Our Back Pages
Issue #158

Issue Date: Spring 2007
Editor: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 24

Buy Issue 158: Print Edition

Cover of issue #158

Sharon McCartney has a smart poem sequence in this issue. Each part is against something: “Against Skunks,” “Against Irony,” and “Against Coyotes,” and the poems manage to be meditative and personal at the same time. “Against Coyotes” is cleverly connected on the facing page to the last story in this volume: “Undoing Wolf” by Reanna Alder. These sorts of links and juxtapositions were the deliberate work of the magazine’s editor and they often encourage a front to back reading (or rereading) of any one issue.

As a long-time member of the editorial board, I think all of the back issues are worth reading, but I’m willing to admit that there are times when we’ve managed to put together a particularly good issue and 158 is one of those. In fact, it’s a humdinger. It opens with a short story by Mark Anthony Jarman called “Night March in the Territory,” which takes place around Custer’s Last Stand, but does not directly mention the conflict or the place (other than “Fort Supply,” which we know was in Oklahoma territory. The language is characteristically Jarman—taut and punchy without sacrificing authenticity of character or setting.

Another story, “In the Dark” by Craig Boyko, depends similarly on point of view. In this case, we read from the perspective of a stalker who becomes increasingly obsessed with a woman he barely knows. It’s not without humour, but there is a dark edge to the story that I suspect is even more troubling to readers now than ten years ago.

Patricia Young’s generous selection of poems comes at the end of the issue and includes a narrative poem called “Dogwood,” which takes the Garden of Eden story to the playground, a poem called “Adoption, 1949” that imagines a life, and a final piece called “Jack(s)knife” that is interesting for its use of the pantoum form.

Yvonne Blomer’s “The Wedding Dance” is a nice way to think about love, as is Eve Joseph’s poem, “Fish,” which ends: “I, too, long / for my love’s return.” Alison Pick examines another relationship milestone in “House Hunting: Making an Offer” and though the property in question is in St. John’s (rather than Vancouver or Toronto) most young people I know could only dream of the buyer’s remorse she investigates here.

Shannon Stewart is a poet and children’s writer in Vancouver and one of my favourite poems in the issue is her piece, “Woman Gives Birth to Frog” which begins, “Okay, so she’d been a little promiscuous.”

— Jay Ruzesky