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Poetry Canadian



by (author) Dionne Brand

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Mar 2006
Canadian, Women Authors, Places
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2006
    List Price

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In Dionne Brand’s incantatory, deeply engaged, beautifully crafted long poem, the question is asked, What would an inventory of the tumultuous early years of this new century have to account for? Alert to the upheavals that mark those years, Brand bears powerful witness to the seemingly unending wars, the ascendance of fundamentalisms, the nameless casualties that bloom out from near and distant streets. An inventory in form and substance, Brand’s poem reckons with the revolutionary songs left to fragment, the postmodern cities drowned and blistering, the devastation flickering across TV screens grown rhythmic and predictable. Inventory is an urgent and burning lamentation.

About the author


Dionne Brand is internationally known for her poetry, fiction, and essays. She has received many awards, notably the Governor General’s Award for Poetry, the Trillium Award (Land to Light On), 1997), the Pat Lowther Award (Thirsty, 2005), the City of Toronto Book Award (What We All Long For, 2006), and the Harbourfront Festival Award (2006), given in recognition of her substantial contribution to literature. She is a professor in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.

Leslie C. Sanders is a professor at York University, where she teaches African American and Black Canadian literature. She is the author of The Development of Black Theatre in America, the editor of two volumes of Langston Hughes’s performance works, and a general editor of the Collected Works of Langston Hughes. She has written essays on African American and Black Canadian literature.


Dionne Brand's profile page


  • Short-listed, Trillium Book Award
  • Short-listed, Governor General's Literary Award - Poetry
  • Winner, Harbourfront Festival Prize

Excerpt: Inventory: Poems (by (author) Dionne Brand)


Observed over Miami, the city, an orange slick blister,
the houses, stiff-­haired organisms clamped to the earth,
engorged with oil and wheat,
rubber and metals,
the total contents of the brain, the electrical
regions of the atmosphere, water

coming north, reeling, a neurosis of hinged
bodies thicken, flesh

out in immodest health,
six boys, fast food on their breath,
luscious paper bags, the perfume of grilled offal,
troughlike cartons of cola,
a gorgon luxury of electronics, backward caps,
bulbous clothing, easy hearts

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

lines of visitors are fingerprinted,
eye-­scanned, grow murderous,
then there’s the business of thoughts
who can glean with any certainty,
the guards, blued and leathered, multiply
to stop them,
palimpsests of old borders, the sea’s graph on the skin,
the dead giveaway of tongues,
soon, soon, the implants to discern lies

from the way a body moves

there’s that already

she felt ill, wanted
to murder the six boys, the guards,
the dreamless shipwrecked
burning their beautiful eyes in the patient queue

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Let’s go to the republic of home,
let’s forget all this then, this victorious procession,
these blenching queues,
this timeless march of nails in shoeless feet

what people will take and give,
the passive lines, the passive guards,
if passivity can be inchoate self-­loathing

all around, and creeping

self-­righteous, let’s say it, fascism,
how else to say, border,
and the militant consumption of everything,
the encampment of the airport, the eagerness
to be all the same, to mince biographies
to some exact phrases, some
exact and toxic genealogy

Editorial Reviews

Inventory is damning without being superior, sorrowful without falling into self-pity, joyful without becoming naive. . . . Thought-provoking. . . .What makes Inventory even more powerful, and hard to put down, is Brand’s willingness to match the strength of these desolate lists with a strength of music, dream and intimate feeling.” —Globe and Mail

“You don’t read Dionne Brand, you hear her.” —Toronto Life

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