In The Essential D. G. Jones, volume editor Jim Johnstone presents a selection of the most important writings of Douglas Gordon Jones, one of the few of Canada's great lyric poets to expertly straddle the line between the modern and postmodern era.
D. G. Jones
Douglas Gordon Jones was a Canadian writer, translator and critic. Born in 1929 in Bancroft, ON, he studied English Literature in university at McGill and Queen's. He continued his career in academia, teaching at Bishop's University before settling into a post at the Université de Sherbrooke. While there, he co-founded a bilingual literary journal ellipse: Writers in Translation (1969-2012), the only magazine of its kind in Canada. Jones was the author of ten books of poetry, and won the A. J. M. Smith Award for Poetry (1977), the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry (1989, 1995) and the Governor General's Award, once in 1977 for his collection of poems, Under the Thunder the Flowers Light Up the Earth, and again in 1993 for his translation of Normand de Bellefeuille's Categorics: 1, 2 & 3. In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. Jones passed away in March 2016 in North Hatley, Quebec.
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.
I annihilate the purple finch
in the apple tree
it is a winter dawn
it is `La Guerre' Henri Rousseau
saw charging through the shattered space
of the Second Empire
it is a faint
in the silent cosmos
c'est une tache
sur la page blanche
un cauchemar en rose
c'est le Québec
un oiseau dans un pommier
it may fly off
but it won't go away
I neglected to mention the snow
the craft of making buttons
that we may come apart
horn, pewter, even plastic
undo this button
oh, we would clothe the mind
in politeness, even
to button up is seemly, to
seemingly without art into
nothing, is grace
`Jim Johnstone's very judicious selection of poems from Jones's nine collections teaches us much about the poet apart from his lifelong grounding in nature.'
— Bruce Whiteman
The Essential D. G. Jones has distilled the essence of the man's work into a small, potent package.
In the latest in its outstanding `Essential Poets' series, publisher The Porcupine's Quill presents a concise but grand retrospective in The Essential D. G. Jones.
Jones died in 2016 after a long career as a poet, translator, critic, editor, and teacher, having published many collections of poems. This collection's excellent foreword perfectly describes his poetry as demanding `a change of pace from readers submerged in the digital age.'
Indeed, unlike much of modern poetry's stuffed-to-the-gills allusions and references (classical and pop-cultural alike), Jones's poems utilize such devices sparingly, with exception of the poem `Odysseus'- for obvious reasons, given its title. When Jones does use literary references, it's often to deliver vivid imagery, as in `lily-of-the-valley in a glass / stems tangled like Ophelia's hair' (from `Spring Flowers'), or in describing sun and flowers as `Nanabozho's gift' (a reference to an Ojibwe creation myth, from `The Perishing Bird').
Jones uses human creations to illuminate nature and the way human beings relate to their environment. Deceptively simple at times, Jones's poems traffic in subtlety, as if they were a series of still lifes or sound recordings layered atop one another, slowly giving up their secrets, as in `Winter Comes Hardly': `winter is boredom / the slow shift of the light / filtered by shutters, the late afternoon / light under eaves, in the weathering / grain of the shingles'.
Vital to Jones's work is the sense of humans as part of nature; he draws a memorable and moving comparison between children and butterflies in the exquisite poem `Beautiful Creatures Brief as These': `So slight they look within their clothes, / Their dresses looser than the Sulphur's wings, / It seems that even if the wind alone / Were not to break them in the lofty trees, / They could not bear the weight of things.'
Despite his fondness for nature as a touch-point, Jones shows a number of diverse styles; those more interested in poetic wordplay will appreciate poems like `The Pioneer as Man of Letters,' in which Jones gives creative expression to the outdoors using an obtuse alphabetic formula.
Providing a wide representation of Jones's evolution as a poet, The Essential D. G. Jones offers poems from eight collections spanning thirty-eight years, with an additional four poems that had gone uncollected at the time of his death. The Essential D.G. Jones has distilled the essence of the man's work into a small, potent package that proves itself truly essential for any lover of poetry.
— Peter Dabbene
`A strong example of the classic, traditional approach, with great touches like the textured cover stock and asymmetric folios.'
— Alcuin Awards Citation
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