Finalist, 2016 Pat Lowther Memorial Award
Titled after the Latin term for “unknown land”—a cartographical expression referring to regions that have not yet been mapped or documented—Terra Incognita is a collection of poems that creatively explores various racial discourses and interracial crossings buried in history’s grand narratives. Set against the similarities as well as incongruities of the Canadian/American backdrop of race relations, Terra Incognita explores the cultural memory and legacy of those whose histories have been the site of erasure, and who have thus—riffing on the Heraclitus’s dictum that “geography is fate”—been forced to redraw themselves into the texts of history. Finally, Terra Incognita is a collection that delves into the malleable borders of identity and questions what it means to move physically and spiritually, for our bodies to arrive and depart, our souls to relocate and change their scope.
“There is a true poet at work here, and there is a rare fineness of feeling on display in these poems. A delightful gathering by an exciting new voice.”
“Adebe DeRango-Adem knows the fire on water that was the slave trade, and names—has got to name—the bloody acts and ruddy facts of history’s oppressors. The “Terra Incognita” that she explores? Slave cemeteries, African villages, Canadian locales of snow-job erasures and razings. Here’s a poetry that unveils unspeakable histories and unspoken hardships. It is Yeatsean jazz, Nietzschian blues—transformative and best read with both eyes wide open, eh?”
—George Elliott Clarke
“Adebe DeRango-Adem’s poems blend a reverential tone of prayer with the maroon, insurgent spirit of Louverture. DeRango-Adem speaks with the force that would undo centuries of racial injustice and the gentle grace that looks first for forgiveness and familial embrace. These verses document bodies that texts have left unmapped, bodies whose “blood lines are a mix / of what has been washed away / and what was once considered a stain.” Enter into her startling kind, “bastardette” vision, where “all angels / of history are also half-caste.”
“Terra Incognita is a breath-taking lyrical travelogue into the mythical terrain of post-race. In this timely collection, DeRango-Adem laments the incomplete mapping of our contemporary racial topography and charts a new horizon with poems that seduce as they elucidate. Her verses explore the complex landscapes of identity and tensions between memory and meaning. An important collection from an extraordinary poet, Terra Incognita takes us on a journey to a deeper understanding of what it means to be a human-being in the twenty-first century.”
“Terra Incognita gives urgent voice to the difficult grace of multiplicity. Adebe DeRango-Adem writes through waves of angelic intransigence, her stained verse-light submerged in the stormy waters of an inability to forget.”