessary collaboration between people, whether directly or indirectly.

  43. Rather than the bourgeois idea of a solitary author and his or her 'work' as an abstract artifact outside of relations, Deen's "SHOUT OUTS" section asserts the primacy of experience and human relations that seems to be a key element of Deen's poetic memoir. One is tempted to intertextually link Faizal Deen, as a living breathing person who writes, to Roland Barthes' deconstruction of the Author figure in his famous essay "The Death of the Author" and its insistence that a text is "not a line of words releasing a sing 'theological' meaning (the 'message' of the Author-God) but a multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash" (Barthes 222). This is not a problem for Deen. His memoir embraces the death and rebirth of authorship, the flickering of presence and absence of the subject who, despite emerging within a "tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centers of culture" (222), grounds language in the body, a body of language and 'body-language' that continuously breaks down and reforms as it celebrates the space of Guyana, itself a "multidimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash" (Barthes 222).

  44. Ultimately, one goes 'into the text' via the title of Deen's memoir, Land Without Chocolate, which is perhaps an emblem of the bittersweet condition of postcoloniality in Guyana. The sweetness of Deen's poetry can simultaneously involve the romanticization of boyhood and maturation from various Canadian and adult perspectives, as well as evoke a bitter remembrance of the colonial exploitation of Caribbean sugar plantations that fed the sweet tooth of Europe during the 'childhood' of Dutch or British Guyana. Deen's memoir transforms both his personal and cultural memory into a poetic voice. Land is a palimpsest that brings to the surface the silences and erasures of Guyanese colonial history. Even though the memoir is simultaneously a personal, familial, and collective 'accounting for,' this archeology of cultural and personal memory is unapologetically an overwriting, much like how the formal presentation of the text invites overwriting by the reader. All reading is performance. Deen's poetry invokes the palimpsest both as a trope and as a physical thing because Land Without Chocolate performatively enacts the process of overwriting in its scarcity of punctuation, such as commas or periods. Indeed, textual 'accidentals' such as parentheses become politically-charged tropes in Deen's memoir -- a medium that is a message.

  45. Moreover, Faizal Deen's poetry overflows with words and evokes a sense of orality that is both an urge of silence to be spoken and an embodiment of protean code-switching language that tries to escape the ordering and subordinating 'mappings' and 'parentheses' of the colonial body. The excavation of Deen's politics of punctuation and grammar also parallels the resonance of his poetry with certain aspects of the more sober side of both Ruskin and Bakhtin's conceptions of the grotesque as a counter-movement against the confines of the Renaissance (and one could add colonial) subject. The notion of the grotesque perhaps resonates with Western postmodern subjects as well. Within the current 'crisis of the subject' and the 'death of author' in Western academia (whose 'crisis' is it anyway?), one can relate Deen's poetic memoir Land Without Chocolate to Feminist and queer theory's urgent defense of lived experience and experiential touchstones. For instance, in Volatile Bodies, Elizabeth Grosz notes that Merleau-Ponty's
    emphasis on lived experience and perception, his focus on the body-subject, has resonances with what may arguably be regarded as feminism's major contribution to the production and structure of knowledges -- its necessary reliance on lived experience, on experiential acquaintance as a touchstone or criterion of the validity of theoretical postulates. (94)
    Authorship and lived experience in a grotesque mode, however, do not require an autonomous individuality, but rather authorship reaches out to embrace intertextuality and the breaking of frames for an 'art object.' The author of Land Without Chocolate is not an Author-God transmitting a message of his experience, but a scriptor who forms a performative enactment of the protean transformations of memory, simultaneously individual and collective, Guyanese and Canadian, readers' and texts.' He is also a reader of himself. Indeed, the shifting sea of words, experiences, memories, and desires of Deen's memoir potentially mix with a reader's own oceans of snapshot memory -- her or his own fragmented and conflicted subjectivity.

  46. Deen's memoir does not entrench itself in a firm, autonomous subjectivity that mimetically 'describes' reality or even an inner consciousness split off from the world in reflection. Land Without Chocolate is not as much 'about' something from memory in a static, mimetic sense as a performative mediation on the process of struggle in many forms -- the enactment of memoir in the process of becoming. Again, one can draw a distinction between an a memoir and an autobiography: In her article "A Marginal 'I': The Autobiographical Self Deconstructed in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior," Bonnie Melchior remarks, "Western culture is preoccupied with the idea of 'self-making,' and in autobiography, individuality accounts for itself as made and gives the how of the making" (281). Converse to the "logically, coherent, stable self" (281) that emerges in autobiography, the memoir genre, especially since the 'death of the subject,' tends to embrace the death of the subject, which, as Karin Cope points out, "does not mean the disappearance of subjectivity altogether but the abandonment of the myth of the supreme, fully present, fully conscious, fully intentional universal subject as the only figure of subjectivity" (Cope 78). In retrospect, Deen selects a moment for his literary work's genesis:
    Land was started at this time though I didn't know it would become Land. I was staring at a mongoose, the true working class of the animal world in the West Indies, playing in my Aunt's garden, and I started to think about the ways in which I no longer court the happy madness of thinking and sometimes living in fantasy, especially those forms of imaginative flight that we might read as kumblas, both necessary and dangerous. ("'forgetting'")
    This moment may seem arbitrary but indicative of the process by which one writes a memoir: the collection of fragments of memory and forming them into something that is neither fact nor fiction but the process of memory itself enacted, with all of its self-fictionalizing, self-mythologizing, and fragmentations of the self extant. The gulfs between various aspects of one's subjectivity are part of the act of memoir. In Deen, part of the gulfs of is subjectivity is his migration from Guyana to Canada.

  47. The physical gulf between Canada and Guyana is parallel to the gulf between Deen's boyhood and adulthood. In "'forgetting about the things i am not Forgetting about,'" Deen remarks the presence of Canada in Land Without Chocolate:
    Canada emerges as a series of points of reference for a succeeding generation. But only slightly. This might have to with the fact that previous generations fought against or for or through the dreams of England as an imaginative touchstone, as the place one could only truly come home to. I might not have had any registers as a child with which to process what Canada is or was to the world of post-independence Caribbean countries. Yes, Canada was everywhere. Trudeau's visit to Georgetown in the early 70s, the efforts of CIDA to jumpstart development, the fact that Georgetown and Ottawa are twin cities, then, of course, the presence of my Irish-Canadian stepfather who appears in my second book as a kind of monster.
    As an experience of being the racial Other after migration, Canada figures as a place for the speaker's sense of separation in geography (Canada versus Guyana), time (the early 1970s versus the late 1990s), and perspective (childhood versus adulthood), all three of which are heterogeneous and in constant flux. Deen comments on the tragic vision of Land Without Chocolate and its sense of mourning for an irrecoverable imaginative geography, where the "lost children" (64) reside, that has been imbued with quixotic significations: "The tragic vision of Land lies in the speaker's refusal to evacuate or flee from an originary childhood home, which the child has committed to years and years of romanticizations and enchantments, before departure."[30]

  48. In my essay, I quote at length from the e-mail interview I conducted with Faizal Deen not to commit the "Biographical Fallacy" and the "Intentional Fallacy" (to ground the meaning of Land Without Chocolate in biography or the author's understanding of his own work, his active intention) but to explore the process of negotiation between an author and his own subjectivity, as well as between a reader and a text, and between a physical reader and a physical author through various media, such as the Internet. I have never met Faizal "in real life" face-to-face. In a sense, the act of reading is a hyper-linked intersection of various self-narrativizations -- individualistic iinterpretations that occur within collective interpretive communities. The act of reading a memoir also can defamiliarize one's perspective of spectatorship. However, like many other genres and formats, such as oppositional theatre, this defamiliarization is neither an anti-Aristotelian distantiation that creates an 'objective' point of critical perspective 'outside' the performance nor a completely sympathetic and 'subjective' identification with the voice in the text. Instead, the collisions of self-narratives of readers and text create what I term "sympathetic distantiation." Within sympathetic distantiation, there is a paradoxically simultaneous identification and critical distance. Audiences identify with the chaos and fragmentations of the character's experience of the world, and this resonates with the same feeling that audiences have themselves. At the same time, rather than a transparent or detatche dpositivistic observation, readers potentially gain a heightened awareness of their own implication in the spectatorial scene, a condition that has great implications within the legacies of colonialism and imperialism. That implication is a powerful mechanism to defamiliarize that which 'we' take for granted in terms of mutually constitutive elements or race, gender, class, geography, and sexual orientation. Indeed, I am interested in how audiences are called into being via the rhetorical architecture of texts, and how this intepellation can problematize readers' assumptions about where they fit into global schemes, memory, and the "theatre of history."

  49. The connection between reader and text is more than empathy, an attempt to make one's feelings and viewpoints isomorphic with another person, or critical distance. Rather, the act of reading can be the excavation of our own fragments of memory, which are simultaneously personal and cultural, and can reveal questions around the ownership of memories. As Marea C. Teski and Jacob J. Climo note in the introduction to The Labyrinth of Memory: Ethnographic Journeys, the "ownership of memories is an important issue" (2).
    They may be 'owned' by an individual, a small group, or a very large group, and a right of review and reformulation can be claimed at any of these levels. To an important extent the purposes and uses of memories are determined by who it is that voices them. The 'who' of the memory voice is often a question power. (2).
    Moreover, akin to the motive behind making palimpsests in Medieval scriptoria, the ownership of memories is also a question of economics and global capitalism, particularly the cultural imperialism of the Unites States of America that filters into and overwrites memories of ancient ancestors of colonial land. Rather than "myopic academic formalism," Land Without Chocolate's stylistic, and even typographical, details reveal a resistance to the inscription of colonial mind-frames upon the palimpsest of the colonized's psyche. Indeed, as I have argued, even the textual 'accidentals' of Deen's memoir are ineluctably political. The block capitals for the titles of Deen's poems imply an assertion of authority and legitimization of his lived experience and an ownership of his memories. Words bear a history upon their back, crying out in the blood and guts of phonemes, encoded in the minutia of linguistic DNA and the prelinguistic lived body. Deen's memoir invites readers not to 'master the text' in an act of literary colonialism but to become seduced by its language and imagery in order to find a space of connection to the fragmented memories of another person by an act of sympathetic distantiation and imagination. As the Guyanese-British author, theorist and literary critic Wilson Harris writes in Womb of Space, the "paradox of cultural heterogeneity, or cross-cultural capacity, lies in the evolutionary thrust it restores to orders of the imagination, the ceaseless dialogue it inserts between hardened conventions and eclipsed or half-eclipsed otherness, within an intuitive self that moves endlessly into flexible patterns, arcs or bridges of community" (xviii).

  50. Ultimately, perhaps, Land Without Chocolate exists within the Death of the Author but exits that death through the emergence of the ghostly traces of Deen's body and its memories from within the palimpsest of "lost children in the land without/ chocolate" (Deen 64). 'It' is not an autonomous art object. [31] Merging with memories of the speaker's childhood, the ghostly voices of dead bodies (the non-authors of history) and cultural memory speak from the ground of an ancient landscape before colonial history: the "poetics of several imagined/ centuries eruptions in the navels/ of fire black holes proudly/ screaming testimony" (54). Land Without Chocolate opens up ways of exploring the imbrication of things such as the study of: trauma and testimony, postcolonialism, e/English l/Literature, psychoanalysis, the body, feminism, historiography, literachy [sic], pedagogy, and queer theory. Land is an aesthetic pleasure but is also a disruption of the ground upon which one runs and reads and names and loves and dies, the non-Euclidean space-time where one speaks and acts in a supposedly neutral language. This transformation is a change that invites one to read and bear witness to silences, to speak in hyperbole, to write in poetry, to defy the "violence of the parenthesis" and to lead an "openly tigerly life" (Deen 61). [32]

    (It is a breaking of the frame of parentheses it is i who is no longer the same pain
    ting in a question ing of normative sexual roles the expansion of testimony beyond first-hand knowledge of singular events of trauma an un covering of all that subtends the present moment of a memoir that is not fact or fiction but just is an x-ray of cultural memory an unearthing of names that have long been washed away the ghosts of the half-godçhalf-monster body [32]that are left in the beautiful pain ful ugliness of joyfully miserable poetry after (the) death of the author and the subject's outgrowing of its owned skin it is the faint pencil shadings underneath the of smooth sweet colonial paper people maps and pencilled words in the margins of stolen yellowed textbooks of the wor(l)d(s) it is an arche ology of the poetry found in the deepest layers of each of our own cracked looking glass mystic writing pads[,] the ghostly traces within the palimpsests of the soul. . .


  1. Faizal Deen was born in the port city of Georgetown, Guyana in 1968. He moved to Ottawa, Canada with his mother and stepfather in 1977. Faizal studied English and History at Queen's University and later moved to Jamaica between 1992-1996, where he conducted research in the relationship between schizophrenia and imperialism as depicted in a variety of postcolonial writings. He left Jamaica to live in Montreal, specifically, and ended up starting the MA at McGill with a Phd fast-track in mind but quit the academic professional route after the death of his mother in 1996. He has since pursued a life of writing, with teaching on the side. He was a finalist for the QSPELL A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry in 2000. Regarding habitat, Deen remarks, "I'm always in search of amazing places to live in that are cheap since I have no other ambition but to write and can't afford New York or San Francisco, cities I adore." As of April 2001, he is living in Seoul but is thinking of moving to Thailand. Back

  2. "In the Middle Ages every great monastery had a scriptorium or writing-room, where monks were always busy copying books, usually under the supervision of a chief scribe. Each scribe had a stool, and steeply sloping desk, a cupboard, a cloth with which to protect his work from dust or too much sunlight, his pens, which were made from the quills of geese or similar birds, his pots of ink or colour, and his knife. With his knife he cut his pens to the shape he wanted. . . .The scribes were not allowed to have any lamps or candles in the scriptorium for fear of setting fire to valuable books, so they could only work during the hours of daylight. They were not allowed to speak to each other, so they learnt to communicate by a kind of sign language" (Allen 71). Back

  3. Martin Irvine describes intertextuality as "any text is a subset of a larger universe of discourse, a whole cultural library, and what we see and understand in texts is based on a life-time of accumulated reading experience" (Irvine www). This is not merely the banal (though highly useful) 'study of sources,' but how value and meaning in literature always emerge from writing and reading within contemporaneous leviathanic cultural systems of communication and pre-existent writings. Similarly, Julia Kristeva discusses intertextuality as a relational network of sign systems that are transposed during ideologically marked usage within a particular culture; for signifying practice, "its 'place' of enunciation and its denoted 'object' are never single, complete or identical to themselves, but always plural, shattered, capable of being tabulated" (Kristeva 111). Back

  4. "Pellicular" is not a commonly-used word but means a thin skin or film, such as an organic membrane or liquid film (Houghton Mifflin Canadian Dictionary of the English Language). Back

  5. Note: In my essay, I insert large block quotes (including those by Deen himself) in addition to paraphrase and critical commentary, because I am not just trying to use citations as 'information' but rather to put various ways of speaking about memory, history, language, the body, and colonialism in conversation with each other. Back

  6. I use the word 'testimony' in my essay in the sense that I think Deen does: not in the direct call for action by testifying to specific events of trauma (as in Rigoberta Menchu), but in the sense of bearing witness to the silences and over-writings of historiography and colonial history. I do not see writings that are 'testimonial' in the Menchu sense and those like Deen's that address questions of the silences of historiography (which, of course, Menchu does as well) as interchangeable even though they both may involve testimonies of sorts. Back

  7. This phrase does not denote a cultural homogeneity or even the sense of a continuous 'whole' culture, but rather the smooth and rapid code-switching between various 'lects' and Standard English that occurs in the culturally heterogeneous Caribbean societies. Back

  8. I capitalize the headings of my essay sections to mirror the format of the titles of Deen's poems. Back

  9. Guiana is an indigenous word meaning "land of waters": Guyana has many rivers. Back

  10. The Dutch West India Company, which erected a fort and depot at Fort Kyk-over-al (County of Essequibo), partially settled Guyana between 1616 and 1621. Back

  11. Because I view LWC as a whole and not just a collection of poems, I break convention in this essay by referring to page numbers rather than line numbers of poetry. Back

  12. By "linguistic displacement," I do not just mean across languages but also in the technical sense of the term in linguistics: how humans can "talk about things not present" (i.e. rain when the weather is dry), which "means that human beings can abstract, can lie, and can talk about talk itself. It allows us to use language as a vehicle for memory and imagination" (Pyles and Algeo). Back

  13. As Paulo Freire writes, in light of Frantz Fanon, the "oppressed, having internalize the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom" (Freire 31). Back

  14. The title of Dionne Brand's No Language Is Neutral is taken from Walcott's Midsummer Lii. Back

  15. Best-text editing involves choosing the copy-text that seems to be the least corrupted, except where a reading is impossible; part of the Alexandrine school, which argued that corruption of text was inevitable but editorial conjecture was worse because it was too subjective. Greg argues for a more eclectic approach. He posits that "the copy-text should govern (generally) in the matter of accidentals, but. . .the choice between substantive readings belongs to the general theory of textual criticism and lies altogether beyond the narrow principle of the copy-text" (Greg 26). Back

  16. The excessiveness of the quotation from source here is intentional and part of the essay's rhetorical strategy. Back

  17. The word "jumbie" occurs frequently in Deen's text: a ghost, spirit, or entity that haunts the living body and occurs in some Afro-Caribbean oral traditions as a 'cause' of both homosexuality and madness. Back

  18. Parentheses ( ) are usually written by the author, while brackets [ ], also known as editorial brackets, are usually inserted by editors later in a later stage of a book's production, such as for annotations and glosses. However, brackets also occur when something needs to be parentheticalized within parentheses. For the most part, the 'punctuation as trope' argument I forward here need not make such a fine distinction, though the difference may be useful for future essayists. Back

  19. This passage is of contention in editorial scholarship on Woolf. The American version reads: [Mr Ramsay, stumbling along a passage one dark morning, stretched his arms out, but Mrs Ramsay having died rather suddenly the night before, his arms, though stretched out, remained empty]. Margaret Drabble, the editor of the 1992 Oxford World Classics edition, argues that the American version "seems to make more sense, and indeed the reviewer in the TLS (5th May 1927) believed that there was 'surely. . .some slip in punctuation'. But the Hogarth text also makes an abrupt, disjunctive sense, and, as Virginia Woolf seems never to have corrected it, I have let it stand" (Woolf 284). Back

  20. These are my editorial brackets, not Deen's. Back

  21. The creole continuum involves movement such as (Singh 74):

    mi a nyam <---> me a eat <---> me eatin’ <---> I eatin’ <---> I is eatin’ <---> I am eating

    basilect <-----------------------mesolects--------------------------->acrolect

    Rather than merely a distinction between a monolithic creole and Standard English, ceole continuum theory posits various gradations of creole that often map geography, economics, and class, such as the diffeence between urban ceole, which is closest to Standard English, and the 'deep creole' of rural areas that is the most removed from Standard English. One should not assume that the idea of the Creole continuum is simplistic or uncontested, however. In Pidgins and Creoles: An Introduction, Ishtla Singh speaks about "language murder," the "loss of a less prestigious language as speakers increasingly favour one with more social status" (70). Moreover, there is recent debate around the usefulness of the Creole Continuum as an analytical tool, such as discourse by Rickford and De Camp. Questions that arise include, "Does the continuum model do justice to the social and stylistic dimensions of linguistic variation?" and "Does variation in putative continuum speech communities (such as Guyana, Jamaica and Hawaii) represent decreolizing change in progress, that is, movement away from creole norms and toward the norms of lexically related standard languages?" (80). Back

  22. "Buller" is Caribbean creole for a homosexual, while "bullin'" is a sexual act between homosexuals. Back

  23. Great Britain finally gained full control of the territory from the Dutch in 1814, when the three counties of Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara (all in the upper northeast-central regions of South America and not part of French Guiana) were merged to form British Guiana (which is now just called 'Guyana' after Independence). Guyana's capital city is the ocean-side Georgetown. Back

  24. As used here, this German word means approximately 'worldview' or 'world-outlook.' Back

  25. For an interesting intertextual link, see Di Brandt's Agnes in the Sky, which uses few commas, and her Jerusalem, Beloved, which has an abundance of them. Back

  26. Gutenberg Galaxy is not arranged hierarchically or in linear historical order but in clusters of textual lexia, much like a hypertext document. The word 'cluster' also connotes a cosmological metaphor. Back

  27. I here allude to a year 2000 anthology of essays (edited by Majorie Howes and Derek Attridge) on Joyce's connections to, and resistance of, Empire. The essays link Joyce studies and postcolonial studies, and are authored by major Joyce scholars such as Vincent Cheng (author of the seminal book Joyce, Race and Empire) and Emer Nolan (author of James Joyce and Nationalism). Back

  28. Harris continues in Fossil and Psyche: ". . . -- because language itself, I feel carries an inverse facto, an unsuspected revolutionary pressure which stands in inverse proportion to obsessive centrality (obsessive animism): thus one may find oneself picking up in fiction -- at the heart of sovereign realism itself -- a de-centralizing, de-escalating tabula rasa irony as the serial play the serial deaths/rebirths of a child (the half-god, half-monster in ourselves) (9-10). Back

  29. One can place Deen's poetry in conversation with John Ruskin's conception of the grotesque, though less so Ruskin's formulations of Caricature (see the Appendix of Modern Painters Volume IV: 407-13) but rather his descriptions of the Grotesque Ideal in Modern Painters Volume III: "A fine grotesque is the expression, in a moment, by a series of symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connection, of truths which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way, and of which the connection is left for the beholder to work out for himself; the gaps, left or overleaped by the haste of the imagination, forming the grotesque character" (III: 101-2). Back

  30. Deen adds that "WINTER, 1996 and RUMOURS OF THE HALF-GIRL are perhaps the two poems that deal most with what it means to re-think the ontological resonances of a life in art within a landscape one has not been psychically prepared for." Back

  31. The ambiguity here is rhetorical, i.e. Deen as an author, his text, and the 'body' of his text. Back

  32. In the "SHOUT OUTS" section, Deen acknowledges that this phrase derives from Lorna Goodison's poem "On Becoming A Tiger" (Goodison 134-5). Back

  33. See note 25. Back

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During April of 2001, I also consulted several Internet for information about Guyana:
WorldRover. Guyana: History. <>

(original source listed as source: U.S. State Department Background Notes 1998)


Guyana: Land Of Six Peoples:

The History Of Guyana.

Sify Search On Guyana [links to various sites for information on Guyana]

I thank the members of my English 581 class (UVIC), especially Brad Jenkins, for helping me to think through ideas about trauma, testimony, autobiography, and memoir: Andrea Mus, Felicity Hackettt, Chris Fox, Erin Ronsse, Jenifer Newbold, Joya Manna, Janis Dawson, Sue Mendel, and Kevin Goodman.

I express gratitude to my MA supervisor Dr. Proma Tagore (UVIC) for her continued support and guidance in my higher education.

I also give an extra special thanks to Faizal Deen for consenting to an e-mail interview and allowing me to use this material in my essay.

Lastly, thanks to Ian Campsall for giving my essay a once-over and a huge, heartfelt thanks to the perspicacious Rhian Cox for her invaluable feedback on my rough drafts.

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