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Issue 4, Volume 18 | April 2021

Issue 214, spring 2021

Upcoming Issue

Featuring Open Season Award winners Matthew Hollett (poetry, "Merchant Vessels"), Zilla Jones (fiction, "Crossing"), and Tanis MacDonald (creative nonfiction, "Mondegreen Girls"). Poetry by Leslie Joy Ahenda, Hussain Ahmed, Manahil Bandukwala, George Bowering, Sophie Crocker, Sa'eed Tavana'ee Marvi translated by Khashayar Mohammadi, Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, Rhiannon Ng Cheng Hin, Tia Paul-Louis, Barbara Pelman, Matt Robinson, Kari Teicher, and Bryce Warnes. Fiction by C.P. Boyko, Bill Gaston, Jeanne Shoemaker, and Andar Wärje. Creative nonfiction by Kelly Norah Drukker and Emily Riddle. Reviews of books by Bertrand Bickersteth, Nicole Brossard, Bronwen Wallace, Mehri Yalfani, Marie-Sissi Labrèche, Randy Lundy, Theresa Kishkan, and Steven Heighton.

Winter Issue Book Review

Where Things Touch by Bahar Orang

Orang’s lyric-poem-essay, Where Things Touch, explores beauty and how it intersects with desire and queer love, as well as drawing from Orang’s practice as a physician. The closeness that medical students have with the body mirrors the closeness the speaker has with beauty and opening it up. Beauty moves beyond aesthetic as Orang explores the internal nature of what this intangible word is: “Beauty must be in conversation with care—there can be no alternative for me! So when I say beauty, I mean the slow approach of alive things, meeting each
other in all their complexity and longing.”

The collection has a loose narrative arc that follows different threads: getting to know a lover, practicing medicine, and remembering past experiences. Orang gives flashes of insight through prose-poem snippets. Encounters with beauty shift across the narrative: first come the aesthetics of beauty, and then, like a physician, the narrator opens beauty up to see and experience its internal workings. Many of the meditations on beauty reach a conclusion of beauty being in aliveness, in care, in connection. “Whatever beauty is, I know it has little to do with origins or symmetry.” The outward aesthetics of beauty take a back seat against the “beauty [of] restraint … the fruit of that restraint.” There is a quiet tension in the uneasiness of aspects of the
medical practice, like blood, against the uneasiness of accepting the past lovers of a current lover. 

Read the full review by Manahil Bandukwala.

CanLit for Your Reading List

New and Noteworthy

Review space may be limited in our quarterly magazine, but we’re delighted to share this list of new Canadian books. *Please note that inclusion on the list does not necessarily preclude a print review. 

Read the full list of new and noteworthy Canadian titles.

Three weeks left to submit!

Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction

Calling all emerging fiction writers! This contest is specifically for those who have yet to publish their fiction in book form. Submit your short story (maximum 3,500 words) by May 1 at 11:59pm PDT for a chance to win $1,000 CAD and publication!

Entry fee is discounted and comes with a one-year print subscription:
$25 CAD for each entry from Canada
$30 CAD for each entry from the USA
$35 CAD for each entry from elsewhere
Additional entries cost $15 CAD each, no limit!

This year's judge is Francine Cunningham.

Full contest guidelines on our website.


Interviews with 2021's Open Season Award winners

Zilla Jones (fiction) 

Zilla JonesMalahat Review volunteer Rose Morris talks with the 2021 Open Season Award winner about her story, "Crossing," which will appear in our upcoming spring issue #214.


RM: Your winning story is set in a past historical period. How do you go about getting into the right mindset to write from the perspective of a character living in the past?

ZJ: Quite a lot of my work is set in the past, as I have always had a strong interest in history and what it can tell us about the present. Because I have read and studied a lot of historical material, I am usually already starting with a sense of the basic facts of the period I plan to write about. But I will also do some research before I begin writing. I will go online and find articles and encyclopedia entries about the event or time period I am writing about, and if I have books on hand about the same thing, I will read those too.

“Crossing” takes place on a slave ship, and that is a horror that still lives somewhere in my DNA. As Bob Marley sings, “I remember on the slave ship / How they brutalized our very souls.” I have often marveled at what my ancestors endured, and many times, I have pictured the sights, sounds, and smells of the cargo hold where they were stacked during the Middle Passage. So I have been preparing myself to write this story all my life and it felt very natural to enter that space.

Read the rest of Zilla Jones' interview.


Tanis MacDonald (cnf) 

Tanis MacDonaldMalahat Review volunteer Sarah Brennan-Newell talks with the 2021 Open Season Award winner about her piece, "Mondegreen Girls," which will appear in our upcoming spring issue #214.


SBN: Something I was struck by is how intensely personal mondegreens—and meaning—can be, while at the same time also being a collective experience. How do you decide how much and which of your personal experiences make it into your art?

TM: These are definitely questions that I think about a lot. There’s an adage that the more personal you are in your writing, the more universal appeal the piece will have, and this is generally true, in my experience. The idea is that my idiosyncratic experience will connect somewhere with your (and other people’s) idiosyncratic experience.

As to how I decide, well: full disclosure, it’s kind of fraught. I spend as much time writing and thinking, “who’s going to care about X or Y about my life?” as anyone does. But then I remember that I love Lauren Hough’s essay about being a cable installer, or Jen SookFong Lee’s essay about reading Anne of Green Gables. It’s always the stuff of “ordinary life” that intrigues me: how people live from day to day in a sometimes-dizzying mix of banal and fantastic occurrences. So, why wouldn’t someone want to read about how I listened to music when I was thirteen? There’s boldness in writing as though your life is worth reading about.

Read the rest of Tanis MacDonald's interview.


Matthew Hollett (poetry) 

Matthew HollettMalahat Review volunteer Spencer Legebokoff talks with the 2021 Open Season Award winner about his poem, "Merchant Vessels," which will appear in our upcoming spring issue #214.


SL: You’ve simultaneously respected the history of these vessels and questioned the ethics of their handling after retirement. How do you strike a balance between these two perspectives—past and future, honour and ethics—when writing about real events?

MH: “Between” is a perfect word to describe the ferriesI’m interested in writing about place, and the Marine Atlantic ferries exist between places in such a fascinating way. Some have been purpose-built in Quebec, some repurposed from Scandinavian shipping companies. They operate between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia for decades, becoming such a distinct yet detached part of the landscape. Then when they reach the end of their useful service, we dispose of them in this inglorious waythe Caribou and the Smallwood were sold to a company in the Marshall Islands, and sent to a notorious shipbreaking facility in India. It was a minor scandal at the time, because they had been sold on the condition that they would be scrapped in a responsible way.

It’s easy to say what happened to the ferries wasn’t our fault, but it also feels emblematic of the way we’re happy to overlook the more sinister effects of our actions on the world. Canadian history is of course full of this kind of thing, from colonization and “Canada 150,” to the residential school system, to the way we’re failing to adequately address the climate crisis. I don’t think it’s about “striking a balance” so much as interrogating the feel-good histories we’re often presented with.

Read the rest of Matthew Hollett's interview.

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