Algonquin Elegy and Tom
Thomson in the News
ALGONQUIN ELEGY WINS READER'S CHOICE AWARD FROM PUBLISHER
Publisher iUniverse has designated Algonquin Elegy Tom Thomson's Last Spring as a
winner of its coveted Reader's Choice Award based on exceptional sales. Less than 10
percent of books published by iUniverse achieve this designation.
"Thanks to all of my readers and friends," said author Neil J. Lehto.
POETRY BOOK, TOM THOMSON IN PURGATORY WINS BOOK CRITICS AWARD
Tom Thomson in Purgatory by Troy Jollimore is the 2007 winner of the National Book
Critics Circle Award for Poetry.
It is a remarkable little book. Its central character is Tom Thomson who, over the course
of 42 linked sonnets, emerges as a sadly comic sort of everyman, one whose
anecdotes, disappointments, and moments of vivid epiphany we follow with empathy
and delight. Jollimore writes a mean rhythmic line, surprising us with subtle shifts in
meter, surprising rhyme, and skillful grammatical inversions. It's hard not to hear in his
work the influence of the many American voices that populate John Berryman's Dream
Songs. Hard, also, not to recognize in it the wry intelligence and graceful humanity of the
best of Stevie Smith.
At the moment, Jollimore is on leave from his regular job as a professor of philosophy
at California State University at Chico. Now a Fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center,
he's working on a philosophical book called The Nature of Loyalty. Earlier today, he
agreed to answer a few questions about his work:
Kevin Prufer of the NBCC interviewed Jollimore. He asked: Who is Tom Thomson and
where did he come from?
Troy Jollimore: Well, he's not me. But every thought of his is a thought I have had. He's a
projection of certain aspects of myself. Or a sheet of photographic paper on which
various aspects of the world he moves through are registered. Or a kind of Emersonian
subject, fully embracing the impulses and urges of each moment while rejecting the
consistency that Emerson said is "the hobgoblin of little minds." I suppose it depends
on when you ask me.
I first put a character named 'Tom Thomson' in a poem called "Trout Quintet." There, he
was a semi-mythical figure who has some unspecified relation to the Canadian
landscape painter, Tom Thomson, the presiding spirit over the group of painters later
known as the Group of Seven (though he died before they officially formed). His death
occurred under somewhat mysterious circumstances, and he has come to serve as an
iconic figure in the Canadian imagination -- something less than a god but decidedly
more than a mere mortal, if I may put it that way.
Later, when I came to write the Tom Thomson in Purgatory sequence, I was having
some trouble bringing it together (in its initial stages it was largely composed of
leftovers, poetic materials that had been excised from other poems or were never
brought to completion and were simply lying about the workshop). Then, at a certain
point my editor offhandedly remarked, with respect to "Trout Quintet," that he felt like
Tom Thomson's story was not done. I realized at that moment that what the sonnet
sequence lacked was a central consciousness to organize it, and that I could name that
consciousness Tom Thomson. Of course it makes little sense, given that the character
is very different from that in "Trout Quintet," and any relation to the Canadian painter is
gone. But only Canadians know who the historical Tom Thomson is, so they tend to be
the only ones who are concerned
THOMSON SKETCHES SELL FOR $1 MILLION EACH
Two Tom Thomson sketches sold for $1,035,000 at auction on May 23, 2007 in
Vancouver at Heffel's. It was the highest price ever paid for one of Thomson's small 8
1/2 by 10 1/2 oil painting on wood panel.
One of the record breakers is Summer Clouds, is the original of a copy I purchased at
the Portage Store on my first canoe trip to Ontario's Algonquin Provincial Park. The
reproduction of the painting hangs on the wall near to me in my Marlette, Michigan,
A description of my introduction to Tom Thomson artwork begins my non-fiction novel,
Algonquin Elegy: Tom Thomson's Last Spring, which tells the true story of Canada's
greatest artists, Tom Thomson. He painted sixty-two landscapes on small wood
panels during the last spring of his life -- a daily record of the season's change in
during the winter and spring in 1917.
Summer Clouds was dated to 1916 by his family and Dr. James M. MacCallum, M.D.,
Tom's art patron, dealer and friend following his death. Summer Clouds carries an
estate stamp, a small palette with the initials "TT" and 1917 devised as a mark of
authenticity and used on sketches eventually recovered by his family and those he left
in his studio in Toronto.
All of sixty-two panels from the last Spring and all of his personal property were
missing upon his drowning in the park's Canoe Lake on July 8, 1917. Thomson's
body was not recovered until eight days later. It was hastily examined by a vacationing
physician, buried the next day and, then, hastily exhumed a day later by his brother,
George Thomson. The sealed-steel casket was reburied on July 21, 1917, in the
family plot in Leith, Ontario. In 1956, his grave site at Canoe Lake was dug up and a
skeleton found. Medical investigation found that the body was not that of Tom
Thomson but a native Indian.
Algonquin Elegy is the story of Tom Thomson's last spring. National columnist Roy
MacGregor of the Globe & Mail, said it is the most thorough ever investigated,
documented and reported account of Thomson's last days and drowning. Readers in
the United States know nothing about this icon of Canadian culture. However, his
painting hang in the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, McMichael
Canadian Art Collection and Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery and also appear
everywhere across the country on stamps, posters and calendars. School children
across Canada are routinely offered his works as the high point of Canadian art, an
historic anchor that has tied the country to its sense of strong sense northernness.