When the dead return
they will come to you in dream
from “No Ruined Stone”
From Jamaica and born to a Jamaican father and Venezuelan mother, Shara McCallum is the author of six books published in the US & UK, including No Ruined Stone (forthcoming later in 2021), a verse sequence based on an alternate account of history and Scottish poet Robert Burns’ near migration to Jamaica to work on a slave plantation. La historia es un cuarto/History is a Room, an anthology of poems selected from across her six books and translated and introduced by Adalber Salas Hernández, will also be published in 2021 (Mantis Editores, Mexico). McCallum’s poems have appeared in journals, anthologies, and textbooks throughout the US, Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Israel. In addition to Spanish, her poems have been translated into Italian, French, Romanian, Dutch, and Turkish and have been set to music by composers Marta Gentilucci and Gity Razaz. Awards for her work include the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (for her previous book, Madwoman), a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, the Oran Robert Perry Burke Award for Nonfiction, and the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize (for her first book, The Water Between Us). A Professor of English at Penn State University and faculty member in the Pacific University Low-Residency MFA Program, McCallum delivers readings, lectures, and workshops at universities and literary festivals in the US & internationally.
Most recent book
“I’ve been eagerly awaiting Shara McCallum’s No Ruined Stone since before many of the poems were even penned. Rooted in research, the poetry collection recasts the life and legacy of celebrated Scottish poet Robert Burns—imagining that he moved to Jamaica, where he nearly migrated to work as a bookkeeper on a plantation. In this fictional history, Burns’s granddaughter, Isabella, is one of the main voices. Born an enslaved Black woman, Isabella crosses the same ocean her ancestors crossed in different capacities to pass as a White woman in Scotland. McCallum’s collection, through a strong commitment to craft and narrative, grapples with race, violence, colonialism and inheritance. No Ruined Stone is striking and unsettling in all of the ways I love my art.”
— Chet’la Sebree, for The Lily, recommends No Ruined Stone
“…McCallum beautifully incorporates the patois of her native Jamaica and employs myth as a way to deal with the mistakes and hurts of the past. McCallum’s striking poems take the madwoman out of her attic so that she may walk and speak among the living.”
—Publishers Weekly starred review of Madwoman
“These are poems of ruin and rebirth, of the joys and damage a mother knows: “Rock and stone// are different words which mean the same when flung;/ beauty delivers its own kind of wound.” Lovely to read, McCallum’s poetry is constructed partly of proper Queen’s English and partly of Jamaican patois, and their blending effectively translates the narrator’s quest to save history, to refuse to let it repeat itself, to define and redefine motherhood and who she is. “Where are you, mother,/ now the spell is broken?// ~ Daughter, I am the dark in your eye.” VERDICT This is a marvelous collection filled with a lovely and evocative music. Highly recommended.
—Library Journal starred review of This Strange Land