Canadians Dionne Brand and Canisia Lubrin among winners of $165K US Windham-Campbell Prize

Established in 2013 and administered by Yale University, the international prize is one of the one of the richest literary prizes in the world. It honours a selection of fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry writers who have been nominated in secret.
Canadians Dionne Brand and Canisia Lubrin are recipients of the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize. (Jason Chow, Samuel Engelking)

Canadians Dionne Brand and Canisia Lubrin are among the eight writers from around the world to receive the 2021 Windham-Campbell Prize, an anonymously judged literary award worth $165,000 US ($206,405.92 Cdn). 

Established in 2013 and administered by Yale University, the prize annually honours a selection of fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry writers who have been nominated in secret. The prize is given to support their writing.

Brand was recognized in the fiction category. The Trinidad-born Canadian author is ​an award-winning poet and novelist. The former Toronto poet laureate won the Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and the Trillium Book Award for her 1997 collection Land to Light On. Brand won the 2011 Griffin Poetry Prize for Ossuaries and in 2017, she was named to the Order of Canada.

She was also the recipient of the 2019 Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize.

Her latest books include the poetry collection The Blue Clerk, which was a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry, and the novel Theory, which won the 2019 Toronto Book Award. 

"This is an astonishing surprise. It will take me weeks, maybe months to find the best words to describe my amazement. For now let me say, wondrous," Brand said in a statement.

From the archives: Dionne Brand on Toronto as muse in her novels What We All Long For and Love Enough, which are being published together in one volume.

Lubrin was recognized in the poetry category. Born in St. Lucia, Lubrin has quickly established herself as one of Canada's brightest emerging poets. 

Her debut poetry collection, Voodoo Hypothesis uses both modern language and folklore to explore race, oppression and colonialism. The 2017 book was longlisted for the Gerald Lambert Award, the Pat Lowther Award and was a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award.

Her latest work, The Dyzgraphxst, is a poetry collection set against the backdrop of contemporary capitalist fascism, nationalism and the climate disaster, where Jejune, the central figure, grapples with understanding their existence and identity. 

"What to make of this profoundly reassuring way to be utterly stunned into intensifying an old love? It is impossible to express what this extraordinary encouragement means, what being in such company during such a catastrophic time, will make possible," Lubrin said in a statement. 

Rising Canadian literary star Canisia Lubrin talks about her new poetry collection The Dyzgraphxst.

The other fiction recipient is American Renee Gladman. She is an Atlanta poet, novelist, essayist and artist who has published works such as the Ravicka series of novels and the poetry collection Calamities.

The other poetry recipient is American Natalie Scenters-Zapico. A poet, academic and author of Mexican heritage, Scenter-Zapico was a 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize finalist. Her latest work is Lima :: Limón, a poetry collection about the politics and pain of the immigrant experience. 

Two nonfiction writers were recognized: American Vivian Gornick and U.K.-born Kate Briggs.

Gornick is an American critic, journalist, essayist and memoirist. Her recent book is Taking a Long Look, a collection of essays about feminism, literature and culture.

Briggs is a writer and translator based in the Netherlands. Her most recent work include the nonfiction books This Little Art and Entertaining Ideas. She has translated the works of Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault.

The drama winners are Americans Michael R. Jackson and Nathan Alan David.

Jackson is a Detroit-born playwright, composer and lyricist. He is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Strange Loop and also Teeth and White Girl in Danger.

David is a writer, lecturer and playwright-in-residence at Princeton University. He is the author of The Refuge Plays, Nat Turner in Jerusalem and Dontrell Who Kissed the Sea.

Past Canadian recipients include poet Lorna Goodison, novelists André Alexis and David Chariandy, playwright Hannah Moscovitch and nonfiction writer John Vaillant.

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