Toronto-based poet, editor, and critic, Jim is the author of five previous collections of poetry, most recently The Chemical Life (Véhicule Press, 2017) and Dog Ear (Véhicule Press, 2014). He is also the winner of several awards including the Bliss Carman Poetry Award, a CBC Literary Award, the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize, and Poetry’s Editors Prize for Book Reviewing. Currently, Johnstone curates the Anstruther Books imprint at Palimpsest Press, where he published The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry in 2018.
For a while now, I’ve been comparing poet Jim Johnstone’s editorial work—from his chapbooks through Anstruther Press to trade titles through Palimpsest Press—to that of fiction editor John Metcalf (formerly of The Porcupine’s Quill and currently at Biblioasis): you might not be interested in everything they offer, and the work has a distinct flavour to it, but much of it is of a high enough quality to impress. As editors, I trust their judgement, even if I might not care for the work of every writer or title on their roster. From what I’ve seen of the books and chapbooks he has edited, Johnstone’s interest appears to focus on highly crafted first-person metaphor-driven narrative lyrics. With Johnstone, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the way of, say, language-driven or ludic sentences or anything more experimental in those directions. While I’m not always personally drawn to such work, I’ve been drawn to a number of the Anstruther titles, simply due to the high quality of the writing.
Music has always been closely associated with poetry, and despite the move away from meter in the twentieth-century, it continues to inform those with a respect for the origins of the art. Whether it’s T.S. Eliot celebrating small moments where humankind is “music / while the music lasts,” or Philip Larkin tempering his ear writing […]
An adept metaphor for the way poems engage in conversation within the canon, ‘slack action’ is a railroad term that describes the interplay between train cars, where free movement transmits from one linked car to another. It’s the ideal title for Jeffery Donaldson’s fifth book of poems, which marks a departure from the tightly wound […]