Jen Sookfong Lee, this year’s short forms judge, was born in Vancouver, where she now lives with her son. Her books include The Conjoined (ECW, 2016), The Better Mother (Knopf, 2011), and The End of East (Knopf, 2007). She is a columnist for The Next Chapter on CBC Radio and teaches writing in the Continuing Studies department at SFU. Room’s Nav Nagra spoke with Jen to learn more about her work and the writing process.
Getting a peek of an avid reader’s bookshelf is one of life’s simple pleasures. If you’ve ever shown up to a house party and gone straight to the host’s bookshelf, you know how satisfying it is to snoop through other readers’ libraries. The editors of Room love reading (obviously), and we’re giving you a glimpse of our shelves and sharing how we get the most out of our sacred reading time.
Moving seamlessly through a myriad of cities and countries, Megan Fernandes’s The Kingdom and After is a dreamlike trip charting the temporal human experience in a world that seems to be shrinking. A mix of prose-like paragraphs and short quick lines, The Kingdom and After explores the construction of society and our global understanding of the self and the other. Paying special attention to language and form, Fernandes pulls the reader in closer with tightly woven words while simultaneously broadening her poetic prose into lush paragraphs. In doing so, Fernandes uses the page to present our increasingly globalized world.
At times haunting, Fernandes’s poetry takes the reader to the intimate corners of memory as in the poem “Ella” where the narrator is entranced by dreams of a woman in Russia. Using long stanzas and enjambment, “Ella” illustrates the complexities of the mind by painting memories as “sick in green fog.” These memories are questions cloaked in mystery: “What was the melody we / could never assemble? / What was the melody we / could never live without? / A Venetian Boat Song— / wrung out / of our trembling hands.” The poem is a fascinating labyrinth, depicting a girl intimately known only through blurred recollections.
In another poem, “The Flight to Sacramento,” Fernandes laces prose with poetic beauty when illustrating a macabre encounter on a flight. A simple plane conversation unveils the complex nature of war, and the impact it places on both soldiers and civilians. “I could not look away and the soldier did not want me to,” the speaker says. In this encounter, Fernandes shows the ways we can feel displaced yet remain so connected.
The Kingdom and After is surreal, intense, and intimate. Fernandes understands the power of the written word and uses it to not only illustrate the everyday—like, walking down the streets of Boston— but also brings to focus the perverse goings on in the quietest corners of the world. Wondrous and heartbreaking, The Kingdom and After is woven with subtlety and intricately placed lines of poetry that pull apart the layers of society to show what lingers behind the seemingly mundane.
Comics and graphic novels hit the sweet sweet spot between art and literature. Here, Room editors share a few of our favourites.
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Edited by Jessica Johns
In this issue:
Manahil Bandukwala, Dessa Bayrock, Megan Beadle, Brandi Bird, lue boileau, Rachel Burlock, Justina Chong, Mollie Cronin, Marilyn Dumont, Edzi'u, Ashleigh Giffen, katia hernandez velasco, erica hiroko, Jessica Johns, Shaelyn Johnston, Yume Kitasei, Mica Lemiski, Jessie Loyer, Annick MacAskill, Callista Markotich, Sonali Menezes, Kai Minosh Pyle, Natasha Ramoutar, Carmina Ravanera, Rohsni Riar, Jessica Rose, Rowan Siah, Eli Tareq El Bechelany-Lynch, Kelly S. Thompson, Arielle Twist, Phoebe Wang, Yu-Sen Zhou.