Feeling Postmodern, Failing Postmodern

Review: Edward Nixon’s The Fissures of Our Throats // John Nyman

Fissures of Our Throats
The Fissures of Our Throats, Guernica Editions

When I first picked up Edward Nixon’s debut poetry collection, The Fissures of Our Throats (Guernica Editions, 2014), I feared the book would bury itself taking a too-familiar stance in the all-but-exhausted debate around lyric identity, its denouncement by certain postmodern avant-gardes, and the ever-contentious role of “theory.” As an author, Nixon was certainly primed to do so: aside from his bio boasting of his “having stumbled inconclusively in the thorny woods of academe,” much of his writing reflects on personal experience with the music, culture, and philosophy of the 1970s and ’80s youth scenes in Toronto and Vancouver. I wondered: could Nixon discuss these ideas without simply reiterating positions I’d long ago decided to agree with or discard? Continue reading

Interview with Alana Wilcox of Coach House Books

Publishing: A Gentleman’s Business // Jasmine Gui

Alana Wilcox
Alana Wilcox, editorial director at Coach House Books

Puritan staffer Jasmine Gui sat down with the editorial director of Coach House Books, Alana Wilcox, to talk about the publishing business, digitization, and books as books.

Jasmine Gui: For bookmakers and booksellers, books have a very specific value. There’s the manuscript, the production process, and of course, the book’s economic value. How do you balance and negotiate between these different kinds of value as an editor?

Alana Wilcox: I don’t know that I need to distinguish between them. I think they all contribute to greater value. The writing is the most important, and everything has to be in service of that, but we also want to make a book that readers want to own, enjoy, feel engaged with, and connected to. Continue reading

The Puritan Authors Omnibus Interview

Ben Ladouceur, Jon Chan Simpson, Andrew Forbes, Helen Guri, and Jimmy McInnes // The Puritan Editorial Staff

Ben Ladouceur, Puritan Issue 20

In this omnibus interview, the editorial staff catches up with five past Puritan authors to ask about their 2015 releases. The authors of Otter, ChinkstarWhat You Need, Microphone Lessons for Poets, and A More Perfect [ talk about their latest projects and obsessions below.

Catriona Wright and Ben Ladouceur on Naming Names

Catriona Wright: Otter contains many poems that directly address romantic partners and friends. While you choose to keep the love interests anonymous, you use the real names of your friends (a technique favoured by Frank O’Hara). Why did you decide to use this approach? Continue reading

On the Magdalen Islands

Regionalism and Cosmopolitanism in Maritime Literature // André Forget

Magdalen Islands
Magdalen Islands in winter

In Alistair MacLeod’s much-anthologized short story “The Boat,” a father allows himself to be washed overboard while fishing off the coast of Cape Breton so that his son will leave the island to pursue an education on the mainland. The story is told with a kind of Romantic matter-of-factness that gives its otherwise pedestrian rural characters the aureole of high tragedy as it reaffirms the harsh reality of their lives. For the non-Maritime reader, stories like those by MacLeod (or David Adams Richards, Michael Crummey, and Hugh MacLennan) reaffirm the stereotype that life on the East Coast consists mostly of long tracts of stoic misery punctuated by intense periods of deep, unhinged grief and the occasional feed of salt cod and potatoes washed down with a tongue-curling jug of screech. Continue reading

Scarberia on the Toronto Poetry Map

Outlying Verse on Toronto’s Edge // Jason Freure

Toronto Poetry Map
Where is the Prose of the Trans-Scarberian?

Toronto is a privileged place to write poetry in Canada. It’s not cheap to live here, the national publishing houses don’t particularly care about all of the poets around, and in the digital age, an unknown Canadian in Burnt Church likely has an equal shot at publishing with Coach House as one in the Annex. Toronto, however, offers the value of social capital (which is a nice way of saying cronyism), as well as bigger pools for live audiences. But not all neighbourhoods are equal in the arts world. Continue reading

Author Notes: Carolyn Nakagawa

Riding to the End of the Line // Carolyn Nakagawa

Carolyn Nakagawa
Carolyn Nakagawa, unofficial transit advocate

“Saturday night Safeway run,” a poem by Carolyn Nakagawa, appeared in The Puritan Issue 29As part of The Town Crier’s Author Notes series, Carolyn Nakagawa gave us some insight into the inspiration and composition of her poem.

The idea behind “Saturday night Safeway run” came from riding the bus at night. At the time I was living on campus at the University of British Columbia, which is located on the westernmost edge of land technically outside of the city of Vancouver. A roughly forty-minute solitary bus ride nearly always formed an epilogue to my nights out. Continue reading

In Defense of Literary Contests

Why You Should Submit To The Thomas Morton Memorial Prize // Daniel Scott Tysdal

Thomas Morton Prize
Daniel Scott Tysdal upon winning the Thomas Morton Memorial Prize

The good folks at The Puritan have invited me to say a few words about winning the fiction category of the Third Annual Thomas Morton Memorial Prize in Literary Excellence. I am a big fan of literary contests and have been submitting to them since the days rejection letters were actually letters. Over the years, I have had many friends, and, in recent years, many students, express their skepticism about the value of entering contests. They call the odds low and the price high. I want to take this opportunity, then, to share my thoughts on the value and importance of entering literary contests: Continue reading

An Asian Experience of the Toronto Literary Scene

When You Feel Like You Don’t Belong // Jasmine Gui

Toronto Literary Scene
The Toronto Literary Scene

When I was 17, I landed in Canada on a student visa, and settled into undergraduate life at the University of Toronto. At the time, downtown Toronto for me spanned from Church St. to Bathurst, and I vaguely referred to everything else as uptown. I did not know what “double double” meant, nor could I relate to TV, music, or literary happenings that my classmates casually discussed before class.  I was often embarrassed at having conversations that always inevitably slid into statements like, “Oh! Well, where I come from … ”

I now have opinions on Canadaland articles, a regular Hortons order, and will unabashedly blame everything on the TTC as a form of breaking the ice. Continue reading

Author Notes: Laurie D Graham

2014 Thomas Morton Poetry Prize Winner on Truth and Reconciliation // Laurie D Graham

Laurie D Graham
Laurie D Graham

Laurie D Graham was the winner of the 2014 Thomas Morton Memorial Prize for Poetry, judged by Margaret Atwood. Her winning poem, “Battleford Gravesite” was published in The Puritan Issue 27. Atwood described Laurie D Graham’s poem as, “A tone-perfect elegiac meditation on the impossibility of engaging with painful history and the necessity of doing so.”

The craziest thing about “Battleford Gravesite” winning the Thomas Morton Prize is knowing Margaret Atwood had not just read the poem, but had penned a few words in response to it. That’s one thing prizes do for you as a writer: they lend outside legitimacy to this work you do alone, at your desk, for no wage, in a society where wage is everything and vocation nearly incomprehensible. People who don’t know about the world of poetry (and even people who do) hear the words “prize” and “Margaret Atwood,” and it now makes a little more sense that I choose to hang out at my desk and not draw wages for this many hours (years!) at a stretch, arranging words on a page. Continue reading

Interview with Literistic

Liam Sarsfield and Jessie Jones Simplify Submissions // Julienne Isaacs


Liam Sarsfield and Jessie Jones are the brains behind Literistic, a service for writers that curates submission deadlines and information on contests and fellowships. Because she is a major Literistic fangirl, Puritan staffer Julienne Isaacs interviewed them by email just a few days after Literistic’s official launch.

Julienne Isaacs: Before my first question, a comment: my drive to submit to literary journals increased exponentially after I subscribed to Literistic. Literistic takes a lot of the pain out of the submission process, and it saves a huge amount of time. Just how frustrated were you with submitting to literary journals? This might be a dumb question, but do you use Literistic yourselves? (Maybe you don’t have time to write anymore.) Continue reading