George Elliott Clarke Presents 5 Poets Breaking into Songs with Details

Poster created by Shirley Chen

A night with poetry, music and songs by 5 poets, 4 composers and 2 singers with former Canadian Poet Laureate and wide audience!

Date: May 14, 2021, Time: 7-8:30 PM (EST time)

The event video on YouTube:

Here are the biographies of this super night’s presenters.

The Poets

Born and raised in Kolkata, India, Ayesha Chatterjee has lived in England, the USA and Germany, and is now based in Toronto. She earned a BA from Smith College in Massachusetts, graduating cum laude in English and German. She is the author of two poetry collections, The Clarity of Distance, and Bottles and Bones. Her work has appeared in journals across the world, been translated into three languages and set to music by Canadian composer David Jaeger. Chatterjee is past president of the League of Canadian Poets and chair of the League’s Feminist Caucus.

Giovanna Riccio is a graduate of the University of Toronto where she majored in philosophy. Her love of poetry is her inheritance from a gifted autodidact father who penned his own verses. She is the author of Vittorio (Lyricalmyrical Press, 2010) Strong Bread (Quattro Books, 2011), and Plastic’s Republic (Guernica Editions, 2019) and her

poems have appeared in national and international publications and in numerous anthologies. Her work has been translated into Italian, French, Spanish, and Romanian. Giovanna has participated in various international literary festivals but especially enjoyed presenting at the University of Calabria’s Italian Diaspora Conference held about an hour’s drive from where she was born. Website:

Lisa Richter is author of two books of poetry, Closer to Where We Began (Tightrope Books, 2017) and Nautilus and Bone (Frontenac House, 2020), winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry and longlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The New Quarterly, CV2, The Malahat Review, EXILE Quarterly, The Literary Review of Canada, and Locations of Grief: An Emotional Geography (Wolsak and Wynn, 2020). She lives, writes, and teaches English as a Second Language in Toronto.

Andrea Thompson is a poet, novelist, editor and educator. In 2005 her spoken word album, One, was nominated for a Canadian Urban Music Award and in 2019 her album, Soulorations earned her a League of Canadian Poets’ Sheri-D Wilson Golden-Beret Award for Excellence. She’s co-author of Other Tongues: Mixed-Race Women Speak Out, author of the novel, Over Our Heads, and the 2021 recipient of the The Leon E. & Ann M. Pavlick Poetry Prize. Her poetry collection, A Selected History of Soul Speak is due to be published by Frontenac House in autumn, 2021.

IG: andreathompsonpoet

Anna Yin, an IT professional, immigrated to Canada in 1999, authored five poetry collections and won the 2005 Ted Plantos Memorial Award, two MARTYs, two scholarships from USA and three grants from Ontario Arts Council. Anna was appointed to be Mississauga’s Inaugural Poet Laureate in 2015. Her poems/translations have appeared at Queen’s Quarterly, ARC Poetry, New York Times, China Daily, CBC Radio, World Journal. She performed on Parliament Hill, at Austin International Poetry Festival, Edmonton Poetry Festival and universities in China, USA and Bangladesh. Her sixth book “Mirrors and Windows” (Guernica Editions) will be out in 2021. She teaches Poetry Alive.

The Composers, Singers, and Pianist

Emily Hiemstra (b.1991) is a real-life viola mom. She is a violist, composer and mom to two amazing boys under 3. She has performed at festivals around the world including Banff Centre for the Arts, and the North American Viola Institute. Her music has been performed throughout the USA and Canada.

Her orchestral and operatic background as a performer has deepened her understanding of colour and texture which she readily applies in her compositions to create clear and innovative works.

You can find her playing concerts around Toronto, ON or writing music during her children’s nap times.

David Jaeger, C.M. is a Toronto based composer, music producer and broadcaster, who was a member of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Radio Music department from 1973 to 2013. In 1978 he created “Two New Hours”, a contemporary music network broadcast series which was heard on CBC Radio Two until 2007. He was CBC coordinator of the CBC/Radio-Canada National Competition for Young Composers from 1974 to 2002.

In the early 1970s Jaeger established a digital sound synthesis facility at the University of Toronto, one of the first in Canada. In 1971 he co-founded the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, together with David Grimes, Larry Lake and Jim Montgomery.

Juliet Palmer’s music has come to life under a highway off-ramp, in a swimming pool, in the plastic flotsam of a remote beach and in concert halls across North America, Europe and Oceania. Originally from Aotearoa New Zealand, Juliet makes her home in Toronto where she is artistic director of Urbanvessel, a platform for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Recent works: Choreography of Trauma (for The Element Choir, Continuum ensemble and video) celebrates the thousands of small gestures that save a life, while Oil & Water (for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra) chronicles the ecological and the political watershed. Her a cappella opera Sweat is a window into the lives of the unseen millions who work to clothe us (CalArts, Los Angeles; Bicycle Opera, Canada; National Sawdust, New York).

Juliet holds a PhD in composition from Princeton University and an M.Mus in performance, composition and time-based art from Auckland University.

Toronto composer James Rolfe has been commissioned and performed by soloists, ensembles, orchestras, choirs, theatres, and opera companies in Canada, the USA, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Among his awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the K. M. Hunter Music Award, the Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prize, and the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music. His operas have been performed in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, Banff, Edmonton, and New York; his most recent opera The Overcoat was premiered by Tapestry Opera with Canadian Stage and Vancouver Opera, and was nominated for 10 Dora Awards. Two solo CDs (raW, 2011, and Breathe, 2018, JUNO Award nomination) are available on Centrediscs.

Karen Usha – A soprano who transcends her classical training and brings her versatility to a variety of genres and audiences. Born and raised in Sri Lanka, Karen’s love for singing and stage performance began at a young age, she commenced her vocal education in her native land through the affiliated Royal and Trinity College Schools of Music, London, England. After immigrating to Canada, she pursued her vocal development through The Royal Conservatory of Music and Voice Performance, Faculty of Music, UofT. Usha has held solo performances in Australia and New York. As Toronto is now home, she works for the Toronto Public Library, conducts vocal lessons and music programs to children with Autism and enjoys her collaborative work with local musicians, poets and authors.

Karen Usha also has a home catering service, a teenage son and a gorgeous pup!

Gao Yuan, a music lover, immigrated from China to Canada to continue his business which retails pianos and provides piano instruction. He sings very well and loves to help others.

The Hosts

George Elliott Clarke is an internationally revered poet—with titles in Chinese, Italian, and Romanian; awards from Canada, the U.S., and Romania; poetry recitals given at festivals in Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, etc; and service-to-poetry rendered as the 4th Toronto Poet Laureate (2012-15) and 7th Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2016-17). His 25 poetry works to date include opera libretti, verse-novels, verse-bios, verse-drama, narrative-lyric suites, epic poesy, and lyric collections. He is also a SOCAN-registered songwriter.

Yang Wang is the presiding officer and founder of East and West Learning Connections, an organization that strives to help people of different heritages break cultural barriers and get connected. She likes to be quietly effective in her charitable, cultural work.

Also Anna Yin wants to thank Mark Harry for his music for her poems.

Mark Harry is originally from Detroit, Michigan born of Greek and Spanish-Mexican heritage. Mark plays his brand of Spanish guitar at cafes and clubs in the Greater Toronto Area.  Mark has appeared several times on Rogers Peel TV entertainment show “Night Time” as a featured musical guest.

Mark’s second CD, “Into The Night” was recorded and produced by Juno Award-winning recording engineer, Justin Koop.

Mark Harry currently resides and teaches guitar in the city of Mississauga, Ontario.  Visit or contact Mark on Facebook at: Mark Harry/guitar