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Issue #191

Issue Date: Summer 2015
Editors: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 24

Buy Issue 191: Print Edition

Cover of issue #191

Home to 2015’s Long Poem Prize winners Genevieve Lehr and Gary Geddes, Malahat 191 is packed with stunning imagery and powerful narratives. Perhaps most pervasive through the issue is how individuals cope with feelings of helplessness.

“Metamorphosis is everywhere.” The opening line of Genevieve Lehr’s “The latter half of the third quarter of the waning moon” sets the stage for a journey of transformation. Lehr’s poem juxtaposes painful, pivotal moments in adult life with the tenderness of childhood. This beautifully dark piece follows abusive and absent father figures, ailing mothers, and powerless youth. It highlights the regret that fills them all, the denial that distorts perspective. Oppositional forces appear throughout the narrative—consumption and hunger, fusion and removal, harm and protection—and each works in tandem to both build and destroy the chrysalis of innocence. There is a light of possibility that shines through a mother’s eyes as she looks at her daughter; hope for a clean break from the cycle. “In her dream, she’d walked to / the ends / of the earth, discovered where the waters of the world began…” but moments like these fall back into the inevitability of the inescapable cycle: life and death. As the title suggests, no matter where you’re standing, the moon will shift and return anew.

“The Resumption of Play” by Gary Geddes recounts the horrors of residential schools in devastating detail. Plucked from the shores of his hometown, the narrator is thrown into a place the children described as Alcatraz, or hell itself. The poem weaves between the brutality of a childhood spent in isolation and the aftermath as it affects adulthood. Readers can glimpse some of the generational trauma brought about by the Canadian government. Geddes’ narrator tells of disappearing into the language forced upon Indigenous children; “I ingested this new language, mostly / in secret, a glutton for syllables, / knowing them the key to my survival.” This reproduction of assimilation is evident as the narrator traverses the world of academia, and enforces the rules of syntax and grammar on future generations. In a way, language also becomes a form of resistance and healing, as the narrator discovers texts “like Armstrong’s Slash and Dee Brown’s Wounded Knee.” Written in the same language that tyrannized his childhood, these voices help to break the cycle of abuse that began with residential school. Upon returning home, and to the opening image of the poem, the narrator finds himself like the oysters in his bucket. “[A] creature / naked, shucked, fit for neither sea nor land.”

Themes of grief, isolation, and oppression can be found in both Cartla K. Stewart’s short story “In This Apartment” and Anzhelina Polonskaya’s work of creative nonfiction, “Greenland.” Both narrators suffer at the hands of intangible forces, and both long for an end. Polonskaya bears the weight of survival. After losing her childhood to cancer and “dead labyrinths of cold,” she describes waiting for the briefest of summers in the north of Russia, and coping with emptiness by becoming “a sloshing ocean” of red wine. Stewart’s narrator finds her own emptiness in the shadow of men. She, too, fills herself up to fight back—not with alcohol, but with food. Despite the darkness surrounding them, both Stewart and Polonskaya end their narratives with a reclamation of power, by simply being.

Malahat 191 also features poetry by Sarah de Leeuw, Stuart Ross, Anna Maxymiw, and others.

— Kyra Kristmanson