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February 2, 2012

The New Quarterly 120: Love is Abroad

I’m behind on the times because The New Quarterly 121 has just shown up in my mailbox (which was very crowded. Apparently my downstairs neighbour has just taken out a subscription to The New Quarterly). But I still want to write about how fabulous the last issue was.

It featured the winner of the Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, Lisa Martin-DeMoor, whose poetry I reviewed nearly two years ago. Her essay “A Container of Light” did that brilliant thing that great essays do, which is to take something very personal personal and intimate, and shine a light upon that story in such a way that the story becomes one about something much bigger. It is particularly significant that Martin-DeMoor is writing about a miscarriage, about mourning and loss, because how do you tell a story bigger that that? But she does, and it’s beautiful: “How light is always leaping out of darkness, even when a light goes out.”

Catriona Wright’s essay “You Just Put Your Lips Together and Blow” resonated with me for personal reasons– I find the sound of whistling more grating than any other on earth. Wright addresses her own compulsive whistling (and the negative reviews it has received), and also the history and meaning of of whistling cross-culturally: “In Hawaii it is supposed to bring bad luck because it mimics the language of the Nightmarchers, ghosts of ancient Hawaiian warriors.” Totally! Also instances of whistling in pop songs, the wolf-whistle and Emmet Till, and the few remaining professional whistlers out there.

Stephen Heighton’s short story “Dialogues of Departure” was wonderful, the story of a Canadian English teacher in Japan who begins to learn Japanese through a language textbook with sinister undertones. (And it got me thinking about books stories about Canadian/Japanese experience– Heighton’s collection Flights Path of the Emperor, Catherine Hanrahan’s Lost Girls and Love Hotels, Sarah Sheard’s Almost Japanese, and even my short story “Georgia Coffee Star”.) Mark Anthony Jarman’s “Adam & Eve Saved from Drowning” was so incredibly good, Jarman’s mastery of language creating an effect that was as rich and sad as it was funny.

I also enjoyed Sara Heinonen’s “Blue Dress”, the story of a woman as lost in her life as she is in Hong Kong (and it was nice to read Heinonen’s fiction, as I enjoy her blog very much). And then “The Fires of Soweto” by Heather Davidson, and we’re told, “This is her first published story”, and I will tell you that this is what small magazines are for. What an amazing discovery. I suspect we’ll be hearing more from her.

And then if that weren’t enough, they publish two poems by one of my most beloved poets, Kerry Ryan. And another  by Susan Telfer, who wrote one of my favourite books of 2010.

Every time I receive The New Quarterly, I have this weird sense that it’s been custom-edited just for my pleasure. It’s one of the great pleasures of my life to be a subscriber.

One thought on “The New Quarterly 120: Love is Abroad”

  1. Susan Telfer says:

    Thanks so much! I’m just reading this blog now.

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