George Elliott Clarke tapped as new parliamentary poet laureate
Playwright, poet and professor known for collections Whylah Falls, Execution Poems and novel George & Rue
George Elliott Clarke, the much-honoured Nova Scotia writer, has been named the country's seventh parliamentary poet laureate.
He succeeds Michel Pleau, whose two-year term ended Dec. 31.
Clarke's appointment was announced jointly by Senate Speaker George Furey and Commons Speaker Geoff Regan on Tuesday.
The appointment was recommended by a selection committee chaired by parliamentary librarian Sonia L'Heureux and composed of Guy Berthiaume, the librarian and archivist of Canada, Official Languages Commissioner Graham Fraser and Pierre Lassonde, chair of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Clarke won the 2001 Governor General's Award for Poetry for his book, Execution Poems.
He is also an accomplished playwright and literary critic and is an officer of the Order of Canada.
'A true ambassador'
"George Elliott Clarke has been a true ambassador of the work of Canadian poets," Furey said in a statement. "His contribution to Canada's cultural fabric is exceptional."
Regan called him a versatile and engaging writer who "will bring great honour to the position."
Clarke is a seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi'kmaq heritage, who work has explored the African experience in Canada.
"I'm humbled and honoured, inspired and eager," he said in a statement.
Parliament established the post in 2001 to draw attention to the reading and writing of poetry.
The poet laureate's duties include composing poetry for use in Parliament on occasions of state, sponsoring poetry readings, advising the parliamentary librarian on the library's cultural collection and related duties at the request of the two Speakers or the librarian.
Clarke, who lives in Toronto and teaches literature at the University of Toronto, recently ended his tenure as that city's poet laureate.