In this two part episode of the Courage My Friends podcast, Telling Black histories: writing, recuperation and resistance, we are very pleased to welcome the 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto and the 7th Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke.
In part one of our conversation, Clarke takes us on a journey through Black and Africadian history in Canada. He discusses his life and work and the importance of recuperating Black and colonized histories through writing and resistance.
Reflecting on the history of Black communities in Nova Scotia, Clarke says:
“Africadia is built, is constructed in complete defiance, of white supremacist, racist governmental decisions including environmental racism – placing dumps beside Black communities, placing polluting factories on the doorsteps of Black communities and so on. Those people, my ancestors, decided that they were going to construct communities. Church-based, church-anchored communities all around mainland Nova Scotia, in complete defiance of the racist oppressor and the oppressor’s attempt to create a Nova Scotia as a White person’s paradise. As a White person’s dream.”
About today’s guest
The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and the 7th Parliamentary/Canadian Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1960. A professor of English at the University of Toronto, Clarke has also taught at Duke, McGill, UBC and Harvard. His recognitions include the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre Fellowship (US), the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry, the PremiulPoesis (Romania), the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (US), and International Fellow Poet of the Year, Encyclopedic Poetry School  (China). His acclaimed titles include Whylah Falls (1990, translated into Chinese), Beatrice Chancy (1999, translated into Italian), Execution Poems (2001), Blues and Bliss (selected poems, 2009), I & I (2008), Illicit Sonnets (U.K., 2013), Traverse (2015), Canticles II (MMXX) (2020), and J’Accuse…! (Poem versus Silence) (2021).
Transcript of this episode can be accessed at georgebrown.ca/TommyDouglasInstitute or here.
Image: George Elliott Clarke (Portrait by Katerina Fretwell) / Used with Permission
Music: Ang Kahora. Lynne, Bjorn. Rights Purchased
Intro Voices: Ashley Booth (podcast announcer). Bob Luker (voice of Tommy Douglas). Kenneth Okoro, Liz Campos Rico, Tsz Wing Chau (street voices).
Courage My Friends Podcast Organizing Committee: Chandra Budhu, Ashley Booth, Resh Budhu.
Produced by: Resh Budhu, Tommy Douglas Institute and Breanne Doyle, rabble.ca
Host: Resh Budhu