No Language Is Neutral

by Dionne Brand
51 pages,
ISBN: 088910395X

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A Love That Persists
by Erin Moure

"TO BE AWAKE more lovely than dreams," Dionne Brand writes, and her new book of poetry is one of waking and attentiveness, to one`s own history, one`s pain as a woman, as an immigrant to the place of foreign habits, to one`s own sexuality. Brand`s Black and lesbian identity is rooted in her own history, in the childhood place that she carries inside her, in Grenada and the women who stood fast there in the face of American invasion, in the photographed eyes of the old stave woman Mammy Prater, in her woman`s body and that of her lover. When I closed the book, I felt the energy of a tremendous rootedness and calm. A rooted, tenacious love that is calm but relentless and abides no tyranny. In these poems is the voice of one who knows where her ground is, who is missing much but who has gained much. Although "away" and "history" are but a fiction carried inside, and the "real" is the street of the city, both fuse here in a new and personal place that burns on and is realized in every tine. But calm, not anger, you ask? No, an angry person can be backed away or off; a calm person is furious and cannot be forced to move her ground. The book is textured by the interweaving of long poems: sections of "hard against the soul" and "the return" speak out, duck back, are carried under other poems, then resurface. Repeatedly the images are of women, of discovery and engagement with women. The title poem, "no language is neutral," is relentless in rhythm, fusing the prose poem with island idiom. It bears images of incredible beauty and intensity, not simply the surface prettiness we sometimes call beauty, but a beauty composed also of waste, tumult, peopled with cries and hushes, with the grandmother Liney, the mother who is known only through stories and Uncle`s eyes. The poem evokes A lineage Of women, Struggling, a personal history that comes from a beautiful place where there were, yet, slaves, "`here the people were enslaved and "talking was left for night and hush was idiom and hot core." The lives Of women twine mid untwine, not flinching from what it means to he black mid women and to struggle constantly with that "bloodstained blind of race mid sex." All this in the voice of the granddaughter who ran "away from something that breaks the heart open," ran to this northern country that is "shards, shards, shards, shards of raw glass, a debris of people you pick Your way through returning to your worse self, you the thin Mixture Of just come and don`t exist." And in the poems final part, the admission: I have tried to write this thing calmly even as its line burn to a close. I have conic to know something simple. Each sentence realized or dreamed jumps like a pulse With history and take, a side. It is a challenge to the rest of us, we for whom the sentence) Unroll so easily; we who have forgotten our own history and with what exactly it I,,, intertwined, with acquiescence to the slavery Of others, for example, that Continues In Its own way to this day. The other long piece, "hard against the soul," Speaks of an awakening love for women, the release of that, the finding. The poem`s voice addresses three audiences at once: the woman she loves, the reader, the self. Because the first part of the poem open,, the hook, its repeated invocation, "this is you girl," seems to address the reader, the reader as feminine, a startling thing to do even in this age. The poem is then interrupted, and only later links with its other parts that end the book, and we realize that the "You" is lover and self as well. This realization returns the reader in a circle to the beginning to savour these resonances. The poem as a whole acts as an embrace of the history and revolution that inhabit the other poems in the book. So the book`s construction itself speaks of love above all, but love that accounts for history, for the beauty of place, the line of black women of all ages, the struggle. It admits both revolution and anguish at its failure, especially for women. Yet it is a love that persists. There is no superfluous piece here: this is Brand`s most engaging poetry. Like Mammy Prater of "Blues Spiritual for Mammy Prater," Brand waited till it suited her to write these poems and put her calm in them

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