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.
As we continue our conversation, Clarke reflects on past and current struggles against White western power, the meaning of decolonization and shaping effective resistance in Canada and beyond.
Clarke discusses ongoing legacies of colonialism and racist imperialism in global politics:
“As Malcolm X said, ‘you’re a bunch of hypocrites’…At the same time as you’re expressing all these nostrums and parables of your supposed virtues, you are armed to the teeth. You are armed to the teeth! You are building jails to house masses of people seeking relief from the oppression that you have engineered in their home countries… And then these oppressed peoples flee for the refuge of your democracy and your attitude is to let them drown in the Mediterranean. .. let them drown in the Atlantic.”
Speaking to the failures of ‘cancel culture,’ Clarke says:
“The woke/cancelers have power to destroy individuals, which they can do, and they’ve done it. ..On the other hand, as they have also proven, they cannot destroy oppressive institutions. How nice it would be if they could, but they don’t have that ability. They can destroy individuals, but not institutions. I think that’s a problem.Because to go after individuals, any mob can do that. But to go after institutions, a mob isn’t what you need. You need a revolutionary movement.”
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