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Issue #164

Issue Date: September 2008
Editor: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 28

Buy Issue 164: Print Edition

Cover of issue #164

The proverbial elephant in the room has changed course and has begun a solitary journey down a seemingly deserted highway. With his impressionistic “Elephant Highway No. 2, 1984,”
the late Glenn Howarth (1946-2009) presents readers with a most unexpected, highly provocative, and strangely inviting image that feels like a challenge of sorts for readers to join this gentle giant on its adventure. Issue #164 offers up a fascinating study of human nature, especially the difficulty our species often has when facing difficult memories or unsavoury truths. 

Susan Glickman, winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Fiction (2006) and writer of the children’s series Bernadette and the Lunch Bunch books, explores this notion further in her poem, “Lies.” In it, her imagery of the house seems to represent our human tendency to dwell in the realm of lies and self-deception rather than face reality. Too often, the burden of truth can be paralyzing.  

Architectural imagery reappears in two exquisite poems by Ingrid Ruthig, acclaimed Canadian writer, editor, visual artist, and winner of the International Petra Poetry Prize (2009) and The League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Memorial Award (2017). Not surprisingly, the former architect creates images inspired by her former profession to great effect. A theme of loss, a frequent byproduct of the passage of time, comes into focus when the speaker in “Box” acknowledges, “Now, you’d do / anything to re-fresh those bones, seed the dust of what /  remains, to claim yourself (or another) as before.” Meanwhile in “Closet,” a simple storage space becomes a repository for the past with “Thought[s] like nebulous knots of / dust in the corners, unlit, collecting near- / forgot.” With her narrative prowess in full force, Ruthig imbues each piece with a sense of timelessness and a wisdom of the ages. Are we ready to pay attention? 

Karina Dawson provides readers with a unique perspective on the burden of awareness and memory in three chilling poems set in Afghanistan. A former soldier with the Canadian military, Dawson draws readers into her world with her spare yet vivid detail. In each piece, the speaker reflects on what it feels like to be “[u]nder siege” while serving in a war-torn country.  Reading her poems, we can share, if only in a small way, the collective burden of memory.

Also of note is “Travels in Beringia” by Tadzio Richards, winner of The Malahat Review’s 2008 Far Horizons Award for Poetry and the National Magazine Award (2007, Gold and Silver). The piece, which strongly reflects the poet’s skill as both a journalist and documentary film maker, serves as yet another reminder of just what can be lost. The speaker suggests that reclaiming our sanity lies in returning to and embracing the natural world and, thus, challenges readers to envision an alternate, life-affirming reality. 

Other works of note in this rich collection include poems by Katia Grubisic (Gerald Lampert Award for Best First Book, 2009), Michael Kenyon (ReLit Award for fiction, 2010), Jason Guriel (Frederick Bock Prize, 2007; Poetry magazine’s Editors Prize for Book Reviewing, 2009), and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936).

Prose offerings of particular note are “Lost Pueblo” by Canadian screenwriter Sioux Browning and “The Riot and a Girl” by Tibetan-born, New York-based writer/activist Tsering Lama.  In “Lost Pueblo,” readers discover how a man and his dogs resemble “traces of a people whose remains have long turned into dust and blown throughout the Four Corners region.” Sadly, it seems that “[s]ome missing places are easier to see.”  In “The Riot and a Girl,” audiences will appreciate how lack of access to the rituals that sustain daily life in Nepal due to strikes and resultant riots impacts the life of a young girl. Child’s play generates some heavy questions in the speaker’s mind that readers are forced to ponder. What challenges readers most, however, is the realization that with knowledge and awareness comes responsibility that is so often ignored. 

Lastly, readers can indulge in a fine collection of book reviews that explore such diverse topics as reconciling the good with the bad in life, national myth, memory of loss, recovering places lost to time and/or neglect, and the writing life.  All in all, Issue # 164 contains a deeply thought-provoking body of work that will appeal to a broad audience. A timely, rich, and cohesive issue worthy of a special place on readers’ bookshelves. 

—Robin Reniero