One of Canada’s foremost literary stars is coming to Edmonton to discuss how to transform the stories about race and colonialism that we read in the world around us.
Dionne Brand, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Award, will deliver the Canadian Literature Centre’s 2019 Kreisel Lecture at the University of Alberta, with an introduction from the bestselling author Lawrence Hill. Brand will talk about deploying poetry to challenge racist narratives and break up their well-worn grooves in Canadian culture and language.
Brand raises these thoughts in her book of poetry, The Blue Clerk (2018), describing the fight against racist ideas on their own terms as a performance that stays trapped in the same worldview.
She writes, “Those performances have used up generations of people, like a play being acted and re-enacted over time, the actors losing skin and bone […] Even the language that we used to combat the more awful ailments, even that can be turned inward on itself. To transgress to rebel. They capitulate to the existence of a law, a truth. So you are dying in their etymology.”
Brand’s talk will address how to change the framework of our conversations and move past systems of thought based on tyranny and exclusion into a more open world.
“Outwardly political and often formally experimental, her work appeals to the common reader for its direct and uncompromising examination of serious social issues such as racism, injustice, and the contemporary legacies of the darkest periods of history such as the African slave trade,” says Marie Carrière, the director of the Canadian Literature Centre.
Noting Brand’s importance over the past decades in driving conversation around these topics, Carrière adds, “[She] has influenced at least two generations of Black, feminist, and queer writers, in every genre that she practices: poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.”
Since beginning in 2007, the Kreisel Lecture Series has brought groundbreaking authors such as Lawrence Hill, Esi Edugyan, and Eden Robinson to Edmonton.
“Not only did these lectures—as did the others in the series—inspire exciting exchanges of thought in the room as they took place, but they continued to do so through their subsequent publications and broadcasts,” Carrière says.
The lecture will be published by the University of Alberta Press, and will also be broadcast on CBC Radio One “Ideas,” with an interview between Paul Kennedy and the author.
Brand will continue the Kreisel Lecture’s tradition of presenting a unique perspective with the strength to reshape minds.
As the author writes in The Blue Clerk, “Poetry can expose the heterogeneous qualities of a life, or of life, in an age in which all efforts both corporate and State, seem to homogenize. I think that poetry has the capacity to blow oxygen on a stiff existence, right?”
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