The Essential John Glassco

Primary Author: 
John Glassco
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The Essential John Glassco

A collection of the poetic achievements of John Glassco, a Montreal Group poet whose technical giftedness and unimpeachable wordplay brought music and flair to poems characterized by darkness and decay.

About the Book

Despite his reputation as Canada’s dandy-poet and his approach to writing as ‘a challenge best overcome by panache’, John Glassco’s poems demonstrate a seemingly incongruous preoccupation with rural life and an intense interest in decline, dilapidation and despair. Plagued by chronic self-doubt and the fear of wasting literary effort, Glassco explored, through his poems, ‘graveyards minding their business’, buildings ‘long in standing, longer still in falling’, and the toil of ‘hope battered into habit, and a habit / Running to weariness’. The result is a selection of work that features syntactic daring, a somewhat anachronistic pleasure in constructedness and a compulsion to turn feelings of unsuitability into art.

The Essential Poets Series presents the works of Canada’s most celebrated poets in a package that is beautiful, accessible and affordable. The Essential John Glassco is the twenty-third volume in the increasingly popular series.

Read an Excerpt

The Burden of Junk

April again, and its message unvaried, the same old impromptu
Dinned in our ears by the tireless dispassionate chortling of Nature,
Sunlight on grey land, the grey of the past like a landscape around us
Caught in its moment of nakedness also, a pitiful prospect
Bared to the cognitive cruelty shining upon it: O season,
Season that leads me again, like this road going over the mountain,
Past the old landmarks and ruins, the holdfasts of hope and ambition--

Why is the light doubly hard on the desolate places? why even
Hardest of all on the tumbledown cabin of Corby the Trader?
See, with its tarpaper hanging in tatters, the doorstep awash in a
Puddle of cow-piss and kindling-chips, ringed with the mud of a fenceless
Yardful of rusty and broken machinery, washstands and bedsteads,
Bodies of buggies and berlots, the back seats of autos, bundles of
Chicken-wire, leaves of old wagon-springs and miscellaneous wheels.... But

There is Corby himself in the mud and the sunshine, in front of the
Lean-to cowshed, examining something that looks like a sideboard,
Bidding me stop and admire, and possibly make him an offer:
‘Swapped the old three-teated cow for a genuine walnut harmonium!
Look, ain’t a scratch or a brack in it anywhere--pedals and stopples
Work just as good as a fellow could ask for! Over to Broome they
Say they used to cost four hundred dollars apiece from the factory ...’

Here is the happy collector of objects, the absolute type of
All who engage in the business of buying and shifting, the man who
Turns a putative profit into an immediate pleasure,
Simply by adding a zero to his account with a self-owned
Bank of Junk, and creates a beautiful mood of achievement
Out of nothing at all! Ah here is the lord of the cipher,
This is the Man of the Springtime, the avatar of Lyaeus!

We should be trading indeed, if we could, I think as I leave him.
Mine is a burden of lumber that ought to be left with him also:
This is where it belongs, with the wheels and the beds and the organ,
With all the personal trash that the spirit acquires and abandons,
Things that have made the heart warm and bewildered the senses with beauty
Long ago--but that weakened and crumbled away with the passion
Born of their brightness, the loves that a dreary process of dumping
Leaves at last on a hillside to rot away with the seasons.

About the Author

authorPic

Credit: Library & Archives Canada

John Glassco was a Canadian writer known for his reputation as a modern-day dandy as well as for his sophisticated poetry and prose. Born in 1909 to a wealthy family in Montreal, he attended McGill University where he became part of the Montreal Group of modernist writers. He later abandoned his studies to head to Paris, where he encountered many luminaries of the 1920s expatriate community, several of whom populated his popular fictionalized memoir, Memoirs of Montparnasse. Glassco returned to Canada in the 1930s, settling in Foster in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. He went on to publish a wide variety of writings, from critical essays and book reviews to short stories and pornographic novels. His Selected Poems won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1971. Glassco died in 1981. Author photo cropped from ‘Saucer eye’, Robert McAlmon, Buffy Glassco, Graeme Taylor, from Library and Archives Canada/John Glassco collection/e010767804.

About the Editor

authorPic

Credit: Richard Malouf

Carmine Starnino has published five volumes of poetry, including This Way Out (Gaspereau, 2013), which was nominated for the Governor General’s Award. His most recent collection is Dirty Words (Gaspereau, 2020). Among his awards are the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize, the Canadian Author’s Association Prize for Poetry, and the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. Starnino is the editor of The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry (Véhicule, 2005), and his critical writings have been collected in A Lover’s Quarrel: Essays and Reviews (Porcupine’s Quill, 2004) and Lazy Bastardism: Reviews and Essays on Canadian Poetry (Gaspereau, 2012). He lives in Montreal, where he is editor at large for The Walrus magazine.

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Print ISBN: 9780889844421
eBook ISBN: 9780889844438

Price: $4.99