The Quilliad Reviews: Bird Watching at the End of the World by Lisa Mangini

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The Poetry Parrot’s approval is unsurprising.

Bird Watching at the End of the World does not shy away from hard conversations. Lisa Mangini’s  collection presents the reader with a series of portraits, impressions, and preservations of self in the face of trauma, illness, and other sources of emotional upheaval. The book is at its best when confronting brutal things, such as the specifics of the horrifying reality of being sick. “This is Your Body Speaking” is a particularly strong series that speaks of the ways the body can break.

In places, I wished to see the explanations stripped away to allow me to see with more focus the precise, unforgiving depictions of specific moments, acts, and sights. Mangini is clearly capable of powerful, vivid imagery and strong descriptions of very particular subjects:

“Consider the time you were age six, on errands
with your mother: the lollipop from the bank
melting into one round sliver on your tongue,
the cardboard stick fraying from your spit.”

(From “My Subconscious Reminds Me Not to Be too Optimistic”)

“Between the feral and the house of god:
the original pinata.”

(From “The Fate of the Bee Hive Discovered in the Convent Walls”)

Those poems that don’t make full use of this ability can feel plain, more prosaic than poetic, especially as sound and rhythm are not always prioritized. Yet there are places where this style works. In some cases, Mangini embraces this and writes prose poetry, which works more often than not once the reader catches on to the ongoing narrative. The poems in general become stronger toward the middle and end of the book. And the titular poem is worth the wait.

Overall, while speaking unflinchingly of death,  Bird Watching at the End of the World becomes more poignant and more alive the further you delve into Mangini’s collection.

 

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The Quilliad Reviews: Awful Baby by Mary Lou Buschi

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You can find Awful Baby at http://www.redpainthill.com/#!mary-lou-buschi/skyvj. Image credit Red Paint Hill Press

Awful Baby is a dark book, but it would be flippant to simply call it sad. There is too much wit and craft here for that. This book is rich with strong images that shift between dreamy impressions and crisp, haunting memories. While these images are often quite specific, they draw the reader in. At times, reading this collection feels voyeuristic, as the speaker lets us in to her world, allowing us to see both her family’s love and their grief; at others, she holds back, allowing emotion to seep through the cracks in a seemingly calm and practical exterior.

Mary Lou Buschi has constructed a portrait of family life and childhood and used the powerful impressions made by both to explore the ways our upbringing and our identity intersect, as well as to explore the effects of loss. The normal becomes grotesque, both through the memories of pain experienced by the speaker’s family“To put up a tree means the family is well, happy”and through the surreal instructional poems such as “Today’s Objective,” “Purple Math,” and “Rounding.” Another such poem, “Beauty School,” shifts between practical advice (“Start at the temple, knead the skin with your index and middle fingers in a cross skating motion”) and eerie suggestions (“You will need to recant each bone before cutting her cuticles”). Whether she is examining our social rituals or showing us how our interpersonal memories form our sense of family (Tell me again about the time you shook me awake to make sure I was still breathing”, from “I hate and I love”), Buschi manages to both evoke emotion and offer psychological insight.

In “Mirror Box,” Buschi asks, “If a family is a body/how does the brain/deal with a missing limb?” This collection is a love letter and a study of how the parts of a family grow apart and together, and how our memories persist as we do, living with us whether we like it or not.

Coming Soon: We Have to Watch by Geoff Nilson

We’re excited to announce that work is under way on our first ever chapbook for The Quilliad Press. We will soon be publishing We Have to Watch by Geoff Nilson. We’re currently in the midst of layout decisions, editing, and cover design. Congratulations to Geoff, as well as to our talented runners-up, Larissa Kucharyshyn and Melinda Roy. We’ll be publishing poems by Larissa and Melinda in issue 7 of The Quilliad.

While you are waiting, check out Geoff’s website or order a copy of one of our back issues!

Sarah

Our Chapbook Call Ends Sunday Night!

Just a reminder to everyone that our chapbook call is nearing its end, but there’s still time! Send us your work before midnight on Sunday if you’d like you poetry or short fiction to be considered. See below for guidelines.

We’re looking for 10-20 pages of poetry and/or flash fiction from a Canadian writer who has never had a chapbook or full-length book published (self-published authors are exempt from this restriction, as this restriction is in place to allow emerging writers without publisher representation an opportunity to become a more active part of the Canadian literary scene). Previous Quilliad contributors are welcome to apply.

We will be paying a $50 honorarium to the selected writer as well as providing the author with 5 copies of their book. We will also consider poems/flash fiction pieces from the submitted manuscripts of 2 runners-up for issue 7 of The Quilliad. Publication in The Quilliad will be compensated with an honorarium and contributor copy.

To submit, send your writing to thequilliad@gmail.com by December 13, 2015.

The Quilliad Reviews: Oregon Pacific by Nancy Slavin

imageSlavin’s collection is a tribute to the coastits histories, day-to-day dramas, and the power of the ocean. Nature is powerful here because of its adaptability, despite our interventions (and even invasions). Waves overwhelm the hapless road in “After the Storm”, while in “Landowner”, mold and mildew bloom in the speaker’s office. Our domination of nature is questioned, both its wisdom and its truth, and the relationship between the natural world and civilization is investigated throughout the collection. This relationship shifts many times, but it remains the focus.

Ultimately, nature mostly knows best in Oregon Pacific. In “Cape Meares Lake”, human industry is valuable in relation to its harmony with nature“I know you are man made / but some good has come of that”, while “Blues for the Birds” compares the complexities (and, it seems, foolishness) of human society with the straightforward instincts of birds. In “Cape Lookout”, as in many other pieces throughout the collection, nature is the setting for a spiritual quest. The speaker is in an in-between space, “[her] soul / again at that time of dusk where shadow meets shape”, her internal spiritual world mingling with the physical world, just as the civil connects with the natural. The speaker “walks the whole trail” in more ways than one, her “trial by fire” an emotional and spiritual journey as well as a walk amongst the trees, until “an ember of sun burns the tops of the evergreens [ . . . ] for that one brief joyous moment.” As occurs elsewhere in Oregon Pacific, this joy belongs to her and the natural world around her. Nature’s many incarnations are characters in themselves, often imbued with some level of pathetic fallacy, engaging in varying ways with the speaker’s emotions. Nature is a constant referent for the speaker, even when she is at odds with the natural rhythms of the world: “I am at the end of a cycle, / though it is summer, a world within me / dies.”

The collection is unified by its subject matter, with both formal and freeverse poems sitting side-by-side. Slavin moves mostly effortlessly between forms, though some rhymes are slightly singsong. This intense focus on the coast and the humannature relationship can sometimes make the poems within the collection blur together. Yet this strict attention, when combined with Slavin’s eye for details and the precision of her language, also renders the flora, fauna, and landscape within her poems whole and real with fresh images and loving specificity. One of my favourite pieces in the collection, “Communiqué“, offers this depiction of crows taking flight: “The flap of wings taps in one dark / hearbeat against the pale white sky until / the birds splinter apart, like buckshot spent / in all directions.” “Urchins” provides a similar level of insight into the space between land and sea: “Urchins, anemone, starfish, and mussels / at low ebb wait, exposed. Scarlet tendrils, / mouths chartreuse, clustered in colonies / bound together.” Overall, the reader is left with a strong sense of place and the intensity of the impression that the North Oregon coast has left on the poet.

Sarah

Chapbook call

Following the success of our Kickstarter and our sixth issue of The Quilliad, it’s time for our first-ever chapbook submission call!

We’re looking for 10-20 pages of poetry and/or flash fiction from a Canadian writer who has never had a chapbook or full-length book published (self-published authors are exempt from this restriction, as this restriction is in place to allow emerging writers without publisher representation an opportunity to become a more active part of the Canadian literary scene). Previous Quilliad contributors are welcome to apply.

We will be paying a $50 honorarium to the selected writer as well as providing the author with 5 copies of their book. We will also consider poems from the submitted manuscripts of 2 runners-up for issue 7 of The Quilliad. Publication in The Quilliad will be compensated with an honorarium and contributor copy.

To submit, send your writing to thequilliad@gmail.com by December 13, 2015.

Kickstarter Success and the Future of The Quilliad Press!

Hello, readers!

I am excited to announce that our Kickstarter was a success, so you’ll be hearing a lot more from us! Thank you to everyone who backed us and shared our project link! We are so grateful.

Now that the Kickstarter is over, we have a lot to do. We’ll be sending out reward surveys, finalizing the lineup for issue 6, working on layout, writing poetry rewards, making Kickstarter reward chapbooks, and more! But we’re also taking some time to celebrate. If you’re in Toronto on Thursday, October 29, drop by Betty’s at 240 King Street East between 7:30 and 11 for readings, art on display, our book table, and good conversation. Our launch party is also a costumed event in honour of Halloween (also, to be honest, we are in favour of any opportunity to dress up). Follow the link for the Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/1501141953517791. $5 cover includes a copy of issue 6!

Speaking of issue 6, we’ve also picked a cover image! “The Light” is the work of Stephanie Kenzie, an illustrator whose work we’ve admired for years:

"The Light" by Stephanie Kenzie, cropped for the issue 6 coverBetween a successful Kickstarter for our press, the upcoming release of issue 6, our planned book reviews and artist profiles, the approaching launch of our online store (not to mention our current presence on store and library shelves in Toronto!) and our soon-to-be-announced chapbook submission call, 2015 is turning out to be a very busy–and wonderful–year for us.

Thanks for reading,
Sarah Varnam,
Editor-in-chief and founder of The Quilliad Press.

The Quilliad Press Kickstarter Reward Highlight: Issue 6

With our Kickstarter down to its last few hours (it ends on Tuesday at midnight EST!), we’re highlighting one of our most important rewards: copies of issue 6 of The Quilliad, to be released just in time for Halloween.

The Quilliad is a biannual Canadian journal of writing, art, and everything in-between. We believe in being open-minded and inclusive of different media and genres, and we care more about quality than form. For these reasons, our October issues are Halloween-inspired. We hold the writing and art to the same standards as usual (and we’re pretty picky), but we feature literary science fiction, apocalyptic fiction, magic realism, revised fairy tales, and poems about the undead, as well as seasonally appropriate and horror-inspired art and photography. Here are a few short excerpts from some of our early acceptances:

We also believe in creating a supportive community for our contributors and for other small presses, as well as writers and artists in general. For these reasons, we not only pay our contributors for their work but also post artist profiles and project spotlights, small press book reviews, and coverage of local artistic and literary events here on our blog. We will be adding another page to our website as well that will answer the question “Where are they now?” regarding past contributors to our journal. There, we’ll celebrate contributors’ post-Quilliad publications, exhibits, and other projects.

As of writing this blog post, we’re only 2% away from our funding goal, and every little bit helps. In addition to copies of The Quilliad, we’re offering personalised poetry on demand, art prints, and chapbooks to our backers. Check out our campaign at www.kickstarter.com/projects/1765917797/the-quilliad-press-and-issue-6.

Edit: We’ve reached our goal! Now we’re working on our stretch goals. So exciting!

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported us thus far.

—Sarah Varnam,
Editor-in-Chief and Founder of The Quilliad Press

More Early Acceptances!

logo roundOur second round of early acceptances revolves around folklore and fairy tales. Long-time supporter and contributor John Nyman graces us with poetry about vampirism and death that manages to be both chilling and free of cliché. Both Erica McKeen (a writer of poetry and fiction based in London, Ontario whose work has been published in This Dark Matter, Nom de Plume, and issues four and five of Occasus) and Ruth Daniell (a BC writer who won the 2014 Young Buck Poetry Prize with Contemporary Verse 2) have provided us with pieces that offer new and spooky perspectives on old tales, through both fiction and poetry.

We’re also excited to be including the artwork of Jill Davis LeBlanc, a New Brunswick artist who is the creator and illustrator of the anthology zine Hollow Round of Skull and the illustrator for The Legend of Hummel Park and Other Stories, currently an Amazon bestseller in the horror short stories category.

If you’re curious about our first round of early acceptances, you can check out our post about them here. If these stories, poems, and artwork sound interesting to you, you can purchase copies of our sixth issue through our Kickstarter, which will be running for only three more days! We’re also offering personal poetry on demand, chapbooks, and art prints to our backers. You can view our Kickstarter project page by following this link: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1765917797/the-quilliad-press-and-issue-6. By ordering through our Kickstarter, you’ll be supporting our efforts as a small press to publish and promote both new and established Canadian writers and artists. The Quilliad is a paying publication, and The Quilliad Press as a whole is dedicated to creating a strong literary and artistic community. Support us through Kickstarter and become part of that community!

Thanks for reading.

Sarah Varnam,
Editor-in-Chief and Founder of The Quilliad Press

 

Kickstarter Reward Highlight: Personal Poetry (or, Poetry on Demand)

12124443_10204175712867211_935740073_oWith 4 days to go on our Kickstarter, we’re highlighting one of our most popular rewards. This is, of course, our personalised poetry reward. We believe in having our backers become true patrons of the artsand what better way than to write something in their honour? If you select a reward that includes a personal poem, we will write you either a haiku or a glosa (depending on the reward level) on the topic of your choice. In the process of writing these poems for our Kickstarter backers, we’ve written about everything from books and pets to zombie Jesus and sports cars. And since our submissions editor, Steph, is currently teaching English abroad, many of the haiku rewards for our current crowdfunding campaign will be written in Japan and mailed to our backers on Japanese postcards!

We believe poetry can be for everyone; it just has to be presented with the right combination of form and content. With that in mind, we posted some of our previous Kickstarter haiku on post-its around the city on Random Acts of Poetry Day. The event was a lot of fun, and the organizers (Tweet Speak Poetry) even wrote about our contribution! We love writing as much as we love reading, so being able to do both as small press publishers is a real treat. Here are a few photos from the day:

As I’ve mentioned, we also write glosas for particularly generous backers, and one of our highest reward levels includes publication of the glosa we wrote in the issue that backer funded. Here’s a hockey glosa I wrote for Alex Wilson that appeared in issue 5 (I told you: we really do write about everything):

THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME
by Sarah Varnam, for Alex Wilson

And hearts will be glowing
when love ones are near.
It’s the most wonderful time. [ . . .]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Edward Pola & George Wyle

The ice is smooth and the night is young,
so let’s toast the game while the anthem’s sung.
We cling to our seats,
eyes glued to the screen,
as we take in heart-pounding scene after scene.
The ref’s whistle’s blowing
o’er the shouts of the crowd,
but no whistle’s enough to drown us out.
The Flames are growing.
And hearts will be glowing.

We’ve got Hudler and Bennett,
Monahan, Hiller, Wideman, and Ramo,
Stajan and Ferland, and
“Johnny Hockey” Gaudreau!
With Flames in our hearts,
we jeer and we cheer
for our team, for our players.
We joke, laugh and cry and
make mem’ries most dear
when loved ones are near.

My heart’s beating quick
with each flick of a stick,
with each smack of the puck.
A new journey begins
with each chance at a win.
Players in their prime
are scaling the stats.
They reach new heights
that are truly sublime.
It’s the most wonderful time.

The stakes are high,
and the pressure is on.
It’s the final test of
their brains and their brawn.
With ten minutes to go,
the ending is near.
We’ve got faith in our team
and their mission is clear.
We’re ready, with jerseys and beer!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

If you prefer spooky writing, especially during the Halloween season, you might prefer this poem written for long-time Kickstarter backer Paul Green:

ARCTIC ICE
by Sarah Varnam, for Paul Green

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
Robert W. Service

They get drunk ’round their fires,
stirring dark desires,
do men in the eerie Arctic night.
Their chilled blood boils,
and mad thoughts uncoil,
awoken by the whispers in the strange, cold night.
They don’t speak boldly of the things they’ve seen
’til they’re home, tired and old, but
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold.

For the wind breathes down the necks of their coats
and the air seems to press in close,
and when they try to sleep through the night,
they feel chill fingers under their clothes.
Ask the Inuit, ask the Alaskans
of the monsters on the ice, and you’ll be told
of Qalupalik, Keelut, and Qallupilluit,
the child-hunting Inuit troll.
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;

It’s said among the men to be a mercy
to burn the heads of men who’ve died near the pole,
for the dead do rise to join the ranks of staring eyes
that peek at you out of the cold.
For we’ve brought our own monsters from our old world;
our undead have travelled to the land without trees.
They’ve joined the men with the legs of dogs
and the deadly green women singing in the sea.
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see

Was a white man walking out alone with a corpse
almost begging to be eaten by Irraq in the dark.
All the tales tell us not to walk alone
’cross the Northern ice, lonely and stark.
But I trudged through the snow to a secluded place
to roast the body of an iced zombie.
I charge you to find a madder way
to set a man’s soul free
Than that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.

If you’d like us to write a poem for you (or you like literary and arts journals like The Quilliad, or art prints, or chapbooks), check out our Kickstarter and support small press publishing: www.kickstarter.com/projects/1765917797/the-quilliad-press-and-issue-6.

Sarah