BPC Bulletin: Two Poems Removed from Website of Parliamentary Poet Laureate

News Reports and Commentary Selected by Franklin Carter of the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee.

 

In Ottawa, the Library of Parliament recently removed two poems from the website of the parliamentary poet laureate.

The poems — “Plaza Domingo” and “Alejandra” — were written by Stephen Brown. In 1995, Brown — then named Steven Kummerfield — and a male friend killed Pamela George, a First Nations woman. Both men were convicted of manslaughter.

The poems appeared on a web page that is dedicated to George Elliott Clarke. He served as Parliament’s poet laureate from 2016 to 2017, and he had edited and admired Brown’s poetry.

Nahanni Fontaine — an NDP member of Manitoba’s legislature — and others called for the removal of the poems. They were taken down on January 6, 2020.

REPORTAGE

Teresa Wright of the Canadian Press reports:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/poems-removed-parliamentary-website-1.5416642

Terry Haig of Radio Canada International reports:
https://www.rcinet.ca/en/2020/01/07/convicted-killers-poems-removed-from-library-of-parliament/

The incident followed Clarke’s decision to forgo an opportunity to speak on January 23 at the University of Regina. The faculty had invited Clarke to talk about Indigenous experiences of injustice in the writing of four Saskatchewan poets.

The invitation provoked controversy when people learned that Clarke was thinking about reciting one of Brown’s poems.

Lauren Krugel of the Canadian Press reports:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-george-elliott-clarke-cancels-talk-at-university-of-regina-amid/

Roberta Bell of Global News reports:

https://globalnews.ca/news/6362106/george-elliott-clarke-withdraws-from-u-of-r-lecture-amid-controversy/

Michaela Solomon of CTV News reports:

https://regina.ctvnews.ca/i-am-truly-sorry-george-elliott-clarke-withdraws-from-lecture-at-u-of-r-following-backlash-1.4752019?cache=yes%3FclipId%3D89578%3FclipId%3D373266%3FclipId%3D89578

Brett Forester of APTN reports:
https://aptnnews.ca/2020/01/03/poet-pulls-out-of-university-of-regina-lecture-after-mmiwg-controversy/

In Now, Radheyan Simonpillai reports:

https://nowtoronto.com/culture/books/george-elliott-clarke-cancels-regina-lecture/

 

The Book and Periodical Council was formed in 1975 as the Book and Periodical Development Council to provide a venue for members to discuss industry issues, address mutual concerns and undertake projects for the benefit of Canadian writing and publishing.

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