PRISM 53:3 Spring 2015

533_storeThe pug has landed. And it’s brought pizza!

PRISM 53:3 was officially launched last weekend at AWP 2015 in Minneapolis. You can view a few pictures of the cardboard cut-out madness by checking out the Twitter hashtag #pizzapug. But oh, discerning reader, we know you are never one to judge a book by its cover, so let’s discuss the content a bit:

Issue 53:3 opens with the three winners of our 2015 Non-fiction Contest, all of which explore family, identity, and place. In the grand-prize winning piece “Doughnut Eaters,” Diane Bracuk examines her relationship with her father by taking us back to a foggy German town in the 1960s. First runner-up Sarah Mitchell writes about her brother, autism, and life by the ocean in the heartfelt memoir “Sea Salt.” Finally, Ann Cavlovic’s “The Generation After” details her quest to obtain Polish citizenship, and the discoveries she made about her mother along the way.

The fiction selections in 53:3 capture a range of tones and timelines. “Four Nocturnes for Left Hand” by Scott Nadelson offers a window into step-parenting, taking a close look at four evenings in a stepfather’s life over the course of fourteen years. “Plus One” by Greg Rhyno, in contrast, takes place during a single night, when a man attends his high school girlfriend’s wedding. The issue closes with “I Thought I’d Get More” by Richard Kelly Kemick, in which a teenager comes across a surprising item during his stint as a pawnshop employee.

After an all-Canadian-poetry Winter issue, PRISM 53:3 brings you the work of three excellent American poets: Todd Boss, Derek Sheffield and Katy E. Ellis. All three bring poems filled with rhythm and play and good, deep thought. Joining them are Canadians both well-established (Evelyn Lau, Patrick Warner) and new (Angela Rebrec, Margo Wheaton). Highlights include suites of poems on illness and grief by Nora Gould and Daniela Elza, and knockout (in some cases literally) poems by Nicholas Bradley and Michelle Brown, including Michelle’s “Something Funny.”

All together, you’ve got one delicious (and slightly furry) issue. Pick up a copy at your favourite newsstand, or grab one in our online store today!

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Don’t Miss PRISM’s Spring Launch on May 8th!


Our Spring Issue 53.3 has sprung! And so has #pizzapug!

To celebrate, PRISM is throwing a launch party at Lost + Found Cafe, May 8th, 7pm. We’ll be celebrating with some pals – local lit mags, EVENT, Room, Poetry is Dead and subTerrain. It’s going to be a fun FREE evening of fiction and poetry, FREE food (including, of course, pizza) and FREE giveaways.

Our host for the night will be the magnificent Sierra Skye Gemma, and here’s our exciting lineup of readers:

Raoul Fernandes, whose brilliant poetry collection Transmitter and Receiver was recently released by Nightwood Editions.  Raoul was a finalist for subTerrain‘s 2013 Lush Triumphant Literary Award for poetry, and his poem “After Hours at the Centre for Dialogue” was recently featured on their Line Break blog. We featured five of Raoul’s poems in Issue 53.1, and you can read one poem, “Suspension,” right here, just to get you in the mood.

Clara Kumagai, now former PRISM international editor. Having relocated from Co. Galway, Ireland, Clara is pursuing a MFA at UBC’s Creative Writing Program. Her short story “Waiting” was featured in Room 37.4. (Yes, this is me, talking in the third person…)

Jordan Abel, a former editor of PRISM international and winner of the 2014 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Jordan’s book of poetry, This Place of Scraps, was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award. Jordan’s poem “Cartography” was recently published in Poetry is Dead #10.

Richard Kelly Kemick, whose short story “I Thought I’d Get More” appears in our Spring Issue 53.3. Richard’s first collection of poetry, Caribou Run, is forthcoming with Goose Lane Editions in 2016.

Russell Thornton, whose collection Birds, Metals, Stones and Rain was shortlisted for the Raymond Souster Award, the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize AND the 2013 Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. We published two of Russell’s poems in Issue 53.2, and EVENT published three of his poems in EVENT 42.3. Back in December we also posted an interview with him on our website. You can read that here if you’d like to get to know him better in advance.

Our (in)famous pizzapug  cutout will also be appearing at the launch, so here’s your chance to get a pugshot! We’ll be giving away subscriptions to PRISMEVENT, Room, Poetry is Dead and subTerrain AND some pizzapug t-shirts!

Did I mention it’s free?

So join us at Lost + Found Cafe, May 8th at 7pm! Here’s the Facebook event so you can click attending and invite your friends: PRISM Loves Local Lit Mags.

See you there!

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Goyette puts us in a roasting pan: A review of “Ocean”

book-goyette-oceanby Wanda Praamsma

Sue Goyette 
Gaspereau Press, 2013

What happens to us when we live by the sea?

According to Sue Goyette, we get “basted.” Lapped and licked by saltwater air. She writes: “We were being seasoned. Lightly. Of course we rebelled, / refusing to be in its roasting pan.” (Poem Seven)

That’s where Goyette puts us. In a roasting pan. A magical roasting pan in which all life—the personal, the civic, and the universal—is thrown in to heat and gel and later to cool, to be cut up and eaten, savoured.

Her Ocean moves in rhythmic waves, couplets that push you off your perch on shore—sometimes gently, sometimes energetically. While broken up into 56 poems, the book is a long poem, an ode to the water, to the natural world, and a (more) “natural” way of life. It’s also a probe into the weight of the water, and how that weight falls on those of us on land. It’s about relationships, ours with the sea, but also ours with the city (in this case, Halifax), and with our loved ones.

At times, as Goyette says herself, it can be hard to get in that roasting pan. There’s a reluctance to get in the boat. At the same time, it can be easy—but this depends on your propensity for the magical, giving yourself over to the unknown. If we look to great magic realists, such as García Márquez or Neruda, it seems that living by the sea makes you a little more up for whimsy; a little more apt to believe in a world that is not quite as it seems. (It seems, too, that Goyette believes the poets are the most willing to dive in: “The poets, it turned out, were our compasses” Poem Ten.)

If you’re not up for jumping in, your mind a little too stuck in purposeful reality—inland, perhaps (that’s where I was, on first read)—then it’s easy to run aground and get lost in Goyette’s expansive imagery. And there isn’t necessarily specific points of running aground in this book; it’s more a feeling of being lost in the vastness (the ocean is big, after all), in the depths, of going “beneath”.

From the beginning, Goyette throws the reader into a mystical, mythical world where the natural pokes fun at the human (“We weren’t introduced to bees until someone / overheard them and mistook their drone / for a school board meeting.” Poem Eleven) It seems you can either stay on land, be offended and lost, or swim with all manner of creatures.

Regardless, I think Goyette succeeds in reeling us humans into her juxtapositions, luring us in to her talk of the medieval fog trade (let’s ponder this!), the night pontificating – “droning on like a politician / promising us more day” (Poem Thirteen) – and the moonlight, the ocean’s “accolades of full moons.” (Poem Seventeen)

And this, let’s highlight this:

We were guilty of putting up fences. We were guilty
of lawn care. We were guilty of pruning our lilac ideas

until they could no longer flower; of weeding the wilderness
from the turnips of silence that grew beneath us,

pale and verging on purple.
(Poem Twenty-Five)

Goyette’s language is lyrical, and she isn’t afraid of possibilities, the vastness and endlessness the ocean inspires. She lives in Halifax and has had many staring contests with the sea. It always wins, she writes. And we need its stoicism:

If we drove to its feet,
it wasn’t to confront it, but more to adjust

our own reflections, straighten out our hearts with the old
if-you-know-what’s-good-for-you talk.
(Poem Two)

In the end, Ocean comes down to attention. Can you spend the day wandering in Goyette’s sometimes absurd but also bang-on metaphors, or does the world of the straight-and-narrow call you back to reality?

In one of the last poems, Goyette writes: “When had our schedules become the new mountains?” (Poem Fifty-Five) Just that is enough to ponder, while sitting on the beach listening to fog horns.

*Note: As there are no page numbers in Ocean, poems have been referred to by their titles, as they appear in the book. 

Wanda Praamsma’s first book, a long poem called a thin line between, was published by BookThug in fall 2014. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.

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Here’s the short list for the 2015 Poetry Contest!

It’s short list time for our Poetry contest! It’s been difficult to narrow it down to just ten poems, so well done to the poets who have made both the long and short lists.

Here is PRISM international‘s Poetry Contest short list for 2015 (in no particular order):

“ghazal iv” by Rachael Kearley
“Morning Bells are Ringing” by Jessie Jones
“Lineage” by Catriona Wright
“We advise your clothing be neutral and light” by David Martin
“First Death Ever Filmed” by Jennie Malboeuf
“Can You Rate Your Mood?” by Suzannah Showler
“Regional Transit” by Phoebe Wang
“Mercury Scud” by Elee Kraljii Gardiner
“Brentwood, Calgary, April 2014″ by Brianna Cerkiewicz
“The Hydro Men” by Phoebe Wang

The winners, as chosen by judge Ken Babstock, will be revealed on Monday, May 4th, so stay tuned! And if you haven’t already checked out the long list, here it is.

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The Tuesday Prompt: Nothing’s Happening Here But A Long Goodbye

Hello PRISM-ers! Perhaps you don’t know that the PRISM editors serve only a one year term… And the time is approaching for the annual turnover. The tenaciously excellent Claire Matthews will be the next Executive Editor, Promotions and so – fear not! – there will be more prompts. But this is my final one!

And so, due to the many feels I am feeling, this prompt is about goodbyes. Think about some of your own goodbyes: what were the hardest ones? The ones you never got to say? This is a great prompt for fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Think about a goodbye you or one of your characters has had to say. Now write two scenes: one in which you/they says everything they want to say. Then write another, in which a more “real” goodbye happens; that is, it’s awkward, difficult and nothing comes out they way they want it to.

For inspiration, here are some songs about goodbyes:

“The Long Goodbye” by Paul Brady

“Bye Bye Baby” by the Bay City Rollers

And genuinely my personal favourite:

“The Goodbye Song” from Bear in the Big Blue House (full cast version)

Goodbye, and good luck!

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Announcing PRISM’s 2015 Poetry Contest Long List!

It’s been a long time coming and here it isthe long list for our 2015 Poetry Contest! The competition was fierce this year: we received over 750 poems from 275 poets!

Here’s PRISM international’s 2015 Poetry Long List (in no particular order):

“We advise your clothing be neutral and light” by David Martin
“ghazal iv” by Rachael Kearley
“Morning Bells are Ringing” by Jessie Jones
“The Green Man in Byzantium” by Harold Rhenisch
“Lineage” by Catriona Wright
“The Way to Tian Jin” by Eva Hd
“Mercury Scud” by Elee Kraljii Gardiner
“Dregs” by David Martin
“To Do” by Shawn Krause
“The Hydro Men” by Phoebe Wang
“Courage” by Jennie Malboeuf
“Brentwood, Calgary, April 2014″ by Brianna Cerkiewicz
“First Death Ever Filmed” by Jennie Malboeuf
“Can You Rate Your Mood?” by Suzannah Showler
“Mother of Breath” by Richard Osler
“Condiments” by Catriona Wright
“Regional Transit” by Phoebe Wang
“juicing pomegranate seeds” by Rachael Kearley
“Wound Care Ghazal” by Amber Homeniuk

We’ll announce the short list this Wednesday, April 29th, and the winners on Monday, May 4th. So be sure to check back! Thanks again to all of those who submitted and congratulations to all those who have been long listed.

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Motionpoems: Videos and an Interview with Todd Boss

Interview by Rob Taylor

A highlight of PRISM 53:3 is a four-poem series by Minnesota poet Todd Boss. In addition to being the author of the collections Yellowrocket and Pitch, Todd is the co-founder of Motionpoems, an organization dedicated to making short film adaptation of contemporary poems. After prodding Todd to take his obligatory “pizza pug” photo, I asked him a few questions about Motionpoems, as a primer for new viewers.

ToddBossLGCould you tell us a bit about Motionpoems? How did the project come about? What makes you passionate about this particular way of presenting and promoting poems?

Motionpoems has its genesis as an artistic collaboration. An animator approached me after a reading in 2008 to ask if she could animate one of my poems, and I said yes. A few projects later, wanting to share our enchantment with this hybrid of forms, we began inviting other poets and filmmakers to contribute to what became the first of an annual public premiere. Since then, more that 80 projects have been made.

Motionpoems is a nonprofit collaborative. We partner with publishers to introduce great new poems from forthcoming titles to our growing network of commercial and indie filmmakers. We do not art-direct these projects, but instead allow each filmmaker to choose his or her own creative direction for his or her project.

We began with the aim of making poetry more accessible to readers who increasingly get their content from screens, but our mission has changed in recent years. Now we just want to make great art. The audience is still important to us, and still stokes us. But the focus now is on the work itself.

Could you walk us through your three favourite Motionpoems to date? What makes each of them stand out to you?

My favorite films have yet to be released, which is part of the fun: I’m always most excited about whatever’s going out to subscribers next month. But of the films currently on our site, here are a few I love to use as great examples, for various reasons:

When at a Certain Party in NYC – Erin Belieu

Written by a woman, this poem is brilliant in a hard-boiled male voice, and jazz sharpens its snarky edge. Animation suits this poem better than film could, I think, because it can slide around and deliver so much visual rhythm. I love what the animator adds to the piece, from the tuna salad menu board to that perfecty timed license plate at the end.

Karl – Dag Straumsvåg

I love it when our films aren’t literal representations of the poems, but instead use the poems as jumping-off-points for whole new layers of story or meaning. This animation creates incredible tension with its use of pauses, sound design, and the interplay of an unscripted spider and moth. Not to mention whoever lies bleeding at the telephone upstairs…

Antique Sound – W.S. Merwin

The great Pulitzer winning poet W. S. Merwin recorded this poem in his Hawaii home after we approached him with the concept of pairing it with footage of an actual turntable submerged in a pool of ink, a sound installation by sculptor Evan Holm. I love the layers of metaphor in this pairing, and I love how tenderly it was filmed.

What’s next for Motionpoems? What’s the Big Bridges project?

Motionpoems wants to theme its seasons to draw attention to certain populations of artists, or important issues. Our new season’s poems, for instance, are all by women; our next by African Americans.

Big Bridges is a project commissioned from us by the Weisman Art Museum’s at the University of Minnesota. Minneapolis is the site of the famous 2007 collapse of the I-35W bridge. Inspired by the fact that the American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that “25% of America’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete,” we’ve issued a national call for poems that “dream big about big bridges.” Five winning poems will be made the subject of a film contest, the results of which will premiere as part of a larger exhibit at the Weisman this fall. Details can be found on our website.

You can read Todd Boss’ “Petoskey Stone”, “Folds”, “I Find It Lovely That We Name Our Boats”, and “A Hoard of Driftwood” in PRISM 53:3. The issue is available through our online store

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