I FIRST MET Edward Kamau Brathwaite in the flesh in Toronto in 2005. I was attending a conference on the Caribbean at Ryerson University. I arrived to see my good friend and mentor Austin Clarke standing and talking to a tall man with a whitish beard, wearing a multicoloured tam.

“Kamau, this is Foster,” Austin said in his imitable Bajan, a way of speaking that never permits Clarkie to ever call me by my first name.  This is a way of familiarity that perhaps only a Bajan high school can instill, where everyone answers only to a surname. “Foster, this is Brathwaite.”