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Canticles I: (MMXVII)

Canticles I: (MMXVII)

By George Elliott Clarke

The second part of Book I of “The Canticles” continues the dialogue -- as dramatic monologues -- of 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. In this work, Dante can critique Christopher Columbus and Frederick Douglass can upbraid Abraham Lincoln; Elizabeth Barrett Browning can muse on her African racial heritage and its implications for child-bearing, while Karl Marx can excoriate Queen Victoria. Book II will focus on Black folk readings of Scripture, Hebrew and Greek, with a few other religious texts canvassed too. Book III will narrate the rise of the African Baptist Association of Nova Scotia.


Guernica Editions (Essential Poets Series)


450 pages |

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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

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

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About the author

Acclaimed for his narrative lyric suites (Whylah Falls and Execution Poems), his lyric “colouring books” (Blue, Black, Red, and Gold), his selected poems (Blues and Bliss), his opera libretti and plays (Beatrice Chancy and Trudeau: Long March, Shining Path), George Elliott Clarke now presents us with his epic-in-progress, Canticles, a work that views History as a web of imperialism, enslavement, and insurrection. A native Africadian, Canada’s 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate ranges the atlas and ransacks the library to ink lines unflinching before Atrocity and unquiet before Oppression.