Went to see George Elliott Clarke read at Liz Bachinsky's Robson Street Reading Series tonight (yesterday, now). I've been reading George's work for years, am a big fan of his best work (especially Whylah Falls, Execution Poems and Blue) and have attended a number of his readings. As usual, tonight's was an energetic epic. He arrived late, but already in high gear. He read a bunch of poems from Black, and then read sections of his latest book, Trudeau: Long March, Shining Path, a biographical libretto about the late great PM. After reading each section, he played a recording of the same section, as performed by the singers, with musical accompaniment--during which George remained standing, grooving to the tunes. I and others agreed that we preferred him reading it to the recording, and we were a bit puzzled by his decision to duplicate the way he did.
While I can't say that I love all of George's recent work (there were a few pretty cheesy passages in the opera), I absolutely love his unflagging positivity and energy. Some of you might remember that I was involved in an editorial SNAFU last year, when I reviewed an early manuscript draft of Black instead of the finished page proofs, due to an error made by Raincoast. George didn't hold it against me and even, after the review was published, judged me the winner of Arc's annual Critic's Desk Award. All the thin-skinned precious darlings of our literary world should take lessons from George in grace and large-heartedness.