Working at the University of Toronto’s Robarts Library, Rudyard Fearon is a long way from where he was born in Clarendon, Jamaica. Fearon came to Canada in 1974 and began working at the library in 1982. That is where he found fertile ground to develop as a writer.
RF: What a difference it made in my development as a writer. It’s really there that I received my education.
Living and working in Toronto, Fearon has written, published and performed his poetry many times. But it was at the university library that the idea for the CD and the name Free Soil was born.
RF: It was while reading these books that I stumbled upon the term ‘Free Soil.’ I realized immediately that it embodies a significant theme of my work, racial discrimination, especially in poems like ‘Busing,’ ‘Ten Little Toes,’ and ‘Mulatto.’
During the time of slavery in the United States, the term Free Soil was used to designate those new territories of America not allowing slavery. Eventually, the words came to symbolize the abolitionist movement and freedom from oppression.
RF: In my mind ‘Free Soil’ also refers to the lushness of vegetation and the fertility of the land. In 1997 I went home to Jamaica to visit. I was staying in Mandeville with a cousin of mine that I grew up with. He lived on a hill. Looking down from that hill, I beheld the pastoral beauty of the land and I started snapping pictures. My cousin laughed at me. He said: ‘Ruddy, yu tun touris’, mon.’
Performing at venues across the city, Fearon specializes in dramatic and physical performances of his words. Though a free and intense performer, Rudy Fearon smiles and becomes shy talking about himself.
RF: Every time I am asked for a bio, I cringe. After all, isn’t it enough that I am stripped bare by my own poems. People want to know who you are — my name is Rudyard Wilberforce St. Francis Fearon and I was born in Jamaica!
At thirteen Fearon missed a chance getting a scholarship to attend high school, but his father, then married and living in the United States, agreed to pay for Rudyard to attend a private school.
RF: It was there that I was introduced to poetry, ‘The Daffodills’ by William Wordsworth…
Fearon lists many poets as influential such as Robert Frost and Langston Hughs, but puts Jamaican-born Claude McKay above all others.
RF: If there were one poem that had an effect on me, it was ‘If We Must Die.’ I read that poem and it gave me goose bumps. It triggered me to write my own ‘Black Sin.’
Fearon continues to write and perform at events in the Greater Toronto Area.