Selected Early Poems (1970-1990)
by John Pass
A selection of early poems by Governor General’s Award-winning poet John Pass.
Forecast recovers early out-of-print work by Governor General’s Award-winning poet John Pass. The poems engage potentialities—travel, an orchard he cares for, evolving relationships, house-building, becoming a poet and husband and father. They’re grounded in place and time, but attuned, as he says, to constancy. Those for his young sons are poignant with the perilous hope of new parenthood: “asking courage of me / as never I needed nor knew it in sorrow.”
Darker premonitions—dislocation, environmental damage, poetry’s shift from modernism to postmodernism—are mitigated throughout by the subtlety and solace of attentive expression. In “Apple,” Pass “contrives” to suspend time so that “Friends in the kitchen / re-reading Pound’s translations / of Rihaku” are still there days later when the tree outside blooms, concluding: “Only beyond / in the garden, that canopy // of fragrance, art’s / complement: coincidence. // Friends, come home. / There is everything.” Any fashionable irony is tempered—dispirited and optimistic.
In “An Arbitrary Dictionary,” random words are selected to become poem titles, idiosyncratic definitions. Surprising complexity and insight often spring from their funny and irreverent first takes, as in “Tuck”: “No life for a fat man / with that once merry band gone wan / on a diet of personal aggrandizement / and Perrier.” The sequence’s experimentation foreshadows Pass’s expansive work in his later quartet, AT LARGE.