New Canadian Anthologies
- Elsie Neufeld (Editor)
Half in the Sun: Anthology of Mennonite Writing. Ronsdale Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Paul Hoover (Editor) and Maxine Chernoff (Editor)
New American Writing 23. New American Writing (purchase at Amazon.ca)
- Annabel Lyon (Editor), Steven Galloway (Editor), and Zsuzsi Gartner (Editor)
The Journey Prize Stories 18. McClelland & Stewart Ltd. (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Alexis Kienlen
These three anthologies showcase some of the breadth and diversity of Canada’s writers.
Half in the Sun, edited by Elsie Neufeld, features writing by Canadian Mennonites, many of whom grew up on the prairies and later moved to British Columbia. The combination of the stolid prairie upbringing influenced by the West Coast environment lends a particular flavour to many of the works. The anthology is divided into three sections: fiction, poetry, and non-fiction and contains works by both emerging and established writers. The anthology includes poetry by more established writers such as Carla Funk and Barbara Nickel and fiction by Andreas Schroeder and Joe Wiebe. The collection of established and emerging writers blends together nicely, and most of the pieces are strong. The fiction section blends traditional stories and settings with more modern elements. Mennonite themes and references are subtle and only show up in some of the pieces. The blend of modern and traditional elements in the stories creates a full and thorough portrait of a people. The poetry and fiction sections are the strongest parts of this book, and the non-fiction section seems out of place, as if it was hastily tacked on at the end of the collection. This collection highlights the true diversity of the Mennonite people and Mennonite writers. Half in the Sun includes works which will capture the attention of people already familiar with Mennonite culture, or those who would like to learn more about the rich cultural tradition.
New American Writing 23 consists of poetry collected by Paul Hoover and Maxine Chernoff. While this publication generally focuses on work by Americans, or works in translation, this particular volume contains a section of work by Canadian writers. This section, entitled New Canadian poetry, is edited by Todd Swift, who once edited the Canadian anthology Poetry Nation. Swift introduces his selections with an acknowledgement of the diversity and strength of Canadian poetry and Canadian poetry-friendly organizations, such as the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council. He also acknowledges that Canadian poetry has suffered from a lack of recognition on the international stage. He notes the lack of a definitive publication to showcase the work of Canada’s hot young poets. His goal in selecting poems for New American writing was to include a variety of poets who would represent the Canadian poetry landscape in 2005. The poets included in this project were mostly English language writers in their 30s and 40s. The experimental, spoken word, and traditional schools are all represented in this collection, which includes poems by Christian Bök, Louise Bak, Stephanie Bolster, Jon Paul Fiorentino, and Tammy Armstrong. The selection offers a fine primer for anyone who is interested in getting a taste of modern Canadian poetry. Since this collection is mostly intended for an American audience, there are only a few Canadian poets included. Hopefully the work included will act as an incentive to entice curious readers to seek out more work by Canadians.
The Journey Prize Anthology is a collection of stories which is published annually. Each year, a jury is selected to read through stories submitted from literary journals published in Canada. The jury, which this year consisted of Steven Galloway, Annabel Lyon and Zsuszi Gartner, chose 13 stories for inclusion in this year’s anthology. The stories selected have been evaluated by both the editors of the literary journals and then the Journey prize jury, which ensures that the material selected is of high literary caliber. Of the 13 stories included in the anthology, one will then be selected to win the Journey Prize, worth $10,000. The Journey Prize has been won by many authors who have later gone on to achieve literary success; former Journey Prize winners include Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi), Elyse Gasco (Can you wave Bye Bye, Baby?) and Alissa York (Mercy). All of the 13 stories included in this collection are well-crafted and immediately capture a reader’s interest. Encompassing various subjects and Canadian environments, these stories range widely in theme, style, and form. Lee Henderson’s story “Conjugation,” about a journalist who goes back to elementary school, is a bizarre but touching examination of human interaction and relationships. Melanie Little’s “Wrestling” takes a look into the world of a hotel housemaid and her relationships to her grandmothers. In Nadia Bozak’s “Heavy Metal housekeeping”, a teen mother launders her son’s heavy metal T-shirts and explores her own longings and sexuality. As a special added bonus, the writers discuss their inspirations for the stories they have created and these musings are included in an appendix at the end of the anthology along with the writers’ bios. The Journey Prize anthology can be enjoyed for what it is; a selection of some of the year’s best published stories by some of Canada’s finest writers. This collection is an enjoyable and engrossing read which has prompted me to look forward to next year’s selection.
- Damage's Otter by Duffy Roberts
Books reviewed: Damage Done by the Storm by Jack Hodgins
- Fooling Around At Last by Susan Ellis
Books reviewed: The Colours of the Forest by Tom Wayman
- Well-Versed in Signals by Antje M. Rauwerda
Books reviewed: A Picnic on Ice by Matthew Sweeney, Calling Home by Richard Sanger, Fielder's Choice by Elise Partridge, and Helix: New and Selected Poems by John Steffler
- Vocations: First Nations Voices by Madelaine Jacobs
Books reviewed: she walks for days inside a thousand eyes: a two-spirit story by Sharron Proulx-Turner, Skin Like Mine by Garry Gottfriedson, and The Lil'wat World of Charlie Mack by Randy Bouchard and Dorothy Kennedy
- Linked Stories by Roderick W. Harvey
Books reviewed: Walking in Paradise by Libby Creelman, The Miss Hereford Stories by Gail Anderson-Dargatz, and Sputnik Diner by Rick Maddocks
MLA: Kienlen, Alexis. New Canadian Anthologies. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 24 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #195 (Winter 2007), Context(e)s. (pg. 168 - 169)
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