John Barton
"The View from T/Here"

In late August 2010, I flew east to be writer in residence at the University of New Brunswick, landing at the Fredericton airport the night before Hurricane Earl made landfall. To a boy who grew up in Calgary, hail capital of Alberta, a hurricane was exotic. However, news of Earl was overblown. It hardly made a ripple in the St. John River, though I did get drenched to the skin in very warm rain outside my new apartment, bested by a key that didn’t work.

The impact of my time in New Brunswick turned out to be much more profound. I came to know a province with a literary heritage many would be surprised to view as a source of our national literature. Charles G. D. Roberts was born and raised in Fredericton, as was Bliss Carman, whom I discovered grew up on Shore Street not far from my great-great-grandfather’s on Waterloo Row. As a boy, Bliss must have known my great-grandmother, for they were only a year apart. For me, this place and its literature quickly became personal.

During that winter, Ross Leckie, The Fiddlehead’s editor, and I agreed our magazines should each publish an issue celebrating the writing of the other’s coast in a kind of East-meets-West entente cordiale. Though by reputation, both magazines are known to be national, even international, in scope, each is also intrinsically regional, though I should only speak for the Malahat about a dichotomy that I nevertheless suspect is true of many magazines. Who can guess how many copies of The New Yorker are read locally? Last year, 40% of our contributors and 30% of our subscribers were from B.C. in comparison to 10% and 6% respectively from Atlantic Canada. Past years affirm this snapshot as a standard view. Though, as a frequent contributor to literary magazines nationwide, I’d hate to believe there’s a correlation between contributing and subscribing, the editor in me wonders.

This issue and our collaboration with The Fiddlehead, if not for this reason, are long overdue. The pages ahead are, I hope, representative of East Coast writing. I encourage you to read The Fiddlehead’s West Coast festschrift, not for comparison’s sake, but for the windsock of crosscurrents it likewise gives shape to. Don’t wait for a hurricane to shake you free of what you think you know.

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