The 5th Season


97 pages
ISBN 0-920428-87-8





Translated by D.G. Jones
Reviewed by Alan Thomas

Alan Thomas is a professor of English at the University of Toronto.


Paul-Marie Lapointe, a leading Quebecois poet, is also a journalist and the director of news and public affairs for Radio-Canada. Curiously, the voice of fact and opinion is largely absent from his poetry which works mainly by creating a world of ecstatic metaphor well above the paper-strewn floors of newsrooms. The audacity of such poetry of feeling without concrete reference explains the astonished reception which D.G. Jones, the translator, tells us met Lapointe’s first book of poems when it arrived with “the violence of the spring break-up” upon the Quebec literary scene in 1948.

This book contains selections from that first work, The Virgin Burned, and from four subsequent volumes, with, in addition, a suite of more recent poems, The Red Mouth, which are based on Egyptian myth. These particular poems are extraordinary and brilliant evocations of the female principle in different aspects, all here discovered in the body of Nut, the goddess whose body forms the sky. Eros is plainly the motor of this poetry, as D.G. Jones suggests in his very useful introduction; Lapointe’s poems characteristically express the rhapsodies and pains of desire. It is not a surprise to find Rimbaud noted as one of Lapointe’s poetic mentors. Some non-characteristic poems, such as “ICBM,” touch upon the public world, but here too, Lapointe creates in his imagery a feel for the juicy taste of life rather than simply declaiming against its destruction.

D.G. Jones, the translator, is himself a poet and a literary critic whose sympathies are thoroughly in line with Lapointe, whom he has translated before. There has been no edition of Lapointe’s collected poetry available in English for some years and this volume must be regarded as essential for any collection of Canadian poetry which hopes to cover Quebec. It is a pity, however, that this is not a bilingual edition.


Lapointe, Paul-Marie, “The 5th Season,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 24, 2024,