John Thompson: Collected Poems and Translations

It's hard to tell if someone reads poetry or not. I read poetry. However, it seems that a lot of people are really puzzled by it and don't really know what to do with a poem. But there is nothing to be done to a poem: you don't need to analyze it, fully understand it, or know what it's trying to say. Like encountering an animal, you just have to sit beside it and be with it. Most poems you sense its nature and never fully understand. That is good. That is mystery, which is very good.

Just read the poem, in silence, or out loud into silence, and have the patience to be with it. It will give you the treasures you've forgotten about.

So I've been dipping into the Collected Poems of John Thompson (edited by Peter Sanger), and have been awed (again) by his talent. He was a Canadian poet/university instructor who died in his thirties; his story is really sad. But he was a visionary with the written word and wrote about the intimacies of life and nature. His two books, At the Edge of Chopping There are No Secrets and Stilt Jack, are brilliant and have influenced a whole generation of Canadian poets. Even though the poems are more than 40 years old, they still feel fresh and immediate.

From "The Onion":

I cup the onion I watched grow all summer:
cutting perfectly through its heart
it speaks a white core, pale
green underskin, the perfections
I have broken, the curing grace
the knife releases;

and then you are by me, unfolded
to a white stillness, remade warmth on warmth

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