Books

Dionne Brand wins $20K Trillium Book Award for poetry collection The Blue Clerk

Miriam Toews, Claudia Dey and Gwen Benaway among the 2019 finalists for annual prize which recognizes excellence in writing by authors in Ontario.
Writer and poet Dionne Brand is photographed during an interview in Toronto in 2019 (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Dionne Brand has won the 2019 Trillium Book Award for her poetry collection The Blue ClerkThe award was announced at a gala event in Toronto on June 13, 2019. 

The $20,000 annual prize recognizes excellence in writing by authors in Ontario.

Brand's The Blue Clerk presents an argument between the poet and the titular "blue clerk," who is the keeper of the page. The essay poems of The Blue Clerk explore memory, language, culture and the link between author and art. 

"The Blue Clerk is an impassioned, masterfully crafted interrogation of language, process and representation that test both the boundaries and boundlessness of the creative process," the jury said in a statement.

The Blue Clerk was also a finalist for the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry and was a finalist for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize. Brand previously won a Trillium Book Award for her 1998 poetry collection Land to Light On.

Brand was unable to attend the gala but the award was accepted on her behalf by her publisher.

"Of course, I'm very happy having won the Trillium and I want to thank the jury for the reading of the book. It's always heartening that a group of writers, like and unlike me, declare, 'Yes we apprehend what you said. And we find that the notes sound well,'" said Brand in a prepared video statement.

Brand is one of Canada's most decorated and celebrated writers. As a novelist, poet and filmmaker, she has been creating in various mediums for over 40 years. 

The Toronto-based author is a member of the Order of Canada and has won numerous awards, including the 1997 Governor General's Literary Award for poetry for the collection Land to Light On and the 2006 Toronto Book Award for the novel What We All Long For.

In May 2019, Brand was awarded the Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize, presented to an LGBTQ writer for their body of work.

There were five books on the 2019 English-language shortlist. Other finalists included Miriam Toews for the novel Women Talking and Claudia Dey for the novel HeartbreakerK.D. Miller's short story collection Late Breaking and Tamara Faith Berger's novel Queen Solomon rounded out the English-language shortlist. 

Robin Richardson's Sit How You Want won the $10,000 Trillium Book Award for poetry. Richardson's third poetry collection deploys a sharp poetic wit to address themes of abuse, anxiety and powerlessness. 

The English-language poetry finalists were Gwen Benaway for Holy Wild and Stevie Howell for I left nothing inside on purpose. 

Last year's Trillium Book Award winner was Kyo Maclear for her memoir Birds Art Life.

The Trillium Book Award is administered by the governmental organization Ontario Creates. Other past winners include Alice MunroMargaret AtwoodAustin ClarkeThomas King and Michael Ondaatje.

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