All posts by Jessica Fabrizius

Poetry Review: Trailer Park Elegy

Trailer Park Elegy, by Cornelia Hoogland

Image result for trailer park elegyReview by Emily Osborne

The last words of William Grootendorst, spoken to the stranger who came to his aid after his truck slipped on black ice, were “thank you.” William’s sister, poet Cornelia Hoogland, weaves these last words into Trailer Park Elegy (Harbour Publishing, 2017), a long-form verse meditation on the panorama of grief experienced in William’s absence. “Thank you” becomes one of many verbal leitmotifs that furbish Hoogland’s dynamic and deeply-moving verse, which reminds its readers with recurring sharpness that:

What is spoken

is spoken on the exiting

breath. Our meanings,

an entire life’s meaning,

Thank you,

can ride the exhale.

These lines manifest traits characteristic of Hoogland’s verse: powers of observation about the quotidian, empathy, generosity, and the interplay of conflicting realities. Throughout this long poem, grief is seen in the tension between sound and silence, motion and stasis, and in the existence or permeability of membranes between the living and the dead. These membranes can be as treacherous as black ice, or as impassive as the framed picture through which a mother converses with her dead son.

Trailer Park Elegy is Hoogland’s seventh full-length collection of poetry, and was shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award. As a long-poem elegy, it reflects a tradition of notable works such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam A.H.H, Peter Sacks’ Natal Command, Douglas Dunn’s Elegiesand Mary Jo Bang’s Elegy. Elegy is difficult to define as a genre, encompassing registers of content, style and tone. Where elegy is concerned with death or loss, it often pits the personal against the cosmic, and shows a speaker or protagonist grappling with manifold concepts in search of “consolation.” Trailer Park Elegyobserves such generic expectations, connecting the personal grief experienced by William’s family to a range of impersonal phenomena, including geology, dark matter, chaos theory, atmospheric conditions, and noise pollution. The narrative is nonlinear, tracking William’s and Cornelia’s lives from childhood onwards, and creating a book that repeatedly asks us to look again, to reread in light of new discoveries.

Our introduction to William’s own voice occurs when he calls from rehab, at a moment suggestive of both triumph and tragedy. He begins with “Hey”, and ends with “No, wait, it gets better.” Dramatic irony is here used artfully: while readers know of the tragedy to come, we are drawn in to learn about William’s life and experience the cathartic beauty of knowing him. The monosyllabic negation “No” becomes another sonic leitmotif in Trailer Park Elegy, resisting the search for consolation. “No” is the sound that “erupts from my tea thermos/ when I loosen the stopper.” At funerals the author witnessed as a child, there is a “weighty/ silence of black limousines,” tires on puddles say “shhhh”, and the sound of mourners is “seismic,” falling into the “No River.” Hoogland brings the suspension that “no” implies closer to the reader in an unforgettable image of rain: “O it’s quiet. Even the rain/ is hyphens.”

This book brims with memorable and surprising sonic effects, from poems rich with Anglo-Saxon alliterative and syllabic influences to lovely assonance and internal rhyme during descriptions of the seemingly mundane, such as the trailer park with its “sodium moon over a public washroom.” Sounds morph and shift in significance, reworked in later sections and contexts. In the first pages, “Rusty leaves fly at vinyl siding,/ rattle at RV windows” in the trailer park. Vinyl’s potential to create or contain sound is reworked in a later image:

Did musicians regret the end of vinyl, and the halfway pause plotted

into their albums for turning the record,

starting the second side?

My brother’s second side, three sober years.

Rereading this long poem is extremely rewarding; we become involved in a form of echolocation, making connections between allusive words and symbols, even as the poet and her brother are compared to whales using echolocation to find each other.

Symbol and sound are often presented through framing devices, encouraging us to dig deeper, and blurring our assurance of what can be heard from the deceased. Within those frames, sounds meaningfully directed at us become difficult to distinguish from noise pollution, as orcas strain to hear each other above the underwater acoustics of container ships. Black ice, for example, comes to us as a newly-minted term through newscasters on TV, in a scene when William is only four years old: it is a filtered warning, memory and prophecy at once.

Occasionally, themes and tropes recurred more often than seem to me necessary or preferable. The result of these surplus repetitions was an occasional sense of artificiality. As a mediaevalist, I was particularly troubled by three separate allusions made to a well-known scene of a bird’s short-lived flight through a mead-hall as a symbol for the transience of human life, which Hoogland places in the poem Beowulf or refers to as “Beowulf’s sparrow.” In fact, this symbol of the sparrow appears, not in Beowulf, but in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, where it is used to illustrate the necessity of religious conversion. Repeated misattributions are disconcerting in any published work.

The best elegiac writing invites readers into a loss that is both communal and personal, and journeys among divergent circumstances in its search for consolation or meaning. Trailer Park Elegy achieves these effects as it voyages through time, place, method of travel, and memory, leaving us to question what kind of progress is possible after a great loss. The speaker finds herself as a ‘Still Life with Airbag‘ in her car, searching for a route and unable to refold a map. Readers too are drawn into the exits and entries of this compelling work, retracing the routes it has mapped out, finding ourselves brought forward and stopped short. We are grateful to Hoogland for bringing us to the trailer park: the location where William once lived, and a symbol of the migrant graveyard where memory rests.

Emily Osborne is a Poetry Editor for Pulp Literature. She is the author of ‘Devonian’ (Pulp Literature Issue 17, Winter 2018), and was an honorable mention in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2017 Young Buck Poetry Contest. Her chapbook Biometrical was recently released by Anstruther Press. In addition to being a poet, Dr. Osborne is also a researcher and translator. She has taught mediaeval literature and poetics at Cambridge and UBC, and published several scholarly articles.

 

2018 Raven Short Story Contest Closes Soon

Channel your inner raven and bring us your cleverest short stories! The Raven Short Story Contest is open until October 15th, and we want to see what inventive short stories you have hidden in your nests.

Our Judge

CC Humphreys, prolific author of The Jack Absolute Series, Shakespeare’s Rebel, Plague, and Fire, along with the newly released Chasing the Wind, returns to judge the 2018 Raven Short Story Contest. Past winners include ‘The Tape’ by Elaine McDivitt (Issue 18), ‘The Handler’ by Pat Flewwelling (Issue 14), ‘Black Blizzard’ by Emily Linstrom (Issue 10), and ‘The Inner Light’ by Krista Wallace (Issue 6).

Enter Now

First prize in the Raven Short Story Contest is $300 and print and e-publication to a loyal international readership. The 2018 winner will be announced November 15th! Previously unpublished short stories of up to 2500 words will be considered–enter before midnight, October 15th!

 

Author News: Sarah Pinsker

Issue 2, Spring 2014

We love the smell of fresh publications! Forthcoming from Small Beer Press is Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea, a short story collection from Sarah Pinsker, author of ‘Not Dying in Central Texas’ from Pulp Literature Issue 2.

Singer-songwriter Sarah Pinsker, whose short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Asimov’s, and the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, has lived everywhere from Texas to Toronto, but currently calls Baltimore, Maryland, her home. Her forthcoming collection contains SF and fantasy short stories with her signature introspection and humanity.

“A wide-ranging debut collection from a writer whose musicality and humor shine through even when plumbing the darkest depths of space.”

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea cover - click to view full sizeSooner or later (please excuse the play on words), we knew great things would be coming down the pipe for Sarah Pinsker! We look forward to the release on March 19th, 2019. Pre-order is available now via the Small Beer Press website!

Greg Brown’s ‘Love’ is a Journey Prize Finalist

We were delighted beyond words when two of Greg Brown’s stories in Pulp Literature made it into the Writers’ Trust 2018 Journey Prize Longlist:  ‘Bear’ (Pulp Literature Issue 14) and ‘Love’ (Pulp Literature Issue 16).  Today we learned that ‘Love’ has climbed higher, and is a finalist along with ‘Mute’ by Shashi Bhat and Liz Harmer’s ‘Never Prosper’.

You can read more about the prize and Greg’s story on the Writers’ Trust of Canada site.

The first place winner will be announced in Toronto on November 7th.  In the meantime, we picked Greg’s brain a bit and will share with you his thoughts on writing, reading, and the intersectionality of it all. Enjoy!

Interview: Greg Brown

So, here’s that annoying question people always ask: when did you first feel the urge to be a writer? And what did you do about it?
The first time I realized that I wanted to be a writer writer waswhen I was sixteen and I read John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp. Until then I’d been making comic books. Garp was the first grownup book I read, the first book I read that dealt with grown-up things. I think I wanted to be part of that adult seriousness. I’m more fun now.

I don’t know how to answer the second question, though I think it’s an interesting one. All I can say is that I tried to write, but didn’t figure out much of anything until I started sharing my work with other writers, which happened at some workshops in my twenties and then in grad school more than ten years after that original impulse.

You’ve earned several degrees in literature and creative writing. Can you tell us where you studied and how the programs were of value?
I studied English Literature as an undergrad at the University of British Columbia and then as a grad student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. I also completed an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro. The MFA was a gift. I was paid–paid!–for two years to study writing and to write. Every day I got to hang out with some of the most talented writers I’ve ever met and talk shop. It’s hard even to imagine that such a thing is possible.

Tell me about your current day jobs? And how do you fit in time to write?
During the year I teach in Vancouver at the Creative Writing for Children Society and during the summers I teach at the University of Virginia’s Young Writers Workshop. I also help run the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival and work for an education and publishing consultancy in New Westminster. Saying this aloud makes it sound like a lot. And it is. But I’m still able to find several hours in the morning to write. If it’s important, it gets done. Not to sound too hard-assed about it. What I’m really trying to say is, I need to write so I have to find time for it. So I do.

What do you like to read? Any recommendations?
How much time do we have? Here are some of my favorite books from the last twelve months: Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson, Everything, Then and Since by Michael Parker, Genevieves by Henry Hoke, The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis, Oh, My Darling by Shaena Lambert, Galore by Michael Crummey, and Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson. I’m also in the middle of reading a great memoir by Sarah McColl. It’s called Joy Enough. It’s beautiful. Out early next year. Check it out!

When did you write “Bear”?
If you can believe it, I wrote the first draft of “Bear” about seven years ago. It started out as a flash piece and then became a longer story and then became a flash piece again. The idea came out of an anecdote a biologist told me about a group of research scientists trying to scare deer by putting on bear skins and hiding in the forest. For science.

When did you write “Love”?
I wrote the first draft of “Love” a couple of years ago. It’s more or less the size and shape of that original draft, although it took me some time to settle on the characters’ names. Even rereading it now I feel a strong desire to change the characters’ names.

Any words of comfort, encouragement, or warning to impart to other writers?
I tell my students that their only responsibility is to follow their own curiosity. Don’t worry so much about the rules and traditions and the expectations of the market. Art-making isn’t about correctness or salability. Every great story violates some deeply held “wisdom.” Better just to follow your own curiosity and see what weird territory it uncovers.

What’s your favourite part about living on the West Coast of Canada?
Canned answer: The ocean, the trees, the mountains, the wildlife.
Truth: The people, who are endlessly interesting and decent.

Find ‘Love’ in Pulp Literature Issue 16
Look for ‘Bear’ in Pulp Literature Issue 14

 

 

Poetry Review: Slow War

SLOW WAR, by Benjamin Hertwig: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017.
Finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry.

Reviewed by Daniel Cowper

Slow War, by Benjamin Hertwig, is a book of poetry that is about something which is simultaneously personal and political, experiential and objective. It is a book about military service during the Afghanistan war.

It is more than that, of course. Hertwig writes about an upbringing that invited him military service, about homecoming, readjusting to civilian life and coming to criticize the conduct of a war he helped to carry out. It is, as well as war literature, a nstlerroman, about a boy growing into an artist. The poems are nearly all addressed to Hertwig’s younger self in the second person:

you picked rocks for a farmer one summer,

in the fallow you found an arrowhead

so sharp it sliced the tip off your finger:

blood fertilized the soil. you kept the stone

secret for years, sometimes you pulled it out,

held it in your hands, held it under

the light.

Rock Picking

Hertwig speaks frankly about the facts of his own experience of war and its aftermath. Most controversially, Hertwig speaks of befriending Omar Khadr (who as a boy was involved with Taliban fighters in the war, before he was injured, captured, tortured, and held in Guantanamo Bay on charges of participating in combat).

Remember David Jones’ dedicating his account of World War I to the German soldiers who fought against him “by mischance”? James Salter hoping for the survival of his “friends” the MIG pilots he shot down? St. Exupery’s reporting how soldiers in the Spanish Civil War called out across the lines “Good night, friend,” when they each retired to bed?

Artists can (perhaps must) bring empathy to their understanding of battlefields, and Slow War reads as an ongoing attempt by Hertwig to engage compassionately with his past self and erstwhile enemies. Perhaps because of that empathetic approach, the unfolding narrative of the book is startlingly engaging. This is the rare poetry book that is hard to put down, and which can naturally be read all the way through in a single sitting.

Hertwig is an highly effective storyteller. He knows how to introduce anecdotes, animate characters, and nail down themes as well as any novelist. His writing always obeys the maxim that verse should be also good prose.

Because of its success from a narrative point of view, it is easy to overlook the lyricism of Hertwig’s writing. The poems in Slow War are not written in a showy style. They are written with a subdued but persistent rhythm, and the most musical passages are based on cyclical patterns of thoughts, words, and sounds. Sometimes they cycle despite persistent interruption:

you have seen

  visions and bodies

in flame

 

the body of christ

  shed foryou do not

belong. gunfire and

bombsong you do not

  belong. her eyes are

coal a face of wind

the place you stand

  is holy ground.

Fruit on a Wooden Table

The transition from the liturgical “the body of christ shed for” to the accusation “you do not belong” is a fair example of Hertwig’s deft handling of pivot points throughout the book.

Similarly, Hertwig’s handling of Christian iconography in this passage is typical in its naturalness and sincerity. Hertwig notices the parallel of soldiers removing their boots to enter Afghan homes, and the Almighty’s instruction to Moses to remove his shoes; he notices that war seemingly burns without exhausting its fuel, like the burning bush. These parallels naturally give rise to thoughts of what war does reduce to coals – individuals. The impression one receives is of the poet almost being startled by encountering, in chaotic destruction, a mirror image of holiness.

In acknowledging the power of both grace and violence, Hertwig’s poetry takes on a special forcefullness, which can only be described as the force of honesty.

A lesser writer would have made of similar material a more political book. Slow War succeeds because it reports facts about the human heart and human behaviour: those facts may have philosophical and political implications, but Hertwig allows us, as readers, to draw our own conclusions.

Daniel Cowper is the poetry editor for Pulp Literature. Daniel’s poetry chapbook is available from Frog Hollow Press, and his first full-length collection is forthcoming in 2019.

Benjamin Hertwig’s poem Inglewood Courts appeared in Pulp Literature Issue 15.

Author News: Greg Brown

Every year, we nominate our most recent crop of authors for as many awards as possible. It’s one way of passing forward the good fortune we had in publishing them in the first place. This year, we’re proud to announce Greg Brown has been placed on the 2018 Journey Prize Longlist for his short stories ‘Bear’ (Pulp Literature Issue 14) and ‘Love’ (Pulp Literature Issue 16).

Greg Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of
North Carolina-Greensboro. He is a recipient of UBC’s Roy Daniels Memorial Essay
Prize and you can find his stories, criticism, and essays in Postscript, Paragon, The
RS500, Lenses: Perspectives on Literature, and Tate Street.

The Journey Prize annually recognizes emerging writers for the best short story first published in a Canadian literary journal, and we’re eagerly awaiting the shortlist announcement, September 12th.  Until then, enjoy these excerpts and get a taste of what the Journey Prize jury will pass judgement on in the next month.

Pulp Literature Issue 14, Spring 2017
‘Bear’
Greg Brown

We yawn our way through the ranger’s warning.
“Sure sure,” Dilly says.
“Got it,” I say.
Later, Dilly’s disappeared and I’m staring into a tangle of tree branches and darkness.
The stars in the night sky: glint of teeth.

The teeth are literal teeth: a grizzly bear …

 

 

Pulp Literature Issue 16, Autumn 2017
‘Love’
Greg Brown

We agreed as a family that the only thing to do was to bring Mom home for the next few months or weeks, whatever it would be. It’ll be hard, Dad said. But maybe it can be fine, too. Denisa was suspicious about the cost of it all — like the private nurse we’d have to pay for, where at the hospital it was free — although she didn’t put it like that, said that we’d be crazy to bring Mom into a place where there wasn’t any immediate care, because what if there was a problem like before, the thing with her stent that plugged up and caused some internal bleeding that almost wasn’t staunched in time?

She could’ve, Denisa said.

The oncologist had said October, and the late pale fog had come and now the sky was mostly dimmed and gone by suppertime …

Featured Author: Tais Teng

Have you picked up our Summer 2018 issue yet?  The cover art alone is worth the price.

After the Tsunami is the fourth digital painting by Tais Teng that has graced the cover of Pulp Literature, the first three being Youth Hostels of the Faery (Summer 2014), Pesky Summer Jobs (Spring 2015) and Dieselpunk Explorers (Winter 2016).  

Not only is Tais Teng a talented and unique artist, he has also written a hundred books for both adults and children.  Readers of Pulp Literature will recall his story ‘Growing up with your Dead Sister’ in Issue 8.  You can find more of his art at taisteng.deviantart.com  and you can read more about him on his website, taisteng.atspace.com.

For a true composite of Tais’ work, enjoy this excerpt from ‘Growing up with your Dead Sister’ from Issue 8, and check out his artwork which graces Pulp Literature Issue 3, Issue 6, and Issue 9.

Growing up with your Dead Sister

by Tais Teng

After the accident, Lyra’s big sister was buried in a closed casket.  

“But I wanted to say goodbye to her!” Lyra wailed.

“It is better that you remember her the way she was,” her mother said.  “Anyway, she wouldn’t hear you. She went on. Hindela is in a better place now.”  

Lyra really tried to feel glad for her sister.  A better place? One where you ate strawberry muffins for breakfast and the sun always shone?  

It didn’t work.  She felt betrayed, abandoned.  Hindela had always been her guide, her protector, telling her essential things like “Don’t fondle that toad, or your fingers will drop off!”  Lately Hindela had been kissing boys and giggling a lot. Lyra didn’t see the use, but she was sure she would be kissing boys, too, later. And only Hindela could tell her how such things should be done.

When they sat down for dinner Lyra saw Hindela waiting in her usual place.  She wasn’t ghostly at all and none the worse for wear.

“Mama?” Lyra said.  “Why didn’t you set a place for Hindela?  She needs a plate and her own cup with the blue roses.”

“What do you mean?”

Lyra pointed.  “Hindela is sitting right there!  I bet she is as hungry as I am.” Her sister did indeed look a bit pale, with hollow cheeks.  Dying was hard work, Lyra thought. It must make you simply ravenous.

“You see her?” her mother asked.  

“She is just like my grandmother.”  Lyra’s father nodded. “It sometimes skips a generation.  Give Hindela her plate. Ghosts seldom linger longer than a fortnight.”

Read more of ‘Growing Up with your Dead Sister’ in Pulp Literature Issue 8

2018 Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction Winners

Bob Thurber has released his final thoughts on this year’s Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize!

Runner up: ‘Day Three’ by Robert Runté

Winner: ‘The Angler’ by Nicholas Christian

On ‘The Angler’, Bob had this to say:

I adored this selection from the first read, and appreciated the narrative’s strong current and free-flowing authenticity on all subsequent readings.

The language of “The Angler” blisters like sunburn. The edges of this very short (under 600 words) story are prickly bright and they’ll leave blind spots on your eyes for days. Congratulations to the winner, and thank you for the enjoyable daze. Your story outshined a long, sunny list of finalists.

Double congratulations are due to Nicholas Christian for his recent marriage to the 2018 Magpie Award for Poetry winner, Kelli Allen!

 

You might recognize Bob Thurber from Issue 12 as our feature author, and as the returning judge for the 2018 Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize judge.

Bob was recently declared legally blind, but true to form, he hasn’t let that slow him down.
“I have enough ‘tunnel vision’ to still  work (read & write & edit) every day, using various magnifying tools and software, though my work sessions are shorter. More stories and more books are coming.”

We look forward to his upcoming short story, ‘Winter of the Frozen Moon‘, to be published in the 2018 issue of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library.

A big thank you once again to everyone who participated in the 2018 Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize. If flash fiction drives you, set a reminder for the annual Bumblebee Flash Fiction Contest, opening Jan. 1st, 2019.

2018 Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize Shortlist

Ten days and ten entries remain. We are pleased to release the Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize shortlist. Listed below are the authors whose stories will be considered, by flash-master Bob Thurber, in alphabetical order.

Amy Neufeld
Jen Knox
Kate Felix
Kate Felix
Liz Cox 
Liza Potvin  
Nicholas Christian  
Rob Taylor   
Robert Runté
Ron. Lavalette   

The list is shorter, and the stakes are higher. Best of luck to these ten flashes of fiction!

 

2018 Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize Longlist

A hummingbird sighting always feels a little bit magical, and with the many entries for this year’s Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize, we are feeling awe-struck! We’re pleased to announce the longlist:  the top 27 entries listed alphabetically by author last name. Authors listed twice have two entries in the longlist.

Alex Reece Abbott
Ariel Basom
Lauren Bentley
Nicholas Christian
Liz Cox
Kate Felix
Kate Felix
Marissa Fischer

Aleisha Hendry
Terrence Huntington
Jen Knox
Jen Knox
Ron. Lavalette
Kim Martins
Jenn Marx
William P. Masters
Gabriella Morrison
Sadi Muktadir

Amy Neufeld
Liza Potvin
Robert Runté
Megan Rodgers
Rob Taylor
Annis Teller
Annis Teller
Hannah van Didden
KT Wagner

Thank you to everyone who entered! The shortlist will be revealed in July, and the winners, picked by Bob Thurber, will be announced July 15th.