Greetings! Vallum Magazine’s blog has moved to a new location.

Please click here to visit our new spot!



Congratulations to Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation for winning the 2011 American Society of Magazine Editors’ award  which is the “most prestigious in the magazine industry”.

Vallum has been nominated for another National Magazine Award (5 NMA nominations so far–) for 2011. Dennis Lee is up for the award. The winner will be announced at the gala  being held in Toronto on June 10, 2011. Every year, Vallum nominates 5-8 poets, published in Vallum,  for this prestigious prize.

Hello Readers and Poets!

There’s still time to get your submisssions in for the Vallum Award for Poetry 2011! A month and a half to be exact. Winners will be published in the 9:1 (Fall 2011) issue of Vallum, and have the opportunity for cash prizes. Read below for more details:

Vallum Award for Poetry 2011

DEADLINE June 30, 2011 (postmarked)

Some of the best poets in the world have graced the pages of Vallum: new international poetics. Time to join the ranks!

Vallum is accepting original and previously unpublished poetry submissions for the Vallum Award for Poetry 2011.


$20 CDN for Canadian residents, $20 USD for international entrants, which includes a free one-year subscription to Vallum. Payment can be made by cheque or through our online store hosted by Paypal.  Visit to access the Paypal store.


  1. Submit up to 1-3 poems of approximately 25 lines each. Do not label your poems with your name or address; instead include a cover letter with all pertinent information.
  2. Poems may be on any theme or subject, but must be original and not previously published.
  3. 1st prize is $500, 2nd $250. Honourable Mentions may be selected and published but are not eligible for cash prizes.


Please write your name, contact information and each poem’s title in the body of the email. Include your poems in an attachment  without any identification. The contest is judged blind. Also write “VALLUM AWARD” in subject line of your email. Your contact information and poem titles must be clearly delineated.

Thank you to everyone who entered the TenWordTenDay Poetry Invitational! The competition was fierce and we were thrilled to have so many excellent pieces to choose from.

Congratulations to Yi-Mei Tsiang for her wining poem “First Train Ride.” Ms. Tsiang will receive a chapbook of her choice from the Vallum Chapbook Series and her poem will be featured on this site and in Vallum’s memo.

First Train Ride

Yi-Mei Tsiang

First train ride and my daughter’s

face is pressed to the glass. She kneels

by the window, and even the small rounded hills look glacial

with November’s early frost.

I’m touched by the arc of her spine,

the intensity which coils in her body

like a taut spring. Her gaze is as precise

as mathematics. Nothing can escape

her catalogue of passing miracles.

We’re travelling to Toronto, we’ve explained,

to the funhouse, the circus, the zoo. Still, disembarking,

she clings to the windows, cries

with all the frantic adrenalin of grief.

We pry her fingers off, carry her kicking

and screaming; her boots fall and tumble over the station

floor. One is caught in the cleft between the tracks and the platform

and just before my husband reaches to retrieve it,

a train blows by and the boot

is thrown into the air, a black bird,

a final miracle.

Bio: Yi-Mei Tsiang is the author of A Flock of Shoes (Annick Press). Her full-length poetry collection, Sweet Devilry is forthcoming in Spring 2011 with Oolichan. She also has two new books forthcoming with Annick Press, The Dog Doesn’t Eat Jam and a book of non-fiction on ancient China. She is currently completing UBC’s MFA program and is a graduate from the Humber School of Writing. Yi-Mei currently teaches Creative Writing for UBC’s Booming Ground program.

Congratulations again to our winner!

I had the pleasure of attending Catherine Kidd’s preview of Hyena Subpoena, which debuted pieces from her new performance and revisited a few old pieces too. The performance took place at New City Gas in Griffintown – a big old rustic space that was an ideal venue for the show. Kidd had a few benches set up for her guests, though far more than she expected turned up.

As always, Kidd’s performance pieces are energetic and poetic. She is a true wordsmith who fuses humour and facts (often pertaining to zoology and biology) and showcases an uncanny ability to tell stories in a truly vivacious way. A pro at making connections, she veers off on unexpected tangents and moves seamlessly from one subject to an entirely divergent one. This is all furthered by her incredible ability to perform– utilizing an array of voices, accents, facial expressions and gestures. Often she sets her pieces to music (provided by DJ Jacky Murda), and “video environments,” created by herself and Geoff Agombar, are projected behind her.

Kidd marched out looking convincingly like a nervous youth, with a colourful collaged helmet on her head. Her opening story was about two pre-teens into John Lennon and anti-violence being harassed by the jocks on their school’s lacrosse team.

Kidd explained that all of her new oral stories examine the notion of the outcast, those who are different from others, whose unique personalities result in their exclusion. The hyena was chosen for having a bad reputation while another piece touched on the attitude the majority of people have towards the homeless.

The title piece of her new performance, “Hyena Subpoena,” featured footage Kidd shot in 2007 in South Africa of a young female hyena. Kidd rapped her rhythmic poetry, which offered unique insights, while playing as always, with the sound and texture of language.

An unnerving film of a dying lioness (also filmed by Kidd while in Africa) was meant to make the audience squirm, which it did. The content of her piece “Dying Lioness” shifted from the irony of infection diseases to refugees fleeing poverty. Her performance of this piece at New City Gas can be viewed on Kidd’s website.

Another piece is told from the perspective of an acapela antelope and takes inspiration from the short story The Lottery. This piece began rather humorously, with an antelope reflecting on his species’ nature of chewing and listening and commenting on the slower antelopes, those who fail to follow the herd. The focus shifted to ideas of predator and prey and a tale of a young girl’s hazardous encounter with some older boys.

Kidd’s old performances were just as gripping. “Sea Peach” was about the sea creature that resembles a human heart, and a female woman who is in actuality a fox, her true identity only revealed is she allows herself to fall in love.

Kidd is a truly charismatic performer who never breaks character and whose show was flawlessly tight. Kidd has a lot of guts, to say the least, to perform alone on stage with her personal thoughts, words, and emotive expressionism. Kidd is not merely a poet, but truly a performer, and actress.  Few writers would have the courage to put themselves on display in the manner she does, and performances of this type seem to, unfortunately, be few and far between these days. Her show stuck with me and all of my friends that accompanied me for days after and everyone in attendance that didn’t already have her previously released books rushed to purchase them. Missing the Arc (Kidd’s first and only novel so far) is one of my all time favourite novels and works of writing in general, infused with zoology, biology, poetry and an intimate sense of realism.

Kidd is planning to take her new set of performance pieces on the road in 2011. If she performs again in Montreal, I highly recommend attending. You certainly won’t regret it as it is an inspiring experience unlike any other.

The TENwordTENday Poetry Invitational is Now Over

Thank you to everyone who submitted! Winners will be contacted shortly.

Ghosts of Identity by Lisa Sookraj

Gail Scott’s long-anticipated novel The Obituary is exemplary of the author’s strengths as a writer, and as a Montrealer. As always – her prose begs to be read as poetry because simply put, it is poetry in its most ethereal, advanced form. Scott’s work readily acknowledges this question on page 118: “Reader, you may be forgiven for asking here what is a novel life?”

The Obituary is beautiful, challenging poetic novel that is absolutely stunning in terms of image, sound, rhythm, merged with compelling characters and an extremely sensory depiction of place and atmosphere. Full of unconventional footnotes, brackets, symbols and crossed out words, the work itself is a complex equation to be cracked, or at least, to be pondered, much like life and identity. The narration is a fusion of three voices which bleed into each other – a woman named Rosine on a bed or bus, an erudite historian and a meticulously descriptive omniscient narrator.

The narrative is situated in Mile End – seeking to capture, (as Scott put it at the launch for the book) “the music of the way people talk in Montreal” and the particular resonance the city and its inhabitants have. She compared this intention to Leonard Cohen’s Beautiful Losers.

Montreal street names that appear in the text are toyed with – transformed to be humorous and fresh. One example is the renaming of St. Joseph as Dada-Jesus. At the launch Scott talked about ‘sense of place’– a vital element of the novel; she has lived in Mile End since 1972 back when it was a working class immigrant neighbourhood, where as she put it, “everyone shared having to get up to go to work in the morning,” something that has certainly changed. The narrative is fascinated with the situation of life in the triplexes of Montreal,  the manner in which neighbours tend to intimately know about each other’s lives.  This is done in part through following a therapist MacBeth and his patients, who are neighbours.

At the launch the author discussed the integration of Abraham and Torok’s view of psychoanalysis which sees social context as important to shaping identity and psyche. At the book launch, Dr. Gillian Lane-Mercier suggested that the central issue of the novel can be summed up with this quote: “Who am we?” (p. 46) The Obituary plays with the idea that who you are is inextricably linked to who you identify with.

The novel begins with this epigraph: “What haunts us are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others” – Abraham and Torok. Haunting is an important element of the novel that plays out as  ghosts of Old Montreal’s politics and ghosts of Rosine’s ancestors. The protagonist/narrator Rosine is distressed by her partly-indigenous family’s “internalized racism” and sense of shame.

The narrative is concerned with hybridity and struggling with identity– avoiding and/or accepting elements and notions of self, place and past. Rosine strives to find an authentic way of speaking. Words that are crossed out show her editing or censoring herself, trying to establish for herself what she is and isn’t able to, or should or shouldn’t be able to say.

Scott responded to a comment that her narrator may be seen as “someone who is falling apart” by saying she sees her as “someone with many seams.” I agree with this statement, though it’s also interesting to note how falling, or rather, carefully pulling apart can often be a precursor to fixing pieces together, to obtaining a sense of wholeness from fractions – which speaks to the structure of the text itself.

Lovely and brave, The Obituary has an uncommonly layered feel. The language is consistently playful, sensuous and tight. The world portrayed is full of vibrancy, an accumulation of delicious details infused with social commentary and facts. Although in one sense the novel can appear difficult to follow, it is  ultimately inviting, fun and a pleasure for the reader to inhabit. The Obituary is all the things that good writing, be it poetry or prose, should be.

You can purchase this title and others by Gail Scott at the Coach House Books website.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 42 other followers