Parliament won't censor former poet laureate's selection or remove n-word

Yesterday, Parliamentary said it will not take the N-word from its federal website. The word is used in a poem by the former poet laureate of Parliament.
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta

Yesterday, Parliamentary said it will not take the n-word down from its federal website. The word is used in a poem by the former poet laureate of Parliament, according to Blacklocks Reporter.

The parliamentary website republished the poem Shakespeare, by EI Jones—a Halifax author—three years ago. The poem portrays Shakespeare as a black rapper.

“As the steward of the parliamentary poet laureate program, the Library of Parliament strives to balance between its mission and organizational values and the free artistic expression of poets,” noted the director of Library executive services, François Coté.

Coté added that the reference in the poem to a “little ni**a” was used in a “context to help readers understand the language used.”

The poem reads:

"This is the story
Of a little nigga named Shakespeare
Born in a town
In the middle of nowhere
No one would have thought
That such beautiful language
Could come out of the ghetto
And a yard filled with garbage
But no one knows who
The Gods chose to favour
And so poets come
In all colours and flavours
The gift of these Gods
Can be strange and capricious
But when Shakespeare spoke
Man, his words were delicious!"

“I’m not interested in censorship,” said George Elliott Clarke, who republished the poem as the former poet laureate. “Good poetry ought to be provocative.”

“The n-word is a very political word used in a positive political framework in that poem,” said Clarke who is a professor at University of Toronto. “I am not interested in hate speech. The n-word in this poem reflects an urban context.”

The first poet laureate was appointed by Parliament in 2002 and the currently unfilled position pays $20,000 a year as a part time job with travel expenses of $13,000.

Clarke—Parliament’s first black poet laureate—added that Parliament should “showcase poets I consider to be important, relevant and provocative, poets that ask us to think differently.”

“It is a ceremonial position, certainly, but it is a ceremonial position with a lot of responsibilities,” said Professor Clarke, adding that no senators or MPs gave him “any direct comment” on the poem.

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Sam Edwards
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