Q & A with John Donlan

Q & A with contributor John Donlan

John Donlan spends half the year as a reference librarian at the Vancouver Public Library, and the other half writing poetry near Godfrey, Ontario. He is a poetry editor at Brick Books. Read John’s latest CommuterLit post: Out All Day.

CL: What themes do you come back to in your poetry and why?

JD: One recurring theme I work on is the relation between our nature and the rest of nature. What can nature teach us about ourselves and the right way to live, the right state of mind to hold to or mindfulness? Other themes are mortality, love, and happiness. These are universal themes that all poets try to address.

CL: Do you only write poetry when you are in Godfrey? If so, why?

JD:  I occasionally write in Vancouver, but I’m usually working for a living and don’t have the time to write. I write during the six months I’m in my 200 acres of wilderness [in Godfrey]. Here I’m reminded I’m a part of nature, sharing the character of all living things: complex, resilient, self-maintaining and self-regulating, cyclical, an integral and reciprocating part of the planet’s living and non-living systems, with a drive to immortality.

CL: What makes a great poem?

JD: A great poem gives us pleasure, and arouses our emotion while making a significant statement about the human condition. It deals with large themes like love and mortality.  It always repays rereading.

CL: What books and authors are you currently reading?

JD: I’m reading Philip Larkin’s Letters to Monica; I’ve just finished Champlain’s Voyages; I’m rereading Barbara Pym’s and Margaret Drabble’s novels; I occasionally read books developing James Lovelock’s Gaia theory of global ecology and planetary self-regulation. I read only for pleasure.

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