When the PRISM Editors aren’t busy reading submissions, contest entries, interviews, reviews, emails, and love letters, we do (occasionally) like to read for pleasure. Each of the five editors shared who they’re reading right now and why they’re excited about them.
Poetry Editor Dominique Bernier-Cormier
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been on a great little poetry high thanks to Laura Clarke’s first full-length collection Decline of the Animal Kingdom. It’s just incredibly original, funny and tender. Clarke won the 2013 Brownen Wallace Award for the series Mule Variations, and for all mule lovers—there is a solid amount of mules in her new collection. She told UofT Magazine that she found them fascinating because “they’re sterile, but occasionally, one can miraculously give birth.” Well, to me, Laura’s book was a little like a mule birth (in a good way…) When you think, one day, as we all sometimes do, that the world’s finally gone sterile, that there’s no new truly original way to write, there comes a little miraculous book like Laura Clarke’s Decline of the Animal Kingdom.
Executive Editor, Circulation Jennifer Lori
One of the books I’m buzzed about this fall is Mark L. Winston’s Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive. A biologist beekeeper at Simon Fraser University, Mark is one of the world’s foremost experts on bees and pollination. Bee Time is his heartfelt memoir spanning three decades of his work with bees, and it won the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction. From the hum of 60,000 bees producing honey to the nuances of a bee-centric apiary practice, Bee Time details the inner workings of the hive. The book’s metaphoric prose reveals gentle lessons from these hardworking social creatures and calls attention to their drastic plight. With millions of the world’s bees lost through Colony Collapse Disorder and over a third of global farm output dependant on honeybee pollination, CCD is a complex problem with grave consequences for human survival. Bee Time explores the larger picture of human-environment interaction, and presents Mark’s philosophical insights on the interconnection of life.
Prose Editor Christopher Evans
I’ve read some incredible short story collections over the last couple of months, and perhaps the one that has stuck with me the most is Wayde Compton’s 2014 collection, The Outer Harbour. Compton explores identity, place, gentrification and racism through blueprints, protest flyers, grant applications, and rough drawings, alongside straight prose. From a distance, the pieces can seem scattershot. But the deeper you read, the clearer the connections between them become, working together to build a picture of present and future Vancouver that is both terrifying and, conversely, hopeful, almost utopic. Compton’s done something quite masterful—written speculative fiction that seems not just possible, but likely.
Reviews Editor Anita Bedell
I am excited to read the recent translation of Nelly Arcan’s novel Burqa of Skin, translated by Melissa Bull and published by Anvil Press (2014). Nelly Arcan was a Canadian novelist who wrote four semi-autobiographical novels of her experiences as a professional escort sex worker in Quebec, Canada. She also published an illustrated coffee table book on beauty. She was described as thin, blonde and beautiful. A literary sensation. She won numerous literary awards for her work, which has been described as scandalous. For me, she’s a hard read. I don’t necessarily “enjoy” reading her–her work portrays a harsh and unforgiving world–but I don’t forget what I’ve read. And I can’t wait to read more. Arcan took her own life in Montréal at the age of 36.
Executive Editor, Promotions Claire Matthews
The first time I saw Lucas Crawford read was at Swoon Reading Series in 2014. He read a hilarious, yet moving essay about the body and sexuality. I was disappointed (and outraged!) that he didn’t have a book yet, but now he has two (!): Transgender Architectonics and Sideshow Confessions (Invisible Publishing, 2015). Like the essay I heard, the poems found in Sideshow Confessions are devastatingly funny in their honest exploration of the narrator’s world of changing bodies. Lucas Crawford is CWILA’s 2015 Critic in Residence, a position that drew him because of “CWILA’s commitment to rethinking the highly gender-skewed character of Canada’s literary establishment”. Crawford is also the R.W.W. Junior Chair of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. Hopefully, I’ll get my hands on Transgender Architectonics while I (im)patiently wait for what Crawford dazzles us with next.