Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Nuts and Bolts

Teaching Jim Johnstone's poetry collection Dog Ear to U of T undergraduates renewed Laura Ritland's appreciation for the book:
Each lecture started with the nuts and bolts of poetry—the image, poetic devices, meter, set forms – and moved into reading a poem from Dog Ear alongside something more traditionally canonical from Helen Vendler’s Poems, Poets and Poetry anthology. For our lecture on imagery, we untangled the “white oak’s” branches of Johnstone’s “Ariadne’s Thread”; for metaphor, we looked at the “tuba, quartered” slipped within “Parenthesis.” “Drive,” read during our week on musical devices, was a favourite. The poem soars in long, songlike lines: “No one will find us in this city—not your valentine,/ not the line of dogs he’s chained by the throat.” Even if some students remained staunch enemies with prosody by that point, the music of Johnstone’s language wound its way into their hearts. All it took to enjoy these poems was to sit down and make the space to listen.

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