OffSIDE A Black Moss Press E- Magazine September 2011
OffSIDE September 2011
Contents: New at Black Moss Press The Pillow Books 4 Top Shelf Katie West 10 Poetry and Prose Hollie Adams 20 Robert Earl Stewart 23 Jordan Turner 30 Gillian Sze 32
OffSIDE is: Publisher: Marty Gervais Managing Editor: Kate Hargreaves Designer: Chris Andrechek
OffSIDE is an e-magazine operated by BLACK MOSS PRESS, a Canadian publishing house that has been in operation for more than 40 years. We publish poetry, fiction, non-fiction and photography. Many of our books have won national and international awards. Send submissions for OffSIDE to email@example.com Black Moss Press 2450 Byng Road Windsor, Ontario, Canada N8W 3E8 Produced by the Black Moss Press editorial team in conjunction with the English Department at the University of Windsor.
Hello OffSIDE readers, Happy September! It has been an incredibly hot and sticky summer in Windsor, and we here at OffSIDE have taken some time out between ice baths and sweltering on our respective couches to make some major changes to Black Moss Press’ only e-magazine. Our former managing editor and now designer Chris Andrechek has overhauled the website and format of OffSIDE so you can now easily access all of the great content in both a printable .pdf format and a flash format. For those of you who, like me, enjoy holding onto the vestiges of print culture, you can even turn the pages with your mouse! With Chris now dedicating his energy to designing OffSIDE, we have had some staffing changes as well. I am excited to follow up on the fantastic job that Chris has done with the magazine since its inception and take OffSIDE in many new directions as well. OffSIDE is all about featuring both established and up-and-coming writers and photographers, and this issue has a bit of everything. In this issue you can find the poetry of Montreal’s Gillian Sze, Vancouver transplant to Windsor Jordan Turner, and Calgary’s Kellie Chouinard and Hollie Adams, alongside the moving photography and writing of Toronto’s Katie West. We also have the writing of acclaimed poet Robert Earl Stewart, who recently released his second book Campfire Radio Rhapsody with Mansfield Press, and a feature on Karen Mulhallen, editor of Descant, who launches her latest book The Pillow Books with Black Moss this Fall. I hope you enjoy the September issue of OffSIDE as much as I did compiling it. OffSIDE is always interested in your feedback, so if you have an opinion or some thoughts you’d like to share, feel free to send us an email at offsidezine@gmail. com, and remember to stay tuned to offsidezine.com for the next issue, coming this November. All the best, kate hargreaves Managing Editor
New at Black Moss Press erosion of private space Shonagon’s balance of the private and the public seemed to speak to our own concerns O: The Pillow Books covers a lot of territory, geographically. How important is place to the text?
The Pillow Books Karen Mulhallen Inspired by The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, the 11th century musings by a lady to the Japanese Empress Consort Teishi, Karen Mulhallen’s poetry collection The Pillow Books merges the deeply personal with linguistic precision. Mulhallen draws not only from this Japanese work, but from the landscape of locations around the world, from the Toronto Islands all the way to Bosnia and Herzogovina, Hungary, Turkey, and Italy.
OffSIDE had the chance to ask Karen Mulhallen about The Pillow Books, her writing process, and what she has on the horizon. OffSIDE: How did you get started writing The Pillow Books? Karen Mulhallen: I began the literal writing of the book in 2006 on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. However I had been reading Sei Shonagon the Japanese court lady with whom my text converses for several years. I was fascinated by the difference between Shonagon and the much more famous Lady Murasaki. In particular I liked the way Shonagon purported to be telling the truth to herself while obviously conscious of an audience for her views on manners and love. After all a pillow book is a secret book, one you keep under your pillow, but she is always telling us what she thinks so she is imagining someone hearing her views on everything. In an era where we have the major 4
KM: I think of myself as a landscape poet, in the very old fashioned sense of someone rooted in place and writing from place—a regional writer, if you like. So the place is everything in these poems. Also, like my contemporaries I am deeply concerned with the environment and our relation to it. In terms of specific places which have had a deep impact on me, and which for me are spiritual homes as well as actual places, there is Toronto Island, and the city of Istanbul and its dervishes—the dervish is the core image in my book— and the city of Venice because like many poets I am drawn to the sea and to boats and to light on water. O: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? KM: I tend to write in my head most of the time and by the time I pick up a pen or a pencil or a computer I am pretty far along in a book. I make notes anywhere—scraps of paper, backs of bills, scraps of newspaper and I gather all the bits up and work through the scrap heaps as I construct my first draft and then sift again and again. I rewrite almost continuously, but sometimes I put poems away for years and years. In The Pillow Books for example there is a poem, which I had pulled from my book ‘War Surgery’ in 1994. And that poem—I won’t tell you which one— was actually written, or at least a version of it was written in 1974! O:How do you beat writer’s block? KM: I don’t have writer’s block—I am always writing something. If something isn’t in front of me, I am working on something else. O:What other authors or works did you draw influence from for The Pillow Books? 5
KM: I think in this book my biggest debts—aside from the obvious quotations from Sei Shonagon — are to Ezra Pound—not all of Pound but ‘The River Merchant’s Wife’ and also ‘The Cantos.’ O:How do you feel that your experience as an editor impacts how you approach writing? KM: I think being an editor has made me unafraid of changing texts or moving material around. But poetry is a musical form and so in some ways editing prose, which is what I do a lot of the time, has little to do with writing poetry. Ferlinghetti once said that most contemporary poetry is not poetry at all, but prose with the geography of poetry. I think he is right—and that is why I say poetry is music and as a poet I am always counting counting the beats, checking the cadence. I try to do this with my own prose to some degree, but I rarely as an editor tinker too much with a writer’s syntax. O:What projects are you currently working on? KM: I am pretty deeply into a new poetry book with the working title of Domestic Love. It is about our relationship to domestic animals, cats, dogs etc. The history of visual art is so rich in human interactions with their pets. And there are some wonderful prose and poetry books, which also explore this. I thought, having written so many things, which include pets, it was time to devote an entire book to our relationship with these creatures with whom we are so privileged to share our lives. Also my ongoing back burner project—which often comes to the front burner—is a big book on a series of watercolours by the British poet and painter William Blake. I keep putting this Blake book aside because I am afraid it will take up a huge amount of time if I really give myself over to it right now! I am always working on something for Descant magazine as well—we have just sent our ‘Sicily’ issue, “Sicily, Land of Forgotten Dreams” to the press, but since Descant is a quarterly we are always in production. We also run a large and ever expanding literacy and writers in the schools program through Descant—very busy there as well. 6
Those in the Windsor area can catch Karen Mulhallen’s launch for The Pillow Books this November as part of BookFest Windsor, taking place at the Art Gallery of Windsor November 3-5, 2011. Keep an eye on BookfestWindsor. com for more details and schedules. From The Pillow Books (Black Moss Press, Fall 2011)
THE OTHER WIFE’S CLOSET In the fall he asked me to tell him where was the best, the very best place to buy women’s clothing. I was so excited. Winter came. Spring came. Summer came. Again, it was fall— I did not ask to see the Other Wife’s closet. Now, I thought, he will buy me a veil for my bridal hair, some rings to plight our troth; it has been two years of waiting. I am the Daylight Wife.
And I was thinking about the story you told me of the man who came looking for your cousin-brother while you were marking papers on your verandah in Poona, for this is what we do, it is our job, and you said his bungalow is just over there, and then he returned and he said he is not there and you said he must be at the university then, and he said no he is not, and so you said well he will have to pass by here, so just sit here on my verandah and wait, and you continued to mark papers, and after an hour or so indeed your friend passed by, and after they had both gone on you remembered that a man seeking his cousin-brother who was also your cousin-brother was also your cousinbrother and so you ought to have at least offered tea.
Astrolabe: An ancient astronomical computer for determining time and the position of the sun and the stars.
The next day you mentioned this to your cousin-brother Marathi, and he said well he is an untouchable, and you then thought that that man was on my verandah and I did not offer tea and he must have thought it was because he was untouchable and I did not, and I have felt guilty now for thirty years.
Sextant: An instrument used by mariners to measure the altitude of the sun in order to determine latitude and longitude at sea. Compass: An instrument for determining direction by means of a needle pointing to the magnetic north. Dream: Thoughts, feelings or pictures experienced or seen during sleep; something imagined; daydream. Wishbone: A clavical or collar bone connecting the shoulders of a chicken, with an opening so that the digestive and respiratory tracts can pass into the chickenâ€™s body. This bone resembles a slingshot and is used for making wishes. Each person holds an end of the bone and pulls and the person who gets the larger part gets to have a wish come true. If the wishbone breaks evenly, both parties get their wishes. Wishes must always be kept secret in order to come true. In some places, the wishbone is called a merry thought. Like the horseshoe and the four leaf clover, it is a lucky charm, especially when it has been dried for three days before it is used for conjuring. Kiss: Touching with the lips in a caress or greeting; a slight touch; a kind of candy.
Katie West I am scared because I am not taking pictures of models, I am not using studio lighting, I am not developing a theme with my photographs, I am not creating fashion editorials, I am not trying to make money, and all around me I see photographers that are telling me that because I’m not doing any of those things, I’m doing it wrong. They don’t come right out and say it—and I’m sure they never would—but it’s the expectation I put on myself based on their words and their actions that lead me to believe I’m somehow doing it wrong.
the permission to do what we want to do in our own way. But lately I’ve come to realize that this is perhaps the most important thing we can learn as artists and as people. As a person, I am a thin, white, cisgendered woman whom most would consider within the societally-accepted definition of “pretty.” To most people, this means I’m doing it right. Because, oh yeah, there is an acceptable way to be a woman, and if you’re gay, trans, queer, a person of colour, fat, or have a disability, you’re doing it wrong. No one’s going to come right out and say it (here’s hoping), but through the societal acceptance of body shaming, the ingrained existence of a myriad of -isms, and the way othered bodies continually get the short end of the stick, it’s just the way it is.
I am being a photographer wrongly?
And this is completely fucking illogical.
I know that can’t be true. I know there isn’t just one acceptable way to be a photographer, or a writer, or any sort of artist. But even after knowing this, it is a very hard thing to just do it anyway. It is a difficult thing to be your own nodding head of approval. It can be challenging to give ourselves
It should be our duty as compassionate human beings to spread the word of just how illogical the idea of an “acceptable woman” truly is. I am scared to be a photographer because I don’t feel like I’m doing the things other photographers tell me I should be doing, but imagine how it feels for a queer black woman who doesn’t feel she can do the things that society is telling her she should be doing? She can’t be a white, cisgendered woman and no advertising company, or television show, or movie critic, or school teacher, or employer, or newspaper editor, or dude on the street should be expecting or wanting her to be. Most importantly, none of those people should make any woman, or person, believe that they have to be something other than what they already are. What they already are is someone who deserves love—from themselves.
Sometimes, or often, I am scared to be a photographer.
This idea of self-love is radical. It is radical because everyone outside of ourselves is telling us to be someone other than who we already are. Under such immense pressure, who could blame us for trying the latest diet craze, comparing ourselves to impossible ideals, and listening too closely to other’s criticisms of our bodies as if they were a direct reflection of our minds and our hearts. Loving ourselves in the face of such adversity is audacious, and bloody hard. It is normal for a woman to hate her body; if you refuse to get in on the whole, “Oh, my thighs are so fat!” “Oh no, mine are fatter!” 12
spectacle in which women are expected to participate on a daily basis there is something wrong with you. If you are confident in your body regardless of what it looks like then people will attack you. You’ll be called narcissistic, a slut, conceited, a bitch, a ho, crazy, and accused of having a huge ego and no morals. Most people just can’t understand that you believe you’re awesome, because to most people, it’s not normal. It is not normal to love yourself. But it is necessary. It is so very necessary for women, and all people who have been marginalized and oppressed and continually told that just being who they are is not good enough, to rebel. What a subtle yet powerful act of rebellion: loving yourself. So though I am scared to be a photographer because I’m not using the right lenses, or setting up lights, or talking tech, or charging for my services, I am doing it anyway. Taking pictures of myself because I love myself is my act of rebellion against a culture that would prefer it if I were perpetually unhappy with the way my belly rolls when I sit down and disgusted with all of my body hair. My act of rebellion is encouraging self-love every chance I get. I’m taking pictures of other women who are not white and thin with photoshopped skin and a team of stylists making them beautiful, and I’m showing that these women are still sexy and confident. I want to use my photography to remind people that there is no such thing as a normal-sized woman, or a “real woman.” All people who choose to identify as a woman are real; that should be obvious. I want to photograph women who love themselves. And I want the effect to be some sort of contagion. I want people to see how good it is over here in Radical Self-Loveville. And it is good. We’ve cut out all the people in our lives who would slut-shame and body-police. We’ve become savvy to our selfharming behaviour encouraged by diet companies and doctors and mothers and brothers and teachers and police officers and we’re not into that shit anymore. We’re supporting each other and encouraging each other to find new ways to develop and express self-love. We’re inventing new aesthetics that match our own ideas of beauty. We’re using language in a way that doesn’t oppress or exclude people--we’re even coming up with new words 14
when current vocabularies fail us: this is how important love is here. We need each other to keep telling one another that itâ€™s okay to love our selves and take no shit and give no fucks. The more time I spend working on loving myself, the less I am afraid of being a photographer, or a writer, or an artist. Also, here in Radical Self-Loveville? Weâ€™re naked most of the time. Best. Place. Ever.
Hollie Adams is from Windsor, Ontario where she received an MA in English Lit
and Creative Writing. She now lives in Calgary, Alberta with her collection of typewriters and matryoshka dolls, where she is pursuing a pesky PhD. Her work has appeared most recently in Carousel and filling Station and is forthcoming in The Windsor Review.
THE MONTH OF APRIL, AN ESSAY © 2011 Hollie Adams
This is the process by which our bodies exchange information with our environment. The specific term for this process will be included in the essay. I am in the essay too but I am lost inside, a series of vertiginous ramblings in which I have to explain myself. If I am successful someone will boost me high enough so I can see myself outside with you, by the river. The essay lapses: a digression about brick walls and my younger brother. The school called my father at work to tell him what happened.
ABOUT S © 2011 Hollie Adams
In the beginning we bicycled to yard sales, bought glass perfume bottles, mashed lilac into water, dabbed ourselves ‘til the bees came. I told her made-up stories about the boys at school all being in love with me. She had to take a bus to the school for gifted children. Now she lives in the annex, smells like Patchouli and menthol cigarettes. We get high on her balcony whenever she says she has a headache. She changes clothes in the corner of her bedroom because she doesn’t have window blinds and who doesn’t want to see those legs. She will move again soon anyway. What about S? my dad says. How does she afford those tattoos? And what he means is I don’t like them. Sometimes I worry all her bones will break at once. It’s not that she doesn’t eat. That’s not it.
Robert Earl Stewart’s most recent collection of poetry, Campfire Radio THE KITSILANO POOL AT MIDNIGHT © 2011 Hollie Adams
Let’s leave our bikes by the Starbucks. Let’s bring the paper bag beer. Let’s hop the slick fence in our sweatpants and flannel. Let’s take off all our clothes without the whole enormous sadness of being naked. Let’s not talk. Let’s float belly-up under the lights of this all-night world. Let’s pretend we are children. Let’s pretend we are our favourite water mammals. Let’s pretend we are children pretending to be narwhals. Let’s lay down on the bottom of the pool and open our eyes. Let’s look up with doglike wonder ‘til they burn. Let’s believe for just a second that everything is holy, everything, even us. Let’s look the other way while we hoist ourselves onto the cement.
Rhapsody, was published by Mansfield Press in 2011. His first collection of poetry, Something Burned Along the Southern Border (Mansfield Press, 2009), was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. He lives in Windsor with his wife and three children, and is working on a novel.
FOR A FEW SECONDS ONE MORNING, I WAS WASP BOY © 2011 Robert Earl Stewart
Pitched from the end of the dock by my father, and backlit briefly against the lake in a living suit of wasps, I fly— tempting them to carry me over the locks to town where the library charges fees to out-of-towners and the ice cream is soft serve— before entering Buckhorn in a track-suited tangle, where I cling with my two bites to the boards as the lake grows gradually tight and still. The wasps have beaten me to the shore, a little line in the play beach foam, near a bucket, near a shovel, near everyone else recovered from my brief importance.
MAY NOTHING EVIL CROSS THIS DOOR DEBRIEFING
© 2011 Robert Earl Stewart
© 2011 Robert Earl Stewart
The official story says a shell exploded too close to his position on a battlefield in France and he spent the rest of the war in a payroll office in England. He came home to their Riverside Drive apartment forty years later to find my cousin and I wearing nylon-stocking masks cut from the feet of an old pair. Our noses were broad and flat; our eyes Samoyed; our lips pulled wide and grimacing— he screamed, staggering back and dropping the groceries before lunging and tearing the stockings from our heads where we stood, terrified, in the hallway; my grandmother wiping tears of what had been laughter from her face as she called after him. We could hear his sobs from behind the bedroom door, where he stayed and smoked for a long time. After a while we heard him turn on the little black and white TV, and later, he took us to the penthouse to play darts. There is no unofficial story.
There was a chorus belted out from the top of a train as it moved through the twilight and barbecue smoke that hung between the trees like hammocks for those who weren’t going to make it. This was after the first fox was spotted, trotting through the picnickers in search of a sandwich; joined shortly by wolves and something that was not-quite-jackal, not-quite-bear— though some bears did come, and that’s when people panicked and abandoned their fires and gathered their children. And when the first big cats came skulking through the trees, pulling hysteria in their wake— their stripes and spots and the train, slow through the smoke— people clambered atop the boxcars and held fast to the ladders and couplings, while those being left behind ascended into the pines to claim their beds in the canopy. And I could not recall whether I had arrived alone. And as the train curved away through the stadium of the trees, we broke into song.
THE GLOVE © 2011 Robert Earl Stewart
We argue through the night about someone else’s lost glove. At one point, I suggest you may have eaten the glove. Come morning, I retreat to a café where a man knits in a light snow.
Kellie Chouinard is currently working on her MA in English at the University
of Calgary. She loves punctuation and military history, and in her spare time she likes to correct peoples’ grammar. Her poetry can be found in generation, filling Station, The Windsor Review, and on the walls of bathroom stalls from Windsor to Calgary. THE DISAPPEARING CITY © 2011 Kellie Chouinard
refold the map in quarters & label but your bike always travels west. every morning west & circle back
july 1987: 2 blocks from home there’s a man in a car, a woman flicking ash out the passenger window. acne scars & crooked teeth & she holds the back door open. cowboy boots pressing the break pedal but you never see them. your white buckled sandals submerged in a puddle, fingers wrapped around pink playground stones. is this really your story if you remember it from his body? fingers tapping the steering wheel & toes blistered, sweat dripping between shoulder blades from 87° plus humidity. the last stolen girl plunged into the Detroit River
smoke curling up & over the river. every morning another building removed. today the chemical depot. today the flag store. today the stationery shop, massage parlour, burrito restaurant. yesterday the music store, fire fuelled by paper scores & stringed instruments. find a backpack & call it arson. no electricity for a 3-block radius & power lines strung with ice cross the street at every corner refold the map & erase 1992 your sister dug up the backyard looking for fossils. made you help, carry away buckets & fill. august: the rotting carcass of a pool under your mother’s herb garden. pucker your lips & pretend gills & fins
half a word into your sentence & she said click. turn down the tv 26
& watch buildings burn on mute, dial tone buzzing your ear drum. smash the cordless phone on kitchen tile & white plastic embedded in your left foot. travel the pieces when you leave you never leave
unfold the map & grid lines all point north. the river pulling away & Peche Island only accessible by boat. under the tunnel cars turn skeleton with cases of whisky still in back seats. shoes & baby buggies used for smuggling sunk in the sand & the swimming area roped off to protect from undertows. every five minutes another cargo ship. coast guard. tunnel & bridge jammed all day & the homeless woman doing her laundry in the river. you catch & throw back poisoned fish
your bike always travels west. north & south dead-end with a river or train tracks. east takes you outside the city. the urban cowgirl, you ride west into. refold the map after each grid line. 10 times over = 10 kms east to west. 30 minutes one way, but you give yourself 45 & forget to factor in weather. wind only picks up when you cross
1. 2. 3. 4.
first position neck position viola position violin position
expired driverâ€™s license in a sock drawer. evidence of your inability. reliance on the bicycle & you circle the city disappearing in july. only bike in car-central & no yield signs. stopped at a traffic light you see the chemical depot burst apart at the seams. music store fuelled by paper & wood
trauma occurs at the level of the verb you: trauma occurs at the level of the street-corner
refold the map across a corner blood drop & obscure the edge of the city. everything west erased. east intact, but one block removed. circle around the burning city
her iced hands on your skin. voice the heat of Texas. she builds you a fort outside her hotel, borrows snow piled along the road. from her room she watches Detroit, but inside the fort your breath steams warm onto her hands. she plays Mozartâ€™s 40th using her feet & you say Dvorak & position the bridge
Jordan Turner was born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is a
graduate of Vancouver Island University’s Creative Writing Program, and is currently a Master’s Student in Creative Writing and English at the University of Windsor.
WINDSOR FROM A GOOD PERCH © 2011 Jordan Turner
I. from a good perch the right sort of sundown takes 5 behind the steely ambassador though the river keeps blending in eddies round the bones of rust-red caravans, worn-out to razor sharps in undertow, amid Motown’s missing and the bright lights keep twisting and wrestling and brawling beyond Caesar’s ivory rise— refusing to get along and the grocery bags and the water bottles and the condom wrappers spin mickey mouse tornados through the paths of academia something about these clouds, this city moves different
II. here, I am insignificant; I have nothing to do with Minivans. and I feel the difference though I hope to understand it, and it’s nice to think I could in the moment day decides to veil warm arms akimbo, I feel hurt. It has never left me before, and I know the difference—I know the way western twilight coddles a dreadful baby, gloaming and cable-free, or how dawn, over coastal mountains, softens the mist off the Salish the hum of radiator ever-present, when the Windsor’s sun reveals an unwelcome bellow of air brakes through ever-thinning window and gifts nagging thought it comes back to me in time, an inverted sunrise, an immense egg yolk dripping off bridge into violent river with a sizzle this odd business in-between— these pensive, eastern sunsets, are too much to ingest
Gillian Sze was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her poetry collection, Fish Bones,
was shortlisted for the 2009 QWF McAuslan First Book Prize. She is also co-editor of Branch Magazine. Gillian has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Concordia University and is currently pursuing a PhD at U de M. The Anatomy of Clay, published by ECW, is her second book.
NOCTURNE © 2011 Gillian Sze
When I can’t sleep I think of the lupines that grow in the country, their specific palette, a mix of disregard and generosity. Once I saw a girl in argyle socks tiptoe to kiss her man at Government and Belleville, a shoe of hers tucked in each pocket of his blazer. I was reminded of a black and white photo: a woman sly with her cigarette in her fingers, her fingers dangerously close to her hair as she tucked it behind her ear, leaned back in the booth and fended off a pair of lips.
DAWNING © 2011 Gillian Sze
The throb of sunlight, the air, tannic and vaporous. Love has a shelf life of seven years. Reveries over-ripened, I swill this waking malted and matinal, cut another slice from the loaf.
THE THURSDAY MEN
© 2011 Gillian Sze
© 2011 Gillian Sze
The Thursday men like grim conductors wear ironed pants a belt slapped beneath a belly. They talk on their phones in alleys, pace with their hands in their pockets, avoid puddles, emerge smelling like laundry.
I write this to you
The Thursday men sway in front of gravestones without an umbrella. Leather jackets are heavy, good for hiding gloom. The Thursday men smoke their cigars on stoops and puff, hold on the way they like to be played: clipped, tipped to the lips clasped in the shadow of tobacco. The Thursday men are plotting seductions of stiletto calibre. The weekend opens the bedroom doors. Their silhouettes pressed to the walls are first to repent.
because in your absence I’ve pressed warmer days into the cones of spruce trees, hardened, bruised and purple, and accepted the inadequacy of autumn. The afternoon shimmers across the counters, the smell of window screens faded when the leaves fell, and the clouds smothered their light. The light dust at the tip of your shoes says the dryness of the season isn’t thirsty. The faint scent of tap water spills as I fill the kettle and my reflection appears like a giant sceptical, whether to run for the hills or start digging. I dream you up like a sweater in this winter. My hands wither in the cold. I’m afraid of the dark. These are simple truths of December. Always, I will wonder how much you weigh in sorrow, or apathy or bated breaths. Always, I will teach you how to walk in snow.
ISSN: 1923-0370 Offside No. 7