Books·Canadian

Burning Sugar

Burning Sugar is a poetry collection by Cicely Belle Blain.

Cicely Belle Blain

In this incendiary debut collection, activist and poet Cicely Belle Blain intimately revisits familiar spaces in geography, in the arts, and in personal history to expose the legacy of colonization and its impact on Black bodies. They use poetry to illuminate their activist work: exposing racism, especially anti-Blackness, and helping people see the connections between history and systemic oppression that show up in every human interaction, space, and community. Their poems demonstrate how the world is both beautiful and cruel, a truth that inspires overwhelming anger and awe — all of which spills out onto the page to tell the story of a challenging, complex, nuanced, and joyful life.

In Burning Sugar, verse and epistolary, racism and resilience, pain and precarity are flawlessly sewn together by the mighty hands of a Black, queer femme.

This book is the second title to be published under the VS. Books imprint, a series curated and edited by writer-musician Vivek Shraya, featuring work by new and emerging Indigenous or Black writers, or writers of colour. (From Arsenal Pulp Press)

Cicely Belle Blain is a poet and activist from British Columbia. They founded Black Lives Matter Vancouver. CBC Radio named them one of 150 Black women and non-binary people making change across Canada in 2018. Burning Sugar is their first book.

Why Cicely Belle Blain wrote Burning Sugar

"One of the greatest joys and privileges of my life is being able to travel. It's something that my parents gave me the opportunity to do from a young age. But as I grew up, I started to realize that while I had the privilege of travelling with a British passport — being able to go anywhere and having the funds to go anywhere — the actual experience on the ground is drastically different from my peers. Being in different places around the world, being on different lands in my body, being perceived the way that I am and the microaggressions that I experience. Recognizing the some of the dark histories of a lot of places — especially when I'm in North America or in in West Africa — and seeing the present day legacies and repercussions of a lot of trauma and violence that's happened. It drastically transformed what for some people may just be a holiday, but for me it is so much deeper than that. I wanted to put that down into words.

If you stay still long enough, you can feel the things that have happened there before.

"I've always had this strange relationship with time and place. I always feel time is moving through us. If you stay still long enough, you can feel the things that have happened there before."

Read more in their interview with The Next Chapter.

Interviews with Cicely Belle Blain

Poet and activist Cicely Belle Blain on her debut collection of poetry, Burning Sugar. 12:48

Keeping momentum of Black Lives Matter protests going

CBC News

10 months ago
0:38
Cicely Belle Blain, an anti-racism consultant in Vancouver, is encouraged by the large numbers of people attending anti-Black racism protests but hopes they will continue to make the effort to understand the unique experiences of those who are Black and queer after the demonstrations subside. 0:38

Black LGBTQ activists bring Pride back to its protest roots

The National

10 months ago
4:18
As protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism spill into Pride month, Black LGBTQ activists are drawing attention to the lives and voices often left out of the picture with the phrase “All Black Lives Matter”. 4:18

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