Poet Dionne Brand gave the commencement speech at the University of Toronto for the graduating class of 2018. Dionne Brand is a Black Canadian poet who was born in Trinidad & Tobago. Brand attended the University of Toronto and earned a BA in English and Philosophy, and an MA from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. At this U of T convocation, Brand was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters for her lifetime of achievement as a Black feminist poet, author, historian and film maker representing the Black Caribbean Canadian experience.
In her convocation address, Brand illuminates the darkness of ‘the rough road ahead”, the rough road of racist and misogynist nationalism in the form of Donald Trump’s consolidation of a White Supremacist dictatorship. And she offers a way to navigate that darkness through the practice of what she calls a “shimmering alertness to the world.” Her practice as a poet requires that kind of ‘shimmering alertness’ to see the profound cultural and historical dimensions hidden in moments of ordinary lives.
If you would like to develop a ‘shimmering alertness to the world,’ which I see as the poetic correlate ‘awakening,’ then I suggest you begin by reading Dionne Brand’s works of poetry: A Map to the Door of No Return; Rivers Have Sources, Trees Have Roots; No Language is Neutral; and This Body for Itself.