Dionne Brand in Town for MUN’s 2017 Pratt Lecture

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The annual E.J. Pratt Lecture is the oldest public lecture at Memorial University. Since 1968, it has been delivered by notable speakers including Northrop Frye, Christopher Pratt, Ursula LeGuin, and Anne Carson.

This year’s lecturer is Dionne Brand, a poet and novelist whose books have won the Griffin Poetry Prize, the Trillium Book Prize, and the Pat Lowther Award, and have been nominated three times for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She is a Professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.

Her works of poetry include Ossuaries, Land to Light OnInventory, and No Language is Neutral. Her novels include Love EnoughAt the Full and Change of the Moon, and What We All Long For. Her non-fiction includes Bread out of Stone and A Map to the Door of No Return.

Brand’s writing lures the reader into territories of contention and discomfort through prose that is delicately wrapped in metaphor. She describes a flock of birds majestically, as a cacophony of red.

Once immersed in her text, the beauty of her words invites readers to consider and reconsider difficult themes around social justice, hypocrisy, trauma, history, gender, race, sexuality and feminism.

In At the Full and Change of the Moon, Brand’s character Bola speaks of her mother’s death, “I was sweeping the back steps just as our mother was dying and a ladybug flew at me. I thought at first she was a fly and tried to brush her away but she lighted on my hand and I knew that it was our mother.”

Brand embues the ladybug with spirit – human and otherworldly – creating a sense of loss, but also an intimate moment between mother and child as the former says goodbye.

In her article, “Archiving the Door of No Return in Dionne Brand’s At the Full and Change of the Moon,” Lauren Gantz writes of ghosts in literary theory. She says, “Specifically, all of these theories suggest that the ghost is linked to discourse – “to stories not passed on,” to memory, and to “buried speech.”

As such, the ghost can be said to serve a documentary function, providing information or signaling that information has been lost.” As a gifted writer and a documentarian, Brand opens a door for readers who have difficulty finding their own path through grief and trauma, recognizing that their struggles are a part of their histories and not things to resist.

In this political and social climate of uncertainty, Brand’s work offers readers a thread of truth to grasp so they can untangle conflicting messages, and a safe place to land as they do so.

The 2017 Pratt Lecture will be held on March 15th at 8 p.m. in the LSPU Hall. The lecture is titled “A Hidden Verb Takes Inventory.” Dionne Brand will speak on anti-black violence and its legacies in the United States. All are welcome. A reception will follow the event, with a cash bar. Admission is free.

Article by Tracy O’Brien

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