January 5, 2016 (Ottawa) – The Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable George J. Furey, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Geoff Regan, announced the appointment of George Elliott Clarke as Canada’s next Parliamentary Poet Laureate, effective January 1, 2016. Mr. Clarke is the seventh poet to hold this office, succeeding Michel Pleau, whose two-year term ended on December 31, 2015.
“George Elliott Clarke has been a true ambassador of the work of Canadian poets,” indicates Speaker Furey. “His contribution to Canada’s cultural fabric is exceptional.”
“His talent as poet, playwright and literary critic is undeniable,” adds Speaker Regan. “He is an immensely versatile and engaging writer and will bring great honour to the position.”
George Elliott Clarke was selected by the Speakers upon the recommendation of the Selection Committee chaired by Sonia L’Heureux, Parliamentary Librarian and composed of Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada; Graham Fraser, Commissioner of Official Languages and Pierre Lassonde, Chair, Canada Council for the Arts.
“The appointment is a personal holiday gift, but it is a transcendent, national recognition of the vitality of our official languages and doubly powerful poetries, informed by two great literary traditions,” indicates Mr. Clarke “I’m humbled and honoured, inspired and eager, to follow previous Parliamentary Poets Laureate in valuing in verse our super-natural nation’s exemplary experiments in democratized humanism.”
Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1960, Mr. Clarke is a seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq Amerindian heritage. Among Mr. Clarke’s many honours are the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Awards’ Gold Medal for Poetry, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s Trudeau Fellowship Prize and the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction and the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry. He has also been appointed to the Order of Nova Scotia and to the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer. Mr. Clarke holds eight honorary doctorates. He has recently completed his three year term as Poet Laureate for the City of Toronto.
Overview of Parliamentary Poet Program:
Federal legislators created the position of Parliamentary Poet Laureate in 2001 to draw Canadians’ attention to the reading and writing of poetry. Pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, the Poet Laureate performs a range of duties, including: compose poetry, particularly for use in Parliament on occasions of state, sponsor poetry readings, advise the Parliamentary Librarian on the Library’s cultural collection, and perform related duties at the request of the Speaker of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Commons, or the Parliamentary Librarian. Biographical notes and a photo of George Elliott Clarke are available on-line at www.parl.gc.ca/poet.