The contentious and heated dispute over a controversial literary event at the University of Regina has taken another turn.
George Elliott Clarke said Thursday he will not be reading any poetry by the convicted killer whose work Clarke has edited, at the Jan. 23 gathering.
Clarke, a former poet laureate of Canada, who identifies himself as a Nova Scotian of African American and Mi’kmaq descent, and the University of Regina have been under severe pressure to cancel the lecture because of Clarke’s professional relationship with Stephen Kummerfield.
Kummerfield and a friend, Alex Ternowetsky, were convicted of manslaughter in the beating death of Pamela George, a 28-year-old Indigenous woman and mother of one, near the Regina airport in 1995.
Paroled after serving six and a half years, Kummerfield moved to Mexico, changed his name to Stephen Brown, and began sharing his poetry.
Since 2005, Clarke has edited poems and books published under both of Kummerfield’s names, and, Clarke says, he only found out about Kummerfield’s violent past four months ago.
During his 2016-2017 tenure as parliamentary poet laureate, Clarke highlighted two of Kummerfield/Brown’s works as “poems of the month” and likened him to Beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.
But Kummerfield and Ternowetsky are names many members of Canada’s Indigenous community will never forget.
“It’s still such an open wound in our community,” Misty Longman, manager of the University of Regina’s ta-tawaw Student Centre, told Lauren Krugel of The Canadian Press on Thursday.
Earlier this week, the University of Regina again rejected a call to cancel the lecture and Clarke said he would not rule out reading any of Kummerfield’s work.
On Thursday, Clarke, who is now a professor of English at the University of Toronto, changed his mind, issuing this statement:
“Because I care passionately about violence against Indigenous women, with whom I am and have always been an ally, I would like to reassure all those concerned that I will not be citing the poetry of Mr. Kummerfield Brown …because of my sensitivity to the feelings of the survivors of his victim, Pamela George.”
To be continued.
With files from CBC News (Alex Soloducha, Bonnie Allen), CP (Lauen Krugel)