Issue no. 40
Issue no. 40
scrivener creative review 40/2015
Featuring an interview with Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels April 2015
Featuring an interview with Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels April 2015
Scrivener Creative Review
Issue no. 40, April 2015 MontrĂŠal, Canada
Scrivener Creative Review is a MontrĂŠal-based international literary journal. Active since 1982, it publishes poetry, fiction, art/ photography and book reviews from established and emerging artists alike. For more content and information on how to submit to Scrivener, please visit: http://ausmcgill.com/scr
Managing Editors: Juan Camilo Velásquez, Penelope Kerr Fiction Editors: Vareesha Khan, Zain R. Mian Poetry Editors: Joseph Kidney, Fedor Karmanov Reviews Editor: Matthew Rettino Art Editor: Molly Short Promotions Editor: Natalie Coffen Web Editor: Fedor Karmanov Cover photo: Ivanna Besenovsky, “Untitled No. 1” Drawing on p. 2: Laura Douglas Layout design: Penelope Kerr, Molly Short
© Scrivener Creative Review. All rights reserved. Copyrights are retained by the artists upon publication. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the copyright holder’s express permission. Scrivener Creative Review is printed by MP Repro in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. Scrivener would like to thank the Department of English Students’ Association and the Dean of Arts Development Fund at McGill University for their support.
contents POETRY 6 “Things Said or Overheard in Montreal” | Greg Santos 8 “To See The Ships” | Miguel Eichelberger 9 “Tokyo Harbour” | Dominique Bernier-Cormier 21 “The Pillars of Creation” | James Dunnigan 24 “Emergency Broadcast System” | Richard Scarsbrook 30 “Nature’s Finest Lovers” | D.W. Lee 32 “Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors)” | Ilona Martonfi 52 “Upon the gutting of live carp for a Polish client” | James Dunnigan 54 “Family Ties” | Christy Frost 62 “Agonized Google Scenes” | Sam Difalco 63 “Speckled Elder” | Clara Lagacé 64 “The Mathematics of Being Known” | Judah Schulte FICTION 12 “Brazen Bull” | Mat Sanza 22 “Gary Gonejob” | Mark Antony Rossi 26 “And Dream or Do Not Dream” | Caleb Harrison 56 “Portland Street Sketches” | Dylan Jewers
REVIEWS 18 “My Form Bleats”: A Review of Ken Babstock’s On Malice | Christy Frost 44 A Review of Jeramy Dodds’ The Poetic Edda | Brenton D. G. Dickieson VISUAL ART 7 “Goshorun: For Whom Have You Determined Me? 1X6FfmCELnQ (Deät Boperlun, August 2011)” | Daniel Galef 10 “Untitled No. 2” / “Untitled No. 3” / “Untitled No. 4” / “Untitled No. 5” | Ivanna Besenovsky 20 “Neville George” | Nate Mosseau 23 “Good Kid” / “Long Weekend” | Campbell McClintock 29 “Untitled” | Suki Faye 40 Nowhereness series | Margie Kelk 50 “Day Swim” / “Night Swim” | Campbell McClintock 55 “Linear Bee. dOyc98tV5kA (Park Sanssouci, August 2011)” | Daniel Galef 61 “Mundane Mondays” | JNV Photography 65 “Windward” | Nate Mosseau OTHER 33 An Interview with Sean Michaels | Natalie Coffen 66 Contributors 5
Things Said or Overheard in Montreal I cut my finger on a tin of garbanzo beans. Don’t mind him, he just hates nuns. Do you still want me to put a log in the fireplace? The bunnies are hiding. If I don’t get it right away, I don’t like it. I think we’re all in the mood for pizza. Drop us off here. Better sorry than safe, I always say. What kind of dressing would you like? Well, that’s an existential question. Whales are still endangered. I think he must be bipolar. The key to the front door doesn’t work. There was a house fire in Nova Scotia. The couscous is delicious! But what does it mean? Bear in mind, we’re all visitors here. Doesn’t this egg taste more authentic cooked on a wood stove? Yes, but which village in New Zealand? Bagels. We need to buy bagels before we leave.
Greg Santos 6
Goshorun: For Whom Have You Determined Me? 1X6FfmCELnQ (De채t Boperlun, August 2011)
Daniel Galef 7
To See The Ships By this shore, On the cusp of the culture Where Pale moon skin begs a boy To un-clumsy his hands, unwind his tongue On the woman who wears affection Like water wears fire. The ships arrive; Carrying seed and spice. Their captains may see us And they will pass. Leaving us Near the tide of man Leaving me to be taken From blindness to light. You brought me to the water to see the ships. To help bring the sun to them. To teach me your body, Proving my ignorance of all things On the cusp of the culture that means nothing And will mean nothing again. And again When I remember your lessons. â€ƒ
Miguel Eichelberger 8
Tokyo Harbour On the docks, umbrellas open and close like gills in the still-twitching rain. Fishermen unzip the salmons’ rich coats, reach in and, slick as pickpockets, pull the guts out like fat watches on chains. By that, I don’t even mean how hurriedly she would strip the bed afterwards, or how I got sea-sick on the ferry to her funeral. How time spills out of me.
Dominique Bernier-Cormier 9
Untitled No. 2
Untitled No. 3
Ivanna Besenovsky 10
Untitled No. 4
Untitled No. 5
Ivanna Besenovsky 11
Brazen Bull 1 The sun shone strong in the middle of nowhere. Archie had the windows open, could hear the truck spraying unpacked road into the bush, feel the coastal wind, cool and safe in the shadow. Overhead, drones drowsed undetected in the crease-less gray blanket of the sky. Now more or less the champion of mindfulness, Archie thought about retirement instead. About the house he’d just bought in Fort Lauderdale, the way it would it would feel each morning to wake up before the sun, slip out of bed while Laura slept, and run along the coast to the tune of the dawn chorus. He arrived at the Facility’s gate, flashed his ID, and made small talk with the boys, their guns leaning off their bodies like little babies in front-carriers. They reminded him of his son. Two weeks left on the clock and then he’d be driving up and through the Americas to a similar gate, his pension and savings more than enough to pay off Antoni’s student loans, connections enough to make fluid what for others would be an endless process of sneaking across carefully guarded thresholds. He thought, this was life, and started humming “Everybody Knows” while he parked the truck. But as he pressed the password and swiped the passkey and stepped into the biometric scanner, his thoughts returned to M3-22-26, how he’d stopped screaming yesterday, and what this meant for Archie, not so much professionally, as chief interrogator, but in terms of his personality, his manhood, whether or not this augured well. The doctor said M3-22-26’s vocal chords were strained but functional. He’d said this with confidence. The question now was whether the detainee’s muteness was elective or imposed from within via subterranean protocols. In civilian life, Archie was registered as Arcangelo Senza. He was Archie to his friends, Archie Bunker to his colleagues and to those in the know, the gatekeepers who traded in files un-redacted, veiled forces that have somehow congealed into people whose only task in life is to find bodies, to turn bodies into information. But to the detainees, under all these feet of concrete and continents of fibre optic cable, who were both the intended audience and constitutive members of the screaming choir, Archie was a shadow and a whisper. They shouted each time
Mat Sanza 12
he passed their cells, waking each other from their desert-island dreams into a place they knew not where, only that it was down, deep “Down?” the receptionist asked, unfamiliar to Archie, a new hire, probably from the base. “Where else?” Lots of turnover, he thought. People eager to move down floors, get to the manual labour, sustained human interaction, health benefits. Like the generation before them, these people were groomed to hold the future chief among temporalities, and so regardless of the direction they would keep moving. Especially after they ran the economy’s death knell. Even black sites got squeezed by the department, perhaps in disproportion to other operations. They were in the process of restructuring Hell. Most of the new guys would never get halfway down the Facility. Very few even knew how many levels there were. In fact, a key move was to threaten moving the detainee down a floor or two. This was always an option, since there were, at least psychologically, an infinite amount of floors in the Facility. The receptionist looked up from his phone and laughed. Archie thought he looked young, like a teenage JFK. He put his phone on the desk (it was paused on a YouTube video of a waterboarding competition) and absently tapped some keys on the keyboard. He went back to his video and Archie looked at the now opened elevator door, pausing where he stood, as though giving it the chance to seal and descend without a passenger. But it waited for him, as he knew it would. He stepped forward, inhaled the lobby’s humid hospital-musk, and went down. 2 M3-22-26 wasn’t speaking or howling or whimpering or lobbing curses at the CIA, as he so often did. He just sat there and convulsed. In his beard new layers of blood and sweat formed over the old ones. There was a bump on his elbow the shape and size of an ostrich egg, skin tight around it, stretched to transparency. Archie thought he could see the substance of the detainee’s body urging itself outward, a soul passing through the borders of the flesh, and yet, he couldn’t seem to squeeze anything out of him that was like intelligence. “Where are your friends?” Archie asked in Spanish, his gringo accent now completely gone. He ran more current and repeated the question. The detainee looked like he was somewhere else, probably dreaming of return to them. Probably
Mat Sanza 13
in the village on the hills. Yes, they were probably only a few dozen miles away from the Facility at this very moment, shielded by sympathetic or bribed or coerced townsfolk. They should’ve just carpet-bombed the whole village, and all the closest ones too, just to be sure. But this wasn’t the 70s. You couldn’t just erase the map, at least not in South America. It was getting harder and harder to be a perfectionist down here. “You know as well as I that we’re going soft on you, M3-22-26. Electrodes are, like, the first circle of hell. That’s to say, Limbo. And, as we all know, Limbo is where the best of the irredeemable go. We basically like you, M3-22-26.” The detainee didn’t react and mostly couldn’t. His legs and arms were bound to the chair, and his head slouched in the only resting position available, which was forward and down. “That’s where we are. The most famous border-town in the universe. The edge of horror. Exiles and philosophers, not unlike yourself, hanging out in a spooky castle. If only they could have known they were on the wrong side. You know what I’m talking about. You’re a well-read man, libraries upon libraries of banned books in your head. Smart? I’m not so sure. But well-read all the same.” Archie paused for effect. The electric-machine whirred. “A lot of the kids we bring to the Facility can’t even write their own names. And yet, even they know how speak, how to sing, even, when we turn on the machines.” Archie secretly compared himself to Dante. Pain-translator. And is it not for the pleasure of the saints that we are permitted perfect vision of the damned in their limitless contortion? Archie thought yes, of course. But what did this pleasure consist of. He wasn’t sure. Maybe before, in the renegade days, the disappearing days, the days of conspiracy, it was edifying. He’d expressed the Country’s unconscious. He’d mobilized and was the permeating secret. Now there was no secret. The torture report had done away with that. All the public admissions, years earlier, like a primer, had done the same if not more to siphon off the steam. They wanted to make it normal, to fit it into Life as we know it, to give the concept limbs, get it off and running and shaking hands. Nowadays, for Archie at least, there was basically nothing to desire except retirement’s slow passing of days, to become an enigma to one’s self, to stand in the shadow of one’s own life, slipping through the sweet nothing of retirement before the big nothing swallowed you whole and… No, Archie thought, don’t go down there. Stay positive. He tried to treat himself like a child. He tried to be kinder to himself.
Mat Sanza 14
Archie plugged the detainee three times in a row and then sat silently with him. Later, he pulled the detainee’s file from off the table and rifled through it. There were no rousing details. The detainee had no family, no property in his name. He was writer of tracts, a pamphleteer, a speech-writer and -maker. But the literary angle hadn’t worked. One of his compatriots, a bomb-maker from Colombia, used to be a couple floors down, but he was dead. There was nothing to leverage except the detainee’s body itself. It mostly comes down to what you can do with a body. Hours passed. The technique used on the first floor, as Archie knew, was a way to make detainees fully aware of their bodies, so that, once the internal map of the self was fully charted, each infinitesimal point could be lit up. He wanted to bring the detainee down a floor or two but there were no free rooms, and the empty ones were being sterilized. So he waited. He played snake on his phone. He ran through his grocery list. He meditated. It was a hot day and despite his best efforts he felt his patience slipping, his energy waning. He did some push-ups. Periodically, he’d give the detainee a shock. When he was told that they would have to wait until tomorrow to move the detainee downward, Archie figured he would have one last go. He cranked up the voltage. Higher than was policy. It was unlike him to him to risk a blunder on the first level, but he was annoyed and tired and wasn’t in any danger of losing his job. His brain had grown a bit foggy. He didn’t know which floor he was on, or even that he was underground. He wasn’t sure what to do but to squeeze the control knob and keep twisting. The detainee’s body seized backward and his eyes opened as wide as possible so that he looked possessed. But he was not possessed. Smoked in the smoke of his own flesh, the detainee felt, for the first time, the entire confluence of tiny machines that made up his body, their pivots, joints and pulleys, their channels, dams and levees, their flows flowing forward or jammed-up or dissolving now, entering into a new pact with the electric-machine, becoming something new altogether. He was ecstatic. Archie shut off the machine and ran to the detainee, unbound him and laid him on the floor. He radioed the medics while the egg in the detainee’s arm hatched, staining Archie’s shirt with blood and something else. He understood what had happened, saw that he’d crossed a line, but it was too late. The detainee’s soul had left the body there in the chair. It fled like air from the throat, and travelled upward, through the concrete, past the break-room, past
Mat Sanza 15
the lobby, then higher still. The soul drifted up and waved to its comrades. They were in the Burrow, a network of tunnels at the edge of the city, happy that they were safe underground. The soul flew past the drones and kept rising. In the direction of the Sun, in whose heart his secret and his silence would be sealed forever. It was the detainee’s body alone that was trafficked downwards, until the gravity-well grew too strong and pulled the body from its form, returning it to the earth. By then Archie was already in his new home, in the gated community, the detainee and his silence mostly forgotten. 3 It was after. Archie was barbequing a lunch for one when he got a call from the Agency. The man on the phone sounded young, must’ve been just a child when Archie was in Chile. They wanted him to do some work in Broward County area. There was talk of new terrors to come, sleeping giants. Eggs of dissent were about to hatch. Archie said he wasn’t interested in driving around, in putting the hurt on people. He was getting very tired early in the day. He was too old. The Agent said, “We’re about done with the details. It’s an independent initiative. Strictly verbal. Passed mouth to mouth.” Archie’s heart palpitated. “The enemy has spread across and into and through almost everything. We need vigilant, discreet people.” Archie’s language-centre went temporarily untenanted. There was a pause. “You could do remote consulting, part time,” the Agent offered. Archie held the phone in the crease of his neck and shoulder while he lathered BBQ sauce on the smoking ribs, adjusted knobs on the grill. They were overcooking. He told himself he wasn’t interested. He told the Agent, “I appreciate the offer, I appreciate that you respect the work I’ve done. But I am old. I want to lie on the beach and drink piña coladas. I want to spend time with my kid, with my wife. I want to not overcook these ribs.” “I understand,” said the Agent, and hung up. He didn’t sound angry. There had always been and always would be others. Archie took the half-rack of ribs off the grill and put them in the plastic plate. He walked along the sandy bridal path that snaked its way to the beach, chafing in his flip-flops. A cigar-smoking neighbour waved to him from his balcony. Archie saw him through the fence and nodded back to the figure, shouting “Hey!” to
Mat Sanza 16
the figure, intersected a hundred times over. When he got to the beach he put the plastic plate on the sand, took the folding chair out from under his arm and struggled to open it. It was the early afternoon. He got it open, dug it deep into the sand. Then he picked up the plate, pulled the plastic fork and knife from his bathing-suit pocket and put the meat to his mouth. Even with the sauce it tasted horrible. Dry. He put the food down and looked at the ocean in front of him, the horizon altogether empty except for the flying machines, the body of water calm. Everything before him looked flat like on a television screen, even the patrol drone that lingered motionless in the sky. All of a sudden it was too early and it was too late. He was hearing birdsong. He was hearing rain. Something like lightning shot through his body. For a brief moment he felt as though he were not a person, but rather a statue, a hot statue caressed by the hands of the Sun, and in this moment he panicked for he thought he might not ever become a human again. He felt like there was nothing inside of him except sand and stone, heating up. Then his neck shot back and he was made to look directly at the Sun. It wasn’t right. Either he’d shut his eyes or gone blind because everything turned black, even his thoughts, which were hot and dark, clinging to and bleeding through each other like Pompeiian lovers. Then the dry, dry meat slid from his mouth into his throat, so that his soul, which had tried all the other exits, which had knocked the flesh of its knuckles right off and beat it its palms nerveless, could not move past this dry, fleshy cork, and so it stayed there screaming, at the world’s terminus, forever.
Mat Sanza 17
“My Form Bleats”: A Review of Ken Babstock’s On Malice (Coach House Books, 2014)
On Malice by Ken Babstock (2014) is a precisely calculated exercise in disorientation. Babstock conjures a bewildering world in poetic forms that are modeled on the mechanical techniques of data extraction used in text mining, surveillance technology, and computer network filtering. The largest section of the book “SIGINT” contains 39 ‘sonnets’ that—in Babstock’s own words—“‘occur’ inside the abandoned NSA surveillance station on the summit of Teufelsberg (‘Devil’s Mountain’) in Berlin, Germany” (93). To further defamiliarize the poetic form, Babstock replaces the final couplet of each sonnet with “incident reports” (93) of collisions in 1970s Soviet airspace. In “SIGINT,” Babstock pastes together intercepted messages, unanswered questions, and fragments of consciousness to create a diffuse compilation of human data only barely confined by the sonnet form. “No limit to the streaming of form from the machine” (77), claims the speaker of the book’s third poem “Deep Packet Din”; this line adroitly captures the reader’s sense that “SIGINT” is created by a computer program whose ability to produce these sonnets is limitless. Even in the trackless wasteland of this sequence, however, Babstock repeatedly draws on vocabulary from “Walter Benjamin’s record of his son’s language acquisition between the ages of two and six” (93); the recurrence of simple words such as “anus,” “green,” and “dress” create eerie moments of memory and recognition amidst the jumble of surveillance data. “What gets learned from all this listening” (48), asks the speaker of one sonnet, just one of many moments in “SIGINT” that double as meta-poetic statements and comments on surveillance or data collection technology. The question of “what gets learned” from these poems is not a central poetic thesis but only one data point amidst thousands in the echo chamber of this collection. In another self-reflexive moment, the speaker states “this is not a waiting room” (13), and draws attention to the readerly temptation to view the sonnets’ lack of cohesion as inherently creating a liminal poetic space. In Babstock’s imagination, fragmentation is not the antechamber for conceptual coherence.
Christy Frost 18
The book’s title On Malice derives from several lines in the poem “Perfect Blue Distant Objects”: Very seldom are reports raised, or any imaginings of present disappointments, great estimates by individuals high on malice, constantly juiced on malice. (68) Here, Babstock playfully changes the meaning of “on” in the title—as indicating the topic of inquiry—to a form of the word that connotes drug usage. This blurring of the meanings of “on” suggests that to write on a specific subject may be little more than to use that subject as an intoxicant. It is possible to read this conclusion as a justification for Babstock’s poetic forms; rather than allowing a single subjectivity “high / on malice” to create “imaginings of present / disappointments” and “great estimates,” Babstock attempts to let his poetic data be shaped by the mechanical patterns and codes of dispassionate machines. “Finally, he says, I and everything / have a limit” (22), concludes the speaker of one sonnet. Limits, however, are not reassuring boundaries in On Malice; Babstock’s poetry insists on presenting a disquieting image of our world in which the limits—or poetic forms—that circumscribe human meaning and experience are mechanical and fragmentary; his book both destroys and re-makes the relation between form and content, all the while challenging the reader to “think of a good reason not to quit listening” (24).
Christy Frost 19
Nate Mosseau 20
The Pillars of Creation Reaching with shattered hands, two lighted fingers, to the eyes of nascent suns; they, like my own two feet reach for the base of things. This womb of dust, hung in the changings of the sky, under the lenses of the earth is always stiff; and when I see it, seven thousand lights and years apart, it is already gone, torn in bright winds that, scattered from dead stars, colour the vaultless screen. How often I have looked at you this way. How often I have thought my heart was like this earth; your eyes, the vanished light that held it fixed. How little I know of the earth- how little of my heart.
James Dunnigan 21
Gary Gonejob Gary was a lost fool of a mumbling stumbling generation. Nobody knew a single word this guy said. It was all a mishmash of monosyllabic nonsense. I depended on hand signals and pointing at things whenever he visited the pharmacy. I never cared for the insults or street jargon applied to him. The guy didnâ€™t need any more problems. The terminology the paternalistic people used made them feel better but never improved his life or our understanding of his world. Gary was a man-child who threw a pack of gum and a pack of condoms on the counter and you wondered if he knew how to use either. I also wondered if he had any money. Most times he was just given things for free to get him out of the way. Ten minutes after I closed the pharmacy last night I heard Gary was hit by a car while walking home from the park. They said his body flew like a paper airplane and landed back first on the roof of a nearby car. He was pronounced dead at the scene. His immediate family was pleasantly surprised when many visitors stopped by the funeral and clipped pins on his casket of his favourite restaurants like Johnny Rockets and Hard Rock CafĂŠ. Cards were left with hand-made images of his beloved cartoon characters. Gary left a note which was read by his father to a packed room. In the note, Gary decried our need for war and our neglect of animals. He thanked the few people that were kind to him. It was a very small list. None of his family was on that list. Neither was I. I really thought I measured better in his eyes. I really thought.
Mark Antony Rossi 22
Campbell McClintock 23
Emergency Broadcast System it always began: This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. and then: that tone that shrillpiercing skinspeckling heartstopping tone that frequency screeching: thebombswillbefallingsoon! yourskinwillbeliquified! yourboneswillexplodeintoash! boy, you will never touch the flesh of a woman
boy, you will never know true love
but then: Broadcasters, in cooperation with the FCC and other authorities have developed this system to keep you informed in the event of an actual emergency.
Richard Scarsbrook 24
you miss that familiar frequency only crackling static
your heart stops beating
Richard Scarsbrook 25
And Dream Or Do Not Dream I do not know the people in my building. There are many immigrants and a few students. The neighbourhood is St. Henri. It is a poor neighbourhood, “up-andcoming.” I am employed doing research at the university. It is boring. I am not a bad employee. I am not a bad person—unsettled but not bad. I see little of the few friends I have. They are either still in school or working elsewhere. It does not matter. I am not a social person anyways. I prefer to be alone, I think. On the metro a boy pretends to choke himself with his scarf. His tongue is out of his mouth and he gasps for air. His mother is asleep. Her eyelids leak a thin crack of white—her eyes are rolled up in her head. I left my apartment to go spend the night at Cat’s place. Cat bothers me but the sex is all right. I think about how I will fuck her tonight as the metro speeds along. The air is scarce. I will pour myself into her—smother her. People in the metro look at their phones and forget themselves in the mess of limbs and sweaty, bag-like coats. They are piled in the metro. They are still and silent. I get to my stop and walk up the hill towards Cat’s place. She lives between metro stops. I do not mind going to her place. She has a big bed. Winter is cold in Montreal. Cars line the streets billowing exhaust into the murky orange artificial light blazing in the evening. Walking up St. Laurent you inhale mostly fumes. I try to get close to the cars so the exhaust spills out and washes warmth over me. The smell of gasoline intoxicates me. “What took you?” “Am I late?” “I’ve been waiting.” “That’s okay.” “I haven’t been doing anything.” “Why?” “I was waiting.” “You should have done something.” “Like what?” Cat’s arms are folded across her chest. I hug her. “What should I have done?”
Caleb Harrison 26
I walk into her bedroom. She follows. There is the bed. There is the mirror. There is her desk and chair. I turn to Cat and bring her towards me. I kiss her. She tosses her tongue into my mouth. It is limp and boring. She rubs her face against mine. Some time in the night I awaken, unable to breathe. The blanket is covering my face. It smells like shit under there. Our bodies make awful smells in the night. Every evening we decay. We are rotting and our beds are tombs. I pull the blanket off and look at Cat. She is staring at me so intently I think maybe she is asleep. She does not speak. “Cat.” No answer. I touch her face with my hand. “Cat?” She blinks and keeps staring. Her eyes are huge, terrified. She stares at me. My heart beats heavily. I move away from her. She looks hateful or dead or both. “Are you awake?” she says. “What?” “You’re awake.” I push the blanket away and lay naked on the sheet. It is hot in her room. Sleep is selfish, I think. You remove yourself from people. When you are asleep you are no good to anyone but yourself. You still take up oxygen, you still take up room—you may as well be a stinking corpse. I turn to Cat and see she is asleep or pretending. In the morning we say little. I shower. Drink in the hot steam. Cat makes me breakfast and I go to work. The air is fresh and clean, it stings my lungs. I like the sting. I want more. I breathe in as much of that air as I can on the walk to work. It is inexhaustible. At work I look out the window. The sun shines for the first hour and then the sky becomes white and blank. There is no edge to it, no discernible cloud. There is lightness to it, strange clarity. The white is not thick, not like fog. The metro on the way home is packed again. It is difficult to breathe. People are coughing, yawning. They emit that horrible stench within their guts, the mucous and filth. There is moisture in the air. It clings to your face and plugs your pores so you cannot catch a proper breath. There are people outside my building. They are police officers. And firefighters. And medics. The police stand around, talking. Some write things down.
Caleb Harrison 27
The firefighters shake their heads and listen to an old man read something. The medics pile large black bags on the sidewalk in front of the building. They work in pairs, straining to carry the bags. The bags come from inside the building. They are body bags. Inside them are bodies. A Puerto Rican man is face down on the ground in the snow convulsing as two police officers speak to him and try to lift him. One officer shakes his head. I approach him. He is drinking coffee. “What happened?” I say. A news team pulls up. And another. The officer watches the news teams as they rush out of their vehicles, grabbing equipment. They race towards the group of police officers who hold their belts and push out their chests, their faces down. The officer looks back at me. He opens his mouth and moves it but no words come out. The scene rushes around me. I hear nothing. I look at the bags piled beside the building. I look below me. My stomach churns. My throat burns and fills, erupting. I vomit frothy eggs all over the white snow. The Puerto Rican man rises. “Gas leak,” the officer tells me. He puts his arm around me and tries to lead me away from the scene. The news teams corner the officers. They ask questions. One of them spots the Puerto Rican man and runs over and shoves a microphone in his mouth. The building looks the same as always but it seems quieter. The medics pile the bags. There are many, all of them full. I did not know so many people lived in there, in that little building. There are buildings like that everywhere in St. Henri, in Montreal, in the world, where people sleep or do not sleep and dream or do not dream.
Caleb Harrison 28
Suki Faye 29
Nature’s Finest Lovers I. To all of you glorious people: the successful scented women with warm, labial folds, so demure yet inviting, pink hairless anuses, tasting only of clean skin; the muscular angular self-made men, with seamless packages, magically wrinkle-free foreskin peeling back to reveal the polished ruby of a glans, atop a shaft so straight and regal it could be the scepter of King Jesus himself. To all of you prime human specimens: why must you limit yourselves? Why do you want only the martyr’s missionary impositions? Sexual stasis, as if you were postanimal. The act performed. A perfunctory prayer before bed. Some of us live our lives in jungles of lust, spend whole seasons attacking and exploring one another. We come away with blood on our snouts, infections racing towards our hearts, our better halves – the lower halves – teeming with legions of bliss. II. Enough of the blind dumb ambition, salmon-swimming, spawning without penetration, only to die, barely having touched. Lonely as people online after dark, functionally finishing themselves off, exhausted after extended upstream office hours. I prefer the passion of the unconcerned; the unemployed as ideal lovers. Time and inclination to indulge. Someone who will enfold me in the warmth of his girth, fat, slippery tears rolling off his chin, down my shoulders as I knead my fingers in the fur of his back.
D.W. Lee 30
III. The sloth is natureâ€™s finest lover. Dolphins are playful enough, but too self-conscious to fully give themselves over to the waves of ecstatic confusion. North American men will eat their partnersâ€™ hearts as a form of contraception. Their orgasms, even the proud, multi-roped expulsions, last only seconds; a pig orgasm may last close to an hour. After the luau, my lover stuffed an apple in my mouth, tied my hands and my feet, fucked me bareback by the ocean, in plain view of the sticky moon. Starlight dripping oil on our salty skin.
D.W. Lee 31
Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) This is the dress I was wearing that day, I was fourteen years old then August 9, 1945, 11:02 a.m. was a calm day, with no wind pure white roof tiles bones of the dead could not form the sound: the atomic bomb dropped on top of us the shadow where a child stood the sun fallen out of the sky, old cedar hills, close to Nakashima River where reeds were growing all I could hear was the black rain falling looking at the fireflies with its houses gone covered with mud and blood in a pumpkin field hibakusha. We, who have survived walking along rice paddies how small was Mount Inasa on the island of Kyushu which way was I supposed to go? I remember the cicadas singing but I didnâ€™t have my mother Sadako anymore no clocks, no calendars.
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An Interview with Sean Michaels Winner of the 2014 Giller Prize
Writer Sean Michaels (right) with Scrivener Creative Review editor Natalie Coffen
Montréal-based writer Sean Michaels made headlines last year when he won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for his debut novel Us Conductors. This year, he’s done it again as a shortlisted nominee for the 2015 Amazon.ca First Novel Award. Us Conductors is a fictionalized account of the life of Lev Termen, the Russian scientist who invented the theremin, a musical instrument played without touch. Termen travels to America, where he lives extravagantly before the market crash and encounters his love interest Clara Rockmore. The story follows Termen back to Russia, where he’s placed in a Gulag labour camp, all told in Michaels’ stylized prose and captivating imagery. Michaels is also the founder of the mp3 blog Said The Gramophone, and he recently started a music column for the Globe and Mail. He’s won two National Magazine Awards and is a jury member for the Polaris Music Prize. Scrivener Creative Review editor Natalie Coffen had the pleasure of sitting down with him to talk about his experience writing the novel, his life since winning the Giller, and his opinions on journalism today.
What was the writing, editing and publishing process like? It took a few years or more, including the editing process. I had written the book on my own and then I worked with my agent to polish it. I have a writing group here so they helped me with pieces of it as well. I’m represented by Random House Canada and Tin House in the States, and at each publisher I had an editor, which could have ended with two very different editions of the book. I love the input an editor has but it’s an interesting process trying to harmonize and make one book out of two very vocal, smart, insightful editors. There’s quite a bit of scientific and historical detail in the novel. Was there a lot of research involved? I read books particularly about Gulag, Stalinist Russia and nightlife in New York during the period the book is set in. The most important research for me came after my first draft when I went to Russia and not only visited Saint Petersburg and Moscow, but to the Kolyma region to a city called Magadan which features in the book, which was where the largest concentration of Gulag work camps existed during the 30s. I wanted to get a sense of what it was like out there, not to visit the archives but to feel for myself what it was like to feel the sun going down in the mountains or listen to the birds.
Did you find it restrictive, writing about historical events and real people? I knew from the start I wasn’t trying to tell the real story, I was telling my own story using what historical events were useful. Steven Galloway put it really well: “The job of being a fiction writer is mostly making things up and the more historical facts you use, the less you have to make up.” It’s this funny thing where I don’t need to make up this person or event since it’s there in the history books for me to draw from. Did you find it difficult sticking with one idea? As a writer, I find it difficult to know which ideas are worth investing in. How did you handle this? I don’t know if I knew. It’s a very big decision to set out to write a novel; I think you can’t take it lightly. You have to choose a set of ideas that can sustain you creatively for years. I also think that the single most difficult part of being an author is finishing things. Starting things is super easy but finishing them is really hard, and that’s one of the faculties you have to cultivate. Did you find that your blog helped you with the publishing of your novel? Said The Gramophone was really the springboard for my music criticism career. It was, and continues to be, an incredible gym to kind of work through my routines and practice for writing in general. In terms of the book, the blog helped me in some cases to get publishers or agents to look at it. Ultimately when you’re selling a book, it’s more than anything about the book. Especially as a first-time novelist, your reputation can’t get you that far. It contributed more creatively to my process than materially to the progression of the novel from manuscript to published work. You manage to cover both scientific and spiritual aspects of music in your novel. Are you a musician yourself? I learned about music in school, but I’m not a musician. I learned clarinet and recorder in grade school, I can read music, but no. Were you listening to the theremin while writing Us Conductors? I think that if you’re writing about a sound it helps to listen to that sound, but sometimes it’s enough to imagine it. I almost always write to music. I was not writing this book mainly to jazz from the 20s and 30s and classical music. I listened
to tonnes of modern music, music from America, Europe, Africa. I really like the idea of different music disrupting the process of your imagination working; you’re busy imagining a quiet, crystalline winter scene in Siberia and listening to some blues from Mali or some pop from Detroit. I feel like that adds some interesting tension and less stereotypical colours to the scene. Have you tried playing the theremin before? I now own two. I’m a rank amateur, I found it much harder than I even expected. Did you see yourself in any of the characters? I think in all of the characters. I mean, you try to see the world through their eyes at least for a moment. I think one of the main exceptions is Clara. Lev makes some huge mistakes from his misinterpreting what’s inside of her heart. For me it was important that the reader’s perspective of Clara be similar to that, rather than knowing what she was really thinking and feeling. What are the main differences in writing fiction and nonfiction for you personally? I like to write my nonfiction from a similar place that I write my fiction. I’m someone who really likes stylized prose, image, metaphor and all that poetic junk. I like creative nonfiction that feels personal and you can sense the author’s spirit in the words on the page or screen. I think we understate the impact of money and labour on writers and so it’s much easier to get compensated in some flimsy way for writing nonfiction. Fiction is very hard to get compensated for; you have to write a whole book before you can sell it. When you’re writing fiction you’ve got to be doing it for reasons other than just paying your rent and keeping a roof over your head. You have to have something you want to stress or take pleasure in the craft. I think there’s a very big difference in the motivations to do it and the things you have to hold in your heart while doing it. A month ago on Twitter you praised Rookie magazine as “the bravest site in the entire world.” As a prominent Canadian writer, what direction do you think journalism or even literature should be headed in? I think all people in the industrialized world need to get real about the need to pay
for writing. There’s going to have to be some kind of shift where we start paying for it again or else it’s going to go away. I feel that suddenly we’re at this wonderful tipping point where enough people have grown up with the Internet that the systemic barriers to entry work much less. People can just get their work directly out into the world and writers from visible minorities, women, trans, voices that aren’t me, suddenly realize, wait, I can do this just as well as they can. It’s suddenly woken up the market to the power, accessibility and presence of these voices and it’s this great opportunity now for the people who are on the inside, who have this power to break down these unjust systems and make our newspapers and magazines much more diverse and representative. Jonathan Kay, Editor-in-Chief of The Walrus, spoke last week at McGill, and he mentioned something similar about the lack of diversity in journalism being a systemic problem. I think Jonathan Kay doesn’t acknowledge that when we’re having conversations about lack of diversity in the press, we’re not talking about why is it just looking wayward, what we’re saying is, what can we do to change this? I think that by putting everything in this unchangeable “oh income inequality, that’s why I won’t hire more women or non-white people in the coming year” is nonsense. I really believe that we can do better at deliberately trying to make these places more representative and diverse and by deliberately making those changes and standing up to an unjust system and changing it in a more proactive way instead of just bemoaning, “Oh, we’re trapped in an unjust patriarchy, that’s life.” No, let’s start fucking with that. In fact the work is already started, get on board. What’s your advice to young aspiring writers? Start things and finish them. If you really want to be a writer, be smart about the way that you spend money and the things you spend money on. Try to understand that you’re not going into this line of work to be able to load up at Costco on 24 packs of Crispers, you’re going into this work for the way that it sustains you every day and inspires you to write a thousand words and feel like you’ve accomplished something magical. So yeah, stay in Montréal, keep your finances in order, be conscious, be deliberate, and don’t slide into a lifestyle that you can’t support.
What are you currently working on? I’m working on a new book and lots of new opportunities have appeared since the Giller. I have a new column in the Globe and Mail on Saturdays writing about music. Because of this window where I’m allowed to do whatever I want ‘cause I’m momentarily famous before I shuffle back into obscurity, I like the idea of taking that opportunity to experiment with the ways we can do music criticism in a daily newspaper and try to push the form a little bit, and I hope that I get to keep doing that. What writers are you into or have influenced you? My biggest influences are all dudes, which is something that I’ve been interrogating recently, but they are Kazuo Ishiguro, Salman Rushdie, J.R.R. Tolkien and F. Scott Fitzgerald. They’re all magical writers in different ways. Today: David Bezmozgis, he has such a wonderfully brutal, curt style, which is very different from the way I write so I’m finding it fascinating. Also Rookie, the Hairpin and the Awl, a lot of these places with often younger writers who don’t seem hamstrung by the same responsibilities and systems. It’s really neat to feel like something’s scrambling the system and we get to read as the scrambles figure out how to take over. What was your time at McGill like? My time at McGill was really four years learning to be a little bit of a grown-up in Montréal. I moved from Ottawa. What I gained most from McGill was that it was sited here and I loved being introduced to all this thinky stuff, it really did it for me. I’m very grateful to the university for that. While you were studying, did you know you wanted to be a writer? I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer for sure. I never really thought that I’d be paying my way as a music journalist. I took the one fiction workshop at McGill. Why did you choose Montréal as your base? I love being in a city where, particularly the community that I’m a part of in the Mile-End, I’m living among so many artists who are all struggling. I don’t mean struggling to succeed, but I mean that they’re not just taking jobs at advertising
firms and editorial jobs at newspapers. It’s so inspiring and sustaining to feel like there’s a community of people like you who are just fighting through, particularly when you cross the line into your late 20s and 30s where a lot of people start giving up. Montréal’s full of those people who are secure and while the Giller makes me feel secure, even before that I didn’t feel insecure in my life choices. Since winning the Giller Prize, what’s been the most surreal thing to happen? Being recognized on the street and in foreign cities. As a writer, you assume that will never happen to you. You realize that Can Lit is this powerful enough cultural force here and there’s this tiny sliver of the population that actually might recognize your face; that’s bewildering and surreal.
Natalie Coffen & Sean Michaels 39
Nowhereness (selection from series) Photos by Isaac Applebaum
Flexi Curl Deposit Box
Margie Kelk 40
Margie Kelk 41
Margie Kelk 42
Margie Kelk 43
Review of Jeramy Dodds’ The Poetic Edda (Coach House Books, 2014) One day a young C.S. Lewis casually flipped to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Tegner’s Drapa and read these words: I heard a voice that cried, Balder the beautiful Is dead, is dead— (Lewis 17). The pleasure of reading these lines was quite different from other pleasures he had experienced, more “like a voice from far more distant regions….” In his autobiography, Lewis described his first reading of Norse saga: “I knew nothing about Balder; but instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be…” (17). This “Pure Northernness,” filled out with Wagner’s Siegfried and the Twilight of the Gods, would come to engulf Lewis with its “vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity…” (Lewis 73). Lewis is only one of many who have been captured by that sense of Northernness. Even more influential, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth legendarium and numerous characters in the Marvel Universe find their origin in Norse mythology. The influence is obvious for the latter, as Thor, Odin, and Loki are feature characters in a new generation of videographical storytelling. Within the evocative mindscapes of Middle Earth, however, the influence is less obvious. Dwarves are common fare in fantasy, and we might know that Tolkien’s elves, transformed as they are, evoke the Norse realms of Alfheim and Svartalfheim (Elfland and Dark Elfland, captured as Lios Alfar and Svart Alfar in Canadian Tolkien editor and fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry). When we move to The Poetic Edda—one of Norse mythology’s key texts—we see immediately how Tolkien was drawn into the old Nordic speculative universe. Only eleven stanzas into the first poem, the influence of the Edda on Tolkien is obvious: 11. Nyi and Nidi, Nordri, … Althjof, Dwalin, Nar and Nain, Niping, Dain, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Nori, An and Onar, Ai, Mjothvitnit,
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12. Vigg and Gandalf, Vindalf, Thrain Thekk and Thorin, Thror, Vit and Lit … 13. Fili, Kili, Fundin, Nali…. And the list continues. While not the greatest example of the work’s poetic quality, this list from Jeramy Dodds’ new translation of The Poetic Edda demonstrates how very important this oft-neglected medieval text is. The Eddic poems are “invaluable primary sources on early Nordic mythology and heroic legend” (Dodds 8). Their mythological and historical value, as well as their contemporary influence, warrant translations for new generations of readers. Award-winning Canadian poet Jeramy Dodds has indeed provided a fresh translation, vivid and accessible, a skillful combination of the closeness of the text with the remote wilderness of the world that birthed it. As Dodds explains in his “Introduction,” The Poetic Edda is made up of “oral pagan poems, passed mouth to ear for centuries, until they were flash-frozen onto vellum sometime around 1270 by Christian monks in Iceland” (12). Dodds’ translation aims at a precise method of thawing this text so that it exposes the culturally bound mythology that the Edda encapsulates. In particular, Dodds has aimed for accessibility. Indeed, his translation is shockingly fresh, drawing out images heretofore buried in previous translations that obscured the meaning. At other points, Dodds chooses a voice in his interpretation that reshapes the poem. A side-by-side comparison of one of the poems will show the value and limitations of Dodds’ translation. Below are several stanzas of “Loki’s Flyting,” or “Lokasenna” in some editions. In the left-hand column is Henry Adams Bellows’ traditional translation. At the opening of the poem, we see how Bellows captures the majesty of a formal interlocutor calling for a tale. Dodds takes a different approach with subtle shifts in translation. 1. “Speak now, Eldir, | for not one step Farther shalt thou fare; What ale-talk here | do they have within, The sons of the glorious gods?”
1. ‘Eldir, before you take another step, tell me, what do those sons of the Triumph Gods have going on inside as far as ale-talk?’
The syntax is clearer in Dodds’ translation, and he leaves behind Bellows’ alliterative “glorious gods” for a categorical refinement: the Triumph Gods. Each translator captures the Edda’s propensity for compound words with “ale-talk.” Overall, the translations are quite similar.
Brenton D. G. Dickieson 45
Throughout the poem Dodds chooses a far more colloquial approach—even more than the updating of English for this decade. In Loki’s taunt of the gods below, Dodds leaves behind Bellows’ Shepherd Psalm echo with the colloquialism “fetch me a seat.” As well, “bid me forth to fare” is far different in tone than Dodds’ “tell me to clear off.” [Loki] 7. “Why sit ye silent, | swollen with pride, Ye gods, and no answer give? At your feast a place | and a seat prepare me, Or bid me forth to fare.”
7. ‘Why so silent, you haughty gods, have you nothing to say to me? Fetch me a seat here at your feast or tell me to clear off.’
As the poem continues, Bellows’ evocative translation heightens the battle of wits, while Dodds’ translation allows the conversation to take on the personality of a rap battle. “Mad art thou” is the formal equivalent of “you’re a lunatic,” and Dodds restores alliteration with the street insult, “your wits are out of whack.” Othin spake: 21. “Mad art thou, Loki, | and little of wit, The wrath of Gefjun to rouse; For the fate that is set | for all she sees, Even as I, methinks.”
Odin said 21. ‘Loki, you’re a lunatic – your wits are out of whack if you want Gefjon as an enemy, for she can foresee the world’s future as well as I can.’
Both are better than Lee Hollander’s “Bereft of reason and raving thou art”; Bellows evokes the poetic past without becoming archaic, while Dodds draws the text very close to the speech of the television generation. As the insults continue, three stanzas heighten the difference between the two philosophies of translation. Freyja spake: 31. “False is thy tongue, | and soon shalt thou find That it sings thee an evil song; The gods are wroth, | and the goddesses all, And in grief shalt thou homeward go.”
Freyja said: 31. ‘Your tongue’s cutting, I’m sure one day it’ll flail you to pieces. The Æsir and the Asynjor are livid with you. You’ll go home unhappy.’
Loki spake: 32. “Be silent, Freyja! | thou foulest witch, And steeped full sore in sin; In the arms of thy brother |
Loki said: 32. ‘Shut up, Freyja, you’re riddled with wickedness, a real witch. The giggling gods walked in on you
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the bright gods caught thee When Freyja her wind set free.”
riding your own brother, Freyja, and then you farted.’
Njorth spake: 33. “Small ill does it work | though a woman may have A lord or a lover or both; But a wonder it is | that this womanish god Comes hither, though babes he has borne.”
Njord said: 33. ‘Who cares if a woman takes lovers with or without her husband? Odd, though, how a cock-gobbling god like you got in here after birthing his own babes
Note the punning contrasts in Freyja’s speech. For Bellows, “tongue” leads to “evil song,” which opens up to wrath and grief. Dodds heightens the pun—a “cutting tongue … flails to pieces”—but loses the transumptive power. From “flailing” Dodds moves to “livid” as the contemporary of “wrath.” While “livid” has metaphorical possibilities, they leave behind “cut to pieces” for new rigidity. Certainly, “And in grief shalt thou homeward go” is an archaism. But if Dodds had finished the stanza, “You’ll go home in grief,” he would have recovered consonance while capturing the idea of “gravity”—etymologically connected with “grief”—that may strengthen lividity. Or perhaps a crimson frown would contrast the giggling gods’ bluish countenance. Bellows’ nostalgic poetry is as intentional as Dodds’ kitchen table prosein-verse. In Bellows’ 1930s, “said” or “spoke” were the common translation for the Old Icelandic kvað. However, “spake” helped evoke the poetic atmosphere Bellows desired—Tolkien or Lewis might have done the same. Certainly Bellows’ translation is more elevated, but in stanzas 32 and 33, Dodds demonstrates the poignancy and humour in a far more immediate way. While “thou foulest witch” has a poetic elegance lacking in “a real witch,” the immediacy of “Shut up, Freyja” has its own poignancy. Hear it as prose from the trickster Loki’s mouth: “The giggling gods walked in on you riding your own brother, Freyja, and then you farted.” While I wish Dodds risked some exclamation marks, if we recall the ale-house scenery, we can imagine hundreds of horns raised in salute at the insult. Moreover, Dodds has recaptured the original frata, obscured in Bellows’ translation, which is marvellously paired in a verbal pun with Freyja in the original text. At the charge of incest, the double-wronged Njörð—father of Freyja and her purported lover-brother— castrates and impregnates the grinning god-son Loki, accusing him not simply of homoerotic desire, or even of passivity in that pairing. Instead, Loki’s lack of manhood turns scrotum to womb, god to goddess. Doubtless Bellows’ is a stronger piece of poetry than Dodds’ storytelling
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form in these examples. There were times when I yearned for the archaic poetry over the vulgar prose, especially in the heroic tales, which seem to me to plod on with too little diversity in style. Dodds’ translation, however, brings us to the immediacy of the language. There is little incomprehensible in Dodds’ Edda. In this way Dodds’ Edda is the J.B. Phillips translation of Norse poetics, the Living Bible of The Poetic Edda. Yet, it is not the Edda for dummies. For all Dodds aims at today’s language, he retains the Æsir and the Asynjor, intentionally creating distance for the reader: while the language is close to us, the world is not. What is lost in atmosphere— the Northernness that Tolkien and Lewis longed for—is gained in the reader’s contextual understanding of this distant world. This tightrope walk leads to some obscurity about who the intended reader truly is. The translation is easy to read, colloquial, and evocative; the introduction is basic, informative, and designed to intrigue. The index cleverly combines definitions with topical cross-sections, doing one of the jobs we would expect of footnotes that are absent in this text. Everything but the text slips away, with open fields of white space for the reader’s notes. One would presume, then, that non-professional readers are in view. An academic audience would demand text critical notes and a research review. Yet there are challenges for the lay reader too. For contemporary ears trained in the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare, or the rhymes of Dr. Seuss, hip hop, greeting cards, limericks, and pop music, Old Icelandic poetry is going to be a stumbling block in its very form. Even those familiar with the medieval-evocative poetry of Lewis and Tolkien, or the new streams of modern poetry opened by T.S. Eliot, are going to find the poetry itself to be strange. It simply lacks the metrical diversity or baseline rhythms we know in English poetry. Dodds’ dependence on alliteration is light, bucking trends of heavy consonance in verse translation and initial rhyming, such as the tendencies of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translators J.R.R. Tolkien and Simon Armitage, or Hollander’s Edda. While heavy alliteration can cause the contemporary reader to flounder, since The Poetic Edda is so inspirational to subsequent poets I still wonder if more of that initial rhyming could have been kept. While Dodds’ translation is meant to be an Edda Vulgate, some of the word choices are strange to the ear. The choice of “ninny” as the translation of ósnotr instead of the more classic and intertextually rich “fool” is very odd. If Dodds wanted to strip away the temptations to archaic language, he could have used “loser.” “Ninny” strikes me as an after-school special word from the last century. But Dodds himself does not shrink from the offensive. Homophobic slurs and gender-bending insults are kept throughout his Edda. Particularly interesting is his translation, “cock-gobbler.” While this is a creative rendering, we have in North American
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English a popular slur—“cocksucker”—that would do just as well without the oddness. It may be that these two examples of “ninny” and “cock-gobbler” began as alliterative choices; if so, however, I cannot discern the pattern. Besides these small translational quibbles, there is one aspect of the introduction that is missing for the intelligent, nonprofessional reader. Besides those traditions mentioned above—myth and mythology, poetry, and Nordic-soaked fantasy like J.R.R. Tolkien or Guy Gavriel Kay—the other stream of readers will be those who encountered the Halls of Valhalla through comic books and their film interpretations. When my ten-year-old saw I was reading the Edda, he quickly snatched it away from me and pored over the spatial geography of Yggdrasil. No one would argue that the introduction should be written for preteens—my son got lost in the introduction—but this particular reader represents a significant part of popular culture that encounters Thor, Odin, Loki, and the Frost Giants in a particular stylized context. These sorts of readers are often encyclopedic in their understanding of what they think of as “Norse mythology.” I think this particular introduction, aimed at the new reader, would have benefitted from a brief conversation that redefines Loki and the Jotuns in the Edda with the Marvel Universe in mind. This detailed consideration contains few criticisms that stack up against the sheer freshness and creativity of this new translation. The introduction is excellent in what it covers, the family trees and map of Yggdrasil are essential, and an index-glossary is an elegant use of space. The university student or lover of poetry and myth will find this translation both engaging and approachable. Considering the too few paths to the Northern climes of Yggdrasil, this is by far the easiest for new pilgrims. A professional can add this translation to his or her resources in viewing the text from a new angle and reading it afresh. It is a beautifully produced book, a relevant and long-needed translation, and an opportunity for a new generation of readers to find their way to the imaginative landscapes of The Poetic Edda. That it is completed by a Canadian poet who is so young and yet so accomplished makes it a notable moment. Works Cited Bellows, Henry Adams, trans. The Poetic Edda: Translated from the Icelandic with an Introduction and Notes. New York: Princeton University Press, 1936. Dodds, Jeramy, trans. The Poetic Edda. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2014. Hollander, Lee M., trans. The Poetic Edda. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1962. Kay, Guy Gavriel. The Fionavar Tapestry. Toronto: Harper Perennial Canada, 1995. Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy. Princeton: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1955.
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Campbell McClintock 50
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Upon the gutting of live carp for a Polish client ζάτει τὸν σάρκινον ἰχθύν, εἰ γάρ πᾳ κνώσσων ἔτ᾽ ἐτώσια ταῦτα ματεύσεις, μὴ σὺ θάνῃς λιμῷ καίτοι χρυσοῖσιν ὀνείροις. -Theocritus, Idylls 25 The roe of the dead sits trembling in my hand. A hand not stiff enough to hold the possibilities of what each egg and drip of battered tissue might have served inside that cavern of the body, where assembling as at fireside, near where the heart perspires, may have coursed much larger thoughts, the way that sage of old turning his eye toward the sun (knife in the belly of his world), beheld the skinless surface of the earth, the organs of the sky; his life, digested into darkness. In this deep world where shadow clots like blood over the blinded eye, birth is a gutting, and death is hollow and childless and home is but a wide-mouthed sea lipped with long hooks and closing nets, where air is water and the water, molten salt from quarried stone.
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Deep world of shattered ribs, where even I have cut myself -three stitches on my hand, three more beneath: a wound to hide another, deeper wound In this deep world, my soul is but a scratch, pulled by a passing nail not even for convenience. In this deep world, my fingers on the blade, my eyes upon my hands, I am a scar. I am a scar. The whole world heals without me.
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Family Ties Now behind me, home sinks shuttered in amber, the debris enclosed by a deep golden drop. It’s so long ago
it must be beautiful,
her mouth open, my mother floats on the brown sofa for her afternoon nap. A kind of spell I performed by growing up so well a reverse fairy tale, no charmed sleep for the young, only the long evening when my parents settle gently into the past like silt coating the lake bed. And still I am not exactly sure what happened, anchor up, my small dingy suspended on the water’s flat surface. My parents’ calm faces stare up through murky water, a string of bubbles nuzzling between my father’s lips. This is one way to relate. The brisk wind lifts damp hair off my neck. Leaning over the lake I gaze down only where my shadow cuts the sun’s refracted shine.
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Linear Bee. dOyc98tV5kA (Park Sanssouci, August 2011)
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Portland Street Sketches 1. Wayne pawned his mandolin yesterday and bought a quart of white rum and a twenny pack of Pall Mall Bolds—I know he did. I conveniently went out to the stoop for a dart as he was coming around the corner with the mandolin over his shoulder. I laughed and asked him if he was bringing it to work—imagining him in the dishpit playing Carter Family songs covered in oil and fish batter. He said quite casually that he was tryin to pawn it. He had white spit in the corner of his mouth and didn’t look pleased with anything. I told him not to do that. He said he needed money. At this point he doesn’t have anything left that he doesn’t want so he’s reduced to selling prized possessions. I was panicked. I fuckin love that Mandolin. I love that we have it in our band and I love the songs we play that require it. Now he’s going off to pawn it for very little as if it’s no big deal? I told him again not to do that and he said he’d get a pawn ticket and try and hold it till the 23rd, which I assumed was when his pay check was coming. I told him it was a stupid idea. “I know,” he said, “but I need money.” “What’re you gonna spend it on,” I asked, “cigarettes and booze?” He didn’t answer and just told me not to tell anybody and kept walkin—bitter and defeated. I wished he hadn’t told me. 2. People pass by my apartment door day and night. Folks coming to and from work or going to the Laundromat. Crackheads and drunks, the two pimps and the five whores, the small business owners, the residents, and the beat cop with the Russian hat. Some are regulars and some aren’t. Some say hello and some don’t. Some have missing teeth. Some have limps and dirty clothes and others have suits and Blackberries. The little drunken curmudgeon who waddles to the store in his torn orange boxers. The VLT darlings who come out to smoke on occasion. The tall blonde lady well into her fifties with the cute little dog, the middle-aged Asian lady with the pony tail.... We don’t all know each other’s names but I see them when I smoke or look out my living room window. I see white and black and Lebanese. I see sadness, drunkenness. I see young and old, happy and sour, tattoos and motorcycles. I hear laughter and hollers and sirens.
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3. Living across the street from a motorcycle club........ Sometimes it’s loud but mostly it’s just funny. They have black leather vests with their logo on the back. They’re all men. They’re all tattooed, gruff, battered and ugly. Most of them are over forty. The club is in the basement of the building. They have a store in the room that leads from the sidewalk. They sell biker shit. Leather. This middle-aged ginger woman tends to it. She smokes a lot. In the window there is a T-shirt with the number 81 on the back of it. H is the 8th letter in the alphabet. A is the 1st. 81. HA. Hell’s Angels. (The Halifax Chapter of the Angels was shut down in 2001 by the RCMP, but still.) It’s hard to say whether or not they’re cutthroats. But I’m more afraid of the big black pimp that works on my block. Ten feet from my stoop. He reminds me of a bull. His moustache and big lips. His broad shoulders and dead fucking eyes. But the bikers pose no public threat. They probably have guns but I’ve never seen them. It’s hard to know how they’ve assessed me. 4. There’s this Caribbean dude on the block with mass amounts of gall. He asks for smokes like you have the words “FREE SMOKES” written on your chest in big neon letters. Then after you give him one he immediately asks for another. “Two? Can I get two smokes, mon?” He bums change in the same fashion. “Eh, you got a loonie?” “You got two bucks?” Very proper. Very matter of fact and without a lick of shame or nervousness. No sympathy. He walks with a purpose. He has the same casually determined face every time he passes me on the stoop. He must be in his 30s. Average height and build. Boring, well fitted clothing and knock-off running shoes. “You got a smoke?” “You got two smokes?” “You gotta toonie, mon?” 5. Joey’s always smoking outside his pub with a cup of coffee and a worried air about him. He must smoke about 2 packs a day on top of 6-8 pots of Nabob—black. He’s fifty something. Lebanese. Crazy-eyed—almost murderous. Big teeth, salt and pepper goatee and a gold chain around his neck. He told me once that he’s been in Dartmouth since ’71 but his accent is still thick. He talks too fast and it’s hard making him out. I miss at least a quarter of what he says every time we speak, but he’s a pretty nice guy. He lets us play his pub every week. But that has its own set of problems. He’s always bitching to me about the shows. Either he’s on me about the attendance being low, or the gear not getting packed up and put away after every show, or the fact that he’s losing business when people are up in my apartment
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drinking between sets and not buying his five dollar Labatt Blue. I never know what to say to him. He’s never satisfied. Sometimes I wonder if he just likes complaining. He must, because he doesn’t do anything to keep any of those problems from happening. He knows nothing about promotion or music or any of that shit. But he lets us play every week anyway, so fuck it. I just wish I could pass by him once, on my way to the ferry or the pizza place or the chip truck, without getting an earful. 6. Aaron strolls by the stoop almost every day. He’s in his mid-thirties, tall, dark, and looks like a skinny Rodney Dangerfield, a straight Frank O’Hara. He has a hair lip and bug eyes. His nose is busted from a motorcycle accident he had years back in Korea. He taught English there after he finished his degree at King’s College in Halifax. He lives in the grey apt building behind Joey’s Pub. I met him there one Friday a few years back while he was campaigning for the Liberal Party and passing out pins, spreading the holy word of Mayor elect Mike Savage (now the mayor of Halifax). Aaron is a smart dude. He’s funny. He’s been around. An old school HRM hipster. He was around for the first few years of the Halifax Pop Explosion music festival, saw Eric’s Trip during the Love Tara days, and used to drum in what he has referred to as “one of Dartmouth’s loudest bands.” These days, he’s on stress leave from his job at the bank, and spends his time reading, getting coffee, smoking king-size cigarettes and bumming around Portland. I can see him one day writing The Great Canadian Novel, if he hasn’t done so already. 7. The Sun Sun Cafe was a Chinese restaurant down at the end of the strip. It closed a few years ago. I used to eat there when I began hanging downtown. It was cheap and fairly tasty and almost always empty. The owners (an old Chinese couple) were always in the back corner playing cards and drinking Chinese beer. Sam’s Bar, right next door, used to be a funeral home. The beer fridge is an old corpse fridge. They sell three dollar drinks and have one of those new, touch screen jukeboxes. Barry drinks there almost every night. Barry runs a book stand at the market, further up the road. He doesn’t have that great a selection, and he doesn’t sell many books. He’s American. New York. Queens. He told me once that he moved to Nova Scotia in the 80s, and ended up in Dartmouth in the early 2000s. “Anything ya want. Your credit’s good.” “Nah, I’m just browsin, Barry.”
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“Do ya like History? I got some terrific stuff on the French Revolution.” He’s got that New York voice. That beautiful accident you hear in movies. I like hearing him speak. Wondering every time, why in the fuck someone would leave New York City for Dartmouth Nova Scotia. 8. Today I watched an old drunk square off with a telephone pole. He gave up after it refused to fight back and he staggered down the block and passed out on the bench outside the May Garden Chinese restaurant. There were police and paramedics down the block yesterday around this time. I got the scoop from Joey this morning. From what I could make out, he said one of the crackwhores robbed the Subway with a knife. Not the cash, just a sub and some chips. She lives above it. The Subway employees know she lives above them, so they called the cops and told them they could find her there. When they knocked on her door she jumped out the window and broke her leg. “Stupid fuckin bitch,” Joey said, laughing. The cops are out here every day. They circle the strip in their cars, or they walk from one end to the other. They are out here every day and the pimps still pimp, the whores still whore, the crackheads bumble down the street, the bikers hang their flags in the window and the drunks fight the telephone poles. There have been times where I’ve considered asking them why that is. “Hey officer, you know what goes on down here? You must, you’re out here every day. So I ask ya: why do you think they continue to do what they do?” I doubt I’ll bother. They probably wouldn’t like the criticism. I’ve never had to speak to a cop and I’d like to keep it that way. 9. Few doors down, towards the harbour, there’s a diner which hasn’t been open for business in close to fifteen years. The stools are still at the counter. Upstairs there’s an apartment. The building belongs to an old Italian man. The building looks much like the others on my block; slanted, stout, one storey tall from the early 1900s with white wood panelling and red brick. I don’t know his name, the old Italian man. He lives in the building. He lives in the apartment upstairs. He used to run the diner but shut it down. He still hasn’t left the property. He makes wine. The back wall of the building is covered in grape vines. He goes for a bike ride every day. In the summer time you’ll see him riding around Dartmouth in a wifebeater, shorts, helmet, and Sobey’s bags on both handles. He sits in the window of the diner with a cup of coffee and watches Portland Street. He waves at people. He smiles at people.
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I was on the stoop one night having a smoke and some dude came walking down from the harbour and stopped for a sec at the old man’s building. When he got to me, after having ignored him for close to ten seconds or so, he looked at me and said, “Excuse me, man, but, umm, do you know if there’s a ghost down there?” “Where?” “I was just walking by and I swore I saw some old guy in the window, but I’m wondering if I’m crazy.” I was laughing. He wasn’t. “Nah, man. That guy lives there.” “Oh thank fuck.” “Yeah. He sits there all the time.” “Jesus Christ, man. Trippy. I thought I’d fuckin lost it.” Stoned and lonely, I proceeded to tell the dude all I knew about the old Italian man in the window.
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Agonized Google Scenes Painstaking research went into the diary, as expected, and its production alienated the rest of the family, sharing the wood-paneled bungalow uneasily. Under close analysis it became a contrast between dominant laughter and a solo â€œstop staringâ€? mode. A small shift in the paradigm untaps the real dream. Invitational oppositions fill up the glass suggestion bowl. Everyone is here to watch the sister pluck her harp. If they ignite with laughter consider it an affirmation: or an irreconcilable conflict with the reality principle. Civilization depends on distractions generated to suppress glandular flare-ups. If the sister ditched her apathetic picking for real pleasure, we would marshal holy pressures to suppress it, and open the door to a limited Catholic penance.
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Speckled Elder My grandfather is a common species in this town. At sea level, in forests, abandoned fields and lakeshores, he rocks back and forth softly, to not trouble his deep roots and grey bark. Spotted with neglect, somewhat pale – of little value. At 11:15 every weekday: the death notices on the radio. My grandfather tells me he listens, to see if he’s died yet. We chuckle.
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The Mathematics of Being Known I don’t know how to get there. The bus number is somewhere between one and one hundred, the street has a name, the house another number. I don’t know what these numbers measure of when we started counting or why some things get numbers while other things get names. But I do know that my getting there is a matter of time and that time is the conversation between this movement and the next. They are waiting for me there. They are waiting for me at the end of this equation like the dot at the end of the sentence. They are drinking from cups or bottles or nothing at all if they have to spare the dark of tonight for the light of tomorrow. There is music in the air about them but no one holds it, no one hears it. The music only helps to pass the pauses in the stories we tell each other; stories about who we are, what we’re not and how we hope to be. Instruments carry our voices where we never could. The possibility of dancing stands still in their peripheral. Now I am almost close enough to being far away from not being there. I rode the number, recognized the name, walked counting down the street until it all added up to the knock, then, the answer. When I walk through the door I’ll arrive like a new season. They will ask me for my names and for my numbers and with some help from the cups and from the music, I’ll tell them. Then they’ll know that the person in front of them is the sum of all his wandering. Then they’ll know how to find me.
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contributors Dominique Bernier-Cormier is a poet from Montréal. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at UBC, where he is the poetry editor at PRISM international. He loves to drink beer, and also loves cancelling plans to go hiking early in the morning.
Sam Difalco lives and works in Toronto. His novel Mean Season will be out in autumn 2015 from Mansfield Press. James Dunnigan is an emerging writer of fiction and poetry, practising fishmonger and student at McGill University. His work, in English and French, has appeared in The Montréal Review and The Veg, and in 2014, his short story “Open Bay” won him second prize in the Québec Writing Competition. He has recently completed the manuscript for a novel and a book of short stories, both of which he is looking to publish. When not obsessing over the state of the cosmos, he can generally be found roaming the streets of Montréal with his buddy Dom, pretending to speak Latin.
Ivanna Besenovsky is an almond croissant. Brenton D. G. Dickieson teaches at the Centre of Christianity and Culture at the University of Prince Edward Island. Curator of the popular fantasy, faith, and fiction blog, www. aPilgrimInNarnia.com, Brenton is working on a PhD in theology and literature at the University of Chester. JNV Photography is a part-time travelling photographer and a part-time McGill English Literature student.
Caleb Harrison is from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
Miguel Eichelberger writes out of Vancouver, Canada with his authoress wife. He travels, hits pucks with sticks, kicks balls with feet (soccer and other), and is a happily bewildered father of two tiny lunatics. His poetry has appeared in literary magazines such as Vancouver Review as issue #27’s feature poet, OCW Magazine (Canada), Kindling (US), five issues of the Poetic Pinup Revue (US), Existere (Canada), The Resurrectionist (UK), Chrysalis (Canada), Buttontapper (US), San Diego State University’s pacificREVIEW, Indiana University’s From The Well House and most recently in In My Bed Magazine and Joypuke. Suki Faye currently studies in Vancouver, British Columbia. She hopes to one day live in a small cabin nestled somewhere in the woods. Dylan Jewers is a writer from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He has been published in The Brooklyn Voice and BareBackLit.
Christy Frost is from Montréal, Quebec. Her poetry has appeared previously in Steps, The McGill Daily’s Literary Supplement, and Ditch Poetry. Daniel Galef is a student at McGill University. This is entry number thirteen of aleph-null in Operation Azimov.
Margie Kelk is a Toronto-based visual artist whose artistic practice reflects contemporary concerns about cultural history and politics. She appropriates and reconstructs visual fragments of ideas through diverse artistic media that include ceramic sculpture, installation, drawing and painting, animation and photography. She has been showing in Canada, the United States and Europe. Recent solo exhibitions include Beyond Absurd (2010), Nowhereness (2012) and Swarf (2013) at the Red Head Gallery and Nowhereness (2014) at Artcite, Incorporated, Windsor, Ontario. Upcoming exhibitions include Counterpoise at the Red Head Gallery, Toronto. Kelk is a graduate of Wellesley College, The Johns Hopkins University (PhD.), and the Toronto School of Art diploma program.
Mark Antony Rossi’s poetry, criticism, fiction and photography have appeared in The Antigonish Review, Another Chicago Review, Bareback Magazine, Black Heart Review, Collages & Bricolages, Death Throes, Deep South Journal, Ethical Spectacle, Flash Fiction, The Magill Review, Japanophile, On The Rusk, Purple Patch, The Sacrificial and Wild Quarterly. His most recent play “Eye of the Needle” was produced by Grin Theatre, Liverpool, England. A YouTube recording is available at: http://markantonyrossi.jigsy. com. D.W. Lee D. W. Lee, cha cha cha. Clara Lagacé reads a lot of CanLit, drinks too much tea, and is trying to grow her hair long enough to make into a braid. While waiting for her hair to lengthen, Clara is completing her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Women’s Studies. Someday, Clara will travel the world. With a long braid down her back.
Nate Mosseau was born in a small town in New Hampshire. Since leaving, he has spent time living in Canada, Kenya, and Spain. He thinks that photographs have an agency and can be used to create as opposed to simply recording. One day he would like to walk across Uzbekistan. 68
Campbell McClintock’s clothes were wet when he wrote this. He went for a bike ride at 7 am, which is uncharacteristically early for him, and the rivers of rainwater on the soggy sunrise streets sprayed up his back as he rode faster and faster downhill. For a moment, he made eye contact with an elderly woman walking her dog and they exchanged smiles. Campbell was having a good day when he wrote this. He also likes to make ice cream.
Ilona Martonfi is the author of two poetry books, Blue Poppy (Coracle, 2009) and Black Grass (Broken Rules, 2012), and she has another book forthcoming: The Snow Kimono (Inanna, 2015). She writes in Vallum, The Fiddlehead, Montreal Serai, Steel Chisel, and elsewhere. She is the founder/producer of Yellow Door and Visual Arts Centre Readings, the co-founder of Lovers and Others, and the winner of the QWF 2010 Community Award. 69
Greg Santos is the author of Rabbit Punch! (DC Books, 2014) and The Emperor’s Sofa (DC Books, 2010). His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Walrus, Geist, The Montreal Review of Books, and The Feathertale Review. He is the poetry editor of carte blanche and teaches creative writing to at-risk youth. He lives in Montréal with his family.
Richard Scarsbrook is the award-winning author of the books Cheeseburger Subversive, Featherless Bipeds, Destiny’s Telescope, The Monkeyface Chronicles and, hot off the presses, Nothing Man and The Purple Zero, a novel for young adults, Six Weeks, a poetry collection, and The Indifference League, an adult novel. Richard won the 2011 White Pine Award, and his books have been finalists for the CLA Book of the Year Award, the Stellar Book Prize, and the ReLit Award. His stories and poems have been published widely, and have won many individual prizes. Find out more about his literary adventures at www. richardscarsbrook.com.
Mat Sanza a.k.a DJ TYLENOL is a Montréalborn Culture Studies major at McGill. When he was six years old, he got through half a piece of frozen, (brown) snow-dusted pizza he’d found next to a sewer grate, just outside the Ville Saint-Laurent library, before his mom caught up to him. All the life-events that followed were variations on this theme. He hopes both you and he will slip past all the guards and get to shake hands with the Law. In the meantime, he looks forward to consuming your art and improving his.
Judah Schulte is the name of a 19-year-old soonto-be journalism student who lives just outside of Vancouver with his sister, where he is saving up for a half-decent bicycle and less devastating student loans.