Culture, Sunday poem

Sunday Poem: ‘English Literature’ by Adebe DeRango-Adem



because chiaroscuro

is where I belong.

That and I was once Pushkin’s wife.

O my darling octoroon

your Russia is alive and well,

but your Ethiopia is still squinting into the sun

blind and full of light

trying to find empire in uptown Harlem

but all we get is

gentrification petrification talk

about holy war, race war, war on war

while the Church of Nazareth on 144th stands

a burned-out shell, waiting.


Copacabana, Bolivia: A stained glass window reportedly broken by thieves at


Adebe DeRango-Adem is an Ethiopian-Italian writer and doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her work has been published in various North American sources, including Descant, CV2, Canadian Woman Studies and the Toronto Star.  She won the Toronto Poetry Competition in 2005 to become Toronto’s first Junior Poet Laureate.  In 2008, she attended the summer writing program at Naropa University, where she mentored with Anne Waldman and the late Amiri Baraka.

Her debut poetry collection, Ex Nihilo (Frontenac House, 2010) was one of ten manuscripts chosen in honour of Frontenac House’s Dektet 2010 competition, using a blind selection process by a jury of leading Canadian writers: bill bissett, George Elliott Clarke, and Alice Major.  Ex Nihilo was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, the world’s largest prize for writers under thirty.  She is also the co-editor, alongside Andrea Thompson, of Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out (Inanna Publications, 2010).


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