The Stream Exposed with All its Stones
The stream exposed with all its stonesFlung on a raw fieldIs covered, once again,
It is not hidden. ItStill flows.
The houses in the valley, standingMotionless below,Seem wrapped in sunlight like a snow
And are deceptive. Even stonesDeceive us.
The creator goesRampaging through our lives: winterIs a masquerade.
I tell youNakedness is a disguise: the whiteIs dark below.
This silence is the water’s cry.
I tell you in those silent houses girlsAre dancing like the stones. (from Phrases From Orpheus)
I must admit, I wonder at the subtitle “Collected Poems” of this long-anticipated collection of poet D.G. Jones, his finally-released The Stream Exposed with All its Stones (Montreal QC: Vehicule Press/Signal Editions, 2010). With selections from Frost on the Sun (Contact Press, 1957), The Sun is Axeman (University of Toronto Press, 1961), Phrases From Orpheus (Oxford University Press, 1967), the Governor General’s Award-winning Under the Thunder the Flowers Light up the Earth (Coach House Press, 1977), A Throw of Particles (General Publishing, 1983), Balthazar and Other Poems (Coach House, 1988), The Floating Garden (Coach House, 1995), Wild Asterisks in Cloud (Empyreal Press, 1997) and Grounding Sight (Empyreal Press, 1999), is this actually a collected, or just a really big selected? With newer work appearing in a number of places over the past decade, including poems online at Jacket magazine and the small chapbook, standard pose (above/ground press, 2002), I was actually surprised not to see any new or uncollected included in this collection; is that reason enough to anticipate a forthcoming full collection of new writing?
rain on the snow createsan intimate space
up close, each twig, each darkstring of waterdrops, absorbsthe attentive breath
the rest fog
of half-fog or slippery
the lake becomes myriad lakesall shallowand shadowy, like the parts ofan untravelled body
or a lived but deeply recedinglacustrine place (from Grounding Sight)
As I’ve written before, D.G. Jones, a resident of Quebec’s eastern townships, seems one of the few English-language poets of his generation visibly influenced by some of the Quebec poets that came before him, notably the late Anne Hebert, and more recently, poems that reference and are influenced by more contemporary poets such as Steve McCaffery, Erin Moure and Stephanie Bolster, making him one of the rare Canadian poets that straddles with ease the line between modernism and post-modernism. Can you imagine any other Canadian poets over the years that have had books edited by such as Carmine Starnino and Christopher Dewdney? Seems unlikely to even bother to try. He exists in both “camps” without contradiction, and is also one of the rare few Canadian poets who completely understands the purpose and point of a perfect line break. Much, too, has been made of his collection of Canadian criticism (there have been books apart from Atwood’s Survival), Butterfly on Rock (University of Toronto Press, 1970). Oddly overlooked much of the time, known but not necessarily read, Jones’ poems have an elegance and ease of cadence that require so many of his pieces to be read aloud. If you care about understanding the poetic line, between breath and break, this is an essential book. Really, before everything else that came through the original collections as individual wholes, this is but a good beginning.
Poetry Depends on the Season
tax installments: the lakea glass darklynoncommittal
mild in the snow
the black dog breathinglike a fast trainwhere are the shepherds, whereare the sheep
the governmentveut la laine sur le dos
a bit like the solsice, theblack letter/white page, taxesgifts, still water
no mam, you can’tsee the bottom of the lake (from Wild Asterisks in Cloud)
As much as there are pieces here that I wish were included but aren’t, the collection wisely takes fuller selections from earlier works, and less on the more recent, and possibly more easily available other collections (and I would recommend highly, if you desire only one, picking up his Wild Asterisks in Cloud). Still, with an introduction by W.J. Keith, it informs, yet somehow misses the pure aspect of cadence and play that Jones’ work revels in, nearly making me wish they had also included a counter-essay by someone like Dewdney, Moure or even George Bowering, all followers of Jones’ work over the years. It is almost difficult reading such knowing that it is only a partial account of what the poems should simply be telling you all on their own.