Excerpt from Best Canadian Essays 2009, “Introduction”

INTRODUCTION

When Ezra Pound recommended that “poetry should be at least as well-written as prose” he confirmed what every journalist, book reviewer, literary critic, and magazine writer already knew: prose is hard work. It can be as economical, sensuous, and bracing as poetry, but, unlike poetry, prose has specific rules and provides specific guarantees. That’s because prose is what you turn to when you want to say something about something. One really can’t afford to be at a loss for words. It is an information conductor: no matter how stylish your sentences, your syntax must serve up clarity not ambiguity.

Prose is also the freelancer’s medium. Written for payment, prose is a product that, in turn, is sold to consumers who inhabit a marketplace filled with distractions. The writing, therefore, needs to be lively and incisive. It needs to act swiftly on the reader. What’s more, people who write prose are people who hustle after assignments. They tend to have a habit of taking on too much, which means they live a life oppressed by deadlines. There’s no time, therefore, to become self-conscious or rhetorical. When such writers get in trouble, they need solutions that work on the fly. But if they’re good, their instinct for expediency shares space with an appetite for artistry. They try to find new ways to build rhythm into their paragraphs. They try to find new ways to construct crisp, well-shaped sentences. The end result is a kind of belletristic grace: writing that wants us to take pleasure in the experience of reading it, but also has an overwhelming interest in making itself understood. This twofold challenge—to hold the reader’s attention, while giving them news they need—is why prose plays such a vital role in building up a viable public culture.

We looked high and low for essays that displayed this kind of prose, from literary periodicals to web journals to general-interest magazines. We were spoiled for choice. “An essay,” said Ian Hamilton, “can be an extended book review, a piece of reportage, a travelogue, a revamped lecture, an amplified diary-jotting, a refurbished sermon. In other words, an essay can be just about anything it wants to be, anything its author chooses to ‘essay.’ ” Hamilton here reminds us that the term is drawn from the French verb essayer: to try on, attempt, put to the test. No surprise, then, that so many of the essays we found revel in the opportunities the form offers as a vehicle for exploration. No navel-gazing, either. Writers delivered their stories from the front lines of human experience. They addressed themselves directly, and fearlessly, to serious subjects. They worked hard to produce original approaches to important, much-covered topics suffering breezy neglect by a bored media. What this book helps prove is that, along with our talent for short stories, Canadians excel at the essay form. We have a knack for open-mindedness, feel uneasy around oversimplifications, try to square any starkly opposed positions. Growing up somewhere between American gusto and British reserve, we are perhaps well-positioned to make balanced, nuanced, valuable observations. We have a built-in appreciation of diversity and culture. We are also, by nature, generalists: we like to know many things about lots of subjects. All of which gives Canadian prose a three-dimensional credibility.


For more information about The Best Canadian Essays 2009 or to purchase the book, please click here.

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Excerpt from I.V. Lounge Nights, “The End of the World”

The End of The World

The persistent cough, the routine procedure,
the congenital defect, the faulty wiring,
the fire in the starboard engine, the force majeure,
the mistress in the city, the last spirited thrust,
the little breeze off the coast of Africa,
the apples torn from the trees,
the unopened mail, the paperboy ringing the bell,
the atmospheric anomaly, the snow on the TV,
the hot wind with its tincture of rotten fish,
the wasps-nest of tumors, the drug-resistant strain,
the feeding tube, the shunt, the morphine drip,
the fatigue and general malaise,
the night inventory of the medicine cabinet,
the sleeping pills, the razor blades,
the reversals suffered as a child,
the bend in the road, the patch of black ice,
the telephone pole advancing in the high beams,
the statistical improbability, the cougar attack,
the stray piece of cosmic debris, the locals celebrating
the wedding of the loveliest girl in the village
by firing their guns into the air.


For more information about I.V. Lounge Nights or to purchase the book, please click here.

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An excerpt from Best Canadian Essays 2010, edited by Alex Boyd and Kamal Al-Solaylee

INTRODUCTION

When 2009 was only a few weeks old, the world was still reeling from the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The word “recovery”—the theme of the latter half of 2009—seemed more like wishful thinking than a reality. Still, some economists and business journalists seem to think that Canada was spared the banking meltdowns and real-estate collapse that brought the American economy—and the British, the Irish, Icelandic, you name it—to its knees. Our banking habits and national trait saved us from the worst consumerist excesses.

Out-of-work Canadians and cultural workers who’ve seen their already-meagre funding disappear before their eyes may disagree with this rosy picture, but as editors of The Best Canadian Essays 2010, we have ample evidence to suggest that as the world turned, ushering in a cycle of penny- pinching and overspending (a.k.a. stimulus), Canadian magazine writers managed to invest their capital in a range of timely and timeless stories. The economy may have dictated newspaper headlines, but introspection, and social and environmental concerns gave writers a chance to examine a bigger picture—one that transcends the ups and downs of trading indexes and banking scandals.

The anthology you’re about to read captures a year in the life of Canada through the eyes of several of its best essayists. For some, the word “essay” conjures up images of returning to school and being forced to write about your summer vacation, but we’re out to prove it isn’t a dirty word. These essays (sometimes even referred to as “stories” in correspondence with authors) cover everything from dog-sled racing up north to urban attempts to beat the aging process. Our writers contemplate subjects as personal as faith and as large as disturbing social trends. This is writing loaded with incisive observations and ideas.


For more information about Best Canadian Essays 2010 or to purchase the book, please click here.

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The Best Canadian Essays 2010

Best Canadian Essays 2010ISBN-13: 9781926639178
ISBN-10: 1926639170
Price: $19.95
Pub Date: Fall 2010


A selection of essays that demonstrates the outstanding quality and stunning diversity of Canadian nonfiction writing today.

The second in a series that launched to excitement and acclaim in 2009, The Best Canadian Essays 2010 covers an impressive variety of topics. Editors Kamal Al-Solaylee and Alex Boyd have selected insightful and well-written essays from Canadian print and online magazines published in 2009. Last year’s edition tackled an array of issues, including life with a child with Asperger’s, the last days of a Montreal convent, the devastation of the Alberta tar sands, and the state of Canadian theatre. This year’s anthology is no different in its reflection of the depth and breadth of contemporary Canadian nonfiction writing. Continue reading

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I.V. Lounge Nights | Ed. Myna Wallin & Alex Boyd

IV Lounge Nights, edited by Myna Wallin & Alex Boyd
ISBN: 9780978335144
Price: $21.95
Pub Date: 2008




Grab your martini! The I.V. Lounge was Toronto’s coziest place to kick back and listen to fiction or poetry. For ten years, on every other Friday night, that’s exactly what has happened at the I.V. Lounge reading series— fiction writers read alongside poets, emerging talent next to established talent, and local writers along with those passing through town.

I.V. Lounge Nights gathers twenty-nine talented writers together to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the series, and relaxing with literature on a Friday night.

Click to read an excerpt from I.V. Lounge Nights.

Featuring work from Steve McOrmond, Alexandra Leggat, Carmine Starnino, Shaun Smith, Evie Christie, Michael Bryson, Rob Winger, Matthew J Trafford, David Livingstone Clink, Alayna Munce, Leigh Kotsilidis, Heather J Wood, Matthew Tierney, Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Michael V Smith, Andrew Daley, Sharon McCartney, Goran Simic, Emily Shultz, Catherine Graham, Moez Surani, Molly Peacock, Jessica Westhead, Sue Sinclair, Ray Hsu, James Grainger, Dani Couture, Stacey May Fowles, and Karen Solie.

Myna Wallin is an author and editor in Toronto. She is also an organizer and host of the Art Bar Poetry Series. Her first poetry collection was A Thousand Profane Pieces (Tightrope Books, 2006), and her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Algonquin Square Table Anthology, Contemporary Verse 2, Existere, Eye Weekly, Kiss Machine, Literary Review of Canada, Matrix, Misunderstandings Magazine, Nod, Surface and Symbol, Taddle Creek, and Word: Canada’s Magazine for Readers and Writers.

Alex Boyd was born in Toronto. He writes poems, fiction, reviews and essays, and has had work published in magazines and newspapers such as Taddle Creek, dig, Books in Canada, The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and on various websites such as The Danforth Review. His personal site is alexboyd.com. He is co-editor of Northern Poetry Review, a site for poetry reviews, essays, and articles. His first full-length book of poems, Making Bones Walk, is new from Luna Publications.

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The Best Canadian Essays 2009

The Best Canadian Essays 2009
ISBN-13: 9781926639055
Price: $13.95-special sale price
Pub Date: 2009




Compiled from dozens of Canadian magazines by two award winning authors, this collection of essays covers a diverse range of topics by Canadian writers. By turns these essays move and excite the reader and help shape Canadian cultural consciousness.

Featuring work from Alex Boyd, Carmine Starnino, Kalam Al-solaylee, Katherine Ashenburg, Kris Demeanor, Jessa Gamble, Nicholas Hune-Brown, Chris Kontges, Anita Lahey, Alison Lee, Nick Mount, Denis Seguin, Chris Turner, Lori Theresa Waller, Nathan Whitlock, and Chris Wood.

Click to read an excerpt from The Best Canadian Essays 2009.

Carmine Starnino has published four books of poetry, the most recent of which is This Way Out (Gaspereau Press) nominated for the 2009 Governor General’s Award for Poetry. His poems have won the F.G. Bressani Literary Prize, the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry and the Canadian Authors Association Poetry Award. He the author of A Lover’s Quarrel, a collection of essays on Canadian poetry, and the editor of The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry. A new collection of his poetry criticism is forthcoming from Biblioasis in 2011. He lives in Montreal, where he edits Maisonneuve magazine.

Alex Boyd is the author of poems, fiction, reviews and essays and has work published in magazines and newspapers such as Taddle Creek, dig, Books in Canada, The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire and on various sites such as the late Danforth Review. He was the host of the IV Lounge Reading Series from 2003 to 2008 when the series closed its doors. He’s co-editor of the online journal Northern Poetry Review, and his first book of poems Making Bones Walk was published in 2007 by Luna press, winning the Gerald Lampert Award.

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