Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fiddlehead no. 246 arrives in January!

The winter 2011 issue of The Fiddlehead (no. 246) will be mailed out to subscribers and on the newsstands in January. Enjoy the five stories: Greg Bechtel’s “The Mysterious East (Fredericton, NB),” Marjorie Celona’s “Big Sex,” Michael Doyle’s “The Disappearing Man,” Sheila McClarty’s “Stolen,” and Shane Neilson’s “Freight.”

Turn to the poetry and read new works from fifteen poets including Jan Zwicky, Jack Hannan, Christine Lowther and Shane Rhodes. There are also reviews and Anna Cameron’s wonderful artwork, “Untitled V” graces the cover.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Train Your Brain to Create instead of Think (part 2)

  1. I’m stealing from Stephen King’s On Writing: write the first draft with the door closed and the second with the door open, which is to say realize the difference between creating and thinking. The first time around a composition does not have to be good, it has to be there. Good comes later.
    • As one of my supervisors said, “I give you permission to write absolute shit.” You can’t work with a blank page but, you can rework some good, old-fashioned textual fertilizer into something better.
    • Write whatever comes no matter how ridiculous. Remember, NO THINKING. Try for a mentality of and this happens, and this happens, and this, this, and this rather than a mentality of what happens next?
    • Tell the story YOU want to hear. Forget about what anybody else will think or feel. Please yourself. It is story-time, and you are the teller and the audience.

    Okay, that is all frame-of-mind stuff, but what about actual drills?
  2. Write for 20 minute bursts everyday—stream-of-consciousness if that is what comes. You’ll be surprised how quickly this exercise will gear up your creativity. Think of the bursts as push-ups. Today you can do one. Next week you will be able to do four. And the week after that you’ll feel like something is missing if you don’t do any. I know a professor at the University of Toronto who uses this drill to teach writing and the students say it works.
  3. Play 20 Questions if you are really stuck. Write 20 questions about your project. Keep them simple. What is his name? What are his hobbies? Why is he mad at his sister? And after you have all 20 write a simple 3 or 4 line response to each. NO STOPPING. NO THINKING. It is a great way to brainstorm and it pushes you to create as if you are under the pressure of someone else’s questions.
  4. Play 20 Questions with someone else. Make sure you choose someone you trust not to feel stupid in front of and who is patient so they won’t mind when you get irritable as the pressure to answer questions you don’t have responses to begins to annoy you. This one is my personal favorite.
  5. Safety in numbers. Buddy up and set a specific time every day. At this time you will exchange whatever you wrote that day (be it 3 lines or 3 pages) with your partner and then provide just reactionary comments like this made me laugh, or I tripped over this bit, I loved this, this was boring etc. NO THINKING!

And here I’ve provided just a couple of assignments for writing. You can obviously come up with more on your own. Set small, specific goals like write a scene with a lamp, a dog, and blue sedan. Remember, education is about drills and jumping through hoops. Most of those hoops are going to be completely arbitrary, just like lifting a dumb-bell up and down is completely arbitrary, but arbitrary hoops provide practice, and you need to practice creativity to develop it as a skill. Editing comes later. Learn to just grow a story first. You can train yourself to do that. If a creative writing teacher asks you for story after story with no change in the pattern no matter how well or poorly you do, that teacher is interested in seeing where you are as a writer. But if a teacher gives you little assignments or arbitrary drills (either regularly or in response to seeing you need some help), then that teacher is interested in teaching you to write. There is a difference. Don’t let anybody discourage you by convincing you differently.

Matt Mott
Editorial Assistant

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Train Your Brain to Create instead of Think (part 1)

I for one am getting sick and tired of being told that you can’t teach creative writing, that there is no reliable pedagogy for it, that the most you can do is provide people with a space and a time to workshop their material and allow them to get better over time.

I say codswallop.

True, you can’t teach talent and you can’t teach inspiration. And yes, the workshop—providing time and place for closed circuit feedback—is an essential component to teaching emerging writers to hone their craft. And true, the only real way to get better as a writer is to write. And to read. And to write some more. But that does not mean there is no pedagogy for the field, or, rather, that the only way to teach writing is to get people to write stories or what-have-you, pass them around, and receive comments back on what worked and what didn’t. I will defend workshopping to the nines, but frankly workshopping is only half of teaching creative writing. The golden rule to learn to write is to write but that says nothing about what to write or how to write it.

You can’t teach someone to be a good writer per se, but you can teach people, or rather train people, to regularly access the creative side of their brain. You’d think this would come eventually as you write more and more stories (however failed those stories may be), but this is not always the case.

My creative thesis (and the vast majority of my short fiction prior to it) has been kicking my ass! And after weeks of beating my head against the thesis, I finally understand why. I think too much! There is a difference between thinking and creating—a fundamental one in fact. I thought any time you engage in mental activity you are thinking. This is not true anymore than any time you are moving you are necessarily swimming. I just thought writing (the act of composing language) was simply always the same kind of writing which inevitably used thinking, mostly because years of school has taught, has trained, me to write critically, to think, or rather to make logical or symbolic connections between ideas in varying ranges of complexity, judging merits and assessing application value—how good is this and what does it do for us as a society. No wonder my fiction kept stalling out, if it ever got started in the first place. Every time I put something down I would never see it as good enough. I’d crush it before it had a chance to grow.

Thoughts like that’s lame or that’s stupid or who would want to read that would be common for me. After two or three of those babies your line of thinking … no your line of creating is shot and then the blank page will stare you down. In a staring contest, the blank page always wins. You have to build momentum, which doesn’t really happen, in my experience, when you think. Thinking is like building—a piece at a time until you have a structure that works for an essay or argument because you are not aiming, in the back of your mind, for someone to like it or identify with it. You are aiming for it to stand up against the elements of counter-argument. But when you are making something creative, you want to touch people, or anger them, or insert emotional response here. A creative piece is organic, and thus does not form one piece after the other but rather grows. If you stop the growth every five seconds and pick a leaf off, dude, your plant is going to go heels up.

What I see now is that I was editing as I went either consciously—that’s too melodramatic, Matt—or unconsciously—that’s stupid. Editing as you go is thinking. Creating should feel like the ideas aren’t even yours, like they are arriving for you from somewhere else and you are just writing them down as they come. The moment you start up with what happens next or, even worse, where do I want to go with this you aren’t creating, you are plotting, and that way there be monsters—clunky, artificial-sounding ones. Of course, this is all semantics—even while in the creation zone you have a direction you want to go with your, art, obviously but the point is that question-of-direction should never really form as actual words in your mind. It sounds very The Matrix or The Empire Strikes Backdon’t think you are, know you are—but that pseudo-leap-of-faith is the essence of creativity—don’t plan where your art will go, go where your art will go. And if you are like me, used to thinking critically rather than creating, creating something will be exhausting. I am talking major exam headache after only an hour of writing. So, we’ve got to train your brain up! Which, after a long ramble, brings us to pedagogy.

I stress again that work-shopping is essential, but that does not mean instruction is without merit. In fact, assignments (rather than just write me a story) and instructions are the other half of teaching creative writing. What is any education but a series of broken down drills to teach someone individual skills so that at some time in their life they have a cache of abilities to call upon to achieve a goal. Creativity is the same. You cannot be taught to be a good writer, but you can be taught to compose language and you can train yourself to use creativity rather than critical faculties.

Matt Mott
Editorial Assistant

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

On Sunday Nights the DEAD WILL WALK ... on AMC

Hopefully by now you have heard that this year we are celebrating The Fiddlehead’s 65th birthday! And if you haven’t, what planet are you from? Oh, that’s nice. Is it hot there? Welcome to Earth! We have cookies.

And in 65 years we have built up a strong tradition of publishing excellence, greedily devouring…ahem…I mean calmly perusing as much poetry and short fiction as comes our way and putting what we think of as the cream-of-the-crop into print. But just because we mainly publish poetry and short literary fiction does not mean that it is all we are willing to publish. WE’LL READ ANYTHING! As long as it is good. Send us your creative non-fiction, send us your plays, and send us speculative fiction and your genre fiction. Admittedly, it is hard to find examples of the last two that scream a healthy combination of awesomeness and quality necessary to see print, but that doesn’t mean we’ll turn you away at the door. If it is great literature, we’ll print it. Period. Just because the likelihood of something being good is very low doesn’t mean you should look down on it. Every once in a while something comes along that combines sharp, smart composition with more-leaning-towards-straight-up-fun content, the result being a piece of art that just plain rocks! Case in point, The Walking Dead — a weekly late night series that you can catch on AMC Sunday nights at 11:00 pm (AST).

Developed, executively produced, and at least partially written by Frank Darabont (the director that translated Stephen King’s work into The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist) right away promises that The Walking Dead will deliver quality. And the series keeps its promise, handing out a little something for everybody like treats at Halloween.

For those of us who lean towards a more formal or literary bent, the script is crisp, entertaining and convincing to the ear. And the players deliver the dialogue superbly and act in a way, if the series keeps on keeping on, that promises Emmy’s in just a few short looks to the horizon. But it’s the cinematography that stops you in your tracks and makes you gape, the pop-corn burning in the microwave as you just can’t tear your eyes from the screen.

In the pilot, our hero, sheriff deputy Rick Grimes, wakes up in the hospital from a gun-shot wound induced coma only to find a world transformed by a zombie apocalypse. Yes, yes, not overly original as Danny Boyle has already put it on the big screen (let’s not talk about who actually wrote the idea first) in 28 Days Later, but it is the first reel of the first episode so we’ll let it ride for now. Rick wanders the halls, disoriented, seeing signs of destruction but no people of any kind present in the rooms, in the halls, at the desks. Signs of struggles are everywhere and even signs of outright battles. And at the end of a long hallway our hero sees his first sign of life … sort of—a double door secured with a two-by-four and a chain-and-padlock bumping and rattling as a group of somethings moan and shuffle and push to get out. And spray-painted on the door, no doubt surreal to sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes but oh so clear to the viewer, is DON’T OPEN. DEAD INSIDE.  And of course Rick panics and goes for the elevator despite the building obviously having no power, you on the couch, either in your head or right out loud, screaming don’t do that, you idiot! That’s just a big box! Luckily the buttons are useless and Grimes proceeds to the stairs. Awwww, ok, says the horror viewer, as the stair door swings open and light fills the stairwell. And then bangs shut taking its light with it. No power. No windows. Grimes is on the stairs in a gurney, in total blackness, with only a few matches to light the way. Convenient that he just happened to pick these up at a nursing station, but we don’t care because my GOD! He can only see six inches in front of his face and there may be things in the dark and I was feeling comfortable because I thought he was safe because he made the sane choice and went for the stairs! Darabont and the team of The Walking Dead excel at getting you where you live and doing so with no dialogue but rather with just a bit of acting and some well-placed camera shots and lights (or lack thereof).

For those who want the gross-out in the horror you’ll get it: see episode two and wonder how does one make oneself smell like the dead? By covering oneself with the dead, of course, my darling.

Are you looking for action? Or drama? A simple fist fight in episode three is a straight-forward, run-of-the-mill beating but it’s not, it’s visceral because of how it is shot, how it is blocked, and how it is sounded (I think I just made that film-verb up). The beating isn’t exactly Mortensen dancing for Cronenberg in an Eastern European bathhouse, but, folks, we are definitely moving in that direction.

You get the point. The series is awesome. Check it out because at The Fiddlehead we pride ourselves on decades of publishing literary excellence, enjoying the caviar and fine wine of the printed word, if you will. But every once in a while you just need some good junk food too. So if you have a story or poem that is more fantastic than it is F. Scott Fitzgerald, send it our way. It might be good literature. Hell, it might be great. But even if it isn’t those things, it might be worth a read and a print because it might be good fun. It might be good junk food, like The Walking Dead. Give it a watch. I guarantee you’ll get a mouthful.    

Matt Mott
Editorial Assistant

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Congratulations & News – It’s a busy week at The Fiddlehead!

Five poems first published in The Fiddlehead were selected for inclusion in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2010, edited by Lorna Crozier and published by Tightrope Books.

The five authors and poems are:
  • Michael Johnson’s “The Praise of the Village Idiot” (The Fiddlehead 238)
  • Robyn Sarah’s “Messenger” (The Fiddlehead 239)
  • David Seymour’s “The Photo Double” (The Fiddlehead 238)
  • Paul Tyler’s “Manitoba’s Maples” (The Fiddlehead 241)
  • David Zieroth’s “How Brave” (The Fiddlehead 239) 
Congratulations to all five authors!

The Fiddlehead’s fiction co-editor, Mark Jarman, recently made an appearance on the CBC radio show "The Next Chapter" to discuss Darwin’s Bastards: Astounding Tales from Tomorrow. Check out the episode here!

If you happen to be in Fredericton this weekend, come on down to the Small Press & Community Fair on Saturday, November 13, from 12 – 5pm. The fair is being held at Gallery Connexion’s new space in the Chestnut Complex (440 York Street, Fredericton). Staff from The Fiddlehead will be there—so drop by and say hello.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tammy Armstrong Launches Her New Collection

Tammy Armstrong, poetry co-editor of The Fiddlehead and nominated for the Governor General’s Award in 2002, will be launching her new collection: The Scare in the Crow.

This event will be held Monday, November 1st at 7pm in Wilser’s Room on 366 Queen Street in Fredericton, NB.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Congratulations to Daryl Hine, Alexander MacLeod, and Sandy Pool

Congratulations to Daryl Hine and Sandy Pool! Their poetry collections, &: A Serial Poem and Exploding into Night, were shortlisted for Governor General’s Literary Award in Poetry. Six poems from &: A Serial Poem were published in The Fiddlehead 244 (Summer 2010), while Sandy Pool’s poem, “Storge/Neikos,” will debut  in The Fiddlehead 246 (Winter 2011).

Congratulations to Alexander MacLeod!  His debut collection of short fiction, Light Lifting, has been shortlisted for the ScotiaBank Giller Prize.  His story “Wonder About Parents,” which appears in Light Lifting, is in The Fiddlehead autumn issue 245.  Alexander MacLeod will be reading from Light Lifting at the University of New Brunswick in Alumni Memorial Lounge on Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 8 p.m

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Scenes from the Poetry Weekend

Scenes from Poetry Weekend at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, NB, Canada. All photos by Brian Bartlett.

Group photo from Poetry Weekend
Anne Compton
Cory Lavendar, Johnny Barger, John Barton
Kathy Mac, Richard Lemm, Katia Grubisic
Richard Lemm, Brian Bartlett, David Zieroth
Ross Leckie
Tammy Armstrong, Karen Solie, David Seymour
Zach Wells, Steve McOrmond, James Langer

Monday, October 4, 2010

UNB Fredericton’s Writer in Residence

Are you a writer living in or near Fredericton or do live elsewhere in New Brunswick and will be coming for a visit to Fredericton? Would you be interested in receiving free feedback on your writing? Then consider making an appointment with UNB Fredericton’s 2010/2011 writer-in-residence John Barton.

John is an award winning poet and current editor of The Malahat Review. He welcomes writers at all stages of their careers to meet with him to discuss their work or other writing concerns. Meetings with him are by appointment only.

Office Hours: Tuesdays 1-5pm, Thursdays 10am-2pm
Email jbarton@unb.ca or phone (506) 452-6356.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

UNB Annual Poetry Weekend

The annual poetry weekend is upon us! Once again UNB Fredericton welcomes many acclaimed Canadian and local poets at this weekend-long poetry festival. Come hear many of your favorite poets read their work.

Featured poets such as John Steffler, Sue Gillis, Anne Compton, Brian Bartlett, Richard Lemm, David Zieroth, Johanna Skibsrud, Karen Solie, Shane Neilson, Sharon McCartney, Katia Grubisic, matt robinson, Vanessa Moeller, Michael deBeyer, James Langer, Tammy Armstong -just to name a few- will be reading this weekend! Come and join us for a wonderful time.

Readings take place at UNB Fredericton, Memorial Hall on October 2nd and 3rd. Six separate readings will be held from 11am, 2pm, 8pm. We'd love to see you there!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In Memory of Bill Bauer

Photo by Brian Bartlett

Long-time Fiddlehead editor and contributor Bill Bauer passed away this spring.  I’ll miss him, especially for his wry sense of humour. Your leg could stretch pretty long before you realized he was pulling it.  Our fall issue will have a heartfelt remembrance from Brian Bartlett, as well as some poems of Bill’s.

The fall issue has gone to press. There is new fiction from Alexander MacLeod (see his first book Light Lifting from Biblioasis) and Wasela Hiyate. We have an exciting list of poets, including Aislinn Hunter, Tim Bowling, Jane Munro, Barry Dempster, Jan Conn, A. F. Moritz, and Patrick Warner. Also take a look at the work from two very fine young poets--Stewart Cole and Danny Jacobs.

Ross Leckie

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers Call for Submissions

The Writers Trust of Canada is accepting submissions for 2010 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers. To be eligible candidates must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, under the age of 35, unpublished in book form and without a book contract, but whose literary work has appeared in at least one independently edited magazine or anthology.

A prize of $5,000 will be awarded to the best collection of poetry. Two honourable mentions will each receive $1,000 prizes. The deadline for submissions is 17 December 2010.

Submissions should be sent to:
RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers
c/o The Writers' Trust of Canada
90 Richmond Street East, Suite 200
Toronto, Ontario, M5C 1P1

For further information visit www.writerstrust.com or contact: Amanda Hopkins, Program Coordinator
416-504-8222 ext 242 or ahopkins@writerstrust.com

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

UNB Reading Series

John Barton, the 2010/11 University of New Brunswick writer-in-residence, author of eight poetry collections and winner of a CBC Literary Award in 2003 and a National Magazine Award in 2006, will be reading from his newest collection: Hymn.

David Bergen, author of the celebrated novels, The Case of Lena S. and The Retreat, and Giller Prize winner for his novel The Time in Between, will be reading from his newest work of fiction: The Matter with Morris.

This event will be held Thursday, September 16th at 7pm in the West Gallery at Memorial Hall on the UNB Fredericton campus

Congratulations to Emma Donohue

 Congratulations to fellow Irish transplant Emma Donohue on her Man Booker nomination for her novel Room (a bidding war for the novel's rights was won by Picador in the U.K., which paid a reported £1 million).

Had the pleasure of her company here last year as part of the UNB Reading Series. The winner is to be announced on October 12 - so fingers crossed.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Doing Away with the Slush Pile

Jim Hannah’s blog, Encylopedia Hannasina, has an interesting post on the slush pile and how it should be done away with. In particular he focuses on the literary journal. His argument: that the process for the writer is extremely long with the best possible outcome being that “Your story is accepted, and maybe a year later it appears and is distributed to the journal’s meager readership who probably won’t read it…” His judgment is no better for the journal. It needs to maintain an “army of volunteer readers” to wade through it which is wasteful since “most submissions fall into the category of ‘not even close.’” So he suggests killing off the slush pile and publishing work by solicitation only. “How will writers and editors find each other then? Simple. Writers will put their work out—on blogs or in writing communities or wherever—and editors will find it.” Instead of trying out work it can be put out to find an immediate audience. Journals meanwhile will find new work through the internet in “all sorts of novel ways—nominations, tagging schemes, fostering writing communities—all of which would be less ridiculous (and probably less expensive and time-consuming) than the slush pile.”

Alright, so this particular editor thinks slogging through the slush pile of internet published writing would be way more “expensive and time-consuming” than Mr. Hannah is letting on; nevertheless, he has some interesting points. The time lag between writing and submission, submission and rejection/acceptance, acceptance and publication is an ongoing issue for writers and publishers. The eventual published work is rarely indicative of where the writer is currently situated. Anything that can speed this process up is well worth considering. In addition, I am kind of drawn to the idea of an Utne Reader of literature. Poems, stories, non-fiction gathered from on and off-line literary journals. Here the internet has a lot to offer. Online journals are cheap and multitudinous. Frequently the editorial input leaves a lot to be desired. Notwithstanding, there undoubtedly is a lot of great work out there which slips past a lot of interested readers in much the same way a blog post such as this can quickly disappear from view. For someone, or someone’s army of volunteers, to scour the slush pile of the internet seems to me to be a worthy cause not to replace the current process of submission but to compliment it.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor

Monday, August 16, 2010

Documentary Fiction and The Death of Donna Whalen

We’re still enjoying summer days, but we’re also drawing close to the fall season of new books. One title I’m particularly curious about is Michael Winter’s The Death of Donna Whalen, due out at the end of August. The novel centres on the murder of Donna Whalen and the trial of her accused boyfriend Sheldon Troke. Winter incorporates trial transcripts and verbatim court testimonies in the work; his publisher, Penguin, describes the novel as “documentary fiction.”

The practice of incorporating historical or “real-life” events in a fictional work is common. But the term “documentary fiction” isn’t one I’ve often heard applied to a novel. So I Googled it and came up with a New York Times article titled “ ‘Documentary’ Fiction.” The article begins: “The question of historical fiction has been tremendously threshed over these last months. Very likely there is nothing new left to say about it.” The article, dated October 12, 1901, goes on to discuss Rudyard Kipling’s work.

Clearly, authors and audiences have a long and complicated relationship with history, storytelling, and “the truth.” Right now, our pop culture is fairly obsessed with the concept of reality. But while celebrity blogs and TV shows like The Hills, Jersey Shore, and The Bachelorette may operate under an overarching premise of reality, they are often purposefully ambiguous regarding what events in their narratives are real or staged. These programs are very different in their content, message, and intended audience from historical fiction, memoirs, biography, and Winter’s documentary fiction. But perhaps the proliferation of multiple mediums that simultaneously entwine, yet differentiate between fiction and fact speaks to a persistent and increasingly fraught cultural preoccupation with one’s ability to identify truth.

On the other hand, maybe an ambiguity between fact and fiction simply contributes to quality of storytelling. We read and write stories to learn about ourselves, others, the world we inhabit. Is there value in attempting to define or identify why and how we blur the categories, or should we embrace E.L Doctorow’s sentiment that “[t]here is no fiction or nonfiction as we commonly understand the distinction: there is only narrative.”? In choosing to write documentary fiction, Winter may satisfy cultural desires for both fact and story, which in turn allows him to tell Whalen’s story in a way that resonates deeply with his audience. 

— Her first novel, Quiver, is forthcoming with HarperCollins in January 2011.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Editorial From The Fiddlehead 244

It was Otto von Bismarck who as Chancellor of a unified Germany introduced old-age pension legislation that would allow workers to retire at age 65. I have no idea why 65, though the cynical point out that the average Prussian life expectancy was 45. Nevertheless, 65 has become a kind of mystical number; the mere mention of “early retirement” or “freedom 55” seems decadent, the words providing a glossy patina to the suggestion that you could cheat the system, as if it were a kind of tax evasion. A tip of the hat to those who could pull it off.

So now that The Fiddlehead has hit the magic number it can move to Florida and luxuriate in the exotic ferns of that florid climate. I imagine the “Staghorn” knows how to fiddle a tune or two. And I’m intrigued by the floating ferns that drift about on the water. There’s something poetic in that. Perhaps it’s fitting that The Fiddlehead is Canada’s oldest journal. In the fossil records ferns show up 400 million years ago, some of the oldest forms of plant life on earth.

So here’s to the old Fern. Put on your favourite fiddle music, draw a fine ale with a good head, and raise a glass with us. Not in Florida, but rooted right here in New Brunswick. This, in our 65th year, is the summer special poetry issue.

We have so much to offer you again this summer, and I’d like to start by celebrating our relatively new poets. One string on our fiddle is always tuned to their work. Pay close attention to the remarkable writing of Danielle Devereaux, Erin Knight, April Ripley, Nick Thran, and Stephanie Yorke.

We’re also casting a glance backward to past editors and contributors Robert Gibbs, Don McKay, and Travis Lane. Bob’s name is almost as entwined with The Fiddlehead as Fred Cogswell’s. He was editor from 1971-73, acting editor several times, and worked as the poetry editor for over forty years. He wrote the brief Fiddlehead history for the 50th anniversary issue, known as Fiddlehead Gold. Don McKay edited The Fiddlehead from 1991-1996 and introduced a new generation of poets to Canadian readers. I have spoken to many of those poets about Don’s influence, and they all speak of his generosity of spirit. Travis Lane is one of those few poets dedicated to reading poetry with such close critical attention that it leads to extensive and perspicacious reviewing. Someday I will have to count the astonishing number of reviews she’s written for The Fiddlehead. In this issue you will find her latest.

This year we present two retrospectives of renowned American poets Jorie Graham and Marvin Bell, introducing them to Canadian readers unfamiliar with their work and reminding those who know them of the remarkable contributions they have made to twentieth-century poetry. Sharon McCartney (For and Against 2010) and I selected the poems of Marvin Bell, and Katia Grubisic (What if red ran out 2008) and I worked on Jorie Graham’s poetry. I cannot really convey how much I enjoyed rereading Graham and Bell’s books and having long, leisurely conversations about them with Sharon and Katia. Thank you, Katia, for your work on the interview with Jorie Graham and you, Sharon, for your insightful introduction to Marvin Bell.

We can never pretend to represent the entirety of Canadian poetry in our summer issue. Such a task would require at least twenty volumes. We cannot even pretend this is a cross-section; it is, rather, a sampling of some very fine poets. Summer issues alternate between poetry and fiction, and each year after the special fiction issue is published I start to get excited about the summer poetry issue to follow. I begin to gather work I think will be at home there.

And speaking of the fiction issue, yesterday I passed the torch to Mark Jarman to begin assembling next summer’s issue. Mark has been fiction editor since 1999, and his sensibility and his ear for the truly unique and surprising voice has shaped The Fiddlehead into the journal to turn to when looking for the genuinely new and fresh in Canadian fiction.

This is the opportune moment to thank The Fiddlehead poetry editors, Jesse Ferguson and James Langer, whose help has been instrumental in assembling and shaping this issue. They are both interesting and careful readers, and they are fine poets. Readers of poetry should explore Jesse’s Harmonics and James’s Gun Dogs. It is also the moment to thank our book reviews editor Sabine Campbell. Her love of Canadian literature inspires her to commission excellent reviews of new books, and she edited the poetry review section of this issue with a keen intelligence.

It is gratifying to hear from readers looking for copies of previous poetry issues. Thank you, our readers, whether you are younger or older than 65.

Ross Leckie

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Frank O'Connor Award

Being somewhat partial to all things Irish, I happened to notice this week some comments from  Nadine O'Regan, judge of the Frank O'Connor Award. The award honours the best original collection of stories published in English in the past year and is the richest short story prize in the world (what is it with these Irish guys anyway that they have to have the richest short story prize in the world and the richest novel prize too — The Impac — haven’t they heard that the Celtic Tiger has long since been declawed?) Anyway, O’Regan commented to The Guardian newspaper that she “was looking for a story collection which I felt I could give to someone on the street who liked short stories, and say: 'This is a story with an interesting take on life.' I didn't want something which felt like it came out of a creative writing program — I wanted the stories to show individuality."

So here’s the thing: Robin Black, T.C. Boyle and Lauren Van Den Berg (three of the five finalists) all have MFAs from Creative Writing Programs, which might suggest that individuality is possible despite Ms O’Regan’s misgivings!

And hey, all you aspiring writers out there, UNB’s English department has a pretty good Creative Writing program itself if you don’t mind developing individuality and the possibility of winning big money prizes.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor

Monday, July 19, 2010

The League of Canadian Poets AGM in Toronto

The League meeting was really enjoyable for me this year.  Many sessions and readings began with someone reading a poem from Pat Lowther.  I hadn’t read Lowther for a number of years, and it was great to be reminded what an outstanding poet she was.  The new Collected is out now and is a must read!  I know the readings were painful for some, but I found it celebratory in a quiet sort of way.

I was asked to participate on a panel on ekphrasis, poetry about the visual arts, organized by Ruth Roach Pierson.  She read an insightful paper that laid out the historical background of ekphrasis.  John Reibetanz was on the panel, and his paper contained all the delightful wit we’ve come to expect from him.  I didn’t give a paper exactly.  Instead I listed eight ways of thinking about ekphrasis and talked about how they might be approached if you were writing an ekphrastic poem.  The panel was chaired by Anita Lahey, who is editing an issue of ARC on ekphrasis.

There was an excellent panel on experimental poetry.  Sina Queyras was captivating in talking about how politics are shaped in the open field of her work.  She also gave an exceptional reading from Expressway at the Bar Italia, as part of the opening night celebrations.

Anne Simpson gave the Szumagalski lecture this year.  I won’t recapitulate it here.  Watch for it on The League's website in the section on The Anne Szumagalski Lectures Series.  It’s not up yet, but if you want to look at what Tim Lilburn or Anne Carson have given in the past, the full texts are available.

The Lampert Prize for best first book is always interesting, the shortlist providing a group of writers many of whom you haven’t heard of yet.  James Langer won the award for Gun Dogs.  I realize that I am biased, but I think this is a book we’ll all be reading years from now.

Karen Solie won the The Pat Lowther Memorial Award for Pigeon, obviously a very fine book.  It’s been showered with awards.  Take a look and see.

Ross Leckie

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Congratulations to James Langer!

James, The Fiddlehead's poetry co-editor, won the 2010 Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for Best First Poetry Book for his collection Gun Dogs (House of Anansi Press).

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Fiddlehead Wins National Magazine Award

The National Magazine Awards winners have been announced and The Fiddlehead is pleased to say all five of its nominees did well.

In the Fiction category Steven Heighton's story, "Shared Room on Union" won gold. And "Back to Disney" by Jeff Park and "The Spanish Hour" by J. M. Villaverde were honourable mentions. All three stories were published in The Fiddlehead 240 (Summer 2009).

In the Poetry category honourable mentions were given to Anne Compton’s three poems, "Stepping Off," "It starts with names," and "We waited" from The Fiddlehead 239 (Spring 2009) and to Vanessa Moeller’s poetry sequence,"Abandoned Postcards Found in Hotel Room 464," from The Fiddlehead 241 (Autumn 2009).

Congratulations to everyone!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Blog for the Slightly Savage

There is a misleading notion that the writing life is a solitary one. American author Jessamyn West is often quoted to support this: “Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.”

While I am not suggesting that this particular editor of The Fiddlehead is without his share of savagery, and while acknowledging that many writers prefer to be alone when formulating the words, the writing life goes way beyond those moments. A writer must engage with the world in order to write about it. Interruptions are to be welcomed and indeed should be sought after. No matter how we posit it, writing is a communal process.

The Fiddlehead itself (like all literary publications) is proof of this. Why else would we gather a collection of writings and writers together in a designated place? Why else would any of these writers agree to publish their work? Why else would we need editorial input? Furthermore, the response to the published writing is, I believe, in itself a part of the process. As such, I welcome the arrival of The Fiddlehead Blog. It provides a space to facilitate communication between Canada's longest lived literary journal and ...well, anyone else who cares to join in – family, friends, natural enemies, and, of course, the slightly savage.

Your comments are to be welcomed. We look forward to hearing from you.

Gerard Beirne
Fiction Co-Editor