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

Literistic
Simple

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

Author Notes: Caitlin Scarano

Sex, Death, and Poetic Energy // Caitlin Scarano

Caitlin-Scarano
Caitlin Scarano happily considering the darker side of poetry

Puritan alumna Caitlin Scarano discusses finitude, Freud, and poetic energy, and how they fuelled her work, which appeared in Issue 29.

My boyfriend’s grandfather died nearly two years ago. Fall was turning to early winter in southwestern Virginia. He died not far from where my father recently died in Tennessee. I don’t know that I can do justice to a person or the complexity of death when I write about their passing, but it seems like one of the most pressing, consistent themes of my poetry. My boyfriend’s grandfather was at home—they set up a hospital bed in the kitchen and his family (his wife, children, and grandchildren) took turns taking care of him after he decided to go off dialysis. They were all there when he died. I’ve never seen a person die, the moment they take their last breath, but I was struck by the intimacy of this experience.

I often wonder about the connection between the death drive (mortality) and human sexuality. You can see this contemplation in “Slow to Marvel. I’ve written about this before—how sex may be the ultimate act against death and its finality. But now, after having known several people who have died, I am not so certain that death is so finite. Death, like sex, may carry its own dense energy, ambiguity, and possibility. Continue reading

Thinking Publicly

What We Can Learn from Sina Queyras and Lemon Hound // Domenica Martinello

Lemon Hound
Sina Queyras put down Lemon Hound on May 11

After a decade in publishing, Lemon Hound said thanks & so long on May 11th, much to the shock and disbelief of myself and many others. Even the date, 5/11 has a disastrous ring to it. I’ve never really felt a sense of literary mourning for something this way and I know I’m not alone. It’s not that there are so few places that can fill the void Lemon Hound leaves behind—it’s that there are virtually none like it. How will we reclaim this space?

I’ve been following Lemon Hound since it was Sina Queyras’ personal blog, itself a valuable literary archive. In 2012, the blog transformed into an innovative feminist journal of arts and letters featuring editors, curators, and collaborators like Christian Bök, Zoe Whittal, Ken Babstock, Helen Guri, and Lisa Robertson. Alongside these and other influential names, Lemon Hound published unsolicited work, often by first-time or emerging authors, while upholding a focus on diversity and writing by women. Though Queyras published a variety of quality writing by men, she is not one to downplay her priorities (“Gentlemen Welcome with Escort” reads Lemon Hound’s twitter description). Continue reading

Author Notes: Glen Armstrong

Poems That Stay Open All Night // Glen Armstrong

Glen Armstrong
Glen Armstrong

Mr. and Mrs. Tattoo,” a poem by Glen Armstrong, appears in The Puritan Issue 29. Here, Glen Armstrong writes about his process and inspirations.

“Mr. and Mrs. Tattoo” is a poem that went through more drafts than I’d care to confess to. Early versions were just about that second tattoo and had that notion that the second tattoo proves we really wanted our first. I don’t trust hipsters. I don’t trust myself or the world I live in. My bullshit detector works overtime. I still suspect that we’d rather repeat a mistake than admit it. (See above, re: a bazillion drafts.) The poem only came together when I was willing to go beyond that second tattoo. Counting the tattoos in couplets gave me that sometimes elusive rhetorical design that Tony Hoagland writes about. It revealed itself as a love poem, maybe more, but love is plenty. Continue reading

Cronyism and Canadian Review Culture

An Interview with Mike Steeves // André Forget

Mike Steeves
At the centre of a debate on cronyism in national newspaper reviews

After Mike Steeves unwittingly launched a cascade of commentary when his first novel, Giving Up (BookThug), was reviewed by his friend Pasha Malla for The Globe and MailPuritan staffer André Forget interviewed him to learn the author’s own thoughts on the book and the conversation it sparked.

André Forget: The action of the novel takes place within a very brief period of time—a single evening, in fact, and there are really only four characters, one of whom is a cat. Did you set out to work within such strict parameters?

Mike Steeves: Yes. I had been working on a novel for eight years—off and on—that had a bunch of characters, took place over several months, and was set in a couple of cities. I never got it to a place that I was happy with, so after I put it in the drawer I wanted to write something where I wasn’t constantly trying to remember what day it was supposed to be. I also wanted to write something that was more intense, that had a strong, maybe even overbearing voice. I wanted a form that allowed me to indulge my inclination for digression and had an anxious, claustrophobic feel to it. I wanted to write a book that would make the reader squirm. But what it really comes down to, what ends up determining every aspect of a book, is the style you choose to tell it in. That sets everything else up. Within the first few lines I knew that, with the voice I was using, nothing was ever really going to stray too far from home. Of course, this is a bit of a bogus conceit because whenever I felt like it I could simply have a character recall something from their past. This is the paradox of choosing limits: it frees you up. Continue reading

Author Notes: Jowita Bydlowska

Puritan Author on Writing out Lunacy // Jowita Bydlowska

Jowita Bydlowska
Author of Drunk Mom and the forthcoming GUY

Jowita Bydlowska published the story “Helen is Not My Friend Anymore” in Fall 2014’s Puritan Issue 27. She was also a featured reader at The Puritan’s annual Black Friday bash. In the following post, Jowita answers our question about the making of “Helen is Not My Friend Anymore.

About a year ago, I went to a magazine launch party.  At this party, there was a leering kind of man with very bad breath. He spat a little as he talked, too. So he leered, breathed, and spat at me, and I kept thinking about this lovely woman I knew who used to be married to him. She stayed married to him for a while. I wondered what it would be like to be married to him, to kiss him and wake up next to him every morning. I’m sure that despite occasional leering, he was a lovable human being—he is well-respected in his field and has a lot of friends—but (because I’m a jerk?) I imagined that being married to him would be very unpleasant. I couldn’t stop imagining it. When this happens—when I can’t stop imaging something, I end up writing about it.  So I wrote about being married to a man I hated. I don’t hate the man I’m with so I had to become someone else while writing it, too, and eventually that character took over and I just wrote down her thoughts. Continue reading

Two Books About Flowers

A Review of Crossover by M Travis Lane and Asbestos Heights by David McGimpsey // Jason Freure

Asbestos Heights
A book about flowers

Looking at the body of a headless Cloten, Shakespeare’s Imogen says, “These flowers are like the pleasures of the world; this bloody man, the care on’t.” Flowers are one of the oldest images of metaphor. They stand in for spiritual, aristocratic, environmental, and romantic meanings. Shakespeare uses them extensively, but in the same breath, he tramples the lofty rhetoric of flowers with the weight of the body. Here, the body is both maimed and ironic (Cloten is wearing his lover’s clothes when he is decapitated). The body intervenes as a source of humour and satire, enlisting shit, sex (of the unromantic kind), and occasionally gore to undermine aesthetic visions that otherwise cross from art to utopian kitsch.

M Travis Lane’s latest collection, Crossover (Cormorant), is a three-section, lyric treatment of death that relishes in the finery and metaphor of nature. She cites “the chartreuse pines / the lime-yellow larch / and reds: red bark and maple bloom” and writes these catalogues of nature into quietly musical stanzas. M Travis Lane is powerful and confident with the lyric voice. Continue reading