34 | George Elliott Clarke | War Canticles

Vallum Chapbook Series No. 34
George Elliott Clarke

En route to publishing Canticles I (MMXVI) (2016), the first volume of an expected 6-volume epic and one that begins with the survey of two millennia of oppressive history (ending in Canticles I [MMXVII] [2017] with Mao’s 1949 victory in China), I published Selected Canticles—a chapbook— with above/ground press in 2012. Therein is a sampling of poems treating Christopher Columbus’s immediate introduction of gold-fever, enslavement, rapine, and theft upon his “discovery” of the Americas; but also a poem in the voice of Arthur Rimbaud, recalling the joys of slave trafficking; but also a poem that re-litigates Othello, repositioning Desdemona as Delilah, Othello as Samson. These War Canticles are the loud left-overs of Canticles I (Guernica Editions), still caterwauling to join the earlier, published volumes of meditations on damnable history. Herein, thou shalt find, in this chapbook, musings by Sally Bassett, a Bermudian slave, executed in 1730 for having almost fatally poisoned her white master, mistress, and a treacherous sister (black) slave; but also by Napoléon versus the Haitian Revolution and by Haitian General Dessalines versus Napoléon; not to mention Frederick Douglass calling upon Abe Lincoln to turn Dixie into a waste land; and a Chinese mandarin advising his Emperor to undertake total war against Great Britain and France as they were invading to prosecute the Opium War (1860-61). Etc. Including poet (and Communist) Langston Hughes “trying” Ezra Pound for supporting Fascist Italy—even in its evil warfare that saw Italy use poison gas against Ethiopian soldiers armed only with spears. Yes, these War Canticles describe atrocities, rape, and sundry Crimes Against Humanity. I would like the reader to appreciate the gravity of the oppressions that humanitarians and civil libertarians continue to protest. In the spirit of Blake—both of em—William and Martin Robinson Delaney’s hero. Oh, and I almost forgot: My first chapbook for Vallum, The Gospel of X (2010), shows up in Canticles II (MMXX) (2020), the second-volume of a two-volume series of rewrites of various scriptures—from an Africadian perspective. And thus my epic soldiers on.


Author’s Bio

The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and the 7th Parliamentary/Canadian Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1960. A professor of English at the University of Toronto, Clarke has also taught at Duke, McGill, UBC, and Harvard. His recognitions include the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre Fellowship (US), the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry, the Premiul Poesis (Romania), the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (US), and International Fellow Poet of the Year [2019] (China). His acclaimed titles include Whylah Falls (1990, translated into Chinese), Beatrice Chancy (1999, translated into Italian), Execution Poems (2001), Blues and Bliss (selected poems, 2009), I & I (2008), Illicit Sonnets (U.K., 2013), Traverse (2015), and Canticles II (MMXX) (2020).



Table of contents

35 pages total

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