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Issue #153

Issue Date: Winter 2005
Editor: John Barton
Pages: 112
Number of contributors: 34

Buy Issue 153: Print Edition

Cover of issue #153

A bright painting by Joseph Kyle (1923-2005), founder of the Victoria College of Art, graces the cover of this issue. Titled Gaia #24 (1994), its colourful geometric forms are oddly similar to the eye-catching work by Jessica Eaton that features on Malahat’s most recent issue, #202; something I only noticed by having them both on my desk at the same time. Thirteen years and forty-nine issues later, fabulous covers are a constant.

There are four short stories in this issue, by Christina Estima, Heather Jessup, Mary Borsky, and Wayne McIntyre. All are accomplished and thought-provoking—or provocative in other ways—but this reviewer was most struck by the fluidity of language, the deft imagery, and the solid characterization of Borsky’s Cobalt Blue #5. The story follows a day in the life of Iris, “a painter who hasn’t been able to complete a painting in almost four years.”  As she readies herself to speak to a lecture group at a local community centre that evening, her inner doubts and insecurities begin to surface. Iris is described as having a “troublesome foot,” which slows her down and requires an orthopedic shoe. In the opening paragraph she is lying on the floor, troublesome foot extended, as “[S]he watches it stretch and flex, swoop and glide, fly like a bony bird across the ceiling.” As the story progresses, the tender foot seems to double for Iris’s stalled creativity, while the winged-creature imagery continues as well. During a reverie about a (doomed) late-blooming romance with a man named Eric, she remembers how, during a river-side walk, red-winged blackbirds “had darted out from the lush and darkening greenery.” She had convinced herself that being in love was “everything,” choosing the relationship over her art. When Eric returned to his wife, Iris found “that the painting was gone too. It was sealed away from her like a moth behind the glass of a display case.” At the community centre, during a desultory question period, outside thunder disturbs some pigeons in under the building’s eaves, prompting distracted (but lively) discussion about these “filthy birds.” Then, escaping an unexpected encounter with Eric as she’s leaving the centre, more winged creatures emerge…”She is a wasp, escaped through a crack in the glass…or maybe…she is a pigeon, flapping her wings against the storm.” By the story’s satisfying end, perhaps she is, finally, herself. As “leaves fling themselves across her vision like bats,” it feels as if she is.

Twenty-one poets contribute to #153, including Jason Gurel, April Bulmer, Evan Jones, Susan Telfer, and Whitehorse author Erling Friis-Baastad, whose three poems here invoke that region’s wildness. From “Possession”: “These are the magpie days / leading up to the raven days / the coyote nights.” Donna Kane’s poem “Hunter Moon” begins: “The moon has nothing to say. / At the brink of full are all the words / we’ve put there.”

—Rhonda Batchelor

About the 50 Issues Project

Have a look at our last featured issue, issue #144
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