In l983, she gave up the practice of law to devote more time to writing. Although primarily a poet, Philip also writes both fiction and non-fiction. She has published three books of poetry, Thorns, Salmon Courage, and She Tries Her Tongue; Her Silence Softly Breaks. She 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, Philip won the prestigious Casa de las Americas prize for the manuscript version of her book, She Tries Her Tongue. She was also the l988 first prize winner of the Tradewinds Collective prize (Trinidad & Tobago) in both the poetry and the short story categories. 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, Philip’s short story, “Stop Frame” was awarded the Lawrence Foundation Award by the journal, Prairie Schooner. In 1990, Philip was made a Guggenheim Fellow in poetry and in 1991 became a McDowell Fellow.
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 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.
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, 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 Philip was also the recipient of the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in the Arts. In 2001 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 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 murder of Africans on board a slave ship. A dramatized reading of this new poem cycle was workshopped and presented at Harbourfront in Toronto.
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