Dionne Brand

A Kind of Perfect Speech, by Governor General’s Award winner Dionne Brand, is the third title in the lecture series. Dionne Brand was the 2006 Ralph Gustafson Chair of Poetry.

“Yes, poetry is our laughing and crying, much as its space is so fragile in me. Each¬†time I open my pen I am fighting to recover something as precious as laughing and crying. I don’t see writing as a career. I see it as a kind of perfect speech, which is a way to the liberatory.”

Dionne Brand was born in Guayaguayare, a small village in Trinidad and Tobago. She Immigrated to Canada in 1970 and attended the University of Toronto where she earned her B.A. in 1975. She also holds a Masters degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and was named Toronto’s third Poet Laureate in September 2009.

Her books of poetry include No Language Is Neutral, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award, Land to Light On, winner of the Governor General’s Award and the Trillium Award, and Thirsty, finalist for the Griffin Prize and winner of the Pat Lowther Award for poetry. She is also the author of acclaimed novels In Another Place, Not Here, and At the Full and Change of the Moon. Her non-fiction works include Bread Out of Stone, A Map to the Door of No Return, and What We All Long For.

Brand has held several prestigious academic positions, including Writer-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, Assistant Professor of English at the University of Guelph, and Distinguished Visting Scholar and Writer-in-Residence at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

She constantly explores themes of race, sexuality, gender and feminism in her writing.


Dionne Brand reads from thirsty:





1978: Fore Day Morning: Poems. Toronto: Khoisan Artists.
1979: Earth Magic. Toronto: Kids Can Press.
1982: Primitive Offensive. Toronto: Williams-Wallace International Inc.
1983: Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of ClaudiaWilliams- Wallace.
1984: Chronicles of the Hostile SunToronto: Williams-Wallace.
1990: No Language is Neutral. Toronto: Coach House PressMcClelland & Stewart,
1997: Land to Light On. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
2002: thirsty. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. (Shortlisted for the 2003 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize)
Excerpt from thirsty, online at CBC Words at Large
2006: Inventory. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Excerpt from Inventory, online at CBC Words at Large
2010: OssuariesMcClelland & Stewart. (Shortlisted for the 2011 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize and Pat Lowther Award)


1988: Sans Souci and Other Stories. Stratford, ON: Williams-Wallace.
1996: In Another Place, Not Here. Toronto: Knopf Canada.
1999: At the Full and Change of the Moon. Toronto: Knopf Canada.
2005: What We All Long For. Toronto: Knopf Canada.



1986: Rivers have sources, trees have roots: speaking of racism (with Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta). Toronto: Cross Cultural Communications Centre.
1991: No Burden to Carry: Narratives of Black Working Women in Ontario, 1920s-1950s (with Lois De Shield). Toronto: Women’s Press.
1994: Imagination, Representation, and Culture.
1994: We’re Rooted Here and They Can’t Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History (with Peggy Bristow, Linda Carty, Afua P. Cooper, Sylvia Hamilton, and Adrienne Shadd). Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
1994: Bread Out of Stone: Recollections on Sex, Recognitions, Race, Dreaming and Politics. Toronto: Coach House Press, ISBN 0889104921; Toronto: Vintage, 1998.
2001: A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging. Toronto: Random House Canada.
2008: A Kind of Perfect Speech: The Ralph Gustafson Lecture Malaspina University-College 19 October 2006. Nanaimo, BC: Institute for Coastal Research Publishing.


Older, Stronger, Wiser. Dir. Claire Prieto. Assoc. Dir. Dionne Brand. (Part I, Women at the Well trilogy). National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1989.
Sisters in the Struggle. Dirs. Dionne Brand and Ginny Stikeman. (Part II, Women at the Well trilogy). National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1991.
Long Time Comin’Dir. Dionne Brand. Perf. Faith Nolan and Grace Channer. (Part III, Women at the Well trilogy). National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1991.
Listening for Something: Adrienne Rich and Dionne Brand in Conversation. Dir. Dionne Brand. National Film Board of Canada, Studio D, 1996.
Beyond Borders: Arab Feminists Talk About Their Lives … East and West. Dir. Jennifer Kawaja. Narr. Dionne Brand. National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
Under One Sky: Arab Women in North America Talk About the Hijab. Dir. Jennifer Kawaja. Narr. Dionne Brand. National Film Board of Canada, 1999.
Borderless: A Docu-Drama About the Lives of Undocumented WorkersDir. Min Sook Lee. Narr. Dionne Brand. KAIROS Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, 2006.


1990: Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for No Language is Neutral (1990)
1997: Won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award forLand to Light On (1997)
1997: Shortlisted for the Chapters Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Trillium Book Award for In Another Place, Not Here (1996)
1998: In Another Place, Not Here (1996) designated a New York Times Notable Book
1999: At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999) designated a Los Angeles TimesNotable Book
1999: Included in The Village Voice‘s second annual “Writers on the Verge” literary supplement
2003: Won the Pat Lowther Award for thirsty¬†(2002)
2003: Shortlisted for the City of Toronto Book Award, the Trillium Book Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize for thirsty (2002)
2006: Won the City of Toronto Book Award for What We All Long For (2005)
2006: Won the Harbourfront Festival Prize in recognition of her important contribution to literature
2006: Shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry and the Trillium Book Award for Inventory (2006)
2006: Made a Fellow of the Academies for Arts, Humanities, and Sciences of Canada (formerly the Royal Society of Canada[2])
2007: Shortlisted for the Pat Lowther Award for Inventory (2006)
2009: Appointed Poet Laureate of Toronto
2011: Shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries[3]