Monday, November 5, 2012

George Johnston

George Johnston (1913—2004) is a Canadian poet whose work is characterized by rhyme and meticulous rhythm — for he felt that poetry should be memorized. A favourite poet, and influence was A.E. Housman. Northrop Frye said, "Johnston is an irresistibly readable and quotable poet. His finest technical achievement, I think, apart from his faultless sense of timing, is his ability to incorporate the language of the suburbs into his own diction."

He was known internationally as a poet and translator. He, and his wife, Jeanne, often hosted visiting poets in their home in Ottawa. When on sabbatical in England, from Carleton University, he became friends with the Welsh poet David Jones.

Stephen Morrissey, said in his “In Memorium” piece on Johnston: “George was preeminently a humble man, his religious leanings were to both Quakerism and the Church of England as he searched for an expression of his spirituality. He was a family man and...mentored younger poets...George treated me with respect as a person and as a poet. Overall he enlarged my life. What greater praise can be given to someone than stating that we learn to be a better person from their example.”

Nine days after his death in 2004, his wife of sixty years, Jeanne, died of a heart attack.

No Way Out

No excuse
Though I keep looking for one;
No use
Pretending it is not me, has not been done.

No way out
But always farther in
In doubt,
Fate-strong, heart-struck, ground fine.

I have not
Seen Paradise, nor its trees,
But what
I glimpse of unspoiled brings me to my knees.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: