John Thompson

Born in 1938 in the English industrial county of Cheshire, Thompson was orphaned at a young age by the death of his father and by his mother’s decision to hand her child over to relatives in Manchester to safeguard him from German bombing raids. A gifted but restless student, he attended the University of Sheffield and then, in 1960, Michigan State University, where he did graduate work in Comparative Literature. It was at Michigan State that he began to write, influenced by the growing youth movement, anti-war protests, and civil rights demonstrations. In Michigan, he also came under the direction of expatriate Canadian poet A.J.M. Smith, one of the pioneering literary modernists in Canada, whose seminar on the French Symbolists turned Thompson on to the rigours of poetic technique. Upon completing his PhD, Thompson and his wife drove to New Brunswick where he joined the Department of English at Mount Allison University in 1966. His time in Sackville was uneven at best. He was revered and loathed by students and faculty alike, the result being that he was not offered tenure at the end of his probationary term. Eventually overturned, this judgement of Thompson divided campus and created the tensions out of which At the Edge of the Chopping There Are No Secrets (1973) and the posthumously published Stilt Jack (1978) emerged. Both masterful collections, Thompson was hailed as a poetic innovator. Despite these successes, he endured a series of broken relationships (including his marriage), destructive alcoholism, and mental anguish. He died in Sackville in 1976.

For the full Author Page on Thompson, click here.


The linked Author Page contains the poems "Horse Chestnuts," "Partridge," "The Change," "January February March Et Cetera," "The Great Bear," "Ghazal II," "Ghazal VII," and "Ghazal XXXVII."