Self-Portrait Embracing a Fabulous Beast By Jim Nason

From the first poem, “Ode to Federico García Lorca,” to the last, “Soul” (an ode to Greg Louganis structured as a ghazal, a form Lorca made his own), the political intent of this collection is clear. In Self-Portrait Embracing a Fabulous Beast (Frontenac House, 2023), Nason returns to the concerns and motifs that drive his entire oeuvre: class, love, sensuality, and loss; an intimate awareness of the beauty and tenderness of the male body, and a careful reading of works of art and literature. Death and loss feature prominently (as it has in some of his previous writing), but there is a sense of acceptance in these poems that comes from deep within, and that feels fresh.

“This is a mature collection that deserves to be read slowly, allowing time to savour lines from almost every poem.”

This is a mature collection that deserves to be read slowly, allowing time to savour lines from almost every poem. Nason’s lines are taught, loaded. He regulates the pace of each line with careful punctuation and precise word choices, building to inevitable endings. The intimacy in the Honey and Salt section took my breath away. I sensed a poet in tune with their body and with a wonderful ability to transform the erotic into art. When Nason writes about people like Miss Rose (“Flowers for Miss Rose”) and Greg Louganis (“Soul”), he is at his best. These poems are deeply personal yet vibrate with wider political energy. He cares about these people and the inspiration they have provided to him and many others.

Read Self-Portrait Embracing a Fabulous Beast slowly and stay alert: there are lines reminiscent of Dylan Thomas; Rilke and Lorca surface in the way images are structured and often in the forms he casts the poems in. Images call up artworks old and new. Many of the poems are set indoors, but always with a window into the outside world, or contain a reflective surface that casts the gaze back on the subject, and the reader. This book was a joy to read and to engage with.

Jim Nason is the author of seven previous volumes of poetry, a short story collection, and three novels. He has been a finalist for the CBC Literary Award in both the fiction and poetry categories. His poetry book Rooster, Dog, Crow was Shortlisted for the 2019 Raymond Souster Award, and his poems have been included in anthologies across Canada, including The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2008, 2010, and 2014.

  • ISBN: 9781989466513
  • Page count: 80
  • Publisher: Frontenac House, 2023

Peter Midgley is a bilingual writer and editor from Edmonton. Over the course of thirty years, he has worked as a freelance editor, festival director, university lecturer, managing editor, acquisitions editor, clerk of court, bartender, actor, janitor, and door-to-door salesman. This experience has given him enough material for more than a dozen books. His latest book, let us not think of them as barbarians (NeWest Press), was shortlisted for the Stephan G. Stephansson Award in 2019.