Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt introduces the reader to the lyric power and political urgency of the poetry of Di Brandt, providing an overview of her poetry written during a prolific and revolutionary twenty-year period.
Beginning with her early poetic inquiries into the dynamics of gender, religion, and the politics of language, Brandt examines the use and abuse of power as a cultural issue, emphasizing cross-cultural and domestic relationships. Particularly engaged with questions of motherhood, the land, violence and reparation, feminism, and spirituality, Brandt explores ecopoetics, an ecology of poetry, as a possible antidote to the cultural despair of the twenty-first century.
Editor Tanis MacDonald’s introduction outlines the major movements of Brandt’s work, emphasizing the relationship of language to power and the value of a dissenting voice in a forceful cultural poetics. An afterword by Brandt completes the volume.
About the authors
Winnipeg's Di Brandt is one of Canada's most loved and admired poets. Her internationally celebrated and award-winning poetry titles include questions I asked my mother; Agnes in the sky; Jerusalem, beloved; and Now You Care. Her most recent work, Walking to Mojacar, is a multilingual collaboration with gifted poets and translators Charles LeBlanc of St. Boniface, Manitoba (l'appétit du compteur : poèmes accumulés), and Ari Belathar, Mexican writer-in-exile, currently living in Vancouver (The Cities I Have Left Behind). Mojacar was shortlisted for two 2011 Manitoba Book awards, and has been nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award. Di Brandt has lived in Winnipeg, Edmonton, Toronto, Windsor (Ontario) and Berlin. She currently holds a Canada Research Chair in Literature and Creative Writing at Brandon University, Manitoba (www.dibrandt.ca). Di Brandt is also an award-winning essayist and literary critic, and has collaborated with numerous other writers, critics and artists, including Annie Jacobsen, Jane Finlay-Young, Barbara Godard, Aganetha Dyck, Rebecca Campbell, Carol Ann Weaver and Jana Skarecky.
Tanis MacDonald is the author of two books of poetry: Fortune (2003) and Holding Ground (2000), and is the winner of the 2003 Bliss Carman Poetry Prize. She has published articles on the poetry of P.K. Page, Lorna Crozier, and Anne Carson. She teaches English at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
Di Brandt’s poetry titles include questions I asked my mother (1987), Agnes in the sky (1990), Jerusalem, beloved (1995), and most recently, Now You Care (2004). She has received numerous awards for her poetry, including the CAA National Poetry Prize, the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. Di Brandt recently returned to the Manitoba prairies, her home, after a decade away, to take up a Canada Research Chair in Creative Writing at Brandon University.
Excerpt: Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt (by (author) Di Brandt; edited by Tanis MacDonald)
because we cannot meet on father ground by Di Brandt
since we cannot meet on father ground
our father's land as sister & brother ever
let's imagine a new place between us
slightly suspended in air but yet touching
earth an old tree house full of weather
or an ark its ancient hull gleaming
remembering the rains let's gather our
belongings & our children & meet at the
river this will be a new country love &
crossing the field to greet you i will lay
my old weapons down & wait if you are
there with me under the harvest moon
we will look in each other's eyes without
speaking our hands will shake & the great
wooden door will begin creaking open at
last since we cannot meet
Excerpt from the Introduction by Tanis MacDonald
The importance of Di Brandt's poetry to Canadian literature cannot be overestimated. Her work broaches complex and volatile subject matter, and is valued for her assertion that poetry must be, at its core, concerned with the political power of language. Acclaimed for her lyric sensibility and rebellious inquiry into the power of language, Brandt explores cross-cultural concepts of justice and the ecopoetic relationship between land and spirituality. Her stylistic and formal innovations distinguish her as part of a group of women writers that began working with feminist poetics in the 1980s, searching for ways to write the female body, and challenge Western literature as a patriarchal tradition. .. .With their arresting line breaks and demanding syntax, Brandt's poems have an insistent, oracular quality that pulls the reader into an inquiry about the power of speech in Western civilization. Although much of her poetry is intentionally disquieting, the disturbance Brandt creates is never gratuitous; for her, writing poetry means nothing less than discovering where the power in language is located. Politics, in Brandt's poetry, may be defined as a series of decisions about who has the privilege of speech and who does not ultimately, who lives and who dies.
Demonstrating a willingness to let the silence speak as a critique of institutions that perpetuate oppression, Brandt's poetic inquiry has grown into an urgent discussion about the future of the planet, wrought through her concern with a corporate, and often corporeal, abuse of power. Her ethics of interconnection emphasize that no action or word can exist in brutal isolation or untouchable transcendence, and assert that the fabric of individual existence is deeply interdependent upon all forms of life on earth. Brandt's concept of her double identity, as poet and critic, as Mennonite and feminist, as mother and daughter, performs its own interconnections, and grants her access to a grand vision of beauty and regenerative hope. Brandt's work is best read as a lyrical arc rather than individual poems, for each of her concerns resonates with an adjoining issue: feminism with religion; belief with language; power with gender. The poems selected for this collection emphasize the connections between people, between love and loss, between anger and grief, between personal accountability and collective adversity. By clarifying these complexities without simplifying them, Brandt's poetry sings with a voice that is pressured by desperate circumstances but predicates a better world with its ecstatic music.
''The introductions and afterwords, if done properly, can help the first-time reader to contextualize and grapple with the imaginative and intellectual material they are about to encounter. These essays can be invaluable in helping the new reader to get a broad enough sense of the poet in question to be able to read the poems from a slightly more informed perspective.'' (about the Laurier Poetry series) ''I found MacDonald's introduction to Speaking of Power: The Poetry of Di Brandt to be very illuminating. Her research was impeccable, and well-suited to the fiery, furious, rebellious poetry it sets up. MacDonald deftly summarizes the arc of Brandt's intense career, emphasizing her (Brandt's) belief that 'poetry must be, at its core, concerned with the political power of language' (ix), as well as her decidedly feminist and radically spiritual ecopoetics.... In her afterword, Brandt rais[es] the question, are we, as a society, simply too comfortable to be disturbed by poetry's insistent voice? Too well-fed? When will we care? asks Brandt....Her afterword is both emotionally and intellectually stimulating....Here is poetry (and a poet) with a vision....Can I get a 'hell yeah'? And a 'hell yeah' for MacDonald too....Poetry like Brandt's...deserves the larger audience WLUP is attempting to win for it. I am crossing my fingers, and hoping that it succeeds.''
PoetryReviews, September 2006
''The quest for a wider audience for poetry may be quixotic, but this series makes a serious attempt to present attractive, affordable selections that speak to contemporary interests and topics that might engage a younger generation of readers. Yet it does not condescend, preferring to provide substantial and sophisticated poets to these new readers. At the very least, these slim volumes will make very useful introductory teaching texts in post-secondary classrooms because they whet the appetite without overwhelming.''
Canadian Literature, 193, Summer 2007
''The books are fairly slim (ranging from fifty-six to eighty pages), but each provides a decent outline of the respective poet's career, style, and dominant concerns. The introductory essays are straightforward and informative--they provide a useful interpretive framework for anyone coming to this poetry for the first time. These volumes seem designed for students and educators; each offers a more complete picture of the poet than one would get from an anthology.''
University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2006, Volume 77, Number 1, Winter 2008
Other titles by Di Brandt
Sweetest Dance On Earth, The
New and Selected
Glitter and Fall
questions I asked my mother
Canadian Women Poets in Conversation
Wider Boundaries of Daring
The Modernist Impulse in Canadian Women’s Poetry
Walking to Mojácar
So this is the world & Here I am in it
Now You Care
Narrative Strategies for Writing Across Centuries
Other titles by Tanis MacDonald
Adventures in Walking While Female
The Daughter’s Way
Canadian Women’s Paternal Elegies
Out of Line
Daring to be an Artist Outside the Big City
menstrual manifestos for our times
questions I asked my mother
Laurier Poetry Pack #3
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
From Text to Txting
New Media in the Classroom