CBC BOOKS CANADIAN POETRY COLLECTIONS TO WATCH FOR IN FALL 2023
What can we remove from ourselves and still be ourselves?
Written after a brain tumour diagnosis early in the pandemic, The King of Terrors is a meditation on living with illness and the forces required to heal. These forces are not always what we expect – they may not even be medical. Jim Johnstone implies that language, relationships, and our immersion in the natural world can free us from the spectre of impending collapse. Haunted by the decimation of the North American landscape and the anxiety of living in a polarized society, Johnstone’s poems are bodily reflections that ask how we can reframe our past to make sense of the present. The King of Terrors oscillates between the personal and the public, the clinical and the spiritual, so we’re never quite sure what we are seeing, no matter how familiar.
“There is a moving, fierce intensity to The King of Terrors. Jim Johnstone knowingly reminds us that betrayals of the body are also betrayals of language, ‘each bloody / mouthful a sentence fragment.’ These are lines of admission, ambition, and harrowing truth, and Johnstone – despite a future only as certain ‘as the body // it inhabits’ – offers a form of redemption, for the fortitude of the sick, for poetry itself.” – Randall Mann, author of Deal: New and Selected Poems
“The King of Terrors is a luminous meditation on the otherworld of illness and treatment, contemplating the mysteries of death and the frontiers of mind and body with sharp clarity and radical vulnerability. These mesmerizing, urgent poems admit us not only to waiting rooms and brain scans, but also to the intimate fears that accompany the estranging experience of being unwell, or, as the poet says, living ‘between / age and agency.’ Haunting, stark, and lyrical, The King of Terrors is charged, as all the best poetry is, with the shock of the mortal.” – Sarah Holland-Batt, author of The Jaguar