Writer Kaie Kellough talks about displacement

A book is fanned open
A book is fanned open

On Feb. 23, the 2020-21 Canadian Writers in Person Lecture Series presented Black Canadian writer and sound performer Kaie Kellough, reading from his book, Dominoes at the Crossroads. York University Teaching Assistant Dana Patrascu-Kingsley sent the following report to YFile.

Acclaimed Black Canadian writer and sound performer Kaie Kellough visited the Canadian Writers in Person series at York on Feb. 23 to talk about his collection of short stories, Dominoes at the Crossroads, winner of the 2020 the QWF Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction.

Canadian Writers in Person continues with Kaie Kellough's "Dominoes at the Crossroads" 
Canadian Writers in Person featured Kaie Kellough’s “Dominoes at the Crossroads”

Dominoes at the Crossroads maps an alternate Canada – one crisscrossed by a Caribbean diaspora seeking music, futures, and portals to their past. “One of the things I wanted to do in the book is: if a story was set in one place, it might be told from another. I always wanted a kind of displacement at the heart of the work,” said Kellough.

When he was writing this book, Kellough said he was also working on a book of poetry, and he found that the two types of writing spoke to each other: they had similar themes, and some similar stylistic characteristics turned up in the poetry and in the fiction. “Initially I had wanted to keep these two things separate,” he said. “But what I realized afterwards is that it’s important to let these different types of writing and artistic pursuits converse with and inform one another.

“The way a lyric poem moves and turns permeated the stories and gave them their sense of movement and flow,” explained Kellough. “The stories in this collection don’t follow the structures of fiction. They move in their meandering ways. They’re short stories, but they have the movement of poems.”

The collection includes jazz musicians, hitchhikers, quiet suburbanites, student radicals, secret agents, historians, and their fugitive slave ancestors, navigating the streets of Old Montreal, small Canadian towns and Caribbean locations. Dominoes at the Crossroads “plays double-dutch with time and latitude as its characters skip between their Caribbean roots and their Canadian present.” Kellough elaborated on this image: “For me double-dutch is that sense of having your foot in two worlds, having a foot in this moment and a foot in a past moment.”

The intersections in Dominoes at the Crossroads of prose and poetry, of different timelines and of various geographical locations make it a truly innovative and fascinating book.

The Canadian Writers in Person series will continue on March 9 with a reading and Q-and-A session with Terry Watada on Mysterious Dreams of the Dead.

Readings are free and open to any member of the public. For more information, contact Professor Gail Vanstone at gailv@yorku.ca. All readings are held Tuesdays from 7 to 8.30 p.m. on Zoom.