Black Ice and Yellow Snow: On Digging into Canuck Pulp Fiction, by George Elliott Clarke
Given the elitist tendencies of (Anglo-) Canadian literature, we tend to discount works that revel in the sensational, that exploit or focus on the crude and lewd, or simply the disreputable (for some) “facts of life.” I will argue that new attention should be paid to erotic works such as Stephen Vizinczey's In Praise of Older Women and Marian Engel's Bear as well as the true-crime works of Stephen Williams and Dorothy Proctor, so that so-called “pulp fiction” is understood to constitute an illustrious segment of the Can Lit canon.
GEORGE ELLIOTT CLARKE is a poet, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, literary critic, academic, and an Officer of the Order of Canada. A seventh-generation Canadian of African-American and Mi’kmaq Amerindian heritage, Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia. He taught English and Canadian Studies at Duke University (1994-1999), was appointed the Visiting Seagrams Chair in Canadian Studies at McGill University (1998-1999), and then became professor of English at the University of Toronto, where he was appointed the first E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature in 2003. Clarke is a prolific poet who, since 1983, has published nine poetry collections. Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues was followed by his 1990 Whylah Falls, which was awarded the Archibald Lampman Award, Lush Dreams, Blue Exile: Fugitive Poems 1978-1993 (1994), Gold Indigoes (1999), and Execution Poems: The Black Acadian Tragedy of George and Rue (2001), for which he was awarded the Governor General’s Award for Poetry. That volume was followed by Blue (2001), Illuminated Verses (2005), Black (2006), and I & I (2009). Clarke has also written other genres, such as plays, opera or jazz librettos, essays, and novels. The opera Beatrice Chancy premiered in 1998, was televised on CBC, and also exists in the form of a verse play; as for his 1999 Whylah Falls: The Play, it was selected for the 2002 Canada Reads. He has also published two volumes of essays: Odysseys Home: Mapping African-Canadian Literature (2002) and Directions Home: Approaches to African-Canadian Literature (2011), and in February, 2016, he published his second novel, The Motorcyclist. Last, and certainly not least, George Elliott Clark has edited three anthologies of Black or Afro-Canadian writing. In recognition of these accomplishments and more, much more, he has received several honorary doctorates, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award, and the $150,000 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize, and yes, more, much more. In November 2012, he became Toronto's fourth Poet Laureate, and in January 2016, Canada's seventh Parliamentary Poet Laureate.
(Photo : Courtesy of the Library of Parliament)