Jean Van Loon: Building on River

An upstart from Lower Canada’s Shefford Township, John Rudolphus Booth arrived in roughhouse Bytown in the early 1850s with a wife, a child, and carpenter’s tools bought on credit. In the growing new capital of Canada, he built a storied empire on the river power and forests of the Ottawa Valley. Weaving conjecture with scant known facts, Jean Van Loon has created a verse narrative imagining his life. The poems speak in varied voices – of J. R. himself, family members, business associates, employees, visiting royalty and tavern wags – collectively evoking the man, the place, and the times with drama, insight, and vivid sensory detail.