I loved the title “The Great Black North.” The subtitle “Contemporary African Canadian Poetry” made the book even more intriguing. I learned that Toronto’s Poet Laureate would be at the book launch. I wanted to add his picture to my multicultural collection. I felt I had to go. It turned out to be very worthwhile.
George Elliott Clarke, Poet Laureate of Toronto, was amazing. He was the guest of honour. Instead of sitting quietly waiting to be announced, he bounced into the room with a big grin on his face and introduced himself to everybody. We could not help but smile back and feel good.
91 poets are in the book and many read their poems aloud that evening. I learned what they were thinking about.
John Akpata’s Ursula: “… that moment when all hope is lost/ when our loved ones have been put on ships/and finally disappear at the vanishing point upon the horizon/the mast/the stern/the sails/ he puts her down/and speaks her name/he wails.”
Ian Keteku’s Laptop Love: “I want to open you up and turn you on/Push all the right buttons just to get you going…”
Kevan Anthony Cameron or Scruffmouth’s I am a Claim – Vanrock: “…I am Clenched Fists of Short-Lived Sprinters, The Mad Dashes of Hyphenated Titles: AFRI, AFRO, CARIBBEAN & MORE/a free African on Canadian Shores/of the Great Black North/Proud/I am.”
Andrea Thompson’s A Brief History of Soul Speak: “Seemingly innocent spirituals /to both master and overseer/there were merely words/simple lyrics, ingenuous/halleluiah ballads./ Swing low, sweet chariot…”
Ryan Burke’s Historically Present Ghosts: “… I hear the elders…telling my peers/That after years of struggle/Our generation/Is the only one/That remains caged freely/With no one/To step forward/And carry on our legacy/The torch bearer/Of our ancestry…”
George Elliott Clarke’s From “Canticles”: First Christmas: “Watching Star-ignited snow sparkle,/ Herod unleashes a cranky butchering: Romans must rip open Hebrew skin — /distinguish circumcised babes/and extinguish them,/ so they perish/amid spasms of shitting…”
What goes on in the heads of poets is worth listening to. The web-site is: http://blackcanadianpoetry.com/advisors/karina-vernon .