Awards and Citations


  • 1998 – Casa de las Americas prize for the manuscript version of the poetry book, She tries her Tongue…
  • 1988 – Tradewinds Collective (Trinidad & Tobago) Poetry –1st prize
  • 1988 – Short Story –1st prize
  • 1989 – Canadian Library Association Prize for children’s literature, runner up, for Harriet’s Daughter
  • 1989 – Max and Greta Abel Award for Multicultural Literature, first runner up for Harriet’s Daughter 
  • 1990 – Guggenheim Fellow in poetry
  • 1991 – McDowell Fellow 
  • 1995 – Lawrence Foundation Award for the short story, “Stop Frame” published in the journal, Prairie Schooner
  • 1995 – Toronto Arts Award in writing and publishing
  • 2001 – Rebels for a Cause award, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Toronto
  • 2001 – Woman of Distinction award in the Arts, YWCA 
  • 2002 – Chalmers Fellowship in Poetry 
  • 2005 – Rockefeller Foundation residency in Bellagio, Italy 


  • 1997-1998 - Who’s Who in Canadian Literature, Reference Press
  • 2001 – Microsoft Encarta Africana
  • 2003 – Who’s Who in Black Canada, Dawn P Williams 
  • 2002 – Black Heritage Month poster
  • “Book of the Month” -Alana’s Trinbago Pages and the Bibliography of Creative Writing in Trinidad and Tobago
  • 2004 – “Spotlight Artist” RainTiger
  • 2018- 10 Incisive Essay Collections That Don’t Pull Any Punches, Bla_K makes the cut.

Microsoft Encarta Africana, 2001-entry

Philip, Marlene Nourbese (b. February 3, 1947, Tobago ) Canadian poet, novelist, and essayist known for experimentation with literary form and for her commitment to social justice.

“English / is a foreign anguish,” writes Marlene Nourbese Philip in her poem “Discourse on the Logic of Language” from She Tries her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks (1989). The poem examines the often brutal encounter of colonial subjects with the English language and its literature. Philip, through exploring what critic Barbara Fister has described as “the conundrum of language in a postcolonial context,” works alongside fellow Canadian poets Dionne Brand and Claire Harris, and Caribbean writers Edward Kamau Brathwaite and Lorna Goodison.

Scorned for its formal innovation and political engagement by publishers in Philip’s adopted home of Canada, She Tries Her Tongue received the Cuban Casa de Las Americas prize in 1988 while still in manuscript form. The collection was eventually published in Britain. Salmon Courage (1983) and Thorns (1980) also engage the intersection of politics, language, and literary form; as doesLooking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence (1991) her narrative of a metaphoric return to Africa.

Philip also writes children’s literature and is a prolific essayist. Her novel for young adults, Harriet’s Daughter (1988), written as a corrective to the absence of black characters in Canadian children’s literature, suffered the same fate asShe Tries her Tongue. Canadian presses, afraid that a black protagonist would not sell, rejected it before Heinemann published it in England. Philip’s articles and essays collected in Frontiers (1992) and Showing Grit (1993), demonstrate a persistent critique and an impassioned concern for issues of social justice and equity in the arts, prompting Selwyn R. Cudjoe’s assertion that Philip “serves as a lightning rod of black cultural defiance of the Canadian mainstream.” More to the point is the epigram in Frontiers where Philip’s dedicates the book to Canada, “in the effort of becoming a space of true be/longing.”

Though her writing suggests an in-depth understanding of the canon, Philip’s career undoubtedly helped to free her from the constraints of tradition and to nurture her social analysis and criticism. She studied economics at the University of the West Indies before immigrating to Canada in 1968 and completing a Masters of Arts degree at the University of Western Ontario. In 1973 she became a practicing lawyer and subsequently worked for seven years at a legal clinic. Philips has taught at York University and the University of Toronto. She was a Guggenheim Fellow for poetry in 1990-1991 and in 1995 received the Toronto Arts Award for Writing and Publishing.

Contributed By: Peter Hudson

“Philip, Marlene Nourbese”,Microsoft® Encarta® Africana Third Edition. © 1998-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.