Given all the political hoopla happening in Hogtown, it would have been easy to miss news that poet, playwright, activist, and critic George Elliott Clarke has been appointed Toronto’s fourth poet laureate. He takes over from Dionne Brand, who has held the position since 2009.
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, Clarke’s East Coast roots are a driver for much of his work around black identity. Clarke, who refers to his African-Canadian and Mi’qmak heritage as “Africadian,” is recognized as one of the top scholars of black-Canadian literature.
Clarke moved to Toronto in 1999, and in 2003 was named the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. He brings a shelf full of prizes to the position, including the 2001 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry for Execution Poems (Gaspereau Press). In 2008 he received Toronto’s William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations and was made an officer of the Order of Canada.