John Terpstra

Since the early 1980s, John Terpstra has been a mainstay of the Canadian literary scene, publishing both poetry and non-fiction. He has also been a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Charles Taylor Prize. He lives in Hamilton, Ontario, where he works as a writer, cabinetmaker and carpenter.

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Two or Three Guitars: Selected Poems
John Terpstra

2006 / Poetry / $49.95
9781554470273 / Fine / 144 pp

Since the emergence of his first collection in 1982, John Terpstra has gained recognition as a poet of great precision, compassion and attentiveness. With a fascination for geology, family, heritage, community and faith, he has trained his eye variously on his Hamilton neighbourhood, his Dutch background, the joys and peculiarities of marriage and parenting, as well as on issues of environmental degradation, local economy, security, society and questions of hope. This collection brings together highlights from each of Terpstra’s full-length publications, from Scrabbling for Repose (1982) to Disarmament (2003).

Says Terpstra, “Many of these poems have fallen off the literary wagon, so to speak, by being in books that are now out of print. But I return to them when I give readings. It’s gratifying, and a bit surprising, to read a poem written twenty-five years ago and feel no disjunction between it and a more recent poem. It encourages a sense of time that is non-linear. I’m all for non-linear time. And I see from this selection that what consistently sparks my imagination is all those intersections between people and their natural environment, in the city or with each other in community, family or marriage, or with the natural environment itself. Or, all of them together. Oh, and God. Can’t forget God. He, she or it is in there too, like a dirty shirt. I’ve often wondered what connection exists between the carpentry and woodworking that I have done for a living almost as long as I have been writing (freely), and the writing itself. I think that the two together simply identify me as one in the species homo faber, i.e., one-who-makes. In my case, this is a subspecies of homo ludens, one-who-plays.”

Terpstra’s poetry has always posited a candid, congenial mix of whimsy and contemplation; an extended project of giving history, and institutions like the future and the church, a place in the everyday. With a concern for the specifics of experience, and particularly shared experience, he possesses a remarkable talent for synthesizing the accumulation that lurks behind every interaction.

Among these selections is the full text of Captain Kintail, the long poem that won Terpstra the CBC Literary Competition in 1991. With snatches of conversation, crisis and song, the poem tells the story of a weekend spent in the company of other families at a camp on Lake Huron, the co-mingling of age groups, and the revelry and tension of group endeavours. Inside are some of the early percolations of the poet’s more recent ruminations on faith, family and the geography of the congregation. Two or Three Guitars also brings back into print selections from The Church Not Made With Hands, Devil’s Punchbowl and Forty Days & Forty Nights, with poems like “Atonement,” “The Little Towns of Bethlehem” and “Recordings” that demonstrate Terpstra’s roving interpretations of history and place, his continued interest in storytelling and in the location of the mythic in the here and now.

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Is a special edition of the book: 9781554470266

Other Books by this Author

Call Me Home
John Terpstra

2021 / Canadian Poetry / $21.95 CAN
9781554472260 / Trade paper / 108 pp
John Terpstra

2017 / Poetry / $19.95 CAN
9781554471676 / Trade paper / 80 pp
The House with the Parapet Wall
John Terpstra

2014 / Memoirs / $24.95 CAN
9781554471393 / Trade paper / 160 pp
Brilliant Falls
John Terpstra

2013 / Poetry / $17.95 CAN
9781554471232 / Trade paper / 64 pp
Falling Into Place
John Terpstra

2011 / Nature / $24.95 CAN
9781554471102 / Trade paper / 240 pp
Skin Boat: Acts of faith and other navigations
John Terpstra

2009 / Memoir / $25.95 CAN
9781554470792 / Trade paper / 160 pp
Two or Three Guitars: Selected Poems
John Terpstra

2006 / Poetry / $19.95 CAN
9781554470266 / Trade paper / 144 pp
Brendan Luck
John Terpstra

2005 / Poetry / $4.95 CAN
9781554470136 / Pamphlet / 24 pp
The Boys, or, Waiting for the Electrician’s Daughter
John Terpstra

2005 / Biography / Memoirs / $25.95 CAN
9781554470112 / Trade paper / 144 pp
John Terpstra

2003 / Poetry / $18.95 CAN
9781894031738 / Trade paper / 104 pp
Falling Into Place
John Terpstra

2002 / Nature / $25.95 CAN
9781894031608 / Trade paper / 320 pp
John Terpstra

2000 / Poetry / $2.95 CAN
9781894031325 / Pamphlet / 16 pp

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