VIDEO: Dionne Brand : Voices From the Gaps > University of Minnesota

Poet Dionne Brand reads the poem "ossuary VIII" from Ossuaries, winner of the 2011 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize.

Canadian poet Dionne Brand reads from the poem "thirsty" from the collection thirsty, shortlisted for the 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Learn more about the Griffin Poetry Prize at


Biography / Criticism

Born in Guayguayare, Trinidad in 1953, Dionne Brand moved to Toronto, Canada after graduating from Naparima Girls' High School in 1970. She earned her B.A. in English and Philosophy from the University of Toronto and M.A. in the Philosophy of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She has taught English Literature and Creative Writing at Guelph, York, and Toronto Universities and poetry writing at West Coast Women and Words Summer School in Vancouver, as well as at the Humber School of Writing in Toronto. She was a Writer in Residence both at the University of Toronto and at the Halifax City Regional Library.

In addition to being a writer, Brand is a social activist who contributes greatly to black and feminist communities. As Carmen Lassotta explains, Brand has been a member of the Communist Party of Canada, and remains committed to Marxist ideas, particularly to the principles of equal distribution of the world's wealth and ending the exploitation of the labor of the majority of the world's peoples.

In addition to teaching, Brand has worked as an editor, writer, and researcher for a number of alternative journals and papers, including Spear, Fuse Magazine, Network, the Harriet Tubman Review, Poetry Canada Review, and Canadian Women's Studies and Resources for Feminist Research. She was the founding member and editor of Our Lives, Canada's first black women's newspaper. Her political and social work includes chairing the Women's Issues Committee of the Ontario Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, helping to organize the Black and Native Women's Caucus of the International Women's Day Coalition, working for Toronto's Black Education Project, and serving on the board of the Shirley Samaroo House, a Toronto shelter for battered immigrant women. She has also been a counselor at the Immigrant Women's Center and an Information Officer for the Caribbean Peoples' Development Agencies.

Brand conveys her politics in her poetry, essays, and films, as well as through her community activism. Primitive Offensive and Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of Claudia are her first two books of poetry that deal explicitly with political issues. They especially address colonial oppression and imperialism. Her subsequently published book, Chronicles of the Hostile Sun, is a reaction to the U.S. invasion of Grenada. In her writing, Brand also shares her theories about what it means to identify oneself as "multicultural" and her own experiences as a Canadian immigrant and as a lesbian.

Brand situates her writing internationally, in the context of literature by other racial minority authors. In commenting on her influences, she has said, "What some white reviewers lack is the sense of what literature that is made by Black people and other people of colour is about. If you read my work, you have to read Toni Morrison . . . Derek Walcott, Rosa Guy, Jean Rhys, Edie Brathwaite, and African writers and poets . . . I'm sitting right in the middle of Black Literature, because that's who I read, that's who I respond to" (Books in Canada, October 1990: 14).

Selected Bibliography

Works by the Author

  • Thirsty (2002)

  • A Map to the Door of No Return (2001)

  • At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999)

  • Land To Light On (1997)

  • In Another Place, Not Here (1997)

  • Bread out of Stone: Recollections, Sex, Recognitions, Race, Dreaming, Politics (1994)

  • Long Time Comin' (1993)

  • No Burden to Carry (1991)

  • Sisters in Struggle (1991)

  • No Language is Neutral (1990)

  • Sans Souci, and Other Stories (1989)

  • Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots: Speaking of Racism (1986)

  • Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (1984)

  • Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of Claudia (1982)

  • Primitive Offensive (1982)

  • Fore Day Morning (1978)

  • Earth Magic (1978)

Works about the Author

  • Birbalsingh, Frank. “Dionne Brand: No Language Is Neutral.” Frontiers of Caribbean Literatures in English. Ed. Frank Birbalsingh. New York: St. Martin's, 1996. 120-137.

  • Brathwaite, Edward Kamau. “Dionne Brand's Winter Epigrams.” Canadian Literature 105 (1985): 18-30.

  • Brydon, Diana. “Reading Dionne Brand's 'Blues Spiritual for Mammy Prater. '” Inside the Poem: Essays and Poems in Honour of Donald Stephens. Ed. W. H. New. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1992. 81-87.

  • Carrie, Marie. “L'Errance identitaire dans les textes migrants du Québec et du Canada anglais.” Etudes Canadiennes/Canadian Studies: Revue Interdisciplinaire des Etudes Canadiennes en France 54 (2003): 93-103.

  • Casas, Maria. “Codes as Identity: The Bilingual Representation of a Fragmented Literary Subject.” Language and Discourse 2 (1994): 54-61.

  • Daurio, Beverley “Writing It: Dionne Brand.” The Power to Bend Spoons: Interviews with Canadian Novelists. Ed. Beverley Daurio. Toronto, ON: Mercury, 1998. 31-41.

  • Forster, Sophia. “'Inventory Is Useless Now but Just to Say': The Politics of Ambivalence in Dionne Brand's Land to Light On.” Studies in Canadian Literature/Etudes en Littérature Canadienne 27.2 (2002): 160-82.

  • Freiwald, Bina Toledo. “Cartographies of Be/Longing: Dionne Brand's ‘In Another Place, Not Here. '” Mapping Canadian Cultural Space: Essays on Canadian Literature. Ed. Danielle Schaub. Jerusalem, Israel: Magnes, 1998. 37-53.

  • Garvey, Johanna. “'The Place She Miss': Exile, Memory, and Resistance In Dionne Brand's Fiction.” Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters 26.2 (2003): 486-503.

  • Georgis, Dina. Mother Nations and the Persistence of 'Not Here'. Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 20.2 (2000): 27-34.

  • Gingell, Susan. “Returning to Come Forward: Dionne Brand Confronts Derek Walcott.” Journal of West Indian Literature 6.2 (1994): 43-53.

  • Hunter, Lynette. “After Modernism: Alternative Voices in the Writings of Dionne Brand, Claire Brand, Claire Harris, and Marlene Philip.” University of Toronto Quarterly: A Canadian Journal of the Humanities 62:2 (1992-1993): 256-81.

  • Luft, Joanna. “Elizete and Verlia Go to Toronto: Caribbean Immigrant Sensibilities at 'Home' and Overseas in Dionne Brand's In Another Place, Not Here.” Essays on Canadian Writing 77 (2002): 26-49.

  • McCallum, Pamela and Christian Olbey. “Written in the Scars: History, Genre, and Materiality in Dionne Brand's ‘In Another Place, Not Here. '” Essays on Canadian Writing 68 (1999): 159-82.

  • Renk, Kathleen J. 'Her Words Are Like Fire': The Storytelling Magic of Dionne Brand. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 27.4 (1996): 97-111.

  • Sanders, Leslie. “'I Am Stateless Anyway': The Poetry of Dionne Brand.” Zora Neale Hurston Forum 3.2 (1989): 19-29.

  • Sarbadhikary, Krishna. “Recovering History: The Poems of Dionne Brand.” Intersexions: Issues of Race and Gender in Canadian Women's Writing. Ed. Coomi S. Vevaina and Barbara Godard. Creative New Literatures Series. 7. New Delhi: Creative, 1996. 116-130.

  • Smyth, Heather. Sexual Citizenship and Caribbean-Canadian Fiction: Dionne Brand's 'In Another Place, Not Here' and Shani Mootoo's 'Cereus Blooms at Night'. ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature 30.2 (1999): 141-60.

  • Sturgess, Charlotte. Dionne Brand: Writing the Margins. Caribbean Women Writers: Fiction in English. Ed. Mary Condé and Thorunn Lonsdale. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. 202-216.

  • -----. Dionne Brand's Short Stories: Warring Forces and Narrative Poetics. Anglophonia: French Journal of English Studies 1 (1997): 155-60.

  • -----. Spirits and Transformation in Dionne Brand's Sans Souci and Other Stories. Etudes Canadiennes/Canadian Studies: Revue Interdisciplinaire des Etudes Canadiennes en France 35 (1993): 223-29.

  • Thomas, H. Nigel. A Commentary on the Poetry of Dionne Brand. Kola: A Black Lit. Mag. (Montreal) 1.1 (1987): 51-61.

  • Walcott, Rinaldo and Leslie Sanders. At the Full and Change of CanLit: An Interview with Dionne Brand. Canadian Woman Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme 20.2 (2000): 22-26.

  • Wiens, Jason. 'Language Seemed to Split in Two': National Ambivalence(s) and Dionne Brand's 'No Language Is Neutral'. Essays on Canadian Writing 70 (2000): 81-102.

  • Zackodnik, Teresa. 'I Am Blackening in My Way': Identity and Place in Dionne Brand's No Language Is Neutral. Essays on Canadian Writing 57 (1995): 194-211.

Related Links

University of Toronto Library: Canadian Poets
This page has a brief biography on Dionne Brand with a promise of more to come.

Northwest Passages: Author Profiles
This biography includes a long quote from Brand, pinpointing the origins of her desire to write.

Women Make Movies: Film with Adrienne Rich and Dionne Brand
Information about Listening for Something: Adrienne Rich and Dionne Brand in Conversation, a film by Brand.

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This page was researched and submitted by Eleanor Ty on 12/4/00 and edited and updated by Lauren Curtright on 8/20/04.