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Dionne Brand's Governor General's Award-winning collection of poetry, Land to Light On, is a rich and powerful testimonial of black suffering in the Americas, in a tale that shifts between story and song. Rough and urban, her poems are hard and tough and true, political and liturgical and musical: "the girl starts the morning too, ragged like years / ahead of her, she is a translator of languages / and souls, she waits for the bus, her Walkman / in a war with the pages she's been handed." Brand sings sculptures of text, written as extended fragments of a singular whole, and brings the language down to where it speaks, to where it moves us. "I sit down in the bar myself," she writes, "in a lot of bar, if I could drink / my way dead I would but my stomach give out before my heart."
Brand, whose other books include the acclaimed novels At the Full and Change of the Moon and In Another Place Not Here as well as the poetry collection No Language Is Neutral, writes music to be heard as much as words to be read. She manages to be wholly capable in both traditions while keeping a firm foothold in each, giving weight to dialect and diatribe, the speech of the heart. "the mouth of the world will open / yawn her in, float her like a language on its tongue, // forgetting / all at once and therefore fading surprise // at the hard matter of vanity." --Rob McLennan
“As behind most of our human celebrations, there are tragedies being played out behind the curtain of joy, for Brand is well aware of the world’s longings and despairs, how we are all the offspring of slaves, and/or – what is so much harder to bear – the offspring of slave owners.”
–Quill & Quire
“Brand’s distinguished voice and articulate vision situate her galaxies beyond most contemporary practitioners of poetry.”
–Globe and Mail
“Brand’s poetry is confrontational/confessionalism. She uses her life experiences to talk about oppression of many sorts in the Caribbean and Canada. She attempts to find links between different kinds of oppression – and that is the strength of her work. It is multilayered. There may be a nihilist tendency – but it is justified.”
–George Elliott Clarke
“You don’t read Dionne Brand, you hear her.”