Dionne Brand Admitted to Order of Canada

June 30, 2017

Dionne Brand, recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Thorneloe University in 2015, has been admitted to the Order of Canada. As reported by Simona Chiose in the Globe and Mail:

A former Toronto poet laureate, Governor-General’s award winner, novelist and political activist, Dionne Brand has built her life and career around thinking and writing about Canada’s relationship with race and immigration.

With rage and sorrow, she has used her own experience as a black woman to question how the country has sidelined voices outside the mainstream.

“If only I had something to tell you, from here, / some good thing that would weather / the atmospheres of the last thirty years,” she wrote in 2010’s Ossuaries, the Griffin Poetry Prize winner that The Globe and Mail reviewer Sonnet L’Abbé described as a “furious dirge.”

“It is an honour to receive [the Order of Canada] with thanks to unknown and unheralded Black Canadians who made/make my art and existence possible,” Ms. Brand wrote in a statement to The Globe and Mail. “I want to highlight here that glowing genealogy: from Marie Joseph Angélique who, in her escape from enslavement, set fire to the city of Montreal in 1734; to the young girl in 1772 whose name was Thursday and who fled from slavery in Nova Scotia; to the young men today in Toronto, whose names are written on cards and held in the police files of the city, apprehended for being human; to all of the people who wake up each day living in spite of racism and who, with conscience, protest on the streets calling for simply living; to all who every day do the groundwork to make Black life meaningful. All these beautiful lives are the reason I write. They make me wake up each morning asking: What poetry must I make to requite their being? What world must I imagine? What words must I write today?”

Living in Toronto – the subject of several of her novels – has made imagining a different future possible, she added in an e-mail interview. “I grew into a writer in the city and the city, with its multiple languages, multiple communities, grew into the place I most want to live. I’ve felt in my work, my poems and novels, the odd sensation of writing the city into being, though that city that I imagine, and that city that is possible, is yet unfinished ..”


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