Gaspereau Press' best-selling title, Execution Poems, is George Elliott Clarke's complex lament for his late cousins, George and Rue two Black men who were hanged for the murder of a taxi driver. After the overwhelming interest generated by the original limited letterpress edition of Execution Poems, Gaspereau Press released this trade edition which went on to win Canada's highest literary honour in 2001. The jurors of the Governor General's Literary Award called this book "raging, gristly, public and unflinchingly beautiful," and remarked on Clarke's "explosive, original language."
In 1949, George and Rufus Hamilton were hanged for the murder of a taxi driver in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Fifty years later, Clarke has written, in his abundant style, a series of poems that embody both damnation and redemption, offering convoluted triumphs alongside tragedy and blurring the line between perpetrator and victim. What Clarke presents in Execution Poems is uncomfortable. He reminds us of racism and poverty; of their brutal, tragic results. He reminds us of society's vengefulness. He blurs the line between the perpetrator and the victim a line we'd prefer remain simple and clear. At the heart of it, Clarke is frustrating the notion that society deals any better with these issues today than it did in the 1940s.