Gaspereau Press’ best-selling title, Execution Poems, is George Elliott Clarke’s complex lament for his late cousins, George and Rue?two Black men who were hanged for the murder of a taxi driver. After the overwhelming interest generated by the original limited letterpress edition of Execution Poems, Gaspereau Press released this trade edition which went on to win Canada’s highest literary honour in 2001. The jurors of the Governor General’s Literary Award called this book “raging, gristly, public?and unflinchingly beautiful,” and remarked on Clarke’s “explosive, original language.”
In 1949, George and Rufus Hamilton were hanged for the murder of a taxi driver in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Fifty years later, Clarke has written, in his abundant style, a series of poems that embody both damnation and redemption, offering convoluted triumphs alongside tragedy and blurring the line between perpetrator and victim. What Clarke presents in Execution Poems is uncomfortable. He reminds us of racism and poverty; of their brutal, tragic results. He reminds us of society’s vengefulness. He blurs the line between the perpetrator and the victim?a line we’d prefer remain simple and clear. At the heart of it, Clarke is frustrating the notion that society deals any better with these issues today than it did in the 1940s.
About the author
George Elliott Clarke is a Canadian poet and playwright. Born in Windsor Plains, Nova Scotia, he has spent much of his career writing about the Black communities of Nova Scotia and served for a time in the African-American Studies department at Duke University. He earned a BA Honours degree in English from the University of Waterloo (1984), an MA in English from Dalhousie University (1989), and a PhD in English from Queenâ??s University (1993). In addition, he has received honorary degrees from Dalhousie University (LLD), the University of New Brunswick (LittD), the University of Alberta (LittD), and the University of Waterloo (LittD). He is currently professor of English at the University of Toronto.
In 2001 he won the Governor Generalâ??s Literary Award for poetry for his book Execution Poems. Clarkeâ??s work largely explores and chronicles the experience and history of the black Canadian community of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, creating a cultural geography that Clarke often refers to as Africadia. Clarkeâ??s Whylah Falls was one of the selected books in the 2002 edition of Canada Reads, where it was championed by Nalo Hopkinson.
“It is an engrossing and?dare I say it?brilliantly executed narrative that gave me the sort of pleasure that Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid did years ago.” Noah Richler, National Post
Other titles by George Elliott Clarke
Blacks in Canada
The Quest for a 'National' Nationalism
E.J. Pratt’s Epic Ambition, ‘Race’ Consciousness, and the Contradictions of Canadian Identity
I Am Still Your Negro
An Homage to James Baldwin
A Portrait in Words
Writers on Writing in Canada
J. J. Steinfeld
Essays on His Works
The Merchant of Venice (Retried)