November Contest Winner: Taylor Skaalrud’s Haunting Poem

They can’t see what I see beneath me; marooned & timbered stories.
The sea of history resurfaces, It,
Trauma creaks and seeps and seeks its ghost.
It finds familiar feelings.

Wound in the wound it writhes with time’s tithes – the tides;
the black-bile-mould that festers beneath floorboards that
pours forth from holes in the souls that line these walls
until it touches something – someone warm.
An ember to hold onto to turn house into its home.
But this chill house’s hearth cannot house a lively flame
and so, it smothers shrouded Allison with love beyond the grave.

November Flash Reveal

Our editors got caught up watching Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House and couldn’t resist basing the monthly flash writing contest on that show. We gave our Patrons an image of The ALP’s home-base in Saskatoon (a character home over 100 years old!) and asked them to haunt the house.

Our winning submissions include an eerie poem by Taylor Skaalrud and a letter written by a ghost by Fernando! We will be posting these flash pieces on our blog over the next few days, so be sure to check them out!

Do you want to get in on these contests? If so, all you have to do is head over to our Patreon page, sign up to donate $2/ month, and bingo, you will receive immediate access to our contests and early access to our On Editing blog series. The top three flash pieces will be featured as the winners on our blog every month. The donations made on Patreon are collected on the first of every month, so if you sign up to donate anytime during December, you will get immediate access to all the perks, but you won’t be charged until January 1st!

Why Write?

Turn on any news program or open any social media app and the world comes in. And you realise, that right now, the world is ugly. Fascism dominates, and with it all the ugly -isms and -phobias that generate and feed on hate. When people aren’t killing or hurting each other, they’re destroying the planet. When you see all this, hopelessness becomes inevitable. The words “thoughts and prayers” ring too hollow and you don’t know what to do, what you could do, to make a difference. You aren’t a politician, you aren’t a scientist, and words feel too feeble. Why write?
At the ALP, we’ve been quiet as these tragedies continue. We’ve been hurting. And we’ve been asking ourselves: why write? Why dedicate our lives to writing?
We have two answers: beauty and empathy. We write to create something beautiful in an ugly world. To remind ourselves and others that beauty does exist. And that taking the time to notice beauty and to appreciate it enough to write it is important. This takes us back, to a time before, when we didn’t see the ugly in the world. Who didn’t start writing poetry out of love? You fall in love, that first time you have a crush on someone, so young, and you can’t help but write it. And maybe those first love poems weren’t the best poems, but they tried to capture something beautiful. So, why write? To get back to that.
But what if you didn’t start with love poems? What if you saw the ugly in the world and started writing your anger? Who didn’t, as they wrote love poems, not also write angsty poems about injustice? Even if that injustice was only your parents disallowing you to be with the one you loved, it was still felt, deep enough to write. And this brings us to empathy, because sometimes you can’t write only beauty. Sometimes you must write anger and hurt. Why? Why write? Because you feel a pain so acute that you must communicate it. In this communication we find community–other people with the same pain or other people wanting the same change. That’s what writing does: communicates.
We can’t understand the suffering of other people or the planet. Those hurts are too big. So we put it in writing. We use our craft to create characters, worlds, and we invite readers to know these people, to start to know each other. We begin to recognise others and ourselves, and we start to understand how to support each other.
So, while our mission at the ALP is to curate good. short. writing., what we mean by this is that we want to bring people together. We believe that through writing we can remember to notice beauty. And we can connect to each other, regardless of our backgrounds, to create a community of writers and readers, aware of our differences, and supportive, nonetheless.
All the speeches and rhetoric used for destruction can be turned around. We can use story and poetry and memory, delivered through well-chosen words to understand each other and to create something better.
Why write? Because it gives us hope.

Record Snowfall in Calgary; Or, Why Not Stay in and Read?

If you’re in the Calgary area, as one of our illustrious editors and many of our wonderful contributors are, then you know all about the record snowfall we got over the last two days!

Is a tough day of shoveling getting you down, or are you tougher than the weather? Either way, why not take this excuse to curl up with a warm blanket, some cocoa, and Aritha van Herk’s “Tough Girl,” a kindred spirit from antilang. no. 1:

tough girl

In comforting solidarity, here’s a view from Jordan‘s front door in northern Calgary. Take care, be safe, and keep warm out there!

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On Blurring Genre: antilang.

As we start vetting pieces for antilang. no. 3 and soundbite vol. 2 (check out our call for submissions & guidelines!), we want to draw attention to an important aspect of our mandate: work that blends and blurs the lines of genre. Unlike many literary journals and magazines, the ALP’s publications aren’t divided up into genre sections. We also don’t ask you to identify the genre of your writing when you submit it. Finally, we made sure to solicit some hybrid creators for our inaugural issue to lead by example (like Geoff Pevlin’s delightful translation poems and Larissa Lai’s activist-inclined language play). As a result of these practices, we received a huge spectrum of forms and genres for antilang. no. 2 and soundbite no. 1 when we opened for general submissions.

Of course, we can’t take credit for the idea. Challenges to and deconstructions of ‘traditional’ (read dominant) notions of literary genre go back as far as the traditions and genres themselves, but are especially seen in the writings of marginalized groups (i.e., those displaced/silenced by said dominating traditions). What’s interesting is that in contemporary times the challenging of genres has become subtle and fluid, particularly through blurred middle grounds and hybridity. Consider this excerpt from Robert Kroetsch’s The Hornbooks of Rita K: “When I tell you that I love you I’m trying to tell you that I love you” (97).

Now consider the closing of Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach:

I lie on the sand.
The clamshells are hard
against my back. I am no longer
cold. I am so light I could just
drift away. Close, very close, a b’gwus howls–
not quite human, not quite wolf,
but something in between.

The howl echoes off the mountains.
In the distance,
I hear the sound of a speedboat. (374)

Note the absent line breaks from Kroetsch’s “[hornbook #73],” whereas we’ve added line breaks to what was, originally, a single paragraph in Robinson’s novel. And yet, the passage from Monkey Beach seems, or feels, to read more ‘poetically’ than Kroetsch’s, whose line(s) behave like a straightforward statement or piece of dialogue. The telling poem and the novel’s imagistic end reveal the folly of commonly held beliefs about the differences between prose and poetry: that poetry is inaccessible (thanks, modernists!) and that novels are expected to deliver plot and therefore closure. Monkey Beach gives us the opposite of both: accessible concrete images and total uncertainty regarding Lisa’s fate. Hornbooks gives us a self-evident fact, a description with built-in implied plot and closure, for what more can be told on the topic?

A piece in antilang. no. 2 that brilliantly befuddles these typical expectations of genres is Melinda Jane – The Poet Mj’s “Kit” (pg. 25). While ‘clearly’ a poem at first glance, we lovingly call it a micro-novel written in verse. Not only is it broken into chapters rather than numbered or titled sections, “Kit” is a long (relative to our mandate) narrative that features all the staples of a novel: multiple characters and settings, prosaic descriptions, (indirect) dialogue, and, that slipperiest of all fiction ‘requirements,’ plot. How could the short lines full of imagery belong to a novel? How could they not?

soundbite Preview: Lissa McFarland’s “09.13.17”

In competition for the shortest piece in soundbite vol. 1, Lissa McFarland reads her poem about raking leaves (something a lot of us can relate to this season, as long as the snow holds off). You can find her other poem “05.02.18” about spring flowers in soundbite and her creative non-fiction/prose-poem “04.26.17” on page 64 of antilang. no. 2.

antilang. Preview: Kevin Stebner’s “Oilspill”

StebnerWhile our mandate says we like: good. short. writing., we’re also interested in genre-defying/blurring work that avoids easy categorisation. This constraint-based-visual poem is one of the most different pieces in our second issue and the closest we have come to printing visual art. Now that you’ve read his project description, head over to antilang. no. 2, page 15-17 to read the poem!

soundbite Preview: Zelda Baiano’s “Unchained Melody”

Zelda Baiano was, we’re proud to say, our very first fan–the first person who isn’t a personal friend or family member to really take notice and give us lots of virtual love on social media. So we’re equally proud to publish this emerging Canadian poet with “Unchained Melody” in soundbite (she also has another poem, “Intimacy,” on page 40 of antilang. no. 2).BaianoZelda Baiano is currently studying English Literature and Language at Brock University in Southern Ontario. She has been previously published in two anthologies, The Night’s Voice, and Fresh Ink 2016.

antilang. Preview: Melinda Jane – The Poet Mj’s “Kit”

Melinda Jane – The Poet Mj’s “Kit” is a structurally unique piece in antilang., a micro-novel written in verse. Jump to page 25 of the new issue and see the full arc unfold.MjMelinda Jane – The Poet Mj: writer, spoken word artist with explorations in soundscapes, improv music in the performing arts. Poems in Thirty West Publishing, The Mozzie, Rambutan, and more.