George Elliott Clarke at SMU

"he's got 10 or 11 books that have fundamentally changed how we think about Atlantic Canadian literature. We need to pay close attention."

George Elliott Clarke Poster

Canada’s new poet laureate will read work never before heard in public at 2016 Cyril Byrne lecture

This Friday, March 11 at 7 pm, Canada’s new poet laureate will give this year’s Cyril Byrne lecture at Saint Mary’s McNally Theatre Auditorium.

But as Atlantic Canadians know, long before Clarke was a national poet laureate he brought a long-neglected perspective to poetry here. His was a powerful, resonant Africadian voice on history and contemporary issues.

Alexander MacLeod, a professor of Atlantic Canada Literature at Saint Mary’s and a well-known author himself, has been involved with the Cyril Byrne lecture for a decade. He is thrilled that George Elliott Clarke agreed to participate this year.

“Now that George has risen up to become the nation’s poet laureate,” MacLeod says, “his work gives a representation of African Nova Scotians and brings it to the whole country. He’s still a young man and he’s got 10 or 11 books that have fundamentally changed how we think about Atlantic Canadian literature. We need to pay close attention.”

Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper BluesLecture” is perhaps too dry a term for the evening. MacLeod promises a welcoming party atmosphere, and the night will be book-ended with the music of ECMA-winning jazz and gospel singer Linda Carvery and her family choir. It’s a perfect fit, MacLeod says. “George’s Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues addressed a specific musical and cultural heritage essential to understanding African Nova Scotians.”

The organizers aim to make things especially interesting to the audience, with the writer reading from work never before shared in public, including early poems published under a pseudonym. The event will also serve as a local launch for Clarke’s new novel, The Motorcyclist.

After the reading, MacLeod will interview Clarke on stage, followed by an audience Q & A. It is a free event and all are welcome.

Written By

Chris Benjamin is the managing editor of Atlantic Books Today. He is also the author of three award-winning, critically-acclaimed books: Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School; Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada and Drive-by Saviours; as well as several short stories in anthologies and journals.

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