Blues singer, preacher, cultural critic, exile, Africadian, high modernist, spoken word artist, Canadian poet--these are but some of the voices of George Elliott Clarke. In a selection of Clarke's best work from his early poetry to his most recent, Blues and Bliss: The Poetry of George Elliott Clarke offers readers an impressive cross-section of those voices. Jon Paul Fiorentino's introduction focuses on this polyphony, his influences--Derek Walcott, Amiri Baraka, and the canon of literary English from Shakespeare to Yeats--and his "voice throwing," and shows how the intersections here produce a "troubling" of language. He sketches Clarke's primary interest in the negotiation of cultural space through adherence to and revision of tradition and on the finding of a vernacular that begins in exile, especially exile in relation to African-Canadian communities. In the afterword, Clarke, in an interesting re-spin of Fiorentino's introduction, writes with patented gusto about how his experiences have contributed to multiple sounds and forms in his work. Decrying any grandiose notions of theory, he presents himself as primarily a songwriter.
George Elliott Clarke is the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. An expert in African-Canadian literature, he published the foundational work in the field, Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature , in 2002. Named a Trudeau Foundation Fellow in 2005, Clarke is also a revered poet, librettist, and novelist. For his collection Execution Poems , he received the Governor Generalas Award for Poetry in 2001. His bestselling poetry-novel, Whylah Falls , is a major text in Canadian literature. Jon Paul Fiorentino is a writer and editor whose most recent book of poetry is The Theory of the Loser Class (2006). Recent editorial projects include the anthologies Career Suicide! Contemporary Literary Humour (2003) and Post-Prairie , a collaborative effort with Robert Kroetsch (2005). He lives in Montreal, where he teaches writing at Concordia University and is the managing editor of Matrix magazine.