Dionne Brand is a world-renowned Canadian poet, novelist, essayist and and documentarian. She was Toronto’s third Poet Laureate from September 2009 to November 2012.
Born on January 7, 1953, in Guayguayare, Trinidad, she moved to Canada at age 17. She was educated at the University of Toronto, where she earned a BA in English and Philosophy going on to graduate study at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Her first poetry collection, ‘Fore Day Morning, was published in 1978, three years after her university graduation.
As a Poet, Brand has won the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Book Award for Land to Light On (1997) the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Poetry for thirsty (2002); the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuarie.
Brand is seen as being “at the forefront of the resurgence of Black writing in Canada.” Her writings driven by her political activism has explored the feelings of displacement experienced by Blacks as a result of the legacy of slavery, often touching on the specific situation of Black women–on “the blood-stained blind of race and sex,” as she put it in her 1990 poem “No Language Is Neutral.”
In November 2012, her first play debuted at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, when Brand adapted her poem thirsty for the stage. Set in Toronto in 1978, thirsty tells the story of Alan, a Jamaican man killed in his Toronto home by police, and how the memory of the event reverberates for the women in his life. Brand said, “I tried to think of how your life can split open in that public violent moment — I wanted to think through how that woman felt, what her family felt, when that kind of event happened in her life.”
She has also achieved great distinction and acclaim in fiction, with The Village Voice including Dionne Brand in its 1999 “Writers on the Verge” literary supplement. Brand’s works of fiction include the novel What We All Long For, translated into Italian, German and French, which won the Toronto Book Award. The novel In Another Place, Not Here was a New York Times notable book in 1998, and At the Full and Change of the Moon, a Los Angeles Times Notable Book of the Year in 1999.
Her non-fiction includes Bread Out Of Stone, and A Map to the Door of No Return, which is a meditation on Blackness in the diaspora.