#TPQ5: JASON O’TOOLE

Say Pardon by David Ignatow, Published by Wesleyan University Press, 1961

“I have a child in limbo” Ignatow writes of his son’s struggle with mental illness. These are poems striving to make sense of the senseless, to scale the insurmountable and maybe find a kind of faith.

The Shadow-Eater by Benjamin DeCasseres, 1915 (Reprinted in Imp, published by Underworld Amusements)

In blasphemous verse that is sicker and more venomous than Baudelaire, DeCasseres boasts “I am weaving a shroud for a god that I hate.” Mostly unknown today, DeCasseres was in his time described by The New York Times as “perhaps the one living wonder of the literary world.”

Neighbors of Yesterday by Jeanne Robert Foster published by Sherman, 1916

Jeanne Robert Foster’s poetry has been snubbed by the accepted cannon, which is unacceptable. Through dramatic monologue, Foster depicts the vanishing Adirondacks of her childhood without the lens of nostalgia.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac published by Viking Press, 1957.

If you have not yet read the “original scroll” do so at your earliest convenience. It’s nothing less than an epic poem told through Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose,” recording postwar America’s frenzied rhythms and the fast-burning lives of those left out of a nation’s new found peace and prosperity.

A Shropshire Lad by A.E. Housman published 1896.

When I discovered this book of lyrical poems, as a mopey adolescent, it seemed to be speaking directly to me. Housman is said to have hated this book, and many have parodied it, yet it brought me to poetry and its themes of war, death, and heartbreak are timeless.


Jason O’Toole is an Andover, MA based poet and author of Spear of Stars (2018) and Soulless Heavens (2019) whose work has been described as “robustly American…like Kerouac and Whitman.” His poems have recently appeared in Nixes Mate Review, The Sciblerus, Saving Daylight, and a number of anthologies. He holds a BA from Eugene Lang College where he was mentored by poet Stanley Diamond, and an MBA from St. Joseph’s College of Maine. He performs and records spoken word with musicians Alec K. Redfearn, and Herr Lounge Corps. “

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