The Chemical Life

The Chemical Life

Book - 2017
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Praised for his darkly psychological accounts of extreme experiences, Jim Johnstone's fifth book of poems explores his most difficult terrain to date: mental illness and addiction. Like Coleridge's opium dreams, Johnstone's narratives are hallucinatory, colored by his use of both prescription and recreational drugs. Returning often to the notion of rival realities, Johnstone is brilliantly disruptive and disorientating--a poet whose savagely austere forms, electrically precise images, and keyed-up rhythms reveal an obsession with the mind-altering properties of language itself.
Publisher: Montréal, Québec : Signal Editions, the poetry imprint at Véhicule Press, [2017]
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781550654820
Branch Call Number: 819.16 JOHNS
Characteristics: 74 pages : illustrations


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This is a stark and raw collection of tense, cutting, and sometimes disorienting poetry. It is a tremendous reflection on addiction and mental illness. I am often reminded of Philip K. Dick's stories in these poems. He would have loved this collection.

Short poems and short lines are Johnstone's signature style but he packs so much into them. (There are longer poems here, too.) Johnstone's poetry are not meant to be skimmed through. There is great depth here and considerable commentary if you keep your mind open. Moving with the poems and from poem to poem is like invading someone's dreams (and nightmares) - such is Johnstone's great skill.

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