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John Thompson

John Thompson

During John Thompson's sadly attenuated lifetime, he completed only two volumes of poetry. At the Edge of the Chopping There Are No Secrets and Stilt Jack (published posthumously), but seldom has such a slim oeuvre supported such a large reputation. When John Thompson: Collected Poems and Translations was first published in 1995, the reasons for Thompson's stature became clear, and in the twenty years since then, his influence has only grown larger.

Thompson seeks out the darkest places of the heart, then floods them with light. These remarkable poems evoke the deep woods, the relentless turning of seasons that churn life into death, and back again to life. They unflinchingly examine his relationships, drawing out the pain and joys of domesticity.

Confessionally raw, but oblique and beautiful, Thompson's poetry — and in particular, his experiments in Stilt Jack with adapting the ghazal, a poetic form with origins in Arabia — has influenced three generations of poets. As Peter Sanger notes in his definitive introduction, "For many young Canadian poets, composing a ghazal sequence has become a rite of passage, and Thompson is often addressed or alluded to as a tutelary figure."

Reissued to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of its first appearance, this volume, edited and introduced by Peter Sanger, now revised and updated with new information and insights, gathers together all of Thompson's extant mature poems and translations, including, in addition to the two published books, poetry published only in periodicals, unpublished poetry, and Thompson's haunting translations from several of his French Canadian contemporaries and the great French poet René Char.


Peter Sanger chose Nova Scotia as his home more than 30 years ago, after ranging far and wide. He lives in a period farmhouse in a rural community. His first book of poetry was published in 1983. He currently teaches English at the Nova Scotia College of Agriculture.

"John Thompson searched deeply among humanity's most hidden places and brought back to us poems of remarkable beauty. The uncollected poems and translations only add to the greatness of his gift. No one who reads his life's work can go away unchanged." — Patrick Lane

"what lasts, words like hooks to catch trout, love that got away" — D.G. Jones

296 pages
Pub date: November 1, 1995