In his 2018 Pratt Lecture, The Quest for a ‘National’ Nationalism, renowned author and critic George Elliott Clarke investigates E. J. Pratt’s poetic attempt to become the epic poet of Canada. And while Pratt’s epic poems, such as Brebeuf and His Brethren and Towards the Last Spike, stand as lofty poetic achievements, the poet is never able to escape his own identity and speak convincingly for all Canadians. Unable to speak for Francophones, Indigenous peoples, and People of Colour, Pratt becomes the epic poet of the establishment, but never truly of the people.
The PRATT LECTURES were established in 1968 to commemorate the legacy of E. J. Pratt. Over the years, the series has hosted a litany of world-renowned authors and scholars, including Northrop Frye, Seamus Heaney, Helen Vendler, and Dionne Brand.
George Elliott Clarke
Acclaimed for his narrative lyric suites (Whylah Falls and Execution Poems), his lyric “colouring books” (Blue, Black, Red, and Gold), his selected poems (Blues and Bliss), his opera libretti and plays (Beatrice Chancy and Trudeau: Long March, Shining Path), George Elliott Clarke now presents us with his epic-in-progress, Canticles, a work that views History as a web of imperialism, enslavement, and insurrection. A native Africadian, Canada’s 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate ranges the atlas and ransacks the library to ink lines unflinching before Atrocity and unquiet before Oppression.
"This is Breakwater’s first published Pratt Lecture, a slim, crisp, pocketful of learned-ness. "
— Joan Sullivan
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