Love, intimacy and the whole curious enterprise of scoring a mate increasingly resembles a feat of athleticism – we break into a sweat both contemplating it and exerting ourselves in various states of undress out on the field; we don questionable uniforms to enlist with a "team" and to differentiate ourselves from the competition; self-help gurus and well-meaning whistle-blowing social referees enforce the rules and determine acceptable play; there are "breaks" during which little happens by way of refreshment; and somebody is always winning or losing en route to the goal, no matter how often the obstacles shift. For this issue, tongue firmly in cheek, we take time-out from heavy lifting and square off for some verbal gymnastics in the name of a 21st century blood sport.
Wordplay title-holder Diane Schoemperlen graces the cover with a sneak peek at a pre and post-lovelorn protagonist relieved from paralyzing writer's block only when her heart is finessed by a former lover. At a Loss for Words debuts in bookstores Valentine's Day.
Laurel Saville takes inventory of past lovers who weren't the titular "One," but offers a roster of entertaining if misguided substitutes while trying out for a team of two. In "Flambe" Suzanne Burns' femme fatalist, enflamed with a potent blend of passion and desperation, ignites a fire station with this not-so-sweet treat. Kim Downey's "Second Soprano" enlists a pitch-perfect naïf who bests her partner on the golf course in a tour-de-force showing of mind over macho. Elaine McCluskey closes the issue with darkly humorous account of unlikely mates, twists of fate, and an exchange that begins with a concertina on a bike and ends with walrus tusks and a want ad. These and other slightly acidic love letters are the antidote to more saccharine entreaties and continue a tradition that spans Cyrano to cybersex.
The poets showcased in this issue have dipped their swords as well, alternately employing the tip to titillate and set en garde. Joan Crate recasts Snow White with a self-satisfying mango rather than the poisonous apple; Emily Wight devours her beloved in "Arancio, Two Mouths"; Jennifer Houle offers a literary striptease in "Peel"; and Adrienne Gruber develops a potent concoction of the quotidian and the exotic in "Incubation." Read these and the others here for a delicious taste of verse served rare.
Think you're a good sport but confused by today's dating arena? Josey Vogels, Canada's Carrie Bradshaw and My Messy Bedroom columnist, talks sex in our cities in a candid interview that goes between the sheets (paper or 400-thread count Egyptian cotton) and onto the streets to ask what we really do in the rooms of our own.
Finally, a nod to Chloe Lewis's envy-inducing green cover image that poses a woman primping for a night on the town assembled like so much lego. Her four photos of men and women sporting desire or defeat likewise beg the story. Tamara Girke's black-and-white shots of jerseys and bedposts are equally haunting portraits of the boudoir long after seduction has left the building.
And now to the playing field, for surely literature is the finest aphrodisiac/steroid of them all, emboldening us to utter unspoken thoughts, secret fantasies, untold memories. Thanks to all the contributors here who have shown sportswomanship is alive and well and living indoors, where all great feats of love and literature begin.
Elaine McCluskey is a former journalist who lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Her short story collection, The Watermelon Social, was published by Gaspereau Press. The title story was a finalist in The Journey Prize. McCluskey has been published in journals such as The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead, and Other Voices. Her novel Going Fast is being published by Goose Lane Editions.
Josey Vogels is the author of the nationally syndicated relationships column My Messy Bedroom and the dating advice column Dating Girl. She has published five books on sex and relationships – the most recent is entitled Bedside Manners: Sex Etiquette Made Easy. Her fourth book, The Secret Language of Girls has been published in several languages and was made into a documentary. She also hosted 26 episodes of the Gemini-nominated television series, "My Messy Bedroom" on the Women's Television Network. Her website www.joseyvogels.com is visited by thousands monthly and she is a popular speaking guest at universities and colleges across Canada. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Kim Downey recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Her fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in Prairie Fire and subTerrain. This is her second appearance in Room. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Jennifer Houle's work has recently appeared in The Fiddlehead, Arc, The Antigonish Review, and Carousel and has been awarded prizes by Lichen and CV2. She divides her time between Grand-Barachois and Fredericton where she is completing her MA in Creative Writing at the University of New Brunswick and working as a poetry editor for Qwerty. She is currently at work on her first full-length collection.