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Issue #183

Issue Date: July 2013
Editors: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 18

Buy Issue 183: Print Edition

Cover of issue #183

The transformative power of memory and the aesthetic artifact pervades this summer issue; fronted by five found photographs depicting wild waterfront scenes in black and white, issue 183 offers readers an escape to an otherworldly past. These images, portals to the Ontario cottage country of Stephen Marche’s dystopic short story, “How the Children Stayed Beautiful in a Time of Many Catastrophes,” reflect the issue’s thematic insistence on striking a balance between mundane objects of perception and the near-sacred emotional significance they accrue with time. Claire Caldwell’s “Osteogenesis” and Kim Trainor’s “Nothing is Lost”—joint winners of the 2013 Long Poem Prize and the focal points of this issue—exemplify this balance: Caldwell’s haunting poetic sequence blends striking metaphor and scientific observation into a mythopoesis of everyday life, and Trainor’s archaeological found poem, meticulously organized in alphabetical stanzas like a familiar childhood mnemonic device, unearths the emotional histories of the untold victims of genocide.

Expanding on this issue’s theme of remembrance are Maureen Hynes’s bittersweet recollection of her mother’s temporary triumph over dementia, “Further and further west,” and Bruce Rice’s plain spoken elegy, “Into the Wind,” which won the Malahat’s P. K. Page Founders’ Award in 2014. Meditating on his brother’s death, Rice’s trailing lines span the width of the two men’s distance from one another—and evoke the desolation of loss. In keeping with the numinous undercurrent of this issue, Rice refigures his apprehension of that loss as a beautiful and terrifying celestial insight: “You could see everything, a pathway / of spilled stars—if you looked at it right you could see / we are all upside down, ready to fall off the earth.”

Notable prose in this issue includes “Man Changing into Thunderbird,” an excerpt from Armand Garnet Ruffo’s biography of the late Ojibway shaman-artist Norval Morriseau, as well as short-fiction pieces by David Margoshes and—as glimpsed earlier on the cover—Stephen Marche. “The Desert Isle or The Compunction of Narrative,” Margoshes’s sardonic, metafictional nod to common writers’ woes and the anxiety of influence, drips with self-aware irony but manages, nevertheless, to affirm fiction’s gripping power. Comparatively bleak but equally riveting, Marche’s eerie narrative of two families’ flight to a remote island to escape a world-wide plague (under the auspices of a summer vacation) captures the creeping terror of social collapse through tense psychological realism. Marche breathes uncommon life into his characters, whose deep existential uncertainty and guilt lurks just beneath the rapturous escapism of their “eternal summer.”

—Chris Horne