Featured in this issue are the winners of our 2012 Open Season Awards, including “Apiculture,” the winning fiction piece by Erin Frances Fisher. A year after a mother deserts her family, her husband and two troubled daughters are struggling to cope with their loss while trying to maintain the family apiary. With gentle humour belying heart-rending scenes, this story is sweet as honey yet stings like a bee. In the drone of the yard my head became full of bees: how their queen can defect and how this happened to us once.
“Straw,” a chilling story by Mark Rogers, concerns troubled Leslie Troop, a boy with a girl’s name, who endures braces and bullies, and whose single mother makes ends meet in dubious ways. Leslie’s discovery of hidden guns and ammunition in his house coincides with his retreat into a world of fantasy, informed by the pop culture of Britain in the eighties. It’s everyone lined up on one side, and Leslie Troop standing alone.
In Steven Heighton’s masterful “OutTrip,” the very nature of reality is tested as Benjamin, a recovering addict on a survivalist trek in the “wilds above Osoyoos in a heat wave, parched and hungry” enters into a life-or-death struggle with the Fisher—a menacing character who may or may not be a product of Ben’s imagination. Being out here has changed everything. Your inner badlands have found their match and now inner and outer worlds conform, void to void—a strangely consoling balance.
The winner of the 2012 Open Season Award for creative nonfiction is Tik Maynard, for “Buy BENSTON.” Mirza, a Croatian basketball player whose father has been “detained” by secret police, hopes that his team’s sponsor, the wealthy owner of the Zagreb Tobacco Factory, can influence his father’s release. But Mirza discovers that player “perks” are not the same as political favours. At the mention of my family he frowns, but recovers quickly. Although he has taken me, an eighteen-year-old boy born with a Muslim name, on his team, the idea that he would help my family suddenly seems absurd.
In “Shriek,” an absorbing and layered personal essay by Madeline Sonik, the author recollects working in England when she was seventeen. Adjusting to raucous employers and their (hilariously) rude children, she was also left to puzzle over the unnerving shrieks heard on her street. Rumours of a captive leopard lead to ruminations on the possible connection between the 1970s fad for exotic pets and the subsequent mysterious slaughter of rural sheep. It would be several years before the hypothesis of exotic-animal dumping would be used to explain the strange and savage livestock killing on Exmoor….
The poetry in this issue rivals the spring blossoms. Twenty-two poets are represented, including 2012 Open Season Award for poetry winner, J. Mark Smith (“Landscape with petroleum plant and sewage treatment facility”). Other contributors are: Tammy Armstrong, Darren Bifford, Kate Edwards, Karen Enns, Ted Gilley, Susan Gillis, Carla Hartsfield, Daryl Hine, Jill McDonough, Maurice Mierau, Jordan Mounteer, Marilyn Gear Pilling, Kerry-Lee Powell, Medrie Purdham, David Reibetanz, Rachel Rose, Jean-Mark Sens, Russell Thornton, Matthew Tierney, Anne Pierson Wiese, and Patricia Young.
And for your further inspiration, a total of nine new Canadian books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are discussed in cogent reviews by Shane Rhodes, Tanya Lester, Chris Jennings, Sandra McIntyre, Susan Braley, Susan Olding, and Roger Knox.
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Dave Hill, Manager of Munro's Books answered a few of our questions about the fate of literary magazines in bookstores today.
Approximately how many literary magazines does Munro’s currently stock? Is this more or fewer than, say, ten years ago?
We carry approximately 50 literary magazines and many more than that if you include review and industry journals. Before we started carrying magazines in the nineties we carried journals such as The Malahat Review and PRISM International but only a few and mostly Canadian. There probably hasn’t been a significant change in the last ten years though.
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Describe your ideal poem. Does the subject matter? Where would its strengths lie?
My ideal poem is one that lingers. One that stays in my head for days, or longer. So I guess the question is, why does a poem linger? I think it’s partly to do with its rhythm, with the musicality and precision of the diction, the beauty with which something is phrased, with the freshness and emotional capacity of imagery—but it’s more than that, isn’t it? There’s something timeless about a good poem, something that captures the essences of the human consciousness, or the essence of a thing, or the thingness of a person. And then there’s another intangible element, one that you can talk about, but you can never really pin down. Not truly. Because in the act of pinning it down, you’ve tamed it, you’ve lost what it was that swept you up. I’m personally attracted to poetry that has a kind of rawness, that isn’t carved into an over-polished poetic gem—I want a bit of emotional leakage, or exposure, or wildness in there. I want evidence of craft and poetic control, and a simultaneous falling apart. The work I’ve been most enamored with this year is Joe Denham’s book-length poem Windstorm. I haven’t come across anything as emotionally charged and wild AND poetically honed, since discovering John Thompson’s Stilt Jack. There’s passion and abandon and fierce longing, in Windstorm, there’s duende. But there’s also amazing poetic craft: the first several pages are written in a wild terza rima, and there are a dozen or so “torn” sonnets that reflect their content perfectly. The form and content are so fused that you could be forgiven for missing the formal aspects. But I’m not necessarily a neo-formalist— I just want poetry that makes me go wow. Is that too much to ask?
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