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Knopf Canada launches new imprint headed by Dionne Brand

Dionne Brand (Jason Chow)

Award-winning poet, novelist, and essayist Dionne Brand will be heading up Alchemy by Knopf Canada, a new publishing program that aims to publish books that “remake what is literary.”

Brand will work on Alchemy in partnership with Knopf Canada editorial director Lynn Henry and with the collaboration and guidance of publisher Martha Kanya-Forstner. Alchemy will publish both fiction and nonfiction that decenter colonial models of literature and thought, and which address major social, political, and environmental issues.

The plan is for Alchemy to release two to three titles per year, in addition to the annual  The Alchemy Lectures, a publication based on an annual event at York University that will be presented in partnership with Knopf Canada. The event will be led by the Canada Research Chair in Black Studies in the Humanities at York University and will bring together three to four artists, writers, academics, and makers to “engage in revelatory conversation about topics of social and political reckoning.” The book will extend and build on the public lecture.

Alchemy by Knopf Canada will announce its first list in the coming months. The first Alchemy Lecture is scheduled for November 2022 with the book to follow in the fall of 2023.

“I am looking forward to this collaboration/experiment in Alchemy with Lynn Henry and Martha Kanya-Forstner,” Brand said in a release. “It’s my sense that how books might intervene in the present world, and what complex thinking is required to meet that world, are two important and urgent questions. And so, for me, this collaboration will foster brilliant writers doing the most brilliant thinking in fiction and non-fiction for the world to come.”

This role as editorial director at Alchemy marks a new publishing venture with Penguin Random House Canada for the former poet laureate of Toronto. Brand worked as poetry editor at McClelland & Stewart for four years, and was succeeded last year by poet Canisia Lubrin. Before being named poetry editor, Brand had been acquiring poetry for M&S since 2014 as a member of the imprint’s poetry board.