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Canticles I: (MMXVI)

Canticles I: (MMXVI)

By George Elliott Clarke

Book I of The Canticles puts into dialogue -- as dramatic monologues -- 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)


500 pages |

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If you want to read poems that just about sing themselves free of the page, read George Elliott Clarke. His ear is tuned to the forms and frequencies of history; the sound and syntax of humanity. No other North American poet writes with his majestic euphony.

Terrance Hayes

Canticles is George Elliott Clarke’s most textured work to date. 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. Weaving these voices together, like bards of yesteryear churning raw material into epic song, Clarke plays the role of a chameleon poet inking a brutal lyricism onto the page. These canticles abound with polyphony: Clarke echoes slave and imperialist debates that stretch back to Cleopatra, provides new voice to Marie-Josèphe Angélique and Phillis Wheatley, and revises and reworks history with the powers of a firebrand poet in full control of his craft. 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

Here is Poundian melopoeia at it finest.

Marjorie Perloff

In scintillating elegance, George Elliott Clarke conjures the dead to speak to the living in a modernist work that deftly juxtaposes multiple perspectives of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic. Clarke’s insightful poetry provides a unified version of a history laden with its accumulation of bodies and objects carted from Africa to Europe and onto the New World.

Nandi Odhiambo, Prof., University of Hawaii, West Oahu

Clarke’s work can be best understood as an uninhibited attempt to provincialize the Eurocentricity of our regnant narratives.

ARC Poetry Magazine

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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.