George Elliott Clarke, Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, will give a Distinguished Visiting Scholar author talk and reading when he visits UH West Oʻahu in October. The talk and reading is scheduled from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Oct. 18, on the second floor Exhibition Space of the UH West Oʻahu library.
Clarke will read from two of his latest publications, Canticles I, a critically acclaimed collection of poems; and The Motorcyclist, a novel inspired by the life of Clarkeʻs father. Clarke will also conduct poetry workshops on Oct. 16 in the ENG 317 Pidgin Creative Writing Workshop and in an ENG 313 Introduction to Creative Writing class.
“George Elliott Clarke is a major poet of international acclaim,” said Assistant Professor of English David N. Odhiambo. “He is the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto, and his selection as Canada’s Parliamentary National Poet Laureate (2016-2017) was due to the immense contribution he has made to Canadian literature.”
Canada, like the U.S. and the United Kingdom, have created poet laureate positions to help expand the understanding and appreciation for written poetry. As the current poet laureate, Clarke performs a variety of roles for Canadaʻs Parliament, including writing poetry for use on important occasions, according to the parliamentʻs website.
Clarkeʻs honors include the Portia White Prize for Artistic Achievement (1998), Governor-General’s Award for Poetry (2001), the National Magazine Gold Medal for Poetry (2001), the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (2004), the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize (2005), the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction (2006), the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (2009), appointment to the Order of Nova Scotia (2006), appointment to the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer (2008), appointment as Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto (2012-15), and eight honorary doctorates.
Clarkeʻs Canticles I is a collection of poems published in March 2017 that is described as a dialogue or dramatic monologues between “those who fostered the transatlantic slave trade, or who demonized the image of the Negro in the Occident; as well as those who struggled for liberation and/or anti-racism.” The Motorcyclist is a novel published in 2016 that is inspired by the life of George’s father, and it “tells the story of a black working-class man caught between the expectations of his times and gleaming possibilities of the open road.”
Odhiambo said Clarkeʻs visit will expose Canadian literature to the local community and further a dialogue on topics including those related to under-reported histories, minority literature, and the historical struggle for liberation in the African Diaspora.
This presentation is sponsored by the UH West Oʻahu Distinguished Visiting Scholars Program and funded through the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation. The program brings seasoned scholars and practitioners in the humanities, social sciences, and indigenous arts, traditions, and cultures to UH West Oʻahu for the benefit of students, faculty, staff, and the community.