Our Back Pages
Issue #194

Issue Date: Spring 2016
Editors: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 27

Buy Issue 194: Print Edition

Cover of issue #194

In many ways, the editorial board at Malahat poetry meetings is straightforward—we’re looking for the best poems we can find. That said, we feel pleased with ourselves when we find a great poem by a new poet we haven’t heard from before, or when there is a longer poem that deserves space, or when a poet sends a selection of poems and they are so good that we take them all. As it happens in this issue, several poets who are pillars of the CanLit establishment sent us a plenitude of good work. Four of Steven Heighton’s poems are here, including “The Waking Comes Late,” which would become the eponymous poem of his 2016 collection. The poem is an elegy for his mother and ends with a haunting image of underground roots that “radiate like veins, fusing / further down into riches, / where all mothers, / unfinished / unfolding, / remain.”  Roo Borson gave us five, the first of which is a love poem made from “Fifty-Eight Ibises.” Early in the issue, there are three poems by John Reibetanz, and, as is the case with Reibetanz’s poems, it’s more like having six poems because they are so rich and complex that they require at least two readings before they have a chance to percolate. There are also three poems of a sequence from Newcomer Alyda Faber: “Portrait of my mother as Pope Innocent X,” “Portrait of my mother as Saint Felicitas,” and “Portrait of my mother with wolf” which begins: “Killing all her instincts / she shuts the door / on child fretting.” Although it is technically one poem, Barbara Nickel’s “Anchoress” explores the voices of Ancrene Wisse’s medieval manuscript on religious instruction and self-imprisonment.

In other poems in the issue, Catherine Owen muses on the Fraser River; Sylvia Legris prods the bladder and the lungs; David Alexander carefully keeps his foot out of his mouth in “The Foothold Trap”; and Martin James Ainsley reveres the “Muscle Car.”

The creative nonfiction offering in issue 194 is “Micrographia” by Jennifer Bowering Delisle and it is a lovely, sad, poetic piece about the decline of the author’s mother. Written in the second person—a narrative choice that might not work in other circumstances—it creates an intimacy for the reader, as though we are listening as the writer tries to explain things to a person who is degenerating even as she speaks. As the mother’s writing gets smaller and smaller, a symptom of her disease, it becomes a powerful metaphor for the condition she cannot help but sink into.

Kate Cayley’s short story, “The Ascent” echoes some of the ideas in Barbara Nickel’s poem, but the story is about a contemporary nun who is struggling with the idea of family in the modern world. In “Subject Winifred,” Maria Reva uses the form of a social sciences essay in APA form to produce a short story that “studies” the narrator’s mother as object of academic speculation.

Finally, all of the winners of the 2015 Malahat Review Open Season Awards are published in this issue: “Goldhawk,” by Katherine Magyarody, “Light Year,” by Jennifer Williamson, and “Margined Burying Beetle,” by John Pass.

—Jay Ruzesky