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James Pollock

Poet · Critic · Editor

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"The poetic catalogue of ordinary things James Pollock creates in Durable Goods is wry and bracingly dark. The poet’s cool eye on the everyday makes the familiar strange, as objects seem to conspire to educate us in a dire metaphysic. An oscillating fan is “a time-lapse sunflower in a cage”; a dishwasher makes a “crazed assault/on indifferent death itself.” But there’s pleasure, even joy here as well: the genuine delight of naming precisely, of making an elegant architecture of meaning out of the stubborn, contrary things that surround us."
Mark Doty
"James Pollock’s latest collection, Durable Goods, presents a speaker able to mine seemingly insignificant objects for the astonishing. These elegant but intimate poems echo the very best of Tony Harrison and James Merrill—works which, beneath the sparkle of their cheeky humour, exhale with vulnerability and generosity and edge towards the oracular.”—Alexandra Oliver
From the Cover

Durable Goods is a book of sharply imagined poems about everyday technology. James Pollock calls to surprising life everything from microwaves to kettles, sprinklers to umbrellas, with a precision both unerring and effortless. By conjuring the essential spirit of each object, the poet reveals the tools and appliances that surround us as both sympathetic reflections of ourselves—our fear, love, rage, hope and grief—and strange beings with inner lives of their own. “It knows how much pressure you’ve been under,” Pollock writes, of the barometer, “that you could use a change of atmosphere.”

Read together, these poems immerse us in an imagined world with the power to make us see our own in a new way. Suffused with dazzling wordplay, razor wit, and rippling sonic effects, the poems richly reward being read aloud. For Pollock, the most durable good is language itself.

Also by James Pollock (click the covers for more information)

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James Pollock is the author of Durable Goods (Véhicule Press/Signal Editions), which won the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award and made The Miramichi Reader's list of the best poetry books of 2022; and Sailing to Babylon (Able Muse Press, 2012), a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award in Poetry, and winner of an Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. He is also the author of You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada (The Porcupine's Quill, 2012), a finalist for the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award for a collection of essays; and editor of The Essential Daryl Hine (The Porcupine's Quill), which made Partisan magazine's

list of the best books of 2015. His poems have appeared in The Paris Review, AGNI, Plume, The Walrus, and many other journals. They have also won the Manchester Poetry Prize, the Magma Editors' Prize, and the Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review, and have been reprinted in anthologies in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., including The Next Wave: An Anthology of 21st Century Canadian Poetry. He graduated from York University in Toronto, earned a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and is now Professor of English at Loras College. He lives with his wife and son in Madison, Wisconsin.


Interview with aAh! Magazine in the U.K.

In which I opine on poetry prizes, treating objects as persons, ambiguity, and the honesty of the critic. Read it here.

Interview with Sharon Berg in The /temz/ Review

I loved doing this interview with Sharon Berg for The /temz/ Review. Topics include the title of my book Durable Goods, the thing-poem tradition, chameleon poets, the gradual convergence of animism with continental philosophy, and how metre (aka meter) is like the drum kit in a band.

Durable Goods Wins the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award

Durable Goods was selected by Mark Turcotte as the winner of the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award for the best book of poetry published by a Wisconsin author in 2022. The prize, which is sponsored by the Arts + Literature Laboratory, is $500 plus a five-day stay at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts.

New Review of Durable Goods in Literary Matters

I'm profoundly grateful to Peter Vertacnik for his brilliant review of Durable Goods, together with his review of Jason Guriel's book of essays, On Browsing, in issue 15.2 of Literary Matters, a publication of the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. An inspired pairing.

One Question Interview with Alex Boyd

I really enjoyed doing a One Question Interview with Alex Boyd about Durable Goods, in which I tell the book's origin story, argue with Auden, and discuss the value of writing about everyday technology.

Durable Goods Makes A. M. Juster's Poetry Book Recommendation List for 2022

I'm delighted and honored that Durable Goods made A.M. Juster's 2022 poetry book recommendation list, along with books by Boris Dralyuk, Aaron Poochigian, Alexis Sears, Jason Guriel, Rachel Hadas, and Don Paterson. As he puts it, "Standout books of poetry worth giving to someone you love." (If you click the link, scroll down to J for Juster to read his list.)

Durable Goods Makes The Miramichi Reader's List of the Best Poetry Books of 2022

Durable Goods was selected by The Miramichi Reader's team of reviewers and editors for its list of the Best Poetry Books of 2022, from among the 69 poetry books they reviewed that year.

Recent Radio and Podcast Appearances

In April, 2023, I appeared on an Entrances episode of Ms. Lyric's Poetry Outlaws, with podcast host Catherine Owen, in which I discoursed a little on poetry as an embodied art, and read my poem "Dishwasher" from Durable Goods. You can listen to the episode by clicking on the Interviews button at the top of this page.

In October, 2022, I appeared on Howl, a radio show about Canadian poetry and music on CIUT 89.5 FM in Toronto, for an interview with the host Valentino Assenza. You can listen to the episode by clicking on the Interviews button at the top of this page.

In August, 2022, I appeared on Eat the Storms, an Irish poetry podcast, to introduce Durable Goods, and read seven short poems from it. You can listen to episode 14, season 5 here.

In August, 2022, I appeared on The Miramichi Reader Podcast to introduce Durable Goods, and read seven short poems from it. You can listen to episode 17, season 2 here.

On August 19, 2022, my poem "Screw" was featured on the Eh Poetry Podcast, here.

Online Reading

As part of the Able Muse Zoom Reading series, on Saturday, July 30, 2022, I read poems from Durable Goods and Sailing to Babylon, alongside Jennifer Reeser and Rosemerry Trommer, two American poets also published by Able Muse Press. You can watch a video of the reading by clicking on Videos in the menu at the top of this page. My own reading begins at the seven minute mark.

Recent Prizes

My poem "Mousetrap" was awarded the $1,000 Guy Owen Prize from Southern Poetry Review for 2021. It was published in Volume 59, Issue 1 of that journal. To read the poem online, click here.

My poem "Goose Neck Lamp" was awarded the £1,000 Editors' Prize in the Magma Poetry Competition in the U.K., and was published in issue 77 of
Magma Poetry in July, 2020. You can read it online here (scroll to page 10).

My poems "Lighter,""Scale," "Screw," "Sewing Needle," and "Microphone" were awarded the £10,000 Manchester Poetry Prize for 2020, the U.K.'s largest poetry prize for unpublished work. The poems have since been published in Met Magazine, in print and online, accompanied by illustrations and an article about the Prize. To see a virtual reading of all the shortlisted pieces and comments by the judges, click here. To see just my own reading of "Scale" and "Screw,"  click on Videos in the main menu at the top of this page.

Recent Publications

My poem "Kettle" was published in print in the September/October, 2022, issue of
The Walrus.

My poem "Dryer" was published online in the August, 2022, issue of Plume
. It includes an audio file of my reading the poem. In the same issue, I discuss the origin of the poem in the context of my book Durable Goods.

"Framing Hammer" was published in The Fiddlehead, Issue 291 (Spring 2022) in April, 2022.

"Flashlight" was published  in Geist 119 in February, 2022. You can read it online here.

"Mousetrap" was published in Volume 59, Issue 1, of Southern Poetry Review in August, 2021. You can read it online here.

"Umbrella" and "Sprinkler" were published in issue 118 of Geist in the summer of 2021. You can read "Umbrella" online here. And "Sprinkler" online here.

"Shower" and "Toilet" were published in Event magazine, in issue 50/1 (Spring/Summer 2021).

"Barometer" and "Television" were published in issue 117 of Geist in March, 2021. You can read "Barometer" online here. And "Television" online here.

"Wind Turbine" and "Oscillating Fan" were published in The Antigonish Review, issue 201-202, in October, 2020.
"Mirror," "Faucet," and "Coffee Grinder" were published in Vol. 8 Issue 1 (Spring & Summer) of The Humber Literary Review, in print, in September, 2020. An electronic version of these poems is available online (on page 29).
"Washing Machine" and "Refrigerator" were published in issue 115 of Geist in June 2020.
"Ceiling Fan" and "Spectacles" are read and discussed by the editors in episode 82 of the Painted Bride Quarterly Slush Pile podcast, which came online in May, 2020. They were also published in issue 100 of Painted Bride Quarterly.
"Iron" was published in the Winter 2020 issue of Contemporary Verse 2.
"Crossing the Seine" was published in the April, 2019, issue of The Walrus, and posted online on The Walrus's website on Feb. 14, 2020.
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