Published widely in Canada, John Pass' work has also appeared in the US, the UK and Ireland. His most recent books, comprising the quartet AT LARGE, are The Hour's Acropolis (Harbour), Radical Innocence (Harbour), Water Stair (Oolichan)--shortlisted for the Governor General's Award--and Stumbling in the Bloom (Oolichan)--winner of the Governor General's Award.
John Pass lives with his wife, writer Theresa Kishkan, on BC's Sunshine Coast.
The poems in crawlspace, John Pass's first volume of poetry since he won the Governor General's Literary Award in 2006, work within the narrowing passages imposed upon us by the inevitable strictures and limitations of living and experience: aging, love and loss, tightening or unraveling family ties. Close to home as always, in one instance literal …
Radical Innocence is an "invitation to reverie," a collection of poems that is at once suffused with marvels and a brilliant historical and cultural critique of our society's development. In this ambivalent look at classical christian attitudes and how they have influenced the western world, Pass moves beyond the ordinary, taking images and persona …
A Small Blue Banknote, Dear Companion
Were you a woman, featureless in layer upon
layer of outerwear, as we struggled up the road?
And the hope we pulled through the wet snow
astir in its yellow sleepers on the little sleigh
ours? I was the way I used to be
with women. Incapable
of the inevitable, incapable of grace
in the final hours: fearful, angry
grieving already, self-pitying. . .
until we got off the streetcar and could see
how they were shelling the old city, see the arc
entire of the mortar, the miraculous distance we'd come
from the shuddering explosions. Here the atmosphere
is distinctly middle-eastern, that hour between
too late at night and too early in the morning
the air soft as if a new faith or delusion
were being born from old texts, the hand-worn
hieroglyphics-tentative, reaching, calm.
It's my small blue banknote
the last between us, gets us into the nearly closed
cafe, the mezes and Turkish coffee before me
you a step out the door in the neutral light
half-turned, half-smiling, getting away
and on the bar the heap
of hastily torn scraps of paper.
A hatful upturned of ticket stubs, ad hoc ballots?
Unmarked, enigmatic, left to me. . .
all of our nameless chances to win.
Ask the man going in to his sleepless son last thing
for a further word re the carburetor.
Likewise the water rising in the tub
as you eased under.
Was it hot enough, Archimedes? Sudsy?
A nibble anon Mr. Newton, or what's an apple for?
Beneath the force that makes the apple fall
the best ideas are domestic, that old sink
for watercress in the garden's wet corner
a lock-nut on the idle screw, red pepper jelly --
or just when she's got the kids off to school
pouring her second coffee
and you call down
"Hey, honey, come back to bed a moment."
The Hour's Acropolis, John Pass's tenth book of poetry, is a classical meditation rebounding between domesticity and myth. Ben Johnson's Olympic disgrace is counterpoint to poetry's inspirational lightning, Steve Fonyo appears next to Odysseus, Orpheus listens to Lou Reed.
Stylistically, this book is a complex and ingenious construct, a poetic acrop …
Apex, high anchor
of an April sky mishandled
so to splash the night, sans moonlight
upon us freely to the lees -
well never see, listing
in frog pause, steep Chablis
of Narcissus sleeping nearly
how our wonder is undone, unravels
how we've lost
you, locating Leo.
Or one said, "Ride
the dipper. It's nothing,"
and then above the racket
of the ratchets clacking
under our ascending car, peak
of that propelling climb
"You're gonna die."
But done before we knew it. And hard
on the heels of mesh and meld
a cooling song
of all things wants apres
her rudimentary handle on
the far light, its libation.
Us in Everything
What to make of light
against the nay-
but for them at length
who swim too in its puzzlement
raising their glasses
into its assurances, modest vocabulary
of qualities in and around and upon
definities of objects and ethers, clarities
but of itself
what is it, despite our successes
aslant here in the tulips, there
in the white flash blindness
commencing and concluding the opened
atom's invitation? Some simple telling
in any human eye for it, a smile's
infusion, eddies of pollen
on the windshield
signals the singular singing again
of the invisible making us see and seen.