A poetic journey – Janet Naidu returns with ‘River Crossing’

By Lincoln DePradine

In 1999, Janet Naidu published her first book of poetry, titled “Winged Heart’’. Other publications followed in 2005 and 2009.

Janet Naidu with River Crossing

Now, after a 14-year publishing hiatus, she’s returned with “River Crossing’’.

“It takes a while,’’ Naidu said last Sunday, explaining the time-lapse between book number 3, “Sacred Silence’’ and the latest release of “River Crossing’’.

“I had some other work to do; but I managed to work on it the last couple of years. It’s called ‘River Crossing’ because it speaks to many journeys.’’

Naidu made the comments at a launch of “River Crossing’’ at Island Junction Restaurant in Scarborough.

“We deserve to celebrate one another. We deserve to celebrate our cultures and, certainly, we deserve to appreciate the arts,’’ said retired Toronto District School Board principal, Peter Deboran, who introduced Naidu. “Kudos to her perseverance.’’

Trinidad-born Deboran said he and Naidu shared mutual interests on “social issues’’ and “issues of identity in the Caribbean’’, and had developed “an incredible friendship’’ over the last 15 years.

River Crossing

Naidu, a writer and educator, was born and raised in rural Covent Garden in Guyana.

She holds a political science and Caribbean studies degree from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of laws from the University of London in England.

The founder of the Pakaraima Writers Association in 2005, Naidu’s poems have been published in anthologies, journals, internet publications, blogs, and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies. 

The themes of her poems deal with topics such as migration, ancestral heritage, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience, survival, and identity.

Her collection of poetry in “Winged Heart’’ was shortlisted in 2000 for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category.

The 2005 “Rainwater’’ was republished in 2023.

Last December, the Pakaraima Writers Association presented Naidu with a Literary Award.

She joined previous Pakaraima Writers Association award recipients Guyanese poet Ian McDonald; Trinidad-born professor and writer Ramabai Espinet; Guyanese poet and educator, Peter Jailall.

“River Crossing’’ has been described as a “breathtaking collection of poems that is located from place to place, evoking the lived experiences of the historical and the persistence of memories of migration and survival in new lands’’.

Among those who have commended the book is Baytoram Ramharack of the Department of History, Political Science, Geography & Latin American Studies at Nassau Community College in New York.

“Janet Naidu skillfully blends her poetic voice into a world that captures her cultural connection with her beloved Guyana and reflections of life in Canada,’’ Ramharack said in a review of “River Crossing’’.

“Her poetic voice is pure nostalgia, rich in imagery of places. She gracefully synthesizes history, culture, memories, and new lived experiences into one’s artistically blissful journey in life. Her poetry holds up a mirror in which readers can see deep reflections of their own world. River Crossing is a sacred gift to all humanity.”

Naidu, who also has written and published essays and short stories, read some of the poetry from “River Crossing’’ on Sunday.

The first poem read was, “One Day in Our Journey’’.

In it, Naidu writes, in part, that: “One day in our journey, you walk a while, along a river, towards the fields. You see someone’s hands full of soil. You know their sweat, toil and tears.

“Our ancestors and before them, wide awake before sunrise, gave their all. Their layers of energy – blood, flesh and bone – spread like fire in the fields, twirling around; their pain running through their veins’’.

“River Crossing’’, which is published in paperback by Greenheart Press, is available on amazon.ca

More information can be obtained by calling 647-708-5834; or emailing janetnaidu@rogers.com