Poetry Preview: The Essential D. G. Jones

Earlier this year, we were saddened by the death of D. G. Jones, a literary treasure known for his criticism, translation, and of course, his mythopoetic poetry. Partisan Magazine ran a touching tribute in March, which really communicated the influence he had on writers and editors all over Canada.

For me, one of the most interesting things about his life and work is his ability to engage with both Anglophone and Francophone literary traditions. As a translator, he had to be intimately familiar with the vagaries of both languages. As a poet, he was able to draw on influences from English Canadian as well as Québeécois poetry. In some cases, language itself became fluid within his poems, shifting between English and French. In addition to his translation and poetry, he was also co-founder of the bilingual literary journal ellipse, which was a critical step in, if not uniting than at least expressing together the ‘two solitudes’ of Canadian literature.

The Essential D. G. Jones

The Essential D. G. Jones reproduces a few examples of this fluid language, but it also provides an excellent overview of the poet’s work. You can practically see his evolution as an artist on the page, the increasing experimentation and linguistic flexibility and immersion into the natural world. Here’s a sneak peek inside the book with an excerpt from the book.


From “A Thousand Hooded Eyes”


The universe is a largely
dry subject, but water, o thalassa,
that is a matter

of imagination, its trickles, runnels, vast
littorals suspend
almost a page of elements

a soup, a salty sea
of discourse, it can generate
strings of sunlight, diatoms, flatworms

those wavering
soft lightbulbs (Medusa, Noctiluca) &
the glass catfish


which came first, the stomach
or the appetite to process watery bits

o bricoler, o bricolage
let’s cover the bag with scales, let’s
hang it on a line

detecting tremors
let’s make our own
waves, add fins

finesse, add bite
add sinister, voilà, the pike, the clown
the surgeon fish


a bad day for Beelzebub, his
minioned flies

out of

pond matter
the belly aspires
spawns legs, the spatulate
fingers, smiles

and slippery (I love
the frogs in your jacket) dines
and climbs

replacing bee’s buzz
click and drone, with the piccolo & the heavenly


About the Author

DOUGLAS GORDON JONES was a Canadian writer, translator and critic. Born in 1929 in Bancroft, ON, he studied English Literature in university at McGill and Queen’s. He continued his career in academia, teaching at Bishop’s University before settling into a post at the Université de Sherbrooke. While there, he co-founded a bilingual literary journal ellipse: Writers in Translation (1969-2012), the only magazine of its kind in Canada. Jones was the author of ten books of poetry, and won the A. J. M. Smith Award for Poetry (1977), the A. M. Klein Prize for Poetry (1989, 1995) and the Governor General’s Award, once in 1977 for his collection of poems, Under the Thunder the Flowers Light Up the Earth, and again in 1993 for his translation of Normand de Bellefeuille’s Categorics: 1, 2 & 3. In 2007, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada. Jones passed away in March 2016 in North Hatley, Quebec.


About the Editor

JIM JOHNSTONE is a Canadian writer, editor, and physiologist. He is the author of four books of poetry: Dog Ear (Véhicule Press, 2014), Sunday, the locusts (Tightrope Books, 2011), Patternicity (Nightwood Editions, 2010) and The Velocity of Escape (Guernica Editions, 2008), as well as the subject of the critical monograph Proofs & Equational Love: The Poetry of Jim Johnstone by Shane Neilson and Jason Guriel. He has won several awards including a CBC Literary Award, Matrix Magazine’s LitPop Award, The Fiddlehead’s Ralph Gustafson Poetry Prize and This Magazine’s Great Canadian Literary Hunt. Currently, Johnstone is the Poetry Editor at Palimpsest Press, and an Associate Editor at Representative Poetry Online.


portraitFor more outstanding collections of important Canadian poetry, browse our Essential Poets Series.

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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.