IFOA: What are some of your responsibilities as Poet Laureate?
George Elliott Clarke: Annual address to city council; establishing a Poets’ Corner at City Hall, striking a medal and printing business cards, establishing an e-mail account; trying to work with other City Departments (success with Toronto libraries, no-can-do from Toronto Police and the TTC); establishing contacts with other arts organizations (success with the AGO and IFOA, nil from TIFF); trying to widen venues for poetry (Remembrance Day ceremony, Toronto International Book Fair, etc.); commemorating poets (plaque erected for Ray Souster, new plaque for Gwen MacEwen and Milton Acorn in progress); and speaking to organizations and penning poems for civic occasions, upon request. Also, I’ve launched the East End Poetry Festival, running annually in September.
IFOA: How did you select which poem of yours would be included in The Great Black North?
Clarke: My poem is from my epic-in-progress, “The Canticles.” It’s taken from Part 2, which rewrites Judeo-Christian scripture from “a Black perspective.”
IFOA: Having written in a number of forms—poetry, prose, plays—do you have a preference for one kind of writing?
IFOA: You’ve enjoyed great success throughout your writing career. Is there one aspect you’re particularly proud of?
Clarke: That I’ve inspired others to take up poetry.
IFOA: What’s the best thing you’ve read in the past six months?
Clarke: HARD question. Setting aside classroom texts such as Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, the most resonant work has been Thomas Hardy’s 800-page epic poem, The Dynasts, dealing with the Napoleonic wars.
George Elliott Clarke is Poet Laureate of Toronto and one of Canada’s most beloved poets. Join him and fellow contributors on February 8 for the launch of the anthology of contemporary African Canadian poetry The Great Black North.