Poet Laureate

George Elliott Clarke Biography

Born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1960, Mr. Clarke is a seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq Amerindian heritage. He earned a B.A. Honours in English from the University of Waterloo (1984), an M.A. in English from Dalhousie University (1989) and a Ph.D. in English from Queen’s University (1993). Mr. Clarke now lives in Toronto and began teaching Canadian and African diasporic literature in 1999 at University of Toronto, where he is currently the E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature.

Among Mr. Clarke's many honours are the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry (2001), the National Magazine Gold Medal for Poetry (2001), the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (2004), the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize (2005-08), the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction (2006), the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (2009), appointment to the Order of Nova Scotia (2006), appointment to the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer (2008), and eight honorary doctorates.

Mr. Clarke has been instrumental in promoting the work of writers of African descent; in 2002 he published, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature and he has just published a second volume, Directions Home: Approaches to African-Canadian Literature. For more information on his works please click here.

George Elliott Clarke
Photo by Camelia Linta

"I look forward to the stimulating challenge of imagining words of beauty and emotion that might possibly mirror and echo the multicultural mosaic that is Toronto the Great," said Mr. Clarke. "Our greatness is our global community, a mix of mixtures of peoples that is found nowhere else in the world that represents a dynamic, attractive, and inspiring cosmopolitanism. The post of Poet Laureate is a magical, public offering, and I am humbled to follow in the brilliant wake of Dionne Brand, Pier Giorgio di Cicco, and Dennis Lee."

Mr. Clarke will receive an annual honorarium of $10,000 for three years to serve as Toronto's literary ambassador championing local literary arts and wordsmiths. He will also create a literary legacy project for the people of Toronto.

Mr. Clarke was nominated by a selection committee that included: Joanna Poblocka (Executive Director, League of Canadian Poets), Lillian Necakov-Avalos (Branch Head, Toronto Public Library), Andrew McAlorum (General Editor, Canadian Poetry Online), Marc Glassman (Director, This Is Not A Reading Series) and Toronto's most recent Poet Laureate, Dionne Brand. The selection committee relied on its expertise and consultation with the community to select a candidate.

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