George Elliott Clarke (OC, ONS, PhD) is the son of William and Geraldine Clarke, themselves descendants of African-American immigrants to Nova Scotia. A poet-academic, he received an Honours BA in English in 1984 (University of Waterloo), MA in English in 1989 (Dalhousie University), PhD in English in 1993 (Queen's University). In 1994, Clarke was appointed Assistant Professor of English and Canadian Studies at Duke University. Concurrently, he also served as the Seagram Visiting Chair in Canadian Studies at McGill University (1998-99). In 1999, Clarke accepted an appointment at the University of Toronto, where he is the inaugural E.J. Pratt Professor of Canadian Literature, a position established specifically for a poet-professor.
Clarke has issued nine poetry texts, three chapbooks, four plays in verse (and three opera libretti), a novel, a scholarly essay collection, and edited two anthologies. He has two titles in translation: in Chinese and Romanian. Clarke has also won laurels for his work as an anthologist and scholar of African-Canadian literature, a field of study that he has pioneered. His honours include: The Archibald Lampman Award for Poetry (1991), The Portia White Prize for Artistic Excellence (1998), A Bellagio Center (Italy) Fellowship (1998), The Governor-General's Literary Award for Poetry (2001), The National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry (2001), The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award (2004), The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship Prize (2005), The Frontieras Poesis Premiul (Romania, 2005), The Estelle and Ludwig Jus Memorial Human Rights Award (2005), The Dartmouth Book Award for Fiction (2006), The William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations (2008), The Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (2009), Appointment to the Order of Nova Scotia (2006), and Appointment to the Order of Canada (2008). Clarke also holds seven honorary doctorates.