Canticles I: (MMXVII)
George Elliott Clarke is a Toronto-based poet, novelist, librettist, playwright, and scholar. He has won regional, national, and international awards. Currently Parliamentary Poet Laureate, he is also E. J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto.
The second part of Book I of The Canticles continues the dialogue of those who fostered the transatlantic slave trade or demonized the image of the Negro in the Occident, as well as those who struggled for liberation and/or anti-racism.
Like Virgil guiding Dante, Clarke guides us deep into the dark echo chamber of history where he remixes an epic catalogue of multicultural voices from Hannibal to Harriet “Moses” Tubman…. As spirited and incendiary as Ezra Pound’s querulous Cantos, Canticles is a manifesto that tells us -- howling, screeching, testifying, rhyming -- that poetry makes things happen, and that it has as much to tell us as ever.- Paul Watkins, Vancouver Island University
In scintillating elegance, George Elliott Clarke conjures the dead to speak to the living in a modernist work that deftly juxtaposes multiple perspectives of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic. Clarke’s insightful poetry provides a unified version of a history laden with its accumulation of bodies and objects carted from Africa to Europe and onto the New World.- Nandi Odhiambo, University of Hawaii
Each poem in this complex panorama poem is self-sufficient, and yet the lyrics add up to a searing picture of “civilizations” in their rise and fall, making no bones about the omnipresent human violence within us. Clarke’s erudition is spectacular; his sense of timing remarkable, and he superbly renders the speech patterns of his figures….- Marjorie Perloff