No Language Is Neutral


54 pages
ISBN 0-88910-395-X
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Laurence Steven

Laurence Steven is Chairman of the English Department at Laurentian
University and author of Dissociation and Wholeness in Patrick White’s


Brand’s most recent book is a collection of prose poetry dealing with
her roots in black slavery and her lesbian identity. Her poems seem to
be almost autobiographical as she writes about feelings and thoughts
that have been bred within her from generations past. The granddaughter
of a slave, Brand poignantly writes about the futility and bitterness of
her ancestors’ lives. Rich in metaphorical language and
personification, these poems drive home the point that the tragedies
endured by those who were enslaved will never be forgotten. She writes,
“History will only hear you if you give birth to a woman who smooths
starched linen in the wardrobe drawer, trembles when she walks and who
gives birth to a woman who cries near a river and vanishes and who gives
birth to a woman who is a poet, and, even then.”

In the collection, “Hard against the soul” is a set of poems filled
with the vicissitudes of Brand’s lesbian identity. To some, these
poems may not be as accessible as her poems about slavery, but she
writes with a certain rawness, and by using simple language she is able
to express her experiences: “I want to kiss you deeply, smell, taste
the warm water of your mouth as warm as your hands. I lucky is grace
that gather me up and forgive my plainness.” It is obvious that in
these poems she is sharing her experiences and contemplations about
women loving women, but since they are written from a deep, personal
level, the heterosexual reader is sometimes left wondering what exactly
she means.

Overall, this collection is a triumph for Brand. Her prose/verse is
uncluttered by verbosity, and the honesty with which she writes is


Brand, Dionne., “No Language Is Neutral,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 24, 2024,