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George Elliott Clarke

Porters Lake (NS), Potterfield Press, c1983.
96pp, paper, $6.95.
ISBN 0-919001-13-0.

Grades 10 and up.
Reviewed by Barbara Jaques.

Volume 11 Number 6.
1983 November.

Saltwater Spirituals and Deeper Blues is a collection of poetry by a twenty-three-year-old Nova Scotia born black, George Elliott Clarke. His style is unique, echoing his deep spirituality and feeling for the history of his people. The poems are divided into three sections: "Soul Songs," given the titles of various Nova Scotian African churches; "Blues Notes," dedicated to various people, places, and ideas; and "The Book of Jubilee," delving into personal and black history. After each section is a series of photographs. The introduction, by Sylvia Hamilton, contains a background of the author and a history of blacks in Nova Scotia.

George Elliott Clarke's poetry appeals to all the senses and rolls nicely off the tongue when reading, as evidenced by the poem "Childhood," from "The Book of Jubilee":

         field niggers moaned tidewater blues,
         endless, endless sorrow songs,
         all my livelong, lovelorn youth,
         and i was spiritualized
         by cornhusker poets
         hollering melody from rivers and rocks,
         pulling rhythm from ploughs and earth,
         finding words in hoes, horses, whores,
         the chink, clink, of chains,
         the apple-brandy slur-speech of horseback preachers
         bell-gabble and rain-whisper . . .
         all was music melancholy,
         all sang, "many thousands gone;
         none comin' back"
         but when august baked berries black,
         then tambourine and timbrel tintinnabulation
         sounded jubilee; all sang
         joy-joined: "all i want in dis creation
         is a pretty little girl and a big

Recommended for purchase.

Barbara Jaques, Dalhousie R. H. S., Dalhousie, NB.
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