Poem Commemorating Women’s History Month
By George Elliott Clarke
What’s a woman’s place,
If not first? How could
Thrive the human race
Without our live mould?
A woman’s place is not “behind”—
Unless she’s behind the wheel—
Directing the passage,
Navigating the way forward;
Or she’s behind the controls—
Piloting, soaring to the sun;
Or she’s behind the desk—
Instructing, managing, teaching.
A woman’s place is not “in the home”—
Unless it’s a house of finance—
Or it’s the House of Commons—
Or it’s Windsor Castle and/or Rideau Hall.
A woman’s place is not “out back”—
Unless she’s the front-line back up—
Who don’t back down—
Not until the downpressed are standing up.
Ain’t to cook and clean,
But to petition—
Inquest like a queen.
A woman’s position isn’t secondary,
But to be supreme—
Like a Supreme Court Justice,
And render decisions primary.
A woman’s position isn’t drudgery,
But to become the judge,
And to mete out Equality,
To never deem rights luxuries.
A woman’s position isn’t retro—
To go back to the kitchen,
To go back to the nursery,
To forget, to regret, to forego.
A woman’s position isn’t reversed
By the biases that History
Has had Herstory rehearse.
And what’s a woman’s status?
To be valued and “vatic”—
Gifted by afflatus—
And it’s also our status
To give chauvinists static,
To face down the fatuous;
To act up; be dramatic!
We may have Indigenous status;
We may have Landed Immigrant status;
We may have working-class status;
But our standing is always righteous.
May our status always be first—
The first to argue for rights—
For Power and a wallet-equal purse—
And know Victory’s delights.
George Elliott Clarke
7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate (2016-2017)
George Elliott Clarke
Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada
George Elliott Clarke,
Parliamentary Poet Laureate 2016-2017
A revered poet, George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, near the Black Loyalist community of Three Mile Plains, in 1960. A graduate of the University of Waterloo (B.A., Hons., 1984), Dalhousie University (M.A., 1989) and Queen's University (Ph.D., 1993), he is now the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. An Assistant Professor of English and Canadian Studies at Duke University, North Carolina (1994-99), Clarke also served as the Seagrams Visiting Chair in Canadian Studies at McGill University (1998-99), and as a Noted Scholar at the University of British Columbia (2002) and as a Visiting Scholar at Mount Allison University (2005), and as the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor in Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2013-14). He has also worked as a research, editor, social worker, parliamentary aide, and newspaper columnist. He lives in Toronto, Ontario, but he also owns land in Nova Scotia.
His many honours include the Portia White Prize for Artistic Achievement (1998), Governor-General's Award for Poetry (2001), the National Magazine Gold Medal for Poetry (2001), the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award (2004), the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize (2005), the Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction (2006), the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (2009), appointment to the Order of Nova Scotia (2006), appointment to the Order of Canada at the rank of Officer (2008), and eight honorary doctorates. He completed his three year term as the City of Toronto’s Poet Laureate in 2015.
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