The Current

Watch George Elliott Clarke perform his electrifying poem about the power of voting

George Elliott Clarke, Canada's former parliamentary poet laureate, wrote a new poem for The Current's town hall event on democracy.

Canada's former parliamentary poet laureate wrote poem for The Current's town hall about democracy

Poet and author George Elliott Clarke wrote the poem especially for a town hall event hosted by The Current and q, celebrating democracy in all its imperfection. (Andrew Nguyen/CBC)

In his poem about democracy, George Elliott Clarke wrestles with the idea of whether it's worth our time to vote when so many politicians inevitably break promises or reveal themselves to be corrupt.

Clarke, the former Canadian parliamentary poet laureate, wrote the poem To Vote or Veto? An Elector's Vice Versa for The Current's town hall event on democracy, and performed it in studio. 

Canadians go to the polls on Oct. 21.

Watch George Elliott Clarke's poetry performance:

George Elliott Clarke, poet and author, performs a reading of his poem, 'To vote or veto? An elector's vice versa' 2:49

Here is the full text of the poem:

To Vote or Veto? An Elector's Vice Versa

Citizen I agree: Voting is pointless!
Isn't every politico shameless at deceit?
Assuredly, their love's never uneducated —
Never clean of unscrupulous motives:
Note their insidious subtraction of once-eager promises. 
The whole shebang be as cynical as champagne:
All that blather and fizz and froth, signifying zero! 

Citizen, I too dislike the schmucks, the shills,
Who, gums flapping flimflam, pontificate on hot air, 
While they raunchily debauch the Treasury. 
And okay gerrymandering, money-laundering, 
And/or whitewash crooks and blacklist do-gooders.
A cult of misers and prudes, killjoys and grifters,
They wreak havoc on lower-echelon, income brackets. 

Citizen, yes, many governors are cash-flush,
But piss-poor in ideas; or they're sell sell-outs, 
Pinstripes for sale so impeccably despicable— 
These vamps and vampires feeding on poor sots' blood;
These snooty prevaricators belabour 
Overly elaborate, hoity-toity vocabulary, 
so they can scam the damned and the goddamned. 

Citizen, sometimes I feel downright ashamed
To pencil an "X" inside the ballot's circle: 
For one thing, it mirrors a gun-scope's cross-hair, 
As if I'm assassinating the candidate via soft lead. 
But I always suspect that, no matter who I choose,
I've screwed up, and may be sending a screwball 
Or a loose screw, or some kind of antichrist 
to a junkyard—or graveyard—parliament. 

Citizen, I'm sick of choosing between sleaze-bags 
And scalawags, rascals and scoundrels: Geez! 
Must my vote be so unmeaningful—I mean, a waste?
Too many lawyers—as subtle as vermin—wanna be my voice! 
Yuck! Why must folks who get paid to talk 
End up doing all the talking and squawking. 
They blah-blah-blah so much, my voice is silenced!

Citizen, I too distrust all the campaign shouting
And propaganda and pure b.s. and also fake news b.s.
But I also despise one tawdry, singular certainty: 
The same-old mouths spewing the same-old bilge. 
I prefer the wild pickings an election tosses up—
The fresh faces and new blood vigorous enough
To frenzy atoms and shake up nervous systems!

Citizen, yes, an election changes nothing; that's true: 
But to change a government changes everything. 
In that case, the election's an ennobling electrocution:
The "shocking upset" recharges and rejigs and revives;
And lightning scraps and enraptures all stifling gloom. 
Always should we rabble be troublesome, and so never 
Should we veto our vote, but use always our vote as veto.



Produced by Padraig Moran and Yamri Taddesse.

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