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Issue #190

Issue Date: Spring 2015
Editors: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 36

Buy Issue 190: Print Edition

Cover of issue #190

Issue 190 kicks off with Michael Carson’s “The Neanderthal and the Cave,” the creative nonfiction winner in the 2015 Open Season Awards. In this short riposte to an article by Robert McCrum, which maintains that successful writing careers are only achievable for those under forty, Carson combats a common writer’s affliction: self-doubt paired with the unstoppable flow of time. Carson happens to have been my 12th-grade English teacher, so I’ll admit to a little bias, while also noting that coincidence and probability are (funnily enough) exactly what this piece grapples with. Despite the fact that Carson describes himself as “hurtling unchecked down the steep and rocky toboggan run that is the far side of forty,” I, a writer in my late-twenties, found much relevance in relation to my own fear of writing failure. Despite the bleak outlook for the Neanderthal, Og, Carson’s essay finds a glimmer of hope at the story’s close: “to reach out into the darkness despite the odds…[T]his is why we write.” Mr. Carson’s words, out of all probable odds, reached me almost a decade after graduation. So, I’m with him. Robert McCrum’s opinions and probability be damned, never stop writing!

Sara Salih’s short story “Not I” enchants the reader with its dark and whimsical tone. Unsure if he’s been stolen, borrowed, or saved, Sam is alone with forgotten words and fractured temporality. Well, except for the cat that insists on scratching him. Together they reclaim purpose and clarity through Sam’s desire to write. The issue also features short fiction by Colin Snowsell, C. Hartglass, and Jane Eaton Hamilton.

Wanda Hurren’s “Rain Barrel”—winner of the 2015 Open Season Awards fiction category—explores another side of devastating probability. The narrator struggles to understand the near-deadly aftermath of his mother’s postpartum psychosis through the lens of childhood. The image of the rain barrel, as defined in the precursory paragraph, takes on a duality of the innocent and the ominous, the giving and taking of life, which is reflective of the mother and the actions dictated by her disorder.

Malahat 190 also features “synaesthesia,” the Open Season poetry winner by recent 2019 RBC Bronwen Wallace Award for Emerging Writers Finalist, Rebecca Salazar. The title is straightforward, describing just what the poem contains. Circumstances reminiscent of childhood are mixed with evocative experiences of pain, described in stanzas of synesthetic language. Similar themes of complex, layered human experience arise in much of the poetry found throughout the issue. In Danny Jacob’s poems “Fat Berg” and “Refinery Plea” we see the simple annoyances of life, from chores to travel. In contrast, “Childlessness” by Susan Comninos is laced with themes of abuse and betrayal. “Roger Casement’s Sock” takes a wider view of brutality, as poet Royston Tester delves through a history of colonial violence.

Other poems in this issue include work by John Wall Barger, Yvonne Blomer, Cornelia Hoogland, Maureen Hynes, Allison LaSorda, Mitchell Parry, Daniel John Steffler, and Patricia Young.

— Kyra Kristmanson