Over the summer, I have been reading a lot of magazines. With some magazines, I “subscribe-incessently-and-renew-unthinkingly” and, with others, I practice the “when-I’m-in-the-mood-to-browse-the-newsstand” method.  Both of these purchasing methods result in a tremendous backlog of reading for me, because I’m curious about so many things that the stacks quickly become impossible to manage.

Keith Inman The War Poems(For instance, when I pulled the stack of most-recent magazines off the shelf at the beginning of the summer, I discovered another stack nearby, with issues from 2012 and 2013, which looked as though they had been happily living somewhere unusual for quite awhile, before I moved them to the general vicinity of the magazine bookshelf, long enough ago to have forgotten all about it before this summer.)

Complicating this matter is my habit of travelling with books on a regular basis. Only for “taking-a-trip travel” do I think of packing magazines (this doesn’t make sense, I know). So this summer I have been slipping a magazine into my bookbag nearly everyday, for “just-getting-from-A-to-B travel”.

Currently, the magazine in my travelling-stack is “The New Quarterly”, the issue with an interview with Diane Schoemperlen in it, which arrived a couple of weeks ago. I will read this piece first, because she is one of my MRE authors, but there are many enticing reading choices therein.

Speaking of new habits, I have been working more poetry into my stacks this year, too. Keith Inman’s The War Poems: Screaming at Heaven is the most recent addition to my stack.

His title recalls Siegfried Sassoon’s War Poems, published in 1919. But Keith Inman’s verses stretch back to what he identifies as the Wars of Dependence (1812-1887). The next two sections of poems include A Republic Monarchy (1889-1953) and Armed Peace (1954 to 2014). Both the terminology and the divisions reveal a Canadian slant to the collection.

This Canadian flavour most noticeably appears in the epigraphs which precede each poem. So, for instance, the poem “Aromatic Wood” contains the following beneath its title: “1918: at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month war to end war is ratified into peace; over a milion have died; Spanish Flu kills 50 million; Rulers are asassinated, voted out, resign, abdicate; British women get the vote; a group of artists in Toronto meet to form the Algonquin School“.

This poem actually presents the scene of a grandfather’s illness, with family members asking for some of his belongings, including violins. The domestic conflict surrounding the family inheritance stands in contrast to the million who have died in a global conflict; a treaty is signed on Armistice Day, but the family members remain angry and dissatisfied. “‘We live small lives,’ he said, / before returning to his straight-back chair”.

Press Exquisite MonstersAlso adding to my poetry project is K.I. Press’s Exquisite Monsters, which caught my attention because I discovered her Types of Canadian Women some years ago. It includes an erasure poem based on a passage from Susanna Moodie which includes the ‘c’ word. “Family Tree” reveals the score to be “Birds: 1 Bees: 0”. And “Mrs. Berlin Wall Cleans Her Guillotine Collection”. But, there’s more.

The last segment of the collection, titled “Exquisite Monster”, appears in “interchangeable parts”:

Create new monsters by flipping one panel at a time.

Mutate the monsters with your own annotations. 

Doodle on the monster-verso backsides. 

The book is alive and meant to be broken. 


Do not tell the librarian.

I did not tell anybody. I just quietly tore the panels (which appear at roughly the same levels as the splits in the cover image, so that the pages of this segment are divided into three parallel and even panels, interchangeable indeed.

The last of the skinny items in my bookbag this week is Hilma Wolitzer’s The Company of Writers. Her work has an inviting tone and her stalwart feminism simmers beneath her prose. She is as likely to recommend a female writer’s work as an example of a particular technique as a male writer’s, but she is more likely to recommend writers from the United States than from other countries. Much of the work is focussed on the question of whether and how writers need company, in particular the workshop experience, but there are chapters on everything from writing dialogue to keeping a notebook too. (I am always adding to my books about writing: let me know if you have a particular favourite!)

And, what about you? What’s in your bookbag these days? Are you packing to travel too?