“I’m a poet firstly, and that’s what I absolutely love….The shape and order of poetry, its ability to contain universes of ideas which can lift you out of the immediate dread of living….I like the way in which poetry makes you reach for perfect speech, the perfect expression of your breath, your singular breath, at the same moment as it joins you to all other breathing.”
-Dionne Brand, 1997 interview with Eva Tihanyl
Dionne Brand has written poetry, essays, novels, short stories as well as a plethora of other works with significant genre overlap. Her writings are almost all political in nature and challenge her audiences to view the world through a uniquely provocative lens. Brand’s intricate early life engaging in public projects oriented towards producing social change as well as a prolific career as a college professor with numerous publications has established her as an intellectual with a very widespread impact.
On one end, Brand has provided commentary on the experiences of living and working black woman in Canada, and on another end she has deeply explored the African diaspora and the legacy this penetrating history has had on the living descendants today. In an interview with Rinaldo Walcott and Leslie Sanders in 2000, Dionne Brand voiced, “Black writers in this country have still to receive an intelligent reading. The kind of reading that says, ‘No, I don’t know. I’ve never lived in that body but in good faith, I will go where the book is going because I am interested in what human beings do.'”The union of personal and historical renders Dionne Brand’s writing a consummate, ideal framework from which one can view diverse social identities.
Brand was born in Guayaguayare, a small village on the sea in Trinidad and Tobago. While growing up on the island with her grandmother and also attending Naparima’s all Girls high school she is rumored to have submitted poetry to the island newspapers under a pseudonym, Xavior Simone. This is presumably contended to be in homage to Nina Simone, a US musician, writer and social activist whom she listened to on the radio during childhood and who may have had a hand in sculpting her revolutionary principles.
Brand is quoted saying “I am a woman and Black and lesbian, the evidence of this is inescapable and interesting.” Despite her childhood in the Caribbean, Brand has identified herself as a Black Canadien. She emigrated to Canada upon graduation from high school and earned a BA in english and philosophy at the University of Toronto in 1975.
Brand engaged in numerous social and community organizations while living in Canada including the Immigrant Women’s Centre in Toronto, the Black Education Project, and the Ontario Federation of Labour. In addition to her prolific public works, she founded Canada’s first black women’s newspaper, called Our Lives. Her life has been permeated with both public service as well as a multitude of her own publications. ‘Fore Day Morning, Brand’s first collection of poetry, was published in 1978.
“Dionne Brand.” Contemporary Literary Criticism Select. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Web. 28 Sept. 2016.
Dudek, Debra. “Dionne Brand.” Twenty-First-Century Canadian Writers. Ed. Christian Riegel. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 334. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.
Ewart, Chris. “Terms of disappropriation: disability, diaspora and Dionne Brand’s What We All Long For.” Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 4.2 (2010): 147+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 27 Sept. 2016.
Liskova, Lenka. Postcolonial Identity in Poetry of Dionne Brand. Ed. Jiri Flajsar, Ph.D.
Palacky University of Olomouc 2014