November Contest Winner: Fernando’s “Mind the Gap”!

Mind the Gap

you say of things that behave in unexpected (unexplainable) ways that they are haunting (haunted).
but to haunt is to occupy a place you are not supposed to be, to exist when you should not.
a sense of uneasiness, the gap between the expected and the unexpected, the wanted and the scorned, the comforting and the scaring.
that’s where you find us.

it’s a place like the gap between the train and the platform when you need to take that single step to enter the train and you hesitate.
“Mind the gap!” the speakers would blare in London bellow, and like that gap, a haunting feeds on — and draws out — the irrational.
we revel when we are not paid attention to.
like tripping into a train, a good haunting best happens when you’re looking elsewhere.

And now i must excuse myself, and, while i appreciate your offer, i must refuse.
you invited me here.
you opened the doors and let me in.
you showed me around.

i am wanted here.
i am expected.
i can’t haunt you.

so, good tidings to you.
someday, we will catch up.
your unesteemed interlopers.

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!

October Contest Winner: Erin Vance’s “Crepuscular Time”

I sit, bitter as unwashed and overripe lettuce. I cannot move.

My fleshless limbs dig into the bones of the old chair. It creaks beneath me, wheezing like a mucky lung. The moths flutter like angry feather dusters against my hard, plastic eyes.

A backdrop of yelping coyotes situates me in this house, a stinking carcass holding me in its shuddering frame. The wind licks the pipes and the bricks and I feel it sharp and prickly on my bare legs.

I want to go home.

At first, I was thrilled to taste air again. I was thrilled to be a part of a household again, posed by a man with rough hands, breathed on by strangers wandering through the house.

Eventually, my joints became stiff. The sun burnt my eyes. How I wished I could close them on those hot days. I felt each layer fade, become smaller, weaker.

I want to go home.

The crew left months ago. They muttered something about asbestos. Rats. The house was condemned. Me, with it.

I want to go home. Even if home is a plastic bin in the basement of a department store. Even if home is an incinerator. Even if home is a dumpster, reeking of diapers and mouldy pizza and stale beer.

I want to no longer feel the twitch of cold against my chest through this moth-eaten sweater. I want to move from this chair towards the hollow rattle of the radiator and melt a little bit at a time until I am pliable once again.

The rats quiver in the walls. Their scuttling keeps me awake at night. Their abject screeching scares the moths who perch still and twitch on my coarse lashes.

They crawl into my open mouth. They taste chalky and restless, weighed down by my silicone saliva.

I want to taste the wetness on the air, to blink away the moths and smell the skin of a plucked wren. I want to crawl out of this place, bloody my knees on the wood floor, drink from a cold stream, and taste fresh dirt in the evening chill. I want to be like the moths, and fly away, into the light.

I want to go home.

October Contest Winner: Fernando

“what is this ground?” from-jonah-of-the-kiln da-thumps in anxiousness. even though all of-the-kiln are near, the rustle of the tools against the brushes and their sweaty-earthy smell reassuring, they can discern just one other muffled step-talk.

“why can i hear no one else?” from-jonah dada-thumps then turns to their closest companion, hoping to smell their identity, giving up on recognizing their gait.

it’s mother.

from-jonah mouth-sings relief as mother nuzzles them.

“there, there, come, come” jonah-of-the-kilns swish-thumps close to their feet, then again and again and again until they stop shaking and ta-thump back “i am well mother. where are we?”

“you were sleep when the translation happened, that is disorienting, isn’t it?”

“yes. i couldn’t feel the grass anymore, the ground is difficult to listen to and smells like bad water. i don’t want to translate anymore.” from-jonah pa-thumps with finality.

jonah mouth-sings exasperation and nuzzles them again.

“not all translations are this bad, and it is better if you’re awake. you will try to be awake next time, won’t you?” jonah tata-thumps.

“yes, mother, i will” from-jonah ta-thumps.

“come now, the elders know of this place, we will find better ground up the slope, but need to keep close together and pay attention,” jonah tata-thumps, “this is important,” papa-thump, “warning will travel slow on this ground, you need to listen with your ears to noises you don’t know, not just step-talk,” pa-thump, “tell me when you hear anything,” pata-thump.

from-jonah-of-the-kilns nuzzles their mother back, mouth-singing resoluteness as they move out.

“this was bad for your first translation, but you will get used to it, then learn our histories.” jonah sings resolve da-thumping for only they to hear “then perhaps you will open ways yourself one day.”

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.

October Flash Contest Winner: Erin Vance!

A Half-Life

It was the landlord’s policy to do an inspection of his property every six months. He had been trying to contact his tenants for several weeks, but his phone calls, emails, and letters went unanswered. The occupants of the other apartments in the building were no help, either. They kept to themselves. One woman, in the apartment above his, a violinist, told him that she hadn’t seen the couple recently, but that she did hear a keening most nights, coming from the apartment. The landlord waited until the snow and ice melted to go to the apartment in person. His son had died after being impaled by an icicle that fell off the building’s roof- the reason he rented the apartment out, now. The landlord did not go outside in the winter months, if he could help it. It was lonely, yes, but he did not want to risk what the newspapers had dubbed “the Canadian Lobotomy.” He knocked on the apartment door. It was a ground level and had its own entrance. He shivered, standing right where his son had died. The landlord looked up at the eaves. He knocked again. No answer. The landlord began to knock harder, louder. A black shape slammed into the large window adjacent to the door. Its wings flapped against the window. The landlord could hear a low shrieking through the thin glass. He pulled out his keys. It was right on page three of the lease that no animals were allowed in the apartment. Full stop. As he turned the key and opened the door, the creature flew right into him, knocking him back with its weight. The landlord swore, lying on the ground now, watching the bird slowly ascend before landing in the elm outside the apartment building. Its wing knocked loose a lingering icicle, thin and ragged in the March sun. The bird continued to shriek, “Help! Help! Help! Help!” The crow’s feathers were mottled, unkempt. They did not resemble the oil-slick feathers of the birds he was used to seeing. The landlord stood up. Even from outside the apartment smelled of bird shit and metal. And a bit like a bottle depot. An awful hissing came from the kitchen. One of the radiators was covered in the animals’ excrement, which had eaten through the metal plating. Steam hissed, rising from the holes. Water spurted onto the floor. The landlord rushed over, closing the valve. “Hello?” He yelled into the apartment, “Is anyone here?” There was silence. And then a wailing came from the bedroom. It sounded like a woman sobbing. He walked across the apartment. All of the blinds were drawn. The landlord fumbled for the kitchen light switch. On the wall, where there had once been a pantry, hung eleven rabbits, skinned and rotting, their flesh sloughing off onto the hardwood. The landlord gagged and stumbled towards the bedroom. The door was ajar, but only just. Inside the landlord expected to find Mrs. Crawford, one of his tenants, emitting the high-pitched wailing. Instead there was only a crow, tucked neatly into the bed as if ready to go to sleep. The lamp on the bedside table was on. The crow wailed, burying its head into the pillows. The landlord stood in the doorway, unsure what to do next. He heard a something behind him, something rummaging around the den. He turned from the keening bird in the bed and closed the bedroom door. A crow stood on the couch in the small den. It thrust its beak at the television remote. The flat screen sprung to life. The landlord walked slowly into the den. The crow looked at him. The landlord felt like a child being silently berated by his schoolteacher. And that was the first time the crow spoke. “You don’t know your ass from your elbow, Mr. Linden. This place is a shit hole. I’m sure you see why we haven’t answered your calls. This shithole’s cursed or something.” After that, there was no keeping it quiet. The landlord was taken aback by the words, more so by the fact they were coming from a bird who was watching The Trailer Park Boys. Not knowing what else to do, he moved closer to the crow, “go grab a beer and I’ll explain.” In the fridge, the landlord found cases of cheap beer. He brought two cans into the den. “You fool, put it into a dish.” The landlord and the crow drank their beers, the other crow still crying in the bedroom. “She hasn’t adjusted as well as I have. She misses her mother.”

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.

3, (antilang. no.) 2, (soundbite vol.) 1, LAUNCH!

We promised you more good. short. writing., and we hope you enjoy!

Check out our latest issue of antilang. and our inaugural issue of soundbite

Thanks for all your support, and lots of love from the ALP team!

(and don’t worry, you can still read antilang. no. 1 in our archive)