The Blue Clerk

Ars Poetica in 59 Versos

Book Pages: 248 Illustrations: Published: August 2018

Author: Dionne Brand

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Caribbean Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Poetry

On a lonely wharf a clerk in an ink-blue coat inspects bales and bales of paper that hold a poet's accumulated left-hand pages—the unwritten, the withheld, the unexpressed, the withdrawn, the restrained, the word-shard. In The Blue Clerk renowned poet Dionne Brand stages a conversation and an argument between the poet and the Blue Clerk, who is the keeper of the poet's pages. In their dialogues—which take shape as a series of haunting prose poems—the poet and the clerk invoke a host of writers, philosophers, and artists, from Jacob Lawrence, Lola Kiepja, and Walter Benjamin to John Coltrane, Josephine Turalba, and Jorge Luis Borges. Through these essay poems, Brand explores memory, language, culture, and time while intimately interrogating the act and difficulty of writing, the relationship between the poet and the world, and the link between author and art. Inviting the reader to engage with the resonant meanings of the withheld, Brand offers a profound and moving philosophy of writing and a wide-ranging analysis of the present world.


"Brand’s lines are unique and quite comfortable to get lost in." — Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

"The Blue Clerk is nothing less than a reckoning with the entirety of Brand’s poetic outlook and philosophy." — Steven W. Beattie, Quill & Quire

"It takes a truly gifted writer to not only write about the queer experience as identity, but to also skillfully and astutely motion to the entire concept of temporal universality. The Blue Clerk may be one of the best collections of prose poems I’ve read in a long while." — July Westhale, Lambda Literary Review

"An 'ars poetica' and instant modern classic. . . . The Blue Clerk is beautiful—physically beautiful—in the nakedness of its stitched blue spine. But the book is beautiful, most substantially, in its sumptuous and incendiary prose, in its fierce challenge to the illusions of literature, and in its manifest belief in the act of writing." — David Chariandy, The Walrus

"At times brilliant and also opaque, The Blue Clerk is a major achievement that challenges us to reflect on writing as an unsettled and unsettling form of engagement with experience and meaning. . . . Readers . . . will be rewarded if they occasionally pause, take time to reflect, and reread this rich and enriching book." — Jim Hannan, World Literature Today

"The Blue Clerk deserves praise for its originality, its willingness to push the prose poem into new and exciting configurations."
  — John Bradley, Rain Taxi

The Blue Clerk has already been hailed as an ‘instant classic’ in the national media, and its premise carefully mapped. Brand tells the story of her unfolding consciousness, using key moments of her life to suggest the various shifts and epiphanies that inform each of her previous works—it is, indeed, her Ars Poetica, her attempt to articulate the underlying aesthetic philosophy of her oeuvre.” — Gregory Betts, Canadian Literature

“If you’ve been reading Brand for decades, The Blue Clerk is written for you, right down to its index. If you are a new reader of Brand, The Blue Clerk was also written for you: it’s a fascinating dialogue about the work of poetry that is wry, exacting, and alive with a finely-wrought hope.” — Tanis MacDonald, Arc Poetry Magazine


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dionne Brand’s collections of poetry include No Language Is Neutral; Land to Light On, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Trillium Book Award; thirsty, winner of the Pat Lowther Memorial Award; Inventory; and, most recently, Ossuaries, winner of the Griffin Poetry Prize. Brand is also the author of the acclaimed novels In Another Place, Not HereAt the Full and Change of the Moon; What We All Long For; Love Enough; and Theory, which is forthcoming in 2018. Her works of nonfiction include Bread Out of Stone and A Map to the Door of No Return. In 2006, Brand was awarded the prestigious Harbourfront Festival Prize, and from 2009 to 2012, she was Toronto’s Poet Laureate. In 2017, she was appointed to the Order of Canada. Brand is also a Professor of English in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph.

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The Blue Clerk has been shortlisted for the 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize.

Dionne Brand is the recipient of the 2019 Blue Metropolis Violet Literary Prize, which recognizes an LGBTQ Canadian writer for their body of work and the "overall contribution" the writer has made to LGBTQ literature in Canada.

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Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0006-8