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Canteen – 2012

Issue 8



Sarah Carson

Now in its eighth issue, Canteen is a journal that “admires what writers and artists do” and wants “insight into how and why it’s done.”

Now in its eighth issue, Canteen is a journal that “admires what writers and artists do” and wants “insight into how and why it’s done.”

It’s a journal about engaging the senses, and if you’ve touched this issue, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that’s exactly what they’ve done.

From cover to cover, the bold mix of art and writing is a delight to page through. And the issue’s theme, “the State of Creation,” weaves its way incisively and delicately through each work, turning each piece into a contemplation on our everyday lives.

One of the highlights of the issue for me was one of the very first stories, Joshua Mohr’s “Find Your Fight Song” in which a suburban neighborhood underdog, Bob Coffin, finally has enough of his former-football-player, SUV-driving, bully of a neighbor, Schumann. Mohr’s narrator describes Schumann this way: “Schumann is a douche of such a pungently competitive variety that he carries a picture of himself wearing his college football uniform in his wallet. And shows it to people! Seriously!”

In a scene in which I’m sure every red-blooded American has envisioned him/herself in one form or another, Coffin gets his revenge, and a salute of sorts from his neighbor, when he throws a flagpole through Schumann’s front window. As the two stand on the lawn together, I could feel the state of creation permeating my sensibilities. It’s a story that sets the tone for an issue full of characters, situations, and artwork crying out from beneath their carefully constructed surfaces.

The poetry in the issue is also a nice complement not only to the issue’s theme but to the wide range of visuals presented.

Greg Vargo’s “Multitasking Nicks and Cuts” is an ominous meditation in which the twists and turns of language create a narrative minefield that both the reader and narrator navigate together. Its abstract leaps in narrative are surprising yet cohesive, much like the issue of Canteen itself:

You seek out the pain
Of trees turning in parks or along the river

Pull loose a blue thread
From the tangled skein of wind

Vargo continues…

If the twitch of dopamine is part of you
Then the wheat field never was.

You were right to mistrust its rhythm
To hug stats on the backs

Of trading cards while machines trundled
In and out of landscape.

And Stacey Duff’s picturesque “Storms in Search of a Second Person” is perhaps one of the most vivid and daring poems I’ve read this year.

                                             this morning the aliens
dropped, camouflaged in the downpour, with a velocity so unearthly
that even the most astute meteorologists looked astounded
and temples were blown away, tricking all instruments to egregious silence.
silence in this wet season means death. silence in this moment
makes a god a shy but ornate virgin flapping like a slip of silk flesh
just below the storm in the calm cool air . . .

Another great addition is the “Artists to Watch” section in which Canteen presents up-and-coming artists from a variety of media, curated by experts from across the art world. “The art world has taken an egalitarian turn with the ascent of the Internet,” the editors write. “But art lovers suffer from this democratization . . . Talented curators have never been more indispensable.”

I’d add to that list of “talented curators” the people behind Canteen. With issues like this, Canteen looks to be a journal discerning readers can trust to find new talent, fresh writing, and the artists to look for.

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