Celebrated "Africadian" poet George Elliott Clarke reads at Vancouver Island University on October 22
Dr. Clarke will recite excerpts from his work-in-progress,Canticles, which echoes slave and imperialist debates from Cleopatra to Celan. He will also invoke contemporary poets Derek Walcott and NourbeSe Philip, who invite harmonious, multiple, and multicultural voices in their revisions of Pound’s controversial masterpiece. Clarke champions writers of African descent and coined the term “Africadian” to identify the black culture of Atlantic Canada, a term he says is both, “...literal and liberal—I canonize songs and sonnets, histories and homilies.”
Clarke traces his own inspiration to “poet-politicos: jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, troubadour-bard Bob Dylan, libertine lyricist Irving Layton, guerrilla leader and poet Mao Zedong, reactionary modernist Ezra Pound, Black Power orator Malcolm X, and the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau.” Dr. Clarke finds their "blunt talk, suave styles, acerbic independence, raunchy macho, feisty lyricism, singing heroic, and scarf-and-beret chivalry quite, well, liberating.”
Clarke’s colleague and VIU English Professor Paul Watkins says, “For George, poetry is not only a printed form, but also an oral art. His boisterous readings present the listener with a gumbo-concoction of jazz rhythms, blues-infused gospel vernacular, and plenty of play upon the standards of the larger literary tradition. This is poetry presented with the ‘lightning of prophecy’.”
Dr. Clarke has published a dozen works of poetry including Whylah Falls (2002 Canada Reads contender),Execution Poems (winner of the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry), and his latest, Red; four plays, screenplays, and libretti (One Heart Broken Into Song, Beatrice Chancy, Quebecite, and Trudeau); the novelGeorge and Rue; and four anthologies of African-Canadian writing, including Directions Home: Approaches to African-Canadian Literature.
For the last twelve years he has been the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto; and he holds honourary doctorates from Dalhousie, New Brunswick, Alberta, Waterloo, Windsor and Saint Mary’s Universities. He has received the Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, and the Order of Canada.
A catered reception, cash bar, and book signing will follow in VIU's Royal Arbutus Room (in Building 300). Several of George Elliott Clarke's books will be available for purchase at the VIU Bookstore. Courtesy parking will be available in Lot N, in front of Building 355. Clarke will also perform with musician James Darling at the Corner Lounge on Wednesday, October 21, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. These events are sponsored by VIU’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Writers on Campus, and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The Gustafson Distinguished Poetry Chair was established in 1998 from the estate of the late, preeminent Canadian poet Ralph Gustafson and his wife, Betty. The Chair has been held by celebrated poets Kathleen Vermette, Michael Crummey, Dennis Lee, Jan Zwicky, Don McKay, Carol Ann Duffy, Daphne Marlatt, Tom Wayman, Dionne Brand, Don Domanski, Liz Lochhead, Robert Bringhurst, Patrick Lane, Gary Geddes, Susan Musgrave, and Patricia Young, some of whom have had their lectures published as chapbooks. The Gustafson Distinguished Poets Series is sponsored by VIU's Faculty of Arts and Humanities, with support from the Vancouver Writers Fest.
An interview with George Elliott Clarke will appear in Portal 2016, VIU’s full-colour literary magazine.
For more information contact Toni Smith, Chair of the Gustafson Committee by email to:Toni.Smith@VIU.ca.
To buy a chapbook, visit the Chapbooks Series page.