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Praise for Durable Goods

"[In] his delightfully bijou Durable Goods . . . Pollock is . . . a severe stylist with an eye twinkle. His taut quatrains . . .  swing with a Shakespearean lilt, the majority of the pieces torqued to a turn in the final one or two lines [like] truncated sonnets . . . . [E]ach word is weighed, shaped, measured, listened to with relentless intent. Durable Goods is one of those too-infrequent books of poems you want to carry around with you in your pocket and slip out at random times of the day for a little zing of the strange magic he's discovered in even the most quotidian things of the world."—Catherine Owen, Marrow Reviews

"Pollock’s poems are metrical, lyrical, and decidedly accessible, wrought carefully into quatrains with alternating rhymes. With clever wordplay, objects are anthropomorphized, assigned gaping mouths, knowing eyes, backbones, memories, desires, and, in this way, brought into the fold of the speaker’s existential questioning. . . . It has been a pleasure to read these poems in the pages of magazines, where many of them have been previously published. But, the real achievement of Durable Goods is as a collection, a “Book” – together, these pocket poems reveal an expansive meditation on tools we have for meaning-making."Emily Mernin, Montreal Review of Books

 

"The short descriptive poems in James Pollock's Durable Goods are not . . . riddles. If they were, they'd do themselves a great disservice by giving away their answers in their titles. But in a deeper way: they are riddles, in that they are also little metaphor machines that generate figurative description. What Pollock’s poems feature . . . is a really complicated and interesting relationship with sense. This is accomplished not at all by powering down the metaphor machine but by sending it on a number of detours . . . . They are refreshingly, interestingly, less task-oriented riddles. They’re jaunts; not errands." — Jacob McArthur Mooney, Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!

"[A] minimalist overflowing characterizes the compact poems in [Durable Goods] . . . . Pollock's wit is on display in every quatrain . . . [and] the surfeit of wit . . . stirs and measures language, emotion, and meaning . . . . Reversal, pivot, and hinge rely on Pollock's deft rhythm and punctuation . . . . [M]imetic double turns are held in place by the stanza's structure and traditional rhyme and rhythms—a refreshing departure from contemporary free verse . . . . Synecdoche or the part for the whole is one of the keys to these poems, for each durable good forms part of a larger ensemble . . . . Pollock makes us see both sides of the ordinary as he spins and stirs his objects and perspectives, always making the familiar a little strange, so that we notice it in a different light. . . . Like Prospero, Pollock invokes the elemental through . . . quatrains that transform the quotidian . . . . [These] durable goods [are] personified to come alive." — Michael Greenstein, The Miramichi Reader

Praise for Sailing to Babylon

“The sentence, in James Pollock’s remarkably assured debut volume, is a unit of music and of time, a carefully modulated choreography that moves the reader through an elegantly constructed set of meditations on place and history and the education of the self — a self we come to know, in part, through the poet’s evocation of a rich company of tutelary spirits: Glenn Gould and Northrop Frye, Henry Hudson and C.P. Cavafy. Quietly confident, formally adept, assured in their music, these artful lyrics are not only an accomplishment in themselves but promise to register, as the poet says, ‘the breaking changes of a life to come’.” — Mark Doty, Judge’s Citation, Griffin Poetry Prize

". . . as well-traveled as it is and by such titanic talents [as Edwin Arlington Robinson, Edward Thomas, and Robert Frost], new discoveries in the plain style are less likely, and less frequent. And that's why James Pollock's debut, Sailing to Babylon . . . is such a noteworthy book . . . . [I]n Pollock's unadorned style, forged as it is in traditional forms . . . we get a vision of an old world, freighted with history, and still able to astonish itself with the novelty of its recurrence."

— Michael Lista, The National Post

"[The poems in Sailing to Babylon] engage the reader openly, generously, inviting us to notice how the details observed, the emotions evoked, the subtle (or noisy) repetitions of words and phrases, the precisely constructed lines and stanzas, the sophisticated prosody, work together with a rich and complex array of subjects and allusions to provide both pleasure and challenge." — Thomas Dillingham, Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing

" . . . in Sailing to Babylon, the formalism--the regular stanza patterns, sonnets, and the long poem in terza rima--prepares you to think about the fine line between an advanced knowledge of the rules of traditional poetic form and a mastery of the subtleties of traditional poetics. When a poet deploys tradition gracefully, as James Pollock has, the pleasure in the poems also renews my affection for tradition." — Chris Jennings, Arc Poetry Magazine

"Overall the [long] poem ["Quarry Park"] is, frankly, a masterpiece; if I were compiling today an anthology of Canadian poetry from its beginnings, it would doubtless make the cut. For not only does it constitute a significant formal achievement, but it takes the prominent Canadian genre of 'nature poem' to new heights, meditating on aspects of flora, fauna, and landscape formation with a level of detail and engagement with both the scientific and folkloric aspects of natural history that can only be attained through years of intimate observation." — Stewart Cole, The Urge

"I can't remember the last time I was so moved by a single collection. After each poem I had to stop and allow myself the time to marvel at Pollock's mastery. . .  The extraordinary thing about [the book] is Pollock's ability to recall an action, a moment or an object with tremendous elegance . . . Pollock revisits his past and sees it with absolute understanding. Sailing to Babylon reminded me why I fell in love with poetry in the first place." — Inderjit Deogun, Savvy Reader

"Pollock shines brightly in 'Quarry Park,' a long poem . . . . The tight terza rima format showcases [his] poetic discipline . . . . [He] blithely hints at the Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise while creating a rich complex of his own past, his son's future, the childhood games of a boy (also named James) who once lived in the quarry, the glacier called "Huge Toad" by the Huron, and the Rowan-tree mythology of the Gaels, all without losing the immediate beauty of the ecology of the place itself, rendered through carefully detailed images. The poem moves gracefully through the woods at an easy pace for over twenty pages, never making a false step or departing from the idiomatic tone, sweeping readers along through the magical dimensions of the real, and the real dimensions of the magical, showing how beautiful are "the ruins that prevail/ even in the midst of death; how we forget/ and how our forgetting makes us homeless, / until we dig ourselves out of this debt/ we owe the giant past for making us ourselves." — Brent Wood, University of Toronto Quarterly

Praise for You Are Here: Essays on the Art of Poetry in Canada

"Pollock's book . . . provides both a series of unusually nuanced and intelligent takes on individual poets and volumes and, taken as a whole, an erudite accounting of Canadian poetic identity in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries. . . . [I admire] his extraordinary rigour, the meticulousness with which, in his finest critical moments, he substantiates his strong claims with argumentation so textured and intelligent that one feels dared to disagree." 

— Stewart Cole, The Urge

"'The virtues of good critical reading,' writes James Pollock, are 'openness, attentiveness, patience, critical intelligence--and love.' You Are Here, a collection of essays on the contemporary Canadian landscape, aptly embodies these virtues." — Patty Comeau, ForeWord Reviews

"The readings Pollock offers are thoughtful, knowledgeable, and precise. He is truly an excellent close reader of poems, his technical vocabulary is superb, and his command of the tradition enables him to tease out allusions and echoes of other works that are likely to be missed by the more casual reader. It seems to me that little is to be gained from trying to catch Pollock in a mistake or a misattribution . . . There is no doubt that You Are Here will be appreciated by many, especially practising poets and aspiring critics."  — Robert Stacey, University of Toronto Quarterly

"The poetry celebrated in the pages of You Are Here includes the work of Jeff[er]y Donaldson, Karen Solie, Anne Carson, Daryl Hine, Eric Ormsby and Marlene [Cookshaw], each of whom receive illuminating and often brilliant close readings. Pollock situates these poets within the world of poetry rather than merely the world of Canada; the result inspires readers to think along similar lines."  — Stephen Osborne, Geist

"You Are Here and Lazy Bastardism [by Carmine Starnino] are important books. On a practical level, they are important because they do justice to rich poetry and varied poetic careers through intelligent, sensitive, and captivating close readings. On a cultural level, they are important because they are concerned with nothing less than the future of Canadian poetry. Both Pollock and Starnino make the high stakes of their work palpable with grace and style."  — Laura Cameron, Canadian Literature

Praise for The Essential Daryl Hine

"This latest addition to The Porcupine Quill's series of Essential Poets ... reinforced for me the importance of Hine as an alternative voice in an era with too little appreciation for the history and the possibilities of formal poetry. It is here, I think, that the value of this volume and of Hine's legacy as a whole truly lies, in its potential to provoke a new generation of Canadian writers to engage and renew the tradition of poetry."  — Jeremy Luke Hill, From Word to Word

"The best Canadian poet most people have never heard of . . . . [T]his selection (which includes a brief, thoughtful introduction and a biographical sketch) is the ideal way to get to know a poet who deserves to be better known."  — Brooke Clark, Partisan Magazine

"Poets tend not to be the best judges of the value of their own work. It takes a great editor to shape a vision of another poet's work that is both their own and true to the author; Pollock has done that here. The Essential Daryl Hine makes it obvious that the boy from B.C. really is one of the best we have. I don't think it's too great a leap to say that in Pollock, Daryl Hine has found his ideal editor. We should all be so lucky."  — Derek Webster, Partisan Magazine