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21 Mar, 2013

Looking back on last year, belatedly…

I meant to write a year’s end piece in December about my writing and editing life in 2012, but since Winnipeg still has (much) snow on the ground, I’ll just post something now.

My proudest moments as a writer in 2012 were my appearances in excellent literary magazines. I had two poems in the Malahat, previously bragged about here, and a poem in Arc Poetry Magazine‘s Poetry Annual 2012, for which they gave me a cheque big enough that I scanned it as a souvenir in case it never happens again (also noted here). Also, a fourth poem of mine appeared in the winter edition (2013 actually) of my home town magazine, CV2, together with an essay that discussed recent books by Patrick Friesen, Linda Besner, and Don Paterson. These poems are all part of a manuscript called Six that I’ve been working on since 2007, repeatedly getting stuck in the ditch thanks to my incompetent driving, and then digging out with sand and ice pick, shovel and neighbour (yes, I live in Winnipeg).

The poems I’ve published over the last year began as sestinas, from a manuscript with only 6 shared end words per section of 6 poems, with 36 sestinas in total; predictably, this scheme was awkward rather than virtuosic, and I had to deconstruct, re-invent, and sometimes abandon the form in order to rescue my manuscript. I’m happy to say that it’s now rescued, and the process of looking for a publisher has begun.

Then I had the pleasure of reviewing three books of poetry for Event magazine in issue 41.2. The books were Stephanie Bolster’s A Page From the Wonders of Life on Earth (Brick), John Glassco and the Other Montreal (Frog Hollow, ed. Carmine Starnino), and Sachiko Murakami’s Rebuild (Talonbooks).

I also wrote four editorials for The Winnipeg Review, an on-line fiction review which I edit: my favourite pieces were a report on seeing John Ashbery read in New York, easily the literary highlight of my year, a rant about Irving Layton, delivered at the local celebration of his life and work last spring, and an essay called “Failing” that discusses my failings as an editor, D.W. Wilson, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and the odd connection between Guy Maddin and John Ashbery.

In the first half of 2012 I acquired and edited three books of fiction for Enfield & Wizenty: Meira Cook’s novel The House on Sugarbush Road, and two collections of short fiction: Naomi K. Lewis’s I Know Who You Remind Me Of, and Richard Van Camp’s Godless but Loyal to Heaven.

Almost forgot–I wrote an essay for Rhubarb magazine’s summer edition on why there’s no such thing as new Mennonite writing. The essay takes the form of a series of questions posed by my dead, fictionalized Mennonite ancestors. My thesis: there are no more Mennonites, except for the deliberately illiterate ones in rural colonies, and so there can be no more MennoBooks. Some people laughed, but not Ted Dyck, who wrote a letter to the editor. Ah well.

In the summer I also got a tan, but that’s another story.