John Thompson's death and work is the stuff of legend, or at least of heady anecdote. These days professors, too busy fighting sexual harassment cases, don't usually indulge in drunk driving-or at least aren't caught much. Nor do they typically stab hunting knives into tavern tables or randomly fire off shotguns. Thompson did such things, and his publicized rows with Mount A.'s administration were only matched by the devotion he inspired in his friends, students, and colleagues. The last two days of his life were spent drinking with students, drying out in the Sackville jail, and visiting a fellow poet. As a permanent division of labour this was plainly untenable.Ah the ill-mannered, swaggering, ruggedly handsome, egotistical poet. We can't resist them can we? Well, I can resist that personality, but when the poetry matches it in terms of the rawness, the ability to go the edge of the form, or content, then while I might not swoon, I do stand at attention. It's rarely the case however, that the ego matches the work, or rather the work matches the ego.
Now you have burned your books, you'll go with nothing.
The world is full of the grandeur,
and it is.
Perfection of tables: crooked grains;
and all this talk: this folly of tongues.
Too many stories: yes, and
high talk: the exact curve of the thing.
Sweetness and lies: the hook, grey deadly bait,
a wind and water to kill cedar, idle men, the innocent
not love, and hard eyes
over the cold,
not love (eyes, hands, hands, arm)
given, taken, to the marrow;
(the grand joke: le mot juste:
forget it; remember):
Walking is all: readiness:
you are watching;
I'll learn by going:
Sleave-silk flies; the kindly ones.
Someone in New Brunswick is busy stenciling lines of poems on the sidewalks...love it.
More lines I couldn't resist. Such couplets. Oh, if poets would attend to the couplet.
In a dark wood,
and you in a strange bed.
The blood at night sounds
with your swimming.
I want to cut myself off. Bone says:
I'll dance with you and you with me.
I'm waiting for Janis Joplin: why,
why is it so dark?
I've just learned that Arc Poetry Magazine out of Ottawa has devoted its summer issue to Thompson. Well now. Very much looking forward to that. Particularly Rob Winger's thoughts.