Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarkeby George Elliott Clarke, Jon Paul Fiorentino (Editor)
Blues singer, preacher, cultural critic, exile, Africadian, high modernist, spoken word artist, Canadian poetthese are but some of the voices of George Elliott Clarke. In a selection of Clarke’s best work from his early poetry to his most recent, Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke offers readers an impressive cross-section/i>
Blues singer, preacher, cultural critic, exile, Africadian, high modernist, spoken word artist, Canadian poetthese are but some of the voices of George Elliott Clarke. In a selection of Clarke’s best work from his early poetry to his most recent, Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke offers readers an impressive cross-section of those voices. Jon Paul Fiorentino’s introduction focuses on this polyphony, his influencesDerek Walcott, Amiri Baraka, and the canon of literary English from Shakespeare to Yeatsand his “voice throwing,” and shows how the intersections here produce a “troubling” of language. He sketches Clarke’s primary interest in the negotiation of cultural space through adherence to and revision of tradition and on the finding of a vernacular that begins in exile, especially exile in relation to African-Canadian communities.
In the afterword, Clarke, in an interesting re-spin of Fiorentino’s introduction, writes with patented gusto about how his experiences have contributed to multiple sounds and forms in his work. Decrying any grandiose notions of theory, he presents himself as primarily a songwriter.
Read an Excerpt
Africadian Experience by George Elliott Clarke
(For Frederick Ward)
To howl in the night because of smoked rum wounding the heart;
To be so stubbornly crooked, your alphabet develops rickets;
To check into the Sally Annand come out brain-dead, but spiffy;
To smell the sewer anger of politicians washed up by dirty votes;
To feel your skin burning under vampire kisses meant for someone else;
To trash the ballyhooed verses of the original, A-1, Africville poets;
To carry the Atlantic into Montreal in epic suitcases with Harlem accents;
To segregate black and white bones at the behest of discriminating worms;
To mix voodoo alcohol and explosive loneliness in unsafe bars;
To case the Louvre with raw, North Preston gluttony in your eyes;
To let vitamin deficiencies cripple beauty queens in their beds;
To dream of Halifax and its collapsing houses of 1917
(Blizzard and fire in ten thousand living rooms in one day);
To stagger a dirt road that leads to an exploded piano and bad sermons;
To plumb a well that taps rice wine springing up from China;
To okay the miracle of a split length of wood supporting a clothesline;
To cakewalk into prison as if you were parading into Heaven;
To recognize Beauty when you see it and to not be afraid.
Meet the Author
George Elliott Clarke is the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. An expert in African-Canadian literature, he published the foundational work in the field, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature , in 2002. Named a Trudeau Foundation Fellow in 2005, Clarke is also a revered poet, librettist, and novelist. For his collection Execution Poems , he received the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 2001. His bestselling poetry-novel, Whylah Falls , is a major text in Canadian literature.
Jon Paul Fiorentino is a writer and editor whose most recent book of poetry is The Theory of the Loser Class (2006). Recent editorial projects include the anthologies Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour (2003) and Post-Prairie , a collaborative effort with Robert Kroetsch (2005). He lives in Montreal, where he teaches writing at Concordia University and is the managing editor of Matrix magazine.
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