It was announced earlier in the week that Nova Scotia poet George Elliott Clarke has been appointed to the position of Parliamentary Poet Laureate. Clarke has been a force in Canadian poetry for quite a while now, and has obtained some notable honours, which include the William P. Hubbard Award reflecting his long contribution to race relations in Toronto, The Archibald Lampman Award, and the Governor General’s Award for Poetry for his collection Execution Poems. He’s also an Officer of the Order of Canada. I’m personally very pleased with the selection of Clarke to fulfill this official role.
I find it interesting that the position of poet laureate is a relatively new one for Canada. Of course, the United Kingdom is known for the title, having officially created the position in 1668 with the appointment of John Dryden as the first. The United States has had a national poet since 1937 with the appointment of Joseph Auslander. Canada has been behind the times in that our country waited until 2001 to create the position, even though there have been numerous poets of great quality and insight throughout our history. George Bowering, one of my favourite poets, was our first and there have been six others since, alternating between English and French language writers.
It brings a certain official recognition to the work of these poets and to poetry in general, which is to be lauded. I look forward to reading more of Clarke’s work in the future.