John Pass, poet, teacher (born at Sheffield, England, 1947). Born in the United Kingdom, John Pass has lived in Canada since 1953. He was educated at the UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA, where he developed an interest in the English Romantics, and in the works of Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. Pass taught English in the Adult Basic Education program at Capilano University from 1975 to 2007, and was Visiting Poet at Utah's Brigham Young University in 1990. Pass also works in letterpress printing and book design. Together with his wife, the poet and novelist Theresa Kishkan, he runs High Ground Press, a SMALL PRESS. They reside near Sakinaw Lake, on British Columbia's Sunshine Coast.
John Pass has published a number of chapbooks and full collections of POETRY. Among them are Taking Place (1971); Port of Entry (1975); There Go the Cars (1979); An Arbitrary Dictionary (1984) and crawlspace (2011), which won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize for 2012. Arguably, his central achievement is At Large, a quartet of collections comprised of: The Hour's Acropolis (1991), which was shortlisted for the 1993 Livesay Poetry Prize; Radical Innocence (1994), from which the poem "Reprieve for the Body" won second prize in the LEAGUE OF CANADIAN POETS' National Poetry Contest of 1994; Water Stair (2000), shortlisted for the 2000 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD for Poetry and the 2001 Livesay Poetry Award; and Stumbling in the Bloom (2005), which won the 2006 Governor General's Literary Award for Poetry. Pass' other awards include a 1988 Canada Poetry Prize, sponsored by Canada/India Village Aid, and a British Columbia Cultural Services Award in 1996.
Pass possesses a poetic voice that is at once colloquial and elevated, common speech intensified without losing its quiet precision of insight. He is keenly aware of the mystic resonances of natural processes and the human experience of these resonances. But Pass's voice is grounded in daily reality by work, history and family; his language presents an expansive vision of the antecedents that have shaped his society and its citizens. Radical Innocence presents Christian influences on the North American continent as it explores the environment shaped by those influences, and the environment that shapes the relationship between his son and himself: "so near, forsaken, so sullen with its losses/it won't come in for calling for the longest time," he writes in the aforementioned "Reprieve for the Body." Water Stair continues these meditations in a series of poems using the motif of rivers and streams to reflect on the interweaving of the historical presence of classical European culture into our modern lives.
In later poems, Pass has become more aware of the passage of time, and of being a more active part of the processes of which he writes than just being the voice of the poem. His style may be conversational and at times resigned, but a sly edginess expresses a determination to remain open to new wonders, even as he looks back on his life with the idea of conserving all in it that has come before. This is evident in "A New Footing" from his crawlspace collection: the poem's speaker "had in my head some weeks the imaginary line/square-rule timber framers work from in a beam's heartwood." Pass's work speaks of fortifying the structures of his life, renewing himself as he renews them.