top of page

Building on River

by Jean Van Loon

Building on River



This narrative in verse builds on known facts to imagine the life of John Rudolphus Booth, who 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. The poems speak in varied voices of Booth 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.

Price: $18.00


Publication Date: April 28, 2018

ISBN: 9781770865167

Format: Trade Paperback
Size: 5.5" x 8.5"


POE011000 POETRY / Canadian

POE023040 POETRY / Subjects & Themes / Places

POE024000 POETRY / Women Authors

Shortlisted, 2019 Ottawa Book Awards


“While each of van Loon’s poems rests light on the page, collectively they carry great weight, conjuring the march of John Rudolphus Booth from restless, Lower Canada farm boy to international lumber tycoon. A carefully researched, richly imagined, finely written, and masterfully constructed collection that not only tells the story of Booth himself, but that of a river, an industry, an era, and the emergence of Ottawa as our young country’s new capital. An impressive and ultimately moving literary feat. Bravo!”

— Jury Citation, Ottawa Book Awards

“Jean Van Loon has reinterpreted, rendered if you like, biography, extensive research, heresay and conjecture, all of it into a timeless tapestry.  This brocade plays out, almost seamlessly, in the mind's eye, as though the reader were watching a movie. Van Loon is cinematic.”

— Today's Book of Poetry


Building on River is full of lyrical moments and metaphor.”

— Patrick Langston, Artsfile

Van Loon’s musical ear drew me into the narrative fast ...

— Catherine Owen, Marrow Reviews

bottom of page