Jim Nason
 
 

JIM'S WORK

 
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Rooster, Dog, Crow

In a world where upside-down politics dovetails with the carnivalesque, a love triangle unfolds between a belligerent Rooster, a happy-go-lucky meth-addicted Dog, and a gender-fluid Crow. Nason’s sixth poetry collection goes to the extremes of the creative mind to depict a world that is real and surreal, a place where women, men, and animals shape-shift and trade places, intermingle within each other’s feathers, coats, and skin. Sometimes these characters are the masters of decadence and desire, other times they question the very worlds they’ve invented. “Rooster Wears Stilts to the Pride Parade,” depicts a self-righteous, party-pooper bird shouting: Lower your banners, swallow your whistles! To hell with this stream of green, blue and youth.

Rooster, Dog, Crow follows the Trump campaign to an apocalyptic finale. In “Flame,” Rooster, high up on stilts, claims that he learned to swallow flames/ by watching Hillary Clinton in a bright red suit deflect Trump’s abuse and lies. Rooster says, Clinton leaned into the gap/ of the next question as if the floor were/ about to part, as if she were about to be/ swallowed – red and burning and whole.

This collection asks the reader to abandon fear and commit to a life that is ecstatic with risk. Nason insists that the only wrong is an unexplored life. He invites one and all to join the parade with its full range of costumed marchers, banal banners, and erogenous, music-thumping floats.


 

Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals

Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals tells the story of ninety-one- year old Skye Rayburn and her troubled relationship with her daughter and the opportunity to ‘get it right’ with her grandson, Duncan, who she raises from the time he is two years old. Throughout his childhood,
Skye tells Duncan stories about the animals that she treats in her veterinary practice – children’s fables that she hopes will help him to understand his mother’s death and his relationship with his homeless father.

Years later, Duncan is invited to the Edinburgh Festival for his first art show at Summerhall (originally known as the Royal Dick Veterinary College). Skye recalls her time there as a student and of the experience that caused her to leave Scotland for Canada under shame’s cruel shadow. Ultimately, this novel is about the insistence of Spirit – across time and mistakes, geography and generations.

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“Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals is a raucous kaleidoscopic ninety-year romp through a world where life tumbles into brutal loss at the smallest innocent slip. A book that moves from the marvellous bone-headed cockiness of youth to a compassionate appreciation of human fragility, Spirit of a Hundred Thousand Dead Animals is an affirmation that one person’s determination to learn how to love becomes the next generation’s ability to love well.”

 

- -Elizabeth Ukrainetz, author, The Theory of Light at Midnight and Baby I Love You.


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"Touch Anywhere to Begin is full of music. These poems are eloquent hymns to the everyday, tender love songs to the brutal and the real. I love walking through the grey streets and lost back alleys of Jim Nason’s words. These are artful poems, thoughtful meditations. Listen closely. Watch carefully. Take a moment to feel what’s between the lines. Then read another poem."

 

- Jonathan Garfinkel author, Glass Psalms and Ambivalence

Touch Anywhere to Begin

The poems in this collection are set in the physical world where full-throttle desire comingles with love, loss and grief. Although death is ever-present – death of a father, death of a friend – a life-affirming pulse beats at the core of this book. Nason reminds us that the city is both real and surreal, a place of creatures and buildings, technology and memory, imagination and DNA.

Nason’s poem, “City With Animals,” a tribute to Max Ernst, celebrates one billion transformations in the body per second. And in “Father’s Day, Thirteenth Avenue,” death and desire share an iPhone. In his poem about a Francis Bacon painting, “George Dyer’s Back,” Nason continues his discussion about the interplay between shadow and surrender: To hold a razor in your shaking hand. To empty/ your pockets of your craving self.

The best way out of fire is to pass through it. This collection asks the reader to commit fully to a life that is dangerous and safe, joyful and debilitating, insisting that the only wrong is an unexplored life. Even its most frightening
shadows, must be entered and searched, each life revered for the truths it contains.


 

The Fist of Remembering

A collection of poems that confront, over and over, the horror and mystery of a lover dying of cancer.  Hating his survivor's eloquence, but using it, Nason achieves something like revenge against the forces of darkness.

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“The Strength of Jim Nason’s the Fist of Remembering is its fidelity – to the dying and dead lover, to grief and the time it takes, and to the sweet details of the living world which slowly reclaim attention.  With telling images, and phrasing which reflects the shifting motions of grief, Nason offers us an opportunity to learn how to face the unbearable and bear it.  These are poems from a writer who sees both that terrible space “at the edge of no person” and the “[r]ed and yellow tulips along the fence.”

 

- Maureen Scott-Harris
Winner: Trillium Prize for Poetry


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"With an unflinching eye - and evoking the 'lapsed' territories of Raymond Carver and Norman Levine - Jim Nason guides us artfully, and with cutting-edge wit, through a marginalized world whose quiet, devastating terror is that it may be our own ... Tough, acutely observed, and tender, the stories in this collection bear the hallmark of a prodigious downtown seer whose unforgettable voice is distinctly his own.  A gem of a work."

 

- Royston Tester, author of Summat Else

The Girl on the Escalator

The charcacters in these eleven stories live in a world upside down.  From the young professional who leaves her high-powered job to explore street life as a graffiti artist, to the gay man who falls in love with a woman, to the spin class fanatic who learns there's a fine line between addiction, these excessive and radical characters create pandemonium wherever they go.  Inspired by everyday people riding the TTC, Jim Nason has crafted a collection of gender- and expectation-bending stories that reveals the extraordinary and often heartbreaking truths behind ordinary life.


 

Narcissus Unfolding

Narcissus Unfolding is a love poem - a poem to the love that goes on in the life of the people a loved one leaves behind, a poem to the body, even as the body betrays us.  It is a book that inspires its readers to re-examine how they are loved in a world that's often disappointingly real when compared to the ideals we carry within us, sometimes to our own detriment.  Yet, once accepted, once understood, real, flawed, failing love is seen in all its unfolded glory - and embraced.

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"Visceral, erotic, tender, acurate: this poet's uncompromising gaze, 'from beneath all that love and lace' touches body and soul, interior and exterior, with landscape and wilderness shore, 'threading through concrete and light'.  From the 'glossy green tile' of Union Station '(twenty doors open at once)' to Lake Huron's 'green-grey rowel of water/and foam', Jim Nason's Narcissus Unfolding carries its imprint of human presence - the struggle to love, the need for redemption - even as it recognizes animal forms, 'As I were the imagined thing'..."

 

- E. Alex Pierce


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"Jim Nason's Music Garden hums with metaphorical charge, for each thing here, seen closely enough - a painting by Dali, an industrial landscape, a woman by a lake - is everything.  In the other, the self; in sorrow, joy.  These poems don't observe, they attend, and they do so with a depth and generosity that compels our attention."

 

- Stephanie Bolster

Music Garden

Inspired by Toronto’s waterfront Music Garden – Yo Yo Ma and Julie Morisette’s interpretation in nature of Bach’s symphony number one, the poems in this book are about the narrator’s journey through the ‘Garden’ – landscape, music, the human parade; grief and love.

The title poem “Music Garden” was a finalist for the CBC Literary Award in Poetry.


 

I Thought I Would Be Happy

This modern day Greek tragedy revolves around Marco Morelli, an aspiring film maker with a passion for heights and a desire to move into the newly constructed Toronto Trump Tower. He has recently had a brain tumor removed and has decided to will himself into a state of well-being after reading about happiness and neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to adapt to life’s stressors. Marco’s partner, Andreas Triandaphyllo, a Greek-Canadian Ophthalmologist wants to climb Mytikas, on Mount Olympus in honour of his recently deceased parents. On their journey, the two men encounter Manya, a drop-dead gorgeous art teacher from Manhattan. Carrying her famous grandmother’s ashes, Manya is training to run the Mount Olympus marathon. Sexy and vivid, this novel weaves mythology with personal histories and current events. As the plot unfolds, what seems like a random meeting of our three protagonists in a New Jersey airport, turns out to be fate herself in one of her most beguiling disguises.

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"To accept happiness, will you accept its terror? I Thought I'd be Happy provides absorbing terrain in which to ponder the question.  Surreal and fragmented memories slowly reveal the courage it takes to accept change in others -- to realize you have shared the intimacy of strange travel together.  In a work haunted by both cruelty and kindness, Jim Nason shows how our undoing can also be our extreme good luck."

- Daniel Allen Cox, author of Krakow Melt


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“Jim Nason writes like an angel of the underworld.  His novel, The Housekeeping Journals, is the place where Marie Claire Blais meets Ann Landers...

 

- Elisavietta Ritchie

The Housekeeping Journals

In the Housekeeping Journals, the self-oppressed narrator, Tony, takes on a homemaking job to put himself through university as a social work student.  He performs domestic tasks traditionally deemed ‘women’s work’, and in the land of laundry and dirty dishes finds himself involved in the complex lives of his clients who live with addiction, AIDS, mental illness, poverty and shame. 

Chapters are introduced by Mrs. Neatson’s  Easy Steps to Domestic Bliss for the Busy Housewife, a voice from the nineteen-fifties offering tips to the Lady of that era.  These tips, with their surreal tone of glamour and richness, run parallel with the myth-making, real-life survival needs of the novel’s characters – an elderly, crippled man living with his drug-dealing grandson; a demented drag queen about to get evicted from his apartment; a mother holding the hand of her dying son as she reflects on her youth and her lost lover.

Although Tony is 6’ 5”, in his carnivalesque world-turned-upside-down, he perceives himself as small and invisible.  In the Housekeeping Journals, he “cleans house” as he explores childhood memories and his grief and guilt surrounding his younger brother Stephen’s death at the hands of his violent and mean-spirited stepfather, Frankie Pearce.  Tony learns through the courage of his clients, and ultimately emerges with grace and humour as an emotionally daring and sexually adventurous man.