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PQ Weekly Roundup: 21 Jan 2022

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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After all the snow and cold many of our readers might have encountered this past week, we hope you’re all staying warm, cozy and stocked with books!

Have a great weekend,

Steph


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GUEST POST: James Bader on Innovating a Classical Trope in The Essential John Glassco

The Essential John Glassco cover

Carmine Starnino notes in the foreword to The Essential John Glassco that this Canadian poet was deeply concerned with decay, and that he coated his acidic, bleak verses in beautiful imagery and daring forms. Indeed, the opening stanza of Glassco’s poem “The White Mansion” starts full of lush pastoral imagery and ends with death. As someone with a background in Classical poetry, there is only one poet I know who shares Glassco’s brilliance at transforming dark subject matter: Ovid.

idyllic garden featuring rose bush

Ovid is best known for his work the Metamorphoses, in which he details in dactylic hexameter (a meter Glassco also employs) a series of transformation tales. The acts that prompt change in these tales are regularly ones that include violence, death, or assault. These dark acts routinely take place in what is referred to as a locus amoenus, a Latin phrase that means “a pretty place”. Ovid often sets up beautiful pastoral scenes with lush green grass, a lovely water source, and shade or respite from the heat. Having drawn the reader in with this described paradise, he then undercuts his own imagery by using this place as the setting for violence.

Now I would invite you to turn to the pastoral imagery of the opening stanza of “The White Mansion”:

I am a bright thing on my rising ground,
A green hill behind me, a blue brook at my feet.
The dawn reddens my eastern doors,
The whirling sun makes my windows a glory.
The woods around me a hundred years ago
Were felled to raise my naked arms.
Ere I was done the hairy pioneer
Fell dead exulting in his dream.
I am the death of man and of his dream.

(The Essential John Glassco, pg. 29)

Glassco clearly was familiar with the Latin poet’s most famous device. He invokes the same water source, and the same green, lush grounds that provide the setting with tranquility. However, Glassco would not be considered one of the great Canadian poets if he simply imitated a Classical one. In “The White Mansion,” Glassco not only uses the “pretty place” trope, but he also expands upon it, making it his own.

haunted looking house

As I moved through the poem, I was struck by how Glassco has embodied both the beauty of the mansion and the violence it enacts into one entity. Contrary to Ovid, who simply sets his violence within the “pretty place,” Glassco has combined them. Beauty and violence become inseparable. We see the change most clearly in how he has personified the mansion. Each of the stanzas start with an “I” statement, as if the mansion tells the reader the story herself. Unlike Ovid, whose poet describes the beauty of the scene to the reader, Glassco’s mansion extolls her own beauty. The mansion is aware she is the “pretty place” and understands the power she has over unsuspecting homeowners.

Further, contrary to Ovid, Glassco does not simply set a violent act at the mansion. Instead, the mansion commits the act herself. The setting is simultaneously and actively both seductive and violent to her victims. This combination of the two factors that define Ovidian locus amoenus shows Glassco’s ability to build upon this archetype and make it unique to his poetry.

I think that the final stanza of “The White Mansion” further exemplifies Glassco’s version of the locus amoenus:

I shall never be done: no man shall see it.
My brightness overtops his dream.
I am the scourge of hope: I bury my servants.
I am the sink of wealth: behold my trees.
I am the tomb of love: the altar is broken.
Swan-white I float among bare crusted maples.
Grey hills behind me, black water at my fee,
I await the stroke from which I shall arise
To announce once more the death of man.

(The Essential John Glassco, pg. 30)

In these closing lines, the characteristic Glassco bleakness is at the forefront. The mansion speaks to the reader in a deliberately direct series of “I” statements that showcase both her beauty (it shines with brightness) and her deadly nature. The mansion has been the death of many men and their families, and anticipates being the death of more in the future. The personification of the locus amoenus as the mansion and her surrounding grounds is complete and she remains waiting for her next victims.

Glassco is an essential Canadian poet for a variety of reasons that are beautifully outlined in Starnino’s foreword. For me, a recent Classics graduate, Glassco is a master for his ability to reinterpret devices used and invented by Classical poets. “The White Mansion” is a perfect study of how to continue a poetic tradition while innovating upon it. Ovid may be a personal touchstone for bleak poetry presented in a beautiful form, but after reading The Essential John Glassco, I can assure you that he has joined the ranks of bleak, yet evocative poets.

* * *

James Bader has a Masters of Arts in Classics from McMaster University.

Many thanks to James for putting together this thought-provoking post on The Essential John Glassco, selected by Carmine Starnino. Copies of this excellent collection of poetry are now available in print and digital formats.


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 14 Jan 2022

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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Happy Friday, Quill friends. Hope you enjoyed this latest batch of enlightening and entertaining book links. Be sure to come on back next week for fresh new links!

Cheers,

Steph


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PQ Weekly Roundup: 07 Jan 2022

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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Well, it looks like we’ve managed to get the first week of 2022 under our belts. Congrats for making it through! We hope to see you back here next week for more cool bookish news.

Happy Friday!

Steph


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New Year … Old You? And Other News For January at PQL

cherub performing agricultural tasks, representing the passing of time and the four seasons

It happens every year. The holiday décor still graces homes around the country, but stores have already pivoted to exhortations of newness. If you haven’t received an email or noticed a flyer or caught sight of a sign with the words “New Year, New You”, I’ll eat my driest, least appetizing book.

This passion for novelty has bled into the literary world as well. I’ve noticed a lot of book journals or printable to-read lists, designed to help you tackle ever-increasing piles of new and buzz-worthy books. The last month has been rife with online articles to help excited book lovers decide which new releases to read in 2022. Newness is everywhere!

Contrary as I am, I’m taking a different approach this year. I’m not giving up new books altogether (I know my limits), but I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to revisit, reread and rediscover the enjoyment of old books. I’ve made a three-pronged plan of attack, consisting of a series of lists: a list of books on my bookshelf that I’d like to reread, a list of books on my bookshelf that I would like to read for the first time, and a list of older backlist titles that I’d like to procure for my edification and amusement.

It is my hope to embrace a little minimalism in terms of this year’s book budget, and to give myself the gift of revelling in old favourites. I also like the idea of devoting a little attention to backlist books, which can quickly become underappreciated, if not forgotten entirely. Perhaps you’ll see this resolution of sorts affect the editorial choices on this blog. You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out!

What’s happening this month…

At PQL.

With the holidays done and dusted, it’s back to the presses! This month will see us focus on Susan Glickman’s, Artful Flight—a collection of intelligent essays that reminds us that criticism can be incisive without being cutting.

Though it seems odd to say, what with us being in the middle of winter and all, we’ll also be starting to turn our efforts to Spring 2022 titles. Leon Rooke’s Rank Songbirds is first up—a collection of vibrant and at times, it must be said, saucy, poetry that explores human relationships in all their foibles. Look for it in a few months—or pre-order now!

On Zoom.

Let Go by Mark Huebner

Mark Huebner, the artist behind the beautiful wordless novel Let Go, will be the featured speaker at the Arts and Letters Club’s Club Night dinners on January 10 at 7:30 p.m. Due to the recent spike in Covid-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant, the event will now be held via Zoom. Registration is required.

In the world.

January 13th is International Skeptics Day. Or is it? I call shenanigans. I’m practically obligated.

January 20th is Penguin Awareness Day. I’m telling you this now, so there’s really no excuse for you to not be aware, is all I’m saying.

January 24 is Compliment Day. And what a clever, important day it is. (See what I did there?) Take a moment to make someone’s day with a genuine kind word!

From the porcupette’s corner.

I have to admit, I’m not unhappy to see the end of 2021. It was a challenging year physically, mentally and emotionally, with the unrelenting pandemic a background stressor that served as the cherry on top of an already difficult year. But that’s not to say we didn’t have a few things to celebrate as well. We published several great new books, including a few new personal favourites. We expanded our social network, and particularly gained lots of new followers on Instagram who are enjoying our photos from around the shop. We even enjoyed another successful PQL Holiday Giveaway, a December tradition that allows us to thank our loyal followers for their interest and attention throughout the year.

books on a desk with a quill pen

As we move into the new year, this month will be chock-a-block with editing for your porcupette, with some exciting new fiction and non-fiction coming your way this year. I can’t wait to share these books with you, and hopefully to introduce a few new favourites to your bookshelves.

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Thank you for sticking with us and our stories. We appreciate your continued support in 2022!

Cheers,

Steph
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PQ Weekly Roundup: 31 Dec 2021

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Every Friday, the PQ Weekly Roundup collects the most shared links in our social media network—bookish articles, reviews, quizzes, recommendations and more—in convenient digest form.

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Happy New Year’s Eve! Have fun ringing in the new year, and fingers crossed for a healthy and happy 2022

Cheers,

Steph


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.