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September 30, 2009
City Council appoints Dionne Brand as Toronto's new Poet Laureate
  
Internationally acclaimed Toronto-based poet and novelist Dionne Brand has been appointed by City Council as Toronto's third Poet Laureate. Brand will receive an annual honorarium of $10,000 for three years to serve as Toronto's literary ambassador championing local literary arts and wordsmiths. She will also create a literary legacy project for the people of Toronto.

Mayor David Miller says of her appointment, "I am thrilled to see one of Toronto’s most distinguished writers serve in this important role. Ms. Brand's impressive body of work covers a range of issues and topics on community and cultural diversity. Her passion to tell Toronto stories to the world should serve as an inspiration to all Torontonians."

Brand has published nine volumes of poetry, including No Language is Neutral, shortlisted for the Governor General's Award; Land To Light On, winner of the Governor General's Award and the Trillium Book Award; thirsty, winner of the Pat Lowther Award and a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and the Griffin Poetry Prize; and most recently Inventory, a finalist for the Governor General's Award. Her poetry has been translated into Italian and French and is published in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Italy and Germany. Brand is also a novelist - and she won the Toronto Book Award for her novel What We All Long For in 2006. That year she was also awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for her contribution to the world of books and writing.

Brand says of her new appointment, “It is an honour to be the Poet Laureate of Toronto. I have a great passion for this city - in it's multiplicity it is constantly rich and surprising. I've written this about it in thirsty -
that wild waiting at traffic lights off the end of the world, where nothing is simple, nothing, in the city there is no simple love or simple fidelity, the heart is slippery.”

Dionne Brand's work is internationally known and taught. The great American poet Adrienne Rich called her “a cultural critic of uncompromising courage, an artist in language and ideas, an intellectual conscience for her country."

The Italian theorist Franca Bernabei has said of her work, "Brand's poetic production reveals a remarkable variety of formal-stylistic strategies and semantic richness as well as the ongoing pursuit of a voice and a language that embody her political, affective, and aesthetic engagement with the human condition."

Brand has written passionately about Toronto and Canada in her works throughout her career. The city and its citizens are the focus in the poems of thirsty, while the experience of new Canadians is a central theme of the poems Land To Light On and No Language is Neutral.

Born in 1953, Dionne Brand moved to Canada from Trinidad when she was 17 to attend the University of Toronto, where she earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and English and a masters degree in the philosophy of education. She is currently a professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph. She has contributed to 17 anthologies, written dozens of essays and articles, and made four documentary films for the National Film Board. Ossuaries, Brand's next collection of poems, will be published next year by McClelland and Stewart.

The position of City of Toronto Poet Laureate was initiated in 2001, with Dennis Lee serving as Canada's first municipal Poet Laureate. Since then, several municipalities have embraced the idea, including Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg. Dennis Lee embarked on an ambitious program that saw the 2008 unveiling of a monument in Queen's Park of poet Al Purdy. Pier Giorgio di Ciccio became Toronto’s second Poet Laureate in 2004. He has used the role to influence municipal policy in issues that address the urban aesthetic and its relationship to liveable and sustainable cities.

Dionne Brand was nominated by a selection committee that included Susan Feldman (Executive Producer, Literary Programs at the CBC); James Polk (publishing consultant and former editor-in-chief, Anansi Press); Desi di Nardo (Toronto poet and League of Canadian Poets board member); Joanne Saul (owner of Type bookstores); Martha Baillie (bilingual author and writer-in-residence at the Toronto Public Library) and Jemeni Gairy (broadcaster and hip-hop artist). For more information about the Toronto Poet Laureate program, visit www.toronto.ca/culture/poet_laureate.htm

Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Media contacts:
Rita Davies, Executive Director, Cultural Services., 416-397-5323, rdavies@toronto.ca
Shane Gerard, Senior Promotions & Communications Coordinator,
SDF&A Communications Unit, 416-397-5711, sgerard@toronto.ca




 

 

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