Nomenclature for the Time Being (excerpt)

Dionne Brand

What is that advent of blacknessthat is the texture of lilac and barberryBreakability. To be plainto acquire the basic level of existenceall can be lostin that particular resolveTaxonomy thenI wrote everything down, you knownot that it matters. The notes won't survive the searchthey won't survive the opposition to this living. Kingdomhostage, Phylum hostage, Class hostage, Orderhostage, Family hostage, Genus hostage, Species the hostage * Kingdom ore, Phylum lenticular ore body, Class refractoryorder refracting, Family lensgenus refractory ore, Species refractionkingdom extracted, Phylum extracted, Class extractorder extraction, Family extracted, Genus extractedspecies extracted I won't tell you my exploits escaping this taxonomyI am grateful to metaphorI won't say what needs to be said, although"contractile fibrous bundle producing movement"I'll leave that thereit was the way the air felt, it * Was the autonomous gestures of a handa shoulder's discourse on effort, thenthe paraphrase a bit of laughter doessomeone walked the way a perfume walksit was what was left after labour, after a timeafter time itself, small, the implicationsIf I opened a door I could transcribe the technologyof a life, its pivot and breach, and jointI know the skill of epiphytesfeet hanging, never touching the groundeating air and grit and moisture, I do all these thingsno attachment. Take this world

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Dionne Brand is the award-winning author of twenty-three books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her twelve books of poetry ’Fore Day Morning: poems (1978); Earth Magic (1980/1993/2006, for children); Primitive Offensive (1982); Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of Claudia (1983); Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (1984); No Language is Neutral (1990); Land to Light On (1997); thirsty (2002); Inventory (2006); Ossuaries (2010); The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos (2018); and Nomenclature for the Time Being (2022), have won the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Poetry, the Governor General’s Award for English-Language Poetry, the Trillium Book Award, and the Griffin Poetry Prize.

In addition to poetry, Brand has published six works of fiction and five works of nonfiction. The fiction is: Sans Souci and Other Stories (1988); In Another Place, Not Here (1996); At the Full and Change of the Moon (1999); What We All Long For (2005); Love Enough (2014); and Theory (2018). Her nonfiction work: Bread Out of Stone: Recollections, Sex, Recognitions, Race, Dreaming, Politics (1984/1985/2019); No Burden to Carry: Narratives of Black Working Women in Ontario 1920s-1950s (1991); A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (2001); A Kind of Perfect Speech (2006); and An Autobiography of the Autobiography of Reading (2020). Brand is the co-editor of two books: Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots: Speaking of Racism (1986, with Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta); and Luminous Ink: Writers on Writing in Canada (2018, with Rabindranath Maharaj and Tessa McWatt), and co-author of We’re Rooted Here and They Can’t Pull Us Up: Essays in African Canadian Women’s History (1994, with Peggy Bristow, et al.).

Brand is the recipient of the Toronto Book Award (2006 and 2019), the Blue Metropolis Violet Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Fiction, and the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction. In 2017, Brand was named to the Order of Canada. She was poetry editor at McClelland & Stewart from 2014 to 2021.

"Through her storytelling and activism, Brand has always found ways to respond to and reflect the times. One thread remains clear in her work: Her commitment to Toronto is her commitment to people, histories, stories and the expressions of this place and beyond. The city might try to cling to the poet and all of her magnificence, but Dionne Brand is still imagining better worlds."
— Huda Hassan, Chatelaine

"Taken together, these poems reflect the work of someone aching to find a place where 'to be awake is / more lovely than dreams.'"
— Layla Benitez-James, Harriet

"Nomenclature is driven by sedate yet sparkling agonies that invent and occupy the limbo between blues spaciousness and frenzied free improvisation. . . . How does a black poet deliver her perspective ceremoniously, as stark ritual, without pandering to the expectation that she dress these deliveries up in myths and larger-than-life antics so that readers do not feel implicated by direct address? Brand shows us how by doing just that and whether or not the revolution she imagined comes, this is a revolutionary act, to not act but to be so precisely that each small degree of change rivets and ripples as a self-contained justice that needs no codifying in outside laws."
— Harmony Holiday, 4Columns

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