Room sat down with the founder and editor-in-chief of Urban Native Magazine, Lisa Charleyboy for upcoming issue 37.1: Fashion, Trend and Personal Style.
In honour of Black History Month, Room highlights some amazing female black Canadian writers. We profile Dionne Brand, Shani Mootoo, Esi Edugyan and others.
Room Magazine invites polished, unpublished writing on any theme for our upcoming issue, 37.4, edited by Christina Cooke and Taryn Hubbard.
Deadline: Wednesday, April 30 2014
Reviewing a poetry book by a collective in a magazine created by a collective is a lovely fit, and Whisk by Yoko’s Dogs is an utter delight to read. Pedlar Press has produced a beautiful little book full of gems.
The members of Yoko’s Dogs work together on all the poems to create a truly group effort. No poem is credited to a specific poet, since each poem is worked on by all four women in the group. Evidently, a format was selected, one modelled on haikai no renga, a series of linked poems similar in form to what most readers of poetry in English would call haiku.
The poems predominately use short words, gathered into short lines, in stanzas of two or three lines (which alternate not only through the individual poems but also through the entire collection), in poems of four (the most frequent) to twelve stanzas. The master of the haiku, Basho, appears in “Ukiyo-E” (translation: pictures of the floating world): “the bowl’s empty/ Basho sleeps in a windowless room,” and while the Japanese influence is evident, the Canadian landscape is the focus. The entire collection or sequence could be seen as pictures of the worlds the Dogs inhabit.
One of the worlds consists of nature and animals and food, the basics of life in many ways. The Canadian fascination with weather is captured in many of the poems, and some of the most arresting have to do with winter.
In “The Weather,” for example, the following lines are impossible to forget: “tufts of snow on bare branches / forecast marshmallows on sticks,” and Whisk is packed with such memorable images. The simplicity of the diction belies the richness and depth of the visual components. In “Red Spotted Eft,” which begins by saying “briefly, it’s easy / to be ruthless,” the shift to delicacy keeps us in the largely gentle world of the book:
a man caresses a fledgling sparrow
with his bus pass
These small, precise poems are gems to be savoured. The words and their placement are paramount. Punctuation is minimal; no periods are used and commas are infrequent. The most common mark is the dash, which smoothes the path of words as it often marks the traditional “cutting” of the haiku form. The Dogs play with the form, and while this creation was no doubt much work, it’s evident they are having fun. Better yet, the fun is being passed on to readers who must surely marvel at the silky composition. I loved the final lines of the book, which allude to master imagist poet William Williams’s “This Is Just to Say.” Whisk is about saying—and cold sweet plums of poems.
Candace Fertile, a member of the Room collective, lives in Victoria, B.C.
The thing about Saleema Nawaz’s Bone & Bread is that I expected a book, (your typical book maybe?) about the larger sister and the anorexic sister. The tension between the two. How they navigated high school. How they were approached, or not, by boys. How they overcame their struggles and grew out of it all. As someone who has gone through a broad spectrum of eating disorders, I gravitate wonderingly to that kind of story, that novel that explores what’s going on—with young girls mostly, though of course we know that boys are increasingly disordered as well—and how they see their bodies. Usually a traumatic event tips the scales, as in the case of these sisters—but rarely have I seen a story so deftly and unusually described: two Sikh girls living above their uncle’s bagel shop in Montreal.
Their mother is a beautiful airy-fairy type who believes in many spiritualities, many religions, and exposes the girls to parties and sleepovers with strangers who are (thankfully) kind. They have the kind of existential conversations that few mothers do with their daughters. And the love and the taste and the colours of the mostly vegetarian food, fruits, vegetables, stews infuse the intense relationship Beena and Sadhana have with their mother. But this is soon to end, and Beena and Sadhana start to separate in ways that are completely off the spectrum: Beena toward teen motherhood and Sadhana toward voices attacking her already tiny body.
What is transcendent later about this story is Montreal in all her characteristic hues, and Beena’s son, who wants quite secretly in all his “manhood” of eighteen years to go back to seeing his aunt and living with her the way they used to during his first eight years. This book is about his journey too, and the secrets the sisters have kept from him. What I loved about this book was exactly what I didn’t expect, an intricacy of plot, sense-sound-space of Montreal and the fusion of an unhuggable, yet caring Sikh bagel maker uncle, a delicate dancer who is wasting away, and the mother and son who are bound together. This gorgeously wrought book will make you uncomfortable at times because it is a peek inside us all, bound by bone and breaking bread.
Cathleen With’s first book, skids (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2006), about street kids on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, was short-listed for a Relit Award. Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison (Penguin Group; winner of the Ethel Wilson Fiction Award), is her first novel. She was recently in V6A:Writings from Downtown Vancouver’s Eastside, which was short-listed for a City of Vancouver award.
To help you with your #readwomen2014 resolution, Room has compiled a list of fourteen books by Canadian women that we think you should pick up in 2014.
Collective member Kelly Thompson asks CWILA Critic-in-Residence Shannon Webb-Campbell a few questions about literature, poetry, and reviewing.
Roomie Helen Polychronakos interviews the director of Thursdays Writing Collective, Elee Kraljii Gardiner.
Collective member Nailah King offers her favourite places to connect with writers online.
Collective member Meghan Bell asked the Arthur Ellis Award-winning author a few questions for issue 36.3, Murder, Lust, and Larceny.
Currently on Newsstands
Room 40.4, Let's Make Contact
Edited by Chelene Knight
In this issue:
Kate Balfour, Selina Boan, Chelsea Comeau, elaine corden, Nancy Jo Cullen, Ariel Dawn, Harjit Dosanjh, Jann Everard, Jiyoon Ha, Gili Haimovich, benjamin lee hicks, Edythe Anstey Hanen , Claire Miller-Harder, Kyla Jamieson, Amanda Kelly, Cara Lang, Ashley Little, Andrea MacPherson, Rowan McCandless, Hajer Mirwali, Barbara Rosini, Sheila Sanderson, Taylor Stewart, Anny Tang, Susanne von Rennenkampff, Aisha Walker, jia qing wilson-yang.