False Aster, Arrowhead Rattlebox,
Oldfield Balsam, Missouri Ironweed,
Swampwood Betony, Sagamon Clef Phlox,
Savanna Blazing Star, Prairie Lily,
Bog White Violet, Wild White Indigo,
Round Headed Bush Clover, Plains Buttercup,
Canada Lousewort, Kankakee Mallow,
Three-Toothed Cinquefoil, Plains Prickly Pear Cactus,
Clasping-Leaf Doll’s Daily, Wild Petunia
Gray-Headed Cone Flower, Daily Fleabane,
Dwarf Dandelion, Wild Poinsettia,
Dawnflower, Pasture Rose,
Showy Goldenrod, Balsam, Pussy Toes. (Makeba Cooper, headlight #11)
I’ve been a fan of the annual Headlight Anthology for years now, ever since picking up issue #5 at Montreal’s The Word Bookstore, scouring the streets for subsequent issues ever since. Student-run through the Concordia University English Department and Creative Writing Program, the journal is open to any current and former students of the University, known for having one of the most interesting creative writing departments in Canada. When I was in Montreal a few days ago, Stephanie Bolster was able to slip me copies of the last two issues, #10 (2007) and #11 (2008), both edited by poet and writing student Larissa Andrusyshyn and her editorial board. Focusing on poetry, fiction and artwork, most of the contributors to these two volumes I haven’t even heard of, including Gillian Sze, Katye Seip, Makeba Cooper, Melissa Bull, Scott Inniss (who also has work in the current issue of The Capilano Review), Alessandra Naccarato, Mike Spry (currently the managing editor of Matrix magazine), Devon Code and Megan Findlay.
When our children haul fish with broken lines,
and the lines at the slave docks grow crooked
with crooked baskets and Panama hats;
like hats of fish merchants heavy with alms,
like alms owed to the fishers of the sea,
the grave sea will grow cold in its mercy.
Know no mercy for us O my father.
Our father, whose children trawl the sheer waves,
waves that promise but birth only corpses,
corpses with shipwreck and kelp in their hair.
When the hair of our sons garlands the crabs,
will the crabs troll the songs of the sirens?
will the sirens sing lays or unsing them?
O forgive them not, mother, for their sins.
For their sins are not burdens but cargo,
a cargo that, like flotsam, never sinks
the way Jonah sinks. Sinners never drown,
yet our children drown. Reciting whale psalms,
psalms for the mending of net and tackle,
they tackle seas with a litany of hooks. (Scott Inniss, headlight #11)
One thing I do wonder, after hearing Larissa Andrusyshyn read again the other night at the Pilot Reading Series in Montreal, and knowing her and her work for over a decade, why have I seen so little of it published in journals? The former editor/publisher of the monthly streeteaters zine in the late 90s and early 00s, just what has Andrusyshyn been up to with her writing over the past few years? I’m still frustrated that I’m missing the first four volumes of the series, and have been looking for copies for years, but going back through older issues, now that I have these new ones, I’m finding it interesting just how many names I’ve heard of since, including recent GG-nominee Sachiko Murakami (from issue #9), and Jon Paul Fiorentino, who I discovered in the sixth volume of the series. How many of these new names will I be seeing more of in the future?
Mrs. AvocadoIf you want to know some of what kinds of writers and writing Concordia University’s Creative Writing Program has produced over the years, apart from these annual morsels of new writing and writers, a good place to start would be the anthology 32 Degrees: An Anthology of Prose, Poetry and Drama (Montreal QC: DC Books, 1993), edited by Raymond Beauchemin, publishing the work of various former students, including Mark Cochrane, Ray Smith, Elisabeth Harvor, Su Croll, Robert Mazjels, Nino Ricci and David McGimpsey, or even the more recent Language Acts: Anglo-Québec Poetry, 1976 to the 21st Century, edited by Jason Camlot and Todd Swift (Montreal QC: Vehicule Press, 2007), which not only collect new and previously published essays on the works of English-language writers in Quebec, but also a bibliography of poetry magazines throughout the period, English-language (or, "Anglo") poetry publishers, poetry prize winners and Concordia University M.A. Poetry Theses. Other writers that have come out of the program can even be found in the anthology of poetry, fiction and artwork that Conundrum Press editor/publisher Andy Brown and I did for Vehicule Press, YOU & YOUR BRIGHT IDEAS: NEW MONTREAL WRITING (Montreal QC: Vehicule Press, 2001). Brown even contributes an introduction to the tenth edition of these little volumes, as he begins:
I found teeth and hair in the pit of an avocado. I had paid a quarter to the moustache grocer for it and when I returned with complaint of the tumor-like fruit, he expressed great joy. “My lost brother!” He exclaimed. “Yes, but he is in my avocado,” I stated. As an apology, the grocer insisted on having me over for dinner with his mother. She appeared very quiet at first, and I was disappointed that this opportunity to interact with the mother of an avocado was slipping through my fingers. He asked why I looked so thrown, offered me a glass of water, and assisted me to a tender couch. When I sat it moaned. I carefully stared across the room at the unmoving mother. In a moment of clarity I understood, the avocado’s mother, the mother of the moustache grocer, was in fact no more than a gnarled yam adorned in a patterned shawl. (JP King, headlight #10)
Headlight. The name seems appropriate for an anthology of new work done by writers filled with youthful optimism. The headlight shows them the way, illuminates their personal darkness. But it does more than just illuminate, a headlight focuses light so that our eyes adjust to one point, the endless yellow ribbon of road, while the environment around us disappears. This has always been my experience with writing. When I sit down to write the rest of the world becomes invisible to me and it is the road and where it will take me that becomes my focus. One of my very first publications was in Headlight and coincidentally it was about parking.