We’re rounding out this last week of National Poetry Month by shining the spotlight on Jeffery Donaldson, a journeyman poet whose intelligent verses explore the ‘big questions’ surrounding language, religion, science and even death. I find his work particularly captivating because in many cases it takes a writerly, poetic and even philosophical lens to explore how we interpret and communicate meaning—a common preoccupation for editors and other publishing folk, I’ll wager.
Who Is Jeffery Donaldson?
Jeffery Donaldson is the author of several previous collections of poetry, including Slack Action (Porcupine’s Quill, 2011), which was shortlisted for the Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Poetry. Palilalia (McGill-Queen’s, 2008) was a finalist for the Canadian Author’s Association Award for Poetry. Donaldson has also written works of criticism on poetry and metaphor. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where he teaches poetry and American literature at McMaster University.
What Has He Published with PQL?
‘Slack action’ refers to the free movement experienced by the boxcar of a train, when the car coasts free, neither pushed nor pulled. Jeffery Donaldson’s fifth collection, in which single words, images and even poems coast free, suggests that all life is middle life, and that we live in a present moment that coasts between a beginning we can’t remember and an end we can’t predict.
Jeffery Donaldson’s Fluke Print is a collection of imprints, opposites and offsets—poetry that reflects on and reimagines creativity, emotion and intellect. For, as Donaldson writes, ‘Both ends of this dull pencil have their say / and go together.’
What does it mean to think, to imagine, to create, to be? Why do we believe what we do? Is death an ontological state of being, or is it a grammar error? What exactly is poetry? The varied writings in Jeffery Donaldson’s Viaticum explore life’s most basic questions—and its biggest illusions—from the nature of language to the rhetorical potential of the afterlife.
What’s up next?
Metaphor is the substance of things hoped for and the proof of things not seen. It is a building block, not a tower or its view. It is a gift impossible to guess, and not to be opened until you do. Metaphor is coinage dropped so that others might decipher us.
The poems in Jeffery Donaldson’s Granted serve as a sort of Metaphor 101, an education in the making of metaphor, its motives and its meaning. But more than that, these poems represent a study of being—and of becoming. They make relations, correspondences, attachments, and in so doing, they investigate the gaps between identity and imagination, truth and perception, love and faith. As Donaldson reminds us, when it comes to metaphor, distance makes no difference: it ‘breathes / in impossible spots, pairs that can’t be, / and finds in them untold possibilities.’
Read an Excerpt from Granted
I could never dream, o day of my birth,
how you put your hat beside your satchel
on the beach and made a sanctuary
along the shoreline, empty in every
direction. The gesture itself was not
so much accidental, as unforeseen
in its significance. I never found
a reason for it. The hat was a hat.
The satchel the same. But somehow the two
of them together on the shore, empty
in all directions, said more than either
alone could do, more than the vacant beach,
and certainly more than you yourself,
who waded from shore before I got here,
could have told me, had you ever returned.
Thank you for following along all April as we featured the fantastic poets and poetry collections we have had the pleasure of publishing here at the Porcupine’s Quill. We hope you enjoyed this week’s dive into the works of Jeffery Donaldson. Pick up a copy of his previously published titles, and look for Granted in the fall, or preorder here.
Happy National Poetry Month!