Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amy Jones and Rebecca Rosenblum Reading on March 29th

Authors Amy Jones and Rebecca Rosenblum will be reading from their work Thursday, March 29th at 8 pm in the Galleries of Memorial Hall.

Amy Jones is the author of What Boys Like and other Stories (Biblioasis 2009), a collection of fiction that was awarded the 2008-2009 Metcalf-Rooke Award for Short Fiction and was shortlisted for the 2010 ReLit Award. What Boys Like explores the complicated and sometimes beautiful events of everyday life among a cast of urban misfits and the outsiders that populate the periphery of the city. Jones’ prose deftly captures the joys and frustrations of the characters that are at the centre of her stories. The stories of What Boys Like document the social make-up of the city itself while revealing the experiences that are common to all of us. Jones’ stories have been published in The New Quarterly, Grain, Prairie Fire,Event, Room of One’s Own, and The Antigonish Review among others. Jones was the winner of the 2006 CBC Literary Award for Short Story in English.

Rebecca Rosenblum’s second collection of short stories, The Big Dream (Biblioasis 2011), follows the developments of the characters that populate her first collection of fiction, Once (Biblioasis 2008). The Big Dream examines the often-fraught lives of people living and working in the urban environment. Many of the stories are set in the offices of a lifestyle-magazine publishing company, Dream Inc., where the employees struggle with their personal lives amidst the turmoil and uncertainty of a business operating in a period of economic uncertainty. Events and characters overlap and interconnect inThe Big Dream, creating a web of complexity that encapsulates the human relationships of the book as well as the narrative structure. Rosenblum’s short fiction has been short-listed for the Journey Prize, the National Magazine Award, and the Danuta Gleed Award. Her first collection of stories, Once, was awarded the Metcalf-Rooke Award. Rosenblum’s stories have appeared in Exile Quarterly, The Antigonish Review, The New Quarterly, Journey Prize Stories 19, and Maisonneuve, among others.

The reading is presented by the UNB Department of English, the UNB University Bookstore, The Canada Council for the Arts, and The Fiddlehead.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with Anita Lahey

Recently, I sat down with Canadian poet and journalist Anita Lahey to talk about her latest book of poems Spinning Side Kick (Signal Editions, 2011). Anita's poetry is equal parts playful and profound, and our conversation bounced from the fun of onomatopoeia to the foggy future of literary magazines.

 Anita Lahey's previous book Out to Dry in Cape Breton (Signal Editions, 2006) was nominated for the Ottawa Book Award and the Trillium book award for poetry. Previously, she was the editor of Arc Poetry Magazine. She currently lives in Fredericton, NB Canada.

Listen to the interview in your web browser 
(Right Click or Control Click on the above link to download mp3 interview)

Claire Kelly
Editorial Assistant

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Show Me the Way to Go Home: Place & Belonging in Shoshanna Wingate’s Homing Instinct

This past October I had the opportunity to both attend and participate in the 8th annual Poetry Weekend on the UNB campus here in Fredericton. The three day event is a veritable Newport festival of poetry performance that provides a collegial atmosphere for established and emerging writers alike to read selections of their work to an enthusiastic public.

Shoshanna Wingate, one of the weekend’s standouts, captivated the audience with powerful and emotionally sincere poems read from her recently published short collection Homing Instinct.

Content aside, Homing Instinct is a handsome, limited edition hand-sewn chapbook meticulously assembled using specifically selected archival papers and print pigments, making it a work of art in its own right, and a delight to handle. Congratulations to Frog Hollow Press for constructing yet another distinctive bibliophile edition.

Home and all of its accoutrements, conventions, and cultural imperatives are made accountable in Wingate’s collection as it moves inexorably towards the final reckoning we encounter in the closing poem. “Neighbours” and “The Cotton Mill” come early in the book, and as companion pieces, work to both establish and entrench the prevailing thematic locus.

In “Neighbours,” tensions between adult realities and the child speaker’s narration of her perceived experience are subtly communicated, as in the offhand remark “my papa says it’s quaint and cheap,” describing why they are ostensibly squatting in an Appalachian backwater. The use of statement also works as an effective counterpoint to the bucolic scene, as when the speaker surprises us by suddenly entering the narrative in remarking “no one knows people live down here,” thus revealing her agency and perspective in the world of the poem. The children “drape the willows around [their] necks / like scarves, serve moss tea to frogs / on stumps that serve as parlour sets, / and fan [themselves] with ferns like queens” as the poem closes, and despite what the reader now knows of actualities, the notion of home as filtered through the speaker is as pure, satisfying, and real as we will encounter in these pages.

Wingate continues the childhood Appalachian narrative in “The Cotton Mill,” though the voice of the poem seems more worldly and knowing. Gone is the fanciful, rustic paradise of the previous poem, and in its place we find a once functioning cotton mill — the blind monster of the poem — with all its windows bricked in, eyelessly glowering over the landscape like a fallen Oedipus. The choral device of repeating the first two lines — “[w]e raced our bikes around its glass-strewn lot, / along abandoned railroad tracks down river” — in the middle of the poem, aside from acting as a temporal reset and referential tie to classical tragic texts, is yet another means of emphasizing the shift in point-of-view. The children continue to play in this environment, but its realities are very much foregrounded, and instead of fanciful, imaginative games of make-believe, they “[pitch] rocks at the windowless windows” and have “all the injuries / of youth to unleash: schoolyard fights, our fathers’ / worthless jobs…[,] our lack / of anything better to do.” That the poem can be read as a post-industrial vision of America, it’s economic and accompanying cultural infrastructure in ruins, is likely no accident, nor is the portentous arrival of “folks even poorer than us” brought, ironically, by the “Holy Roller Church” — an apparent allusion to outsourcing, and a not so veiled condemnation of missionary interference.

Mid-century cult crime novelist Jim Thompson has one of his characters remark of homicidal anti-hero Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me that “a weed is a plant out of place,” and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the wisdom in those words while considering the closing poem in Homing Instinct, “The City Dwellers.” Weeds are featured prominently, and their invasive, almost malevolent agency is masterfully presented and complicated throughout. “Their roots,” we’re told, are “as thick as wrists, had gnarled split tails, / white flesh… as long as twinned ermines.” Ominous, certainly, but in choosing ermines as a metaphor, Wingate intimates that the weeds, in some capacity, can be read as regal or noble, a characteristic compounded by their blooming buds, described as “round like Queen Anne’s lace.”

It’s this notion of belonging and the place of competing identities within the speaker relative to established definitions of home that Wingate wrestles with in “The City Dwellers.” As a “domesticated” space, home is rendered untenable here — something that can’t be, or refuses to be, fashioned to the speaker’s will. Having settled in the rural environment of the poem some years ago after having previously lived an urban and presumably itinerant lifestyle, she struggles to impose the learned sense of order she believes is necessary to realizing her culturally prescribed idea of home. The fence built by a neighbour, in all likelihood to block the untidy, unconventional space the narrator exhaustively labours to tame, is met with relief, as it brings “some outline of order.”

A similar feeling of perceived contentment or groundedness is communicated when Wingate writes off of her subject by interpolating a back-story episode wherein her speaker is put at peace by watching a former neighbour exercise his trained pigeons on the roof of an urban walk-up. But it’s precisely this imposed sense of constraint that is ultimately undermined as the poem moves forward: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall / That wants it down.” Frost’s maxim from “Mending Wall” couldn’t be more appropriate to Wingate’s purposes in “The City Dwellers,” as the order of the fence, and the compliance of the trained pigeons, although outwardly celebrated as efforts at containment, are ultimately indicted as absurd artificialities. The spanworms that decimate the speaker’s garden act as a clever thematic counterpoint to the trained pigeons we encounter in the middle of the poem. Emerging from their pupas, they soar over the “pockmarked garden, without / another notice, not for its destruction / or their battered homes, cared nothing for what/they left behind, nor dwelled on what survived.”

The message, then, both in “The City Dwellers” and the collection at large, may well be that we need to reclassify our notions of what home is and means. It seems much less a physical place, and more, simply, where we find ourselves. Wherever we are is merely a vehicle we put to use in the interest of perpetually moving forward. In Homing Instinct, Shoshanna Wingate gracefully communicates a timeless and difficult truth. It’s in the journey that home is found, not in some perceived final destination.

Phillip Crymble
Editorial Board

Monday, March 12, 2012

The UNB Reading Series Presents: Sue Goyette and Lynn Davies

Poets Sue Goyette and Lynn Davies will be reading from their poetry Thursday, March 15th, 2012 at 1 pm in the Alumni Memorial Lounge.

Sue Goyette's latest book of poetry, Outskirts (Brick 2011), explores the complexity and power of human connections while reflecting on the tenuous relationship that we have with our natural environment. Outskirts finds hope in the details of human interaction and envisions a path forward through a natural landscape that is increasingly subject to destruction and dissolution.

Goyette is the author of two previous collections of poetry and one novel. Her first book of poetry, The True Names of Birds (Brick 1998) was nominated for the Governor General's Award for Poetry, the Pat Lowther Award, and the Gerald Lampert Award. Her poems have won the 2008 CBC Literary Prize for Poetry, the 2010 Earle Birney Award and the 2011 Bliss Carman Poetry Award. Her first novel, Lures (HarperCollins 2002), was nominated for the 2003 Thomas Head Raddall Award. Sue Goyette currently resides in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Lynn Davies is the author of two books of poetry: The Bridge that Carries the Road (Brick 1999), selected as a finalist for the Governor General's Award and short-listed for the Gerald Lampert Award in 2000, and Where Sound Pools (Goose Lane 2005). Davies' poems have been published in several anthologies and literary journals, including The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, and The New Brunswick Reader. Born in New Brunswick, Davies' poetry reflects on human relationships, family, and nature while more directly considering the impact of external events on the our psychological condition.

The reading is presented by the UNB English Department, the Canada Council for the Arts, the UNB Fredericton Bookstore, and The Fiddlehead.

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Sampling of Fiction Editor Gerard Beirne’s New Collection, Games of Chance

One of the most prominent Irish transplants now dwelling in Atlantic Canada, Gerard Beirne was quick to root himself here, and foster its writing community. He’s currently teaching at UNB, where he has also been a writer in residence, and acts as an editor at one of Canada’s finest literary journals, The Fiddlehead. He also plays a big role in a fantastic organization — The Writers Federation of New Brunswick — who do as much or more for their members as any similar organization... To read more

Also check out fiction editors Jarman and Beirne talking about what The Fiddlehead Journal is up to, looking for, remembers fondly, and more...