Groundbreaking poet M. NourbeSe Philip to deliver VIU Gustafson lecture

M. NourbeSe Philip stands in the front of a classroom.

Photo Caption: M. NourbeSe Philip is giving her Gustafson Poet lecture entitled “What Happens to Poetry When” on October 27. Photo Runaway Productions LLC 

October 17, 2022 - 10:15am

Philip’s lecture is on October 27 from 7 to 8:30 pm on the Nanaimo campus.

Renowned poet, writer and anti-racism activist M. NourbeSe Philip is Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet for 2022-23.

Philip’s lecture is October 27 from 7 to 8:30 pm on the Nanaimo campus in Building 355, Room 203. It is free to attend and will be followed by a catered reception, cash bar and book signing in Room 211. Free parking is available in Lot N. There will be a reading and Q&A for students on October 26 from 10 to 11:30 am in Building 355, Room 211. 

Philip’s talk, entitled “What Happens to Poetry When” will respond to the hypothetical of her title and will explore numerous concepts such as “can text breathe” and “how many ways can we unspell Silence.

“NourbeSe Philip’s work has had an international influence on the way we register, hear, write and amplify the voices of Black people in literature and performance,” said Sonnet L’Abbe, a VIU English Professor and author of Sonnet’s Shakespeare. “This is an opportunity to hear one of the world’s most impactful thinkers on what it means to express oneself in English in the wake of colonial time.” 

Philip was born in Tobago and now lives in Toronto. Her published works include She Tries Her Tongue – Her Silence Softly BreaksLooking for Livingston­– An Odyssey of Silence and the young adult novel Harriet’s Daughter. She has also published four collections of essays including Frontiers: Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture and Blank: Essays and Interviews. Her genre-breaking poem, “Zong!” was the 2021 winner of World Literature Today’s 21 Books for the 21st Century. 

Philip has received Guggenheim, McDowell and Rockefeller fellowships. And she has earned numerous awards, including the 2020 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature, the Pushcart Prize and the 2021 Canada Council for the Arts’ lifetime achievement award.

Copies of Philip’s books and a series of limited-edition Gustafson Distinguished chapbooks will be available at the VIU Campus Store and at the reception. 

The Gustafson Distinguished Poetry Chair was established in 1998 from the estate of the late, pre-eminent Canadian poet Ralph Gustafson and his wife Betty. For more information, please email Joy Gugeler, Chair of the Gustafson Committee, at


Media Contact:

Rachel Stern, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

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Tags: Creative Writing and Journalism | Announcements

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