“The Malahat Review is “a high quality, visually appealing literary quarterly which has earned the praise of notable literary figures throughout North America. It’s purpose is to publish and promote poetry and fiction of a very high standard, both Canadian and international. We are interested in various styles, lengths, and themes. The criterion is excellence.” – Poet’s Market. What you really need to know is this: 1) Our very own Dr. Ben Grossberg has been published in the Malahat and 2.) it’s a Canadian literary magazine.
So, for those unfamiliar with poetry and literary magazines, here’s a brief synopsis. Writers, especially poets are rarely fi nancially supported with their work. In order to print a book of poems, poets must fi rst get published in literary magazines. Poet’s Market is a book published yearly with submission information for every publication accepting them. The opening paragraph from Poet’s Market is unsurprisingly bland. They tend to be that way for all the magazines.
The winter issue for the Malahat Review is in our very own O.K. Library for your reading pleasure. I want to pause here to say that is column in not intended as a real critique but an encouragement to those members of our community who would like to read for pleasure but have little time to fi nd quality literature and read it. Poems and short stories are a great way to get a bit of reading in, take you mind off things and outside the bubble. I intend to help you out with a few recommendations.
The magazine opens with a story titled “Twentieth Century House” by Andrew Gray, a narrative in which the speaker, a mother of two agrees to be a part of some kind of TV show examining what life was like in the 1970’s. She and her two children must dress, eat, and act as if in the era, and live in a 1970’s house for three months. Underlying themes work their way in and out. While a fi ne story, the level of excitement is less than excessive. It’s a bit long if you’re looking for a page-turner. The second short story, “Rub al-Khali” by Anne Sanow, is even longer, but there is also much more going on. The story comes from a Sudanese grandmother’s perspective, relating memories of her family’s past to their dramatic present. If you can make it to the end you might shed a tear and feel good about it. The last story, “That Time in Palm Springs” by Michael Kenyon, may terrify. The speaker lives with his dying father, jobless and depressed. His wife is dead and he is horny and perhaps dying. Want to know what I’m doing after Antioch? Read it and cringe.
On to the poetry. Of course, there’s not a bad poem in the lot, but some are a little harder to come at than others. The ones I mention I recommend, unless otherwise stated. Sue Goyette’s poem “My Darkness, My Cherry Tree” could easily provide an hour of careful, enjoyable reading. Often with poetry, one must read the poem two or three times to start grasp the meaning. With “My Darkness, My Cherry Tree,” the theme is immediately accessible, but the subtleties might take another reading and thought before being recognized and enjoyed. Margo Button has two poems worth noting. The fi rst “No Trade-Ins Allowed” compares items she and her husband bought for her [potentially drug addicted] son. The second poem, “Sky Calling” describes the fl ight of the albatross in breathtaking couplets, ending on a romantic note. The poem is, of course, on the ‘lighter side.’
William Bedford’s poem, “Poem for Verlaine” is a poem to a malicious parrot who threatens the speaker in his dreams. Of course there’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to ruin it. I’ll tell you it’s an easy, enjoyable read and not without meaning. Barry Dempster, who is noted on the cover, has three poems in this issue, at least two of which this reader greatly enjoyed, often mixing humor into verse that would otherwise be spiritual or romantic. The resulting poems are well worth any reader’s time, one of which is transcribed for your enjoyment.
While the entire magazine is full of great work, I don’t have the space to write on everything. This is the end of this week’s column. I hope you enjoy the poem included and maybe even make it over the O.K. Library for a quick lit. read. The literary magazines are located to the right and back of the main desk. Ask if you can’t find them, they are treasures.
for Emilio Aceti
He says catastrophe, what we need
in order to reassess our lives.
His fingers are up my kitchen light socket
as he speaks, almost eureka, his spine
one spark away from a lit Christmas tree.
I’ve always admired handymen, their
doable lingo, their fearlessness
in the face of deconstruction. Lose a leg
and learn to hop, the best damn hopper
in the land. Fall apart and put yourself
back together, tighter, with more tilt.
He wields his Phillips like a magic wand:
let there be shock upon shock.
He wants to fix me, up to his wrist
in my messy chest, tapping, turning.
If only my heart could be properly tamped,
a few illusions siphoned out. Or
a strut replaced, some ballast, maybe
an extra screw or two. He wants me
functioning, happiness engaged in its
piston push and pull. And while he’s at it
give my brain a thorough scrape, wire brush
the spark plugs, oil the blades, get some
power thoughts flowing through. It wouldn’t be
the worst thing if I tumbled down the back stairs,
rearranged some vrooms. here, put my finger
in the socket, salvation’s bright kaboom.
He leaves discouraged at how my depression
clings, phones later to let me know
he isn’t giving up, even if it
takes a nail gun or a Nazi
pair of pliers. His tenacity
is all I can think of as I stand
for hours in the kitchen, fl icking
the fi xed light on and off. Light and dark,
or is it dark and light? Which way’s which?
has always been a fumble, me with my
two left hands. It’s all a matter of
perception, whether I’m losing or
surrendering to grace, dying or
learning how to live again. Later,
I’ll hold a new light bulb between my palms
like a phoenix egg, twist it into flame.