Sean Johnston
   
 

Sean Johnston is the author of Listen All You Bullets (Gaspereau, 2013), The Ditch Was Lit Like This (Thistledown, 2011), All This Town Remembers (Gaspereau, 2006), and A Day Does Not Go By (Nightwood, 2002), which won the 2003 ReLit Award for short fiction. Johnston lives in Kelowna, BC, where he co-edits Ryga: A Journal of Provocations, and teaches at Okanagan College.

 


BOOKS

 

 

 

SHORT FICTION

144 pages / paper

Available in the US
World Rights Available


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REVIEWS

ISBN: 978-1-927068-92-2
List Price: $18.95

Sean Johnston

In an inviting and challenging series of fictions, Sean Johnston’s We Don’t Listen To Them will leave readers puzzling while they smile at the acrobatics of his words and techniques. Some of Johnston’s stories border on “flash fiction” where incidents rather than an actual narrative drive the story. In the opening piece “How Blue” a boy is caught in the vortex of his father who drinks, his mother who condones, and a church representative who reforms. There is no plot, just Ronnie eating his purple ice cream and thinking his way through the maze.

Several stories, particularly “Whose Origins Escaped Him” and “We Don’t Celebrate That”, feature metafiction that explores writing about writing. In the former, elaborate footnotes delineate the characters and their actions, explaining why the story is unfolding the way it is and why the writer has chosen to do this. In the later story “We Don’t Celebrate That”, the narrator, a writer, explains how rules can be absurdly imposed on writers in a futile attempt to govern the writing process.

At various junctures in the collection Johnston employs devices that adjust his writing to be focused with the lens of metafiction. Shifts in narrative, jumps in time, intrusions into the narrative tension are all common here. But so too is pathos, as seen in the family dilemma of a recovering alcoholic in the story “We All Considered This”. And we do find compassion in the son-in-law who holds sympathy and kindness for his father-in-law afflicted with Alzheimer’s in “You Didn’t Have to Tell Him”, and share the weighted sadness of the husband dressing his dead wife for the funeral in “He Hasn’t Been to the Bank in Weeks”.

While the world will turn upside down in Johnston’s stories, and the logic and reality will be violated, and a bank teller will hand a patron his bank robber note, it is fiction that also ebbs and flows with human struggle, that is recognizable and relatable and, despite the challenges and uncertainties placed in the reader’s path, there is always a way to see more clearly than we think we do.

  • Long-Shortlisted for the 2015 ReLit Award: Short Fiction

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poetry

96 pages / paper

Available in the US
World Rights Available

REVIEWS

ISBN: 978-1-897235-94-2
List Price: $17.95

Sean Johnston

 “Poetry is the closest thing to silence, which alone on earth is as close as we can get to heaven.” — from “The Ditch Was Lit Like This”

In order to place themselves in their art, poets must return to their roots. This is Sean Johnston’s return to the roots – ancestral and poetic — that have shaped his language and his consciousness. Structured in five sections, the work interplays the convergence of memory and personal history. Although such a pattern is familiar ground in the world of poetry, Johnston’s movements to establish roots through his use of the anecdotal, unexpected, and profound are both wise and revealing. We are all invited to that universal moment where “there is always a man with a guitar/ somewhere/ and the response is either love returned or love withheld – that is, of course, if something has been risked.”


As with his prose, Johnston’s poetry strives for a kind of minimalism in which the written word leads the reader to discovery, rather than by pushing a didactic discovery of something he deems to be important. The images, lines, and to some extent, the subject matter establish trigger points for involvement. The line structures and breaks are as much about the poetic rhythm as they are about this kind of triggering where the reader is signalled that the meaning may be changed or altered in the coming line. There are significant patterns of line development within the work – some relying on prosaic conventions, others using a more traditional compact pace and meaning and forms such as gazhal or those familiar free verse patterns with short stanzas.

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