This issue of Room works as a tantalizing play of light and shadow on the rich gamut of female experience. It features writers, artists and poets whose dark subjects—death, domestic abuse, suicide, drug crime—are illuminated by fine observation, well-told stories, images in sharp relief, and polished writing.
The shadow of Elise Partridge’s too-soon death passes lightly over the incandescent collection of poems commissioned for this issue. I find in her work life and heart and vision. In “Citydwellers,” pigeons sheltering “under air conditioners’ juts” shimmer with the “rainbow covenant each one wears,” bringing colour and beauty to the mundane reaches of a dark, urban apartment airshaft, and evoking the plight of the human inhabitants who share this space.
In our feature interview, pioneering indie-comic publisher Deni Loubert revealed to me that she has lived in the shadow of her ex-husband’s notoriety. After their break-up, he continued to write and draw the legendary Cerebus, and while it reached cult status, Loubert had to reinvent herself. She emerged to mentor other women in the closed boys club that was comics in the seventies, and went on to champion Canadian artists and writers in the industry.
A confident balance of emotional sensitivity and narrative truth transfigures the shadows cast by the content of our contest winners’ work. In Sarah Kabamba’s winning short story “They Come Crying,” grief becomes the unexpected bond between generations and cultures. “Cut from the Guyana Journals,” Stephanie McKenzie’s first-place poem, shines an enquiring light on the dark side of global capitalism. In Tiffany Mallery’s “Blood Moon,” our inaugural cover art contest winner, woman is not diminished, but somehow, both elevated and grounded, by standing in the shadow of a compelling red moon.
In putting together this collection for you, I didn’t for a minute shy away from these hard subjects. Ultimately, the net effect of all these shadows is not darkness at all. The artists and writers have, miraculously and generously, offered us the light in the spaces between shadows.