Spoilers: U2 Licences Poetry for Opening Vancouver Concert

Original Story by Aaron J. Sams (2017-05-08)

George Elliot Clarke was born in Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1960, and his poetry is now set to be featured in U2’s upcoming tour. Announced today in an article by Sue Carter, in Quill and Quire, U2 has apparently licensed two poems by George Elliot Clarke for use at their Vancouver concert on May 12, 2017. The concert is the opening concert in the 2017 tour of The Joshua Tree, and the poems are only mentioned as being licensed for this first show.

The article mentions that Clarke was contacted by The Third Company, said to be producing visuals for the tour. The article suggests two poems have been licensed, “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual” and “Elegy for Leonard Cohen” are the two poems that are named.

Clarke was announced to be Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate on January 5, 2016. He is Canada’s seventh poet laureate. Clarke was born and raised in Nova Scotia, attending the University of Waterloo, Dalhousie University and Queen’s University. He is currently a professor of Canadian Literature at the University of Toronto. He is an appointee to the Order of Nova Scotia and an Officer to the Order of Canada, holds eight honorary doctorates, and recently served as the Poet Laureate for the city of Toronto.

As Poet Laureate, he maintains his own page on the Government of Canada website, and both poems mentioned as being used in the show are featured on the site.

Elegy for Leonard Cohen“ was written in November 2016 on the passing of Cohen. Cohen is a world renowned writer, singer, painter and poet, who passed away on November 7, 2016. Cohen, born in Quebec in 1934 was still routinely touring and had released his album You Want it Darker just three weeks before his death.

And light making masterpieces / Of shambles, or lighting up / Cages where lovers loll, / Lousy with tears and sighs…. (“Elegy for Leonard Cohen”, George Elliott Clarke, 2017)

Bono had quoted Cohen, and had covered Cohen a number of times over the years. It has been quite routine for Bono to include snippets of Cohen’s “Anthem” into songs while visiting Canada, and he’s released a cover of Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Cohen also featured on the 2006 single “Window in the Skies” where he sang lead vocals on his own song, “Tower of Song” with U2 accompanying him. We recently covered the connections between Cohen and U2 in a History Mix column.

The second poem, “Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual“ was a poem written after the Quebec City mosque shooting in February 2017.

Mercy, Mercy, everyone: / Defuse that bomb! Drop that gun! / Ain’t you scared of the Sacred? / Ain’t you scared of the Sacred? (“Ain’t You Scared of the Sacred?: A Spiritual”, George Elliott Clarke, 2017)

On the evening of January 29, 2017, at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, six people were killed and nineteen others injured when a lone gunman opened fired at the end of evening prayers. The attack was labeled a terrorist attack by the Prime Minister and others. The inclusion of the poem in the show may provide some clue as to where the show may take us. In both cases, the poems are very Canadian in topic, and perhaps they’ve only been licensed for the earliest show, as there are other plans for material in the United States where the band will travel for a performance next Sunday night in Seattle.

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