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Early Works

By Dionne Brand
Subjects Literary Criticism, Canadian Literature, Poetry
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Paperback : 9781554583744, 180 pages, October 2011

Table of contents

Table of Contents for
Chronicles: Early Works by Dionne Brand


Leslie Sanders

A Note on the Text

Primitive Offensive (1983)

Winter Epigrams and Epigrams to Ernesto Cardenal in Defense of Claudia (1983)

Chronicles of the Hostile Sun (1984)


One of Canada’s most distinguished poets, Dionne Brand explores and chronicles how history shapes human existence, in particular the lives of those ruptured and scattered by New World slaveries and modern crises. This republication of three early volumes presents a view of the trajectory of her poetic journey. Read retrospectively, the earlier work is haunting, a testament to a historical moment in which change seemed possible, even imminent, a belief nourished by the various social movements that galvanized a generation. Individually and as a whole, Brand’s work charts a collective as well as a personal journey, delving into the burdens of history and the fugitive, contingent, dynamic, and mutable geographies of the African diaspora. She locates herself within matrices of language, place, gender, sexuality, and politics and maps what she calls the “murmurous genealogy” of her city, Toronto, and the denizen-citizenship of the contemporary global.


``In this welcome republication of Brand's early poetry collections, readers will find themselves drawn into one of the more powerful imaginations of our times. Here is the violently wrenching sadness, the weight of history and loss, and in the face of such pain, the refusal to compromise for which she remains best known. But there is also a sometimes playful and self-deprecating humour along with the more biting commentary that carries an edge. Brand believes in the difference words can make, even when lamenting their inadequacy, and she makes us believe too. ''

- Diana Brydon, Canada Research Chair in Globalization and Cultural Studies,University of Manitoba

``In these early works of Dionne Brand we hear the foundation of a poet's tone, her rhythm and her ethics. These poems announce a voice, stake a claim, and dare to utter the politics of their times while imagining a different future. These early works speak to a poet's journey across regions, across climates, across politics, across influences, across temperament, across histories, across desires, and through the ethical attunement of living in the present. In these poems Dionne Brand's words bring readers into the sharp harmonies of life's disappointments and potentials, as her words paint a world we at once recognize and must struggle to change. ''

- Rinaldo Walcott, Canada Research Chair of Social Justice and Cultural Studies,OISE/University of Toronto

``The cantos, epigrams and chronicles from the early works of Dionne Brand compiled in the selected Chronicles—poems that are fresh and raw, furious and compassionate, fierce and tender, uniformly accomplished—speak with a voice that is as sure as it is inevitable, as confident as it is individual, as vulnerable as it is strong. ''

- Patricia Keeney, ARC Poetry Magazine, Winter 2013

``Chronicles turns to three volumes dating back to the early 1980s. Yet one can nonetheless identify in them the unmistakable voice and concerns of Toronto's best-loved black poet for, as Sanders [in the preface] knowledgeably argues, Brand's work ‘explores and chronicles how history shapes human existence, in particular the lives of those ruptured and scattered by New World slaveries and modern crises. ’ Even though they do not constitute, strictly speaking, her earliest published poetry, they stand out as a period of experimentation with form, in which Brand tested out the classic epigram by way of Ernesto Cardenal and the lengthier, Neruda-inflexed canto. ''

- Pilar Cuder-Domínguez, Canadian Literature, 216, Spring 2013