Shukman, Henry 1962-
Shukman, Henry 1962-
PERSONAL: Born 1962, in Oxford, England.
ADDRESSES: Home—Oxford, England. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Jonathan Cape, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd., London SW1V 2SA, England.
CAREER: Poet and author; former poet-in-residence at Wadsworth Trust; has taught in New Mexico; has also worked as a trombonist and trawler man.
AWARDS, HONORS: Arvon Prize, London Daily Telegraph, 2000; Times Literary Supplement prize and Aldeburgh Festival Prize, both 2002; Forward Prize for Best First Collection, 2002, Book of the Year citations, London Times and Manchester Guardian, all for In Doctor No's Garden; Tabla Prize; Peterloo Prize; Arts Council writer's award.
In Doctor No's Garden (poems), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2002.
Darien Dogs (short stories), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2004, Knopf (New York, NY), 2005.
Sandstorm (novel), Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2005.
Poems have appeared in Times Literary Supplement, Manchester Guardian, London Daily Telegraph, and Iowa Review; short stories have appeared in O. Henry Prize Stories. Reviewer for New York Times Book Review.
Sons of the Moon: A Journey in the Andes, Scribner' (New York, NY), 1989.
Travels with My Trombone: A Caribbean Journey, HarperCollins (London, England), 1992, Crown (New York, NY), 1993.
Savage Pilgrims: On the Road to Santa Fe, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996, Kodansha International (New York, NY), 1997.
Contributing editor to Conde Nast Traveler; contributor to Travel Intelligence Web site.
SIDELIGHTS: Over the years, British author Henry Shukman has written in many genres: travelogue, poetry, and more recently both long and short fiction. His first published books recount his adventures throughout North and South America, and even after he branched out into publishing poetry and fiction he has remained a contributing editor of Conde Nast Traveler. It is as a poet, however, that Shukman is best known and appreciated; his poetry has won numerous awards, including the prestigious 2002 Forward Prize. "I deplore the idea of poetry being steered down some tiny tributary where no one goes, and left there for dead," Shukman told an interviewer for England's Poem Web site. "I discovered poetry as a young teen, and that came about through reading poetry that offered things I couldn't help but love—wit, wisdom, nostalgia and so on. What I like best is something I understand at first reading, yet am simultaneously troubled by a sense of something not apprehended."
Shukman's first book, Sons of the Moon: A Journey in the Andes, is set in the Bolivian and Peruvian portions of the Altiplano, a dry plateau high in the Andes Mountains that is populated largely by Aymara Indians. For his second book-length travelogue he moved north to the Caribbean islands, including Trinidad, Grenada, and Guadeloupe, as well as the mainland country of Colombia. Travels with My Trombone: A Caribbean Journey recounts Shukman's adventures as he worked his way across these countries as a hired musician, playing in bands that specialized in a range of local styles, including soul-calypso or "soca" reggae, zouk, and folk. A Publishers Weekly critic praised the book's "sensual imagery," and also noted that Shukman's "fevered prose aptly conveys the heated climate, as well as his own elation and overwhelming fatigue" as he played at numerous high-energy, all-night parties on Trinidad in the weeks before Mardi Gras.
The title of Shukman's third travel book, Savage Pilgrims: On the Road to Santa Fe, refers to Britishborn author D. H. Lawrence's "savage pilgrimage," as he termed his wide-ranging wanderings about the globe. Lawrence settled briefly in Taos, New Mexico, in the 1920s, and Shukman traveled through the state trying to learn more about the late author. Shukman "achieves polished, captivating portraits of prominent landscapes," Alice Joyce wrote in Booklist, but, in the end, it seems that Shukman learns more about himself than about New Mexico or Lawrence. As a Publishers Weekly contributor noted, the book is an example of "the trend in travel literature being less about exploring other places and cultures, and more about the writer having to travel to a strange land to find his own soul." This critic did not necessarily mean that as praise, but Library Journal reviewer Jane N. Ross found "traveling with Shukman [to be] as mind-expanding as a moon walk."
Shukman drew on his travels in the Caribbean to write the title story of his fiction collection Darien Dogs. The tale is set in the San Blas islands, which are located in the southwestern corner of the Caribbean Sea, off the coast of Panama. The islands are inhabited by the Cuna Indians, who live what British ex-patriot Jim Rogers sees as an idyllic life: simple, with little technology and no worries about money. Rogers, on the other hand, has many problems with money; he is in Latin America because his bank demoted him after he lost a fortune in a stock market crash. At first he longs to redeem himself by launching a profitable venture—an oil pipeline across Panama that will allow the commodity to be transported without using the Panama canal—but as he learns to love the simple life he has found in the San Blas islands he realizes that it will be destroyed if the pipeline is built. "Shukman gives alluring descriptions of life in San Blas," wrote Manchester Guardian contributor Josh Lacey, and in his opinion these, along with Shukman's "elegaic tone [and] his wit," form "the most enjoyable portions of the book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 1997, Alice Joyce, review of Savage Pilgrims: On the Road to Santa Fe, p. 1475.
Guardian (Manchester, England), May 15, 2004, Josh Lacey, review of Darien Dogs, p. 27.
Library Journal, April 1, 1997, Jane N. Ross, review of Savage Pilgrims, p. 113.
Publishers Weekly, March 9, 1990, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Sons of the Moon: A Journey in the Andes, p. 56; March 15, 1993, review of Travels with My Trombone: A Caribbean Journey, p. 78; April 21, 1997, review of Savage Pilgrims, p. 54.
Spectator, August 28, 2004, Clemency Burton-Hill, review of Darien Dogs, p. 29.
Guardian Unlimited, http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (February 15, 2005), "Next Generation Poets 2004."
London Review of Books Online, http://www.lrb.co.uk/ (February 10, 2005), "Henry Shukman."
Poem Web site, http://www.thepoem.co.uk/ (July 26, 2003), interview with Shukman.
Poetry Book Society Web site, http://www.poetrybooks.co.uk/ (February 10, 2005), "Henry Shukman."
Travel Intelligence Web site, http://www.travelintelligence.co.uk/ (February 15, 2005), "Henry Shukman."