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Poetry Canadian

The Essential John Glassco

by (author) John Glassco

volume editor Carmine Starnino

Porcupine's Quill
Initial publish date
Jan 2022
Canadian, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price

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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 authors

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.

John Glassco's profile page

Carmine Starnino is the author of three collections of poems: The New World (which was nominated for the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award), Credo (winner of the C A A Jack Chalmers Poetry Award), and With English Subtitles. His reviews and essays have appeared in a wide range of newspapers, magazines and literary journals, including the Globe and Mail, the Montreal Gazette, Matrix, Arc and The Montreal Review of Books. Starnino is the editor of Vehicule Press` Signal imprint, poetry editor at Canadian Notes and Queries, and editor-in-chief of Maisonneuve. Starnino lives in Montreal.

Carmine Starnino's profile page

Excerpt: The Essential John Glassco (by (author) John Glassco; volume editor Carmine Starnino)

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.

Other titles by John Glassco

Other titles by Carmine Starnino