Knister, Raymond

Canada, (1899-1932)


  1. For Danny whistling slowly
  2. “Down in Tennessee”
  3. A fat white shoat by the trough
  4. Lifts his snout a moment to hear,
  5. Among the guzzling and slavering comrades,
  6. Squeezing and forcing:
  7. And begins to feed again.
  8. Whenever the certain note comes
  9. He will raise his jaws
  10. With his unturning eyes,
  11. Then lean again to scoop up the swill.

Raymond Knister. Windfalls for Cider: The poems of Ray Knister, Joy Kuropatwa editor. Windsor, ON: Black Moss (1983).

Editor’s Note:

Only once or twice does Knister speak explicitly about the problems of poetic expression and the discrepancy between the felt experience and what eventually finds its way on to the page.

Birds and flowers and dreams are real as sweating men and swilling pigs. But the feeling about them is not always so real, any more, when it gets into words.

He suggests in the section above from the foreword he originally intended for his selected poems, Windfall for Cider, that poetry should attempt to set the world before people, even though the poet recognizes the essential separation between emotion and actual expression.

the The Old Futility of Art – Knister’s Poetry by Peter Stevens

About the Poet:

John Raymond Knister (1899-1932), Canadian poet, novelist, short story writer, columnist, editor and reviewer. Knister became associate editor of The Midland in 1923. He contributed many short stories and poems to The Midland, This Quarter (Paris) and Transition, along with other American and Canadian avant-garde magazines.

Knister was also the editor of Canadian Short Stories (1928), the first anthology of Canadian short fiction and the author of White Narcissus (1929) and My Star Predominant (1934), a novel about the life of the poet John Keats. Collected Poems was published posthumously in 1949.

He was a practitioner of the poetic school known as imagism. Imagist poetry is a literary movement launched by Canadian, U.S. and British poets early in the 20th century and pledging the use of free verse, common speech patterns, and clear concrete images as a reaction to Victorian sentimentalism. As such, Knister favored spare language in his poetry, and many of his works evoke rural themes, often depicting life in Southwestern Ontario in the late 1910s and early 20s.

In Collected Poems, Canadian poet Dorothy Livesay has claimed that “Knister seemed to epitomize the struggle of a generation” of writers wanting to bring Canadian poetry into the Twentieth Century. [DES-06/14]

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