George Elliott Clarke

George Elliott Clarke (born February 12, 1960) is a Canadian poet and playwright. Born in Windsor Plains, Nova Scotia, he has spent much of his career writing about the black communities of Nova Scotia and served for a time in the African-American Studies department at Duke University. He earned a B.A. honours degree in English from the University of Waterloo (1984), an M.A. in English from Dalhousie University (1989) and a Ph.D. in English from Queen’s University (1993). In addition, he has received honorary degrees from Dalhousie University (LL.D.), the University of New Brunswick (Litt.D.), the University of Alberta (Litt.D.), and the University of Waterloo (Litt.D.). In 2001 he won the Governor General’s Award for poetry for his book,Execution Poems.

Questions & Answers

Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?

One morning in September 1976, as my mother was driving me (in our large, green car) to Queen Elizabeth High School, in Halifax, NS, I chanced to read American poet Ezra Pound’s translation of a poem by Li Po, title “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter.” To my 16-year old intelligence, this ancient Chinese lyrics sounded like Motown soul songs. I decided I should try to write poetry that was just as musical and soulful.

How/where do you find inspiration today?

I derive inspiration from everything: movies, newspapers, dreams, conversations, recipes, the radio, song lyrics, catalogues, comic books, other poets’ poems, the Bible, eavesping, and the accidental observations of the senses: silk that feels like milk, milk that sounds like silk…

What is your writing process?

My poetry is either the spontaneous perspiration of emotion (i.e. inspiration) or the dispassionate and deliberate assembling and organizing of disparately composed lines and phrases—a coherent collage…

What is your revision/editing process?

In revising, I read the poem aloud, check for superfluous words, seek vivid verbs, and attempt to make my meanings as clear as possible.

Did you write poetry in high school? If yes, how did you get started? If no, why not?

I wrote poetry throughout my high school year. However, I started, at age 15, as a songwriter; later, at age 16, after encountering Pound’s poem (as cited above), I turned from penning song lyrics to inking ‘free verse’.

Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. websites, text books, etc.)?

A young poet needs only two attributes to succeed in this art: a) curiosity about life and humanity; b) a willingness to speak the truth.

When you were high school aged, what would have been helpful/motivating to hear from a published poet?

Advice? Read everyone and write everything.


Works by George Elliott Clarke

PoetryBook ReviewsArticlesBook Reviews of Author

Poetry by George Elliott Clarke

Book Reviews by George Elliott Clarke

Collecting His Wits
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Prison Writing. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 208 (Spring 2011): 153-155.
  • Collected Works of George Grant: Volume 4, 1970-1988 by Henry Roper and Arthur Davis
Granting audience
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Canadian Literature 191 (Winter 2006): 138-139.
  • Collected Works of George Grant by Henry Roper and Arthur Davis
The Gospel of Grant
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Canadian Literature 184 (Spring 2005): 119-120.
  • Collected Works of George Grant by Arthur Davis
In Living Colour
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Canadian Literature 180 (Spring 2004): 117-119.
  • African Diaspora and Autobiographics by Chinosole
  • Black and Asian Plays by Cheryl Robson
Re: (St.) George Grant
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Archives and History. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 178 (Autumn 2003): 120-121.
  • George Grant and the Theology of the Cross: The Christian Foundations of His Thought by Harris Athanasiadis
  • Collected Works of George Grant: Volume I (1933-1950) by Peter C. Emberly and Carol Shloss
Vitriolic Quixote
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Nature / Culture. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 170-171 (Autumn/Winter 2001): 198-199.
  • The George Grant Reader by Sheila Grant and William Christian
  • English-Speaking Justice by George Grant
Another Great Thing
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Canadian Literature 165 (Summer 2000): 139-140.
  • Any Known Blood by Lawrence Hill
Viewing African Canada
By George Elliott Clarke
Published in Canadian Literature 160 (Spring 1999): 185-186.
  • The Blacks in Canada by Robin W. Winks

Articles by George Elliott Clarke

Anna Minerva Henderson
By George Elliott Clarke

Book Reviews of George Elliott Clarke's Works