M. NOURBESE PHILIP is a poet and writer and lawyer who lives in the City of Toronto. She was born in Tobago and now lives in Canada.
In l965, when graduating from Bishop Anstey High School, M. NOURBESE PHILIP was awarded the Cipriani Memorial Scholarship for standing first in a Caribbean wide examination at the high school level. This award entitled her to carry out her undergraduate studies at the University of the West Indies.
In l968 Ms NOURBESE PHILIP received her B.Sc.(Econ.) degree from the University of the West Indies. M. NOURBESE PHILIP completed a Masters degree in Political Science (1970) as well as a degree in law at the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada(1973).
She practised law for seven years in Toronto, first at Parkdale Community Services and then in the partnership, Jemmott and Philip. During this time she completed two books of poetry. In l983 she gave up the practice of law to devote more time to writing.
Although primarily a poet, NourbeSe Philip also writes both fiction and non-fiction. She has published three books of poetry, Thorns – l980, Salmon Courage – 1983 and She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks – 1988 and has been the recipient of Canada Council awards, numerous Ontario Arts Council grants and was the recipient of a Toronto Arts Council award in l989.
In l988 M. NOURBESE PHILIP won the prestigious Casa de las Americas prize for the manuscript version of her book, She Tries Her Tongue… She is also the l988 first prize winner of the Tradewinds Collective prize (Trinidad & Tobago) in both the poetry and the short story categories.
Ms NOURBESE PHILIP’s first novel, Harriet’s Daughter, was published in l988 by Heinemann (England) and The Women’s Press (Canada). This book was one of two runners up in the l989 Canadian Library Association Prize for children’s literature. Harriet’s Daughter was also first runner up in the Max and Greta Abel Award for Multicultural Literature.
Her second novel, Looking For Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence, was published in l991. In l994, NOURBESE PHILIP’s short story, “Stop Frame” was awarded the Lawrence Foundation Award by the journal, Prairie Schooner.
In 1990, M. NOURBESE PHILIP was made a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry and in 1991 became a McDowell Fellow. M. NOURBESE PHILIP’S short stories, essays, reviews and articles have appeared in magazines and journals in North America and England, and her poetry has been extensively anthologized. Her work – poetry, fiction and non-fiction is taught widely at the university level and is the subject of much academic writing and critique.
She has taught creative fiction at the third year level at York University.
Two collections of Ms PHILIP’s essays, Frontiers: Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture and Showing Grit: Showboating North of the 44th Parallel, were published in November l992 and June l993.
CARIBANA: African roots and continuities -Race, Space and the Poetics of Moving was published as a chap book in 1996 and a third essay collection, Genealogy of Resistance and Other Essays-followed in 1997. In 1995 M. NOURBESE PHILIP was awarded the Toronto Arts Award in writing and publishing. M. NOURBESE PHILIP’s first play, Coups and Calypsos, was produced in both London, England and in Toronto during 1999. A stage adaptation of Harriet’s Daughter, her popular novel for young adults was successfully work-shopped in both 2000 and 2001 using a script written by the author.
In 2001 NourbeSe Philip was recognized for her work as “a revolutionary poet, writer and thinker” by the Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto which presented her their 2001 Rebels for a Cause award . That year M. NOURBESE PHILIP was also the recipient of the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in the Arts.
Her nominees stated:
“The experiences of Black women and girls are foremost in NourbeSe’s works, as are issues of belonging, language, place and location.”
In 2001 Nourbese Philip was Writer in Residence at Toronto Women’s Bookstore and in 2003 at McMaster University. In 2002 she was awarded a Chalmers Fellowship in Poetry and was featured on the Black Heritage Month poster. Highlights of 2005 included a reading at “The Scream Literary Festival” in high Park and a Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy.
In 2008, The Mercury Press and Weslyan Univeristy Press published NourbeSe Philip’s collection of poetry, Zong! The collection of poetry is based on a legal decision at the end of the eighteenth century, related to the muder of Africans on board a slave ship. A dramatized reading of this new poem cycle, was workshopped and presented at Harbourfront in Toronto as part ofrock.paper.sistahz in 2006. Poems from this collection were published in Facture,boundary 2 and Fascicle; the later includes four poems, along with an extensive introduction.
(Photo Credits: Cristina Naccarato)