Praised for his darkly psychological accounts of extreme experiences, Jim Johnstone's fifth book of poems explores his most difficult terrain to date: mental illness and addiction. Like Coleridge's opium dreams, Johnstone's narratives in The Chemical Life are hallucinatory, coloured by his use of both prescription and recreational drugs. Returning often to the notion of rival realities--"in everything, there is a second state"--Johnstone is brilliantly disruptive and disorientating; a poet whose savagely austere forms, electrically precise images and keyed-up rhythms reveal an obsession with the mind-altering properties of language itself.
Jim Johnstone is a Toronto-based poet, editor, and critic. He's the author of four previous books of poetry: Dog Ear (Véhicule Press, 2014), Sunday, the locusts (Tightrope Books, 2011), Patternicity (Nightwood Editions, 2010) and The Velocity of Escape (Guernica Editions, 2008), and the subject of the critical monograph Proofs & Equational Love: The Poetry of Jim Johnstone by Shane Neilson and Jason Guriel. He's also the winner of several awards including a CBC Literary Award, The Fiddlehead's Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, and Poetry's Editors Prize for Book Reviewing. Currently, Johnstone curates the Anstruther Books imprint at Palimpsest Press, and is an associate editor at Representative Poetry Online.
Praise for Dog Ear:
Dog Ear poses personal impressions and collective questions - what we leave behind, if anything, in the physical world - by cultivating images and semi-narratives that are deeply, and sometimes, ridiculously human. In doing so, Johnstone's poems confidently confront love, death, and spectacle. --Brick: A Literary Journal
In many ways, Johnstone is a mysterious poet. The inner world of his poems is full of strange associations and dreamlike successions of images. It is a bold, skillful sort of poetry, and it makes one curious what canyons he will attempt in the years to come.--University of Toronto Quarterly
Johnstone's poetry is incredibly efficient; there are no wasted words. Both thematically and technically, there is a dirty edge to many of these poems, which gives them a raw and uncensored feel. --The New Quarterly
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