Poetry in Motion: George Elliott Clarke + Canticles III (MMXXIII)

The sixth in his Canticles series, Canticles III (MMXXIII) (Guernica Editions) by George Elliott Clarke looks at the histories of Black Nova Scotians and centres their perspectives. Clarke explains the series and reads a poem from the collection below.

The cover of Canticles III (MMXXIII) by George Elliott Clarke. The title and author name take up the majority of the cover in a bold serif font on a royal blue background.


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Poetry in Motion

When asked to describe his literary style, Clarke responds:

To strive to descant Haligonian, Black voice via blank verse. (A decasyllabic line be just bunk if there be no slam-dunk adjunct so that iambs kerplunk, kerplunk, kerplunk!)

Sho nuff, the Ivory Tower wanna indoctrinate moi in veddy British jabberwocky. So what? Still I learned to Frankenstein-suture “Blind Jack” Milton to Milton Acorn and Little Milton! Make vowels howl and screech! Consonants crunch and crack!

I hear Africadian speech as pseudo-Shakespeare. Dem voices come at me like sumpin outta Chaucer—Blake—Burns, and then Dylan Thomas (shadowin Bobby Dylan).

Poetry be my breath passed through (black) ink ….

Yet, I’m still a songwriter, makin vowels yowl and consonants go kermash! (Hear Shad’s “Storm”! That’s my voice—lyric—in the back- ground!)

In Bridgetown, Barbados, in February 2007, I saw half a rainbow. A month later, in Rodos, Greece, the answering spectrum appeared. Likewise, Poetry traverses my life, bridging always Beauty and Pain, via “vernacu- lar formalism” (Kevin McNeilly), “majestic euphony” (Terrance Hayes), or “exuberantly beautiful excess” (Shane Neilson), or “Poundian melo- poeia” (Marjorie Perloff). So, I gotta sound “Compendious and baroque” (Fiona Sampson), maybe non-stop, eh?

Awards? Prizes? Honours? Laurels?


George Elliott Clarke reads from Canticles III (MMXXIII)

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A photo of George Elliott Clarke. A Black man wearing a black shirt, he has a greying moustache and hair, and is smiling at the camera.

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 now-completed epic, Canticles, a work that views History as a web of imperialism, enslavement, and insurrection. A native Africadian, Canada’s seventh Parliamentary Poet Laureate ranges the atlas and ransacks the library to ink lines unflinching before Atrocity and unquiet before Oppression.