5 Poets Breaking Into Song (“The 9TH Symphony”)

In this National Poetry Month of April, former national poet laureate George Elliott Clarke, the League of Canadian Poets, and the East and West Learning Connections will bring you another feast of poetry and music!  It is the 9th edition of Clarke’s “5 Poets Breaking Into Song” series that presents the beautiful creations of renowned Canadian poets and award-winning composers and singers.

Time: FRIDAY APRIL 28, 2023, at 7-9 P.M. (EST)

Free online English event with Chinese and other language translation captions.


Zoom registration link:



Everyone is welcome!  For inquiries, please contact us at info@eawlc.org.



The Poets

George Elliott Clarke


The 4th Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012-15) and the 7th Parliamentary/Canadian Poet Laureate (2016-17), George Elliott Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1960.  A professor of English at the University of Toronto, Clarke has also taught at Duke, McGill, UBC, and Harvard. His recognitions include the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre Fellowship (US), the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellows Prize, the Governor-General’s Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Gold Award for Poetry, the Premiul Poesis (Romania), the Eric Hoffer Book Award for Poetry (US), and International Fellow Poet of the Year, Encyclopedic Poetry School [2019] (China).  His acclaimed titles include Whylah Falls (1990, translated into Chinese), Beatrice Chancy (1999, translated into Italian), Execution Poems (2001), Blues and Bliss (selected poems, 2009), I & I (2008), Illicit Sonnets (U.K., 2013), Traverse (2015), and Canticles II (MMXX) (2020).  Since 1983, he has published some 25 volumes of poetry.

Gwendolyn MacEwen (1941 – 1987)

MacEwen was born in Toronto, Ontario.  Her mother, Elsie, spent much of her life as a patient in mental health institutions. Her father, Alick, suffered from alcoholism.  Gwendolyn MacEwen grew up in the High Park area of the city, and attended Western Technical-Commercial School.  MacEwan’s first poem was published in The Canadian Forum when she was only 17, and she left school at 18 to pursue a writing career.  By 18 she had written her first novel, Julian the Magician.   Her first book of poetry, The Drunken Clock, was published in 1961 in Toronto, then the centre of a literary revival in Canada, encouraged by the editor Robert Weaver and influential teacher Northrop Frye. MacEwen was thus in touch with James Reaney, Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee, etc. She married poet Milton Acorn, 19 years her senior, in 1962, although they divorced two years later.  She published over twenty books, in a variety of genres. She also wrote numerous radio docudramas for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), including a “much-admired radio drama”, Terror and Erebus, in 1965 which featured music by Terry Rusling.  With her second husband, Greek musician Niko Tsingos, MacEwen opened a Toronto coffeehouse, The Trojan Horse, in 1972. She and Tsingos translated some of the poetry of contemporary Greek writer Yiannis Ritsos (published in her 1981 book Trojan Women).  She taught herself to read Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and French, and translated writers from each of those languages.  In 1978 her translation of Euripides’ drama The Trojan Women was first performed in Toronto.  She served as writer in residence at the University of Western Ontario in 1985, and the University of Toronto in 1986 and 1987.

During the last years of her life, she was in a relationship with street writer Crad Kilodney (Lou Trifon).  MacEwen died in 1987, at the age of 46, of health problems related to alcoholism.  She is buried in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

Stephen Morrissey

Stephen Morrissey is the author of twelve books, including poetry and literary criticism. Farewell, Darkness, Selected Poems is forthcoming in 2023. Stephen Morrissey married poet Carolyn Zonailo in 1995. Visit the poet at www.stephenmorrissey.ca

Giovanna Riccio

Giovanna Riccio is a graduate of the University of Toronto where she majored in philosophy. She is the author of Vittorio (Lyricalmyrical Press, 2010) Strong Bread (Quattro Books, 2011), and Plastic’s Republic (Guernica Editions, 2019). Her poems have appeared in national and international publications and in numerous anthologies; Giovanna is the 2021 winner of the Venera Fazio Poetry Prize.

Armand Garnet Ruffo

Armand Garnet Ruffo is a poet, writer, and English professor at Queen’s University.  His research and writing intersect creatively with his Ojibwe culture. He recently completed co-editing a new edition of The Oxford Anthology of Indigenous Literature, and a few years ago, co-edited An Anthology of Indigenous Literary Criticism in Canada. He also published a wide-ranging book of poetry called Treaty #. Because he works in both scholarly and creative fields, he strives to bring both of these elements into the classroom, particularly as it relates to teaching creative writing.

He wrote a libretto for a musical called Sounding Thunder: the Song of Francis Pegahmagabow, which is based on the real-life experiences of an acclaimed Ojibwe WW I sniper. Previously, he published Grey Owl: the Mystery of Archie Belaney and Norval Morrisseau: Man Changing Into Thunderbird (shortlisted for a GG), both creative, non-fiction biographies.  Ruffo was nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry.  In 2020 he was the winner of the Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize.


Libby Scheier, May 31, 1946 – November 14, 2000

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Libby Scheier was educated at Sarah Lawrence College (BA 1968, areas of concentration: French, philosophy); and at State University of New York at Stony Brook (MA in English 1971).

She held several offices in The Writers’ Union of Canada &mdash: Ontario Representative and National Council member, 1986-88, and Chair Rights and Freedoms Committee, 1988-89. At P.E.N. International (Canadian Centre, English-Speaking), she was a Member, Writers-in-Prison Committee. She also belonged to the League of Canadian Poets; Modern Language Association, and the Canadian Union of Educational Workers.

She moved to Toronto in 1975 after living in France, California, and Israel. She died in Toronto in 2000.


Yeshim Ternar

Yeshim Ternar was born in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1956. She has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from McGill University. Yeshim lived in Montreal, Canada, between 1980 and 2000.  She has published 2 short story collections: Orphaned by Halley’s Comet and True Romance with a Sailor, a book of historical non-fiction, The Book & the Veil, and a historical novel, Rembrandt’s Model.  The excerpts that broke into song are from The Book & The Veil, Escape from an Istanbul Harem, Vehicule Press, 1994.  Since her retirement in 2018, Yeshim Ternar has been living in Las Vegas, NM, USA, and quietly working on her spiritual autobiography.


The Musicians


D.D. Jackson


D.D. Jackson is a Canadian-born, two-time Emmy-winning composer/songwriter/producer (5-times nominated), and a jazz pianist/composer who has recorded 13 CD’s of mostly original music as leader or co-leader (including 2 for the major label BMG), ranging from his Juno Award-winning solo piano CD “…so far”, to his larger-scale meditation on the events of 9/11 (“Suite for New York”). He has also performed/recorded and/or toured around the world with diverse artists ranging from saxophonists David Murray and James Carter, violinist Billy Bang and drummer Jack DeJohnette, to Questlove and Tariq Trotter (“Black Thought”) of The Roots, and previously composed two jazz-influenced operas with Canada’s former Poet Laureate George Elliott Clarke, Trudeau: “Long March/Shining Path” (about the previous “Trudeau” Prime Minister), and “Quebecite” (based in part on the story of his African American father and Chinese mother). As a composer for television, he has written songs and other music for a wide range of shows from Peg + Cat (PBS), to The Wonder Pets (Nickelodeon) and Sesame Street (PBS/HBO); and as a writer, he also penned a popular column for DownBeat magazine entitled “Living Jazz” for 5 years. As an educator, Jackson is an award-winning professor and is currently on faculty at: Jay-Z’s new “Roc Nation” school at Long Island University Brooklyn, where he teaches courses covering Music Tech, piano, music production and entrepreneurship; and at Brooklyn College, where he previously helped manage the Global Jazz Masters program and direct the Big Band, and where he currently teaches Media Scoring in their Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. D.D. lives in Maplewood, NJ (just outside of New York City) with his wife Elizabeth, their 15-year-old son Jarrett and 13-year-old daughter Aria. His website is: http://ddjackson.com


Juliet Palmer

Juliet Palmer’s music has found its way to a highway off-ramp, a swimming pool, a boxing ring, and to concert halls across North America, Europe, and Oceania. From Aotearoa, New Zealand, Juliet makes her home in Toronto. A pianist and composer, her performance of pieces by Yeshim Ternar and Armand Garnet Ruffo represent her first commissions from George Elliott Clarke.


James Rolfe

James Rolfe’s music has been commissioned and performed by ensembles, orchestras, choirs, and opera companies in Canada and abroad and recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Jules Léger Prize, and Dora and JUNO Award nominations. His forthcoming CD, Pandemic Songbook, is based on songs commissioned by George Elliott Clarke, with whom he collaborated to produce their highly acclaimed opera, Beatrice Chancy.


Vanessa Wang

Vanessa Wang is a youth Canadian singer-songwriter and musician. Her music is thought-provoking and euphonious, reflecting her passion for social action. She is an active community songbird, contributing her creative performance and compositional abilities to various community events. These include the City of Richmond Hill’s Canada Day Celebrations, the Town of East Gwillimbury’s Remembrance Day Ceremony, different Members of (Provincial) Parliament’s community events, Portraits of Giving, Poetry and Song for Our Challenging Times, and more. Vanessa uses her passion for music to raise awareness for social issues, celebrate multicultural communities, and inspire others to give back through philanthropy.



The Hosts

George Elliott Clarke

Giovanna Riccio


Poster designed by Shirley Chen

One thought on “5 Poets Breaking Into Song (“The 9TH Symphony”)”

  1. Are any of the 5 Poets Breaking into Song events available as videos, please? Thanks, Laurie

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