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The Malahat Review – Fall 2008

Journalist and filmmaker Tadzio Richards won the magazine’s 2008 Far Horizons Award with “Travels in Beringia,” selected from more than 500 entries and featured in this issue. It’s an odd time, to be sure, to be reading about the “sea frozen with chipped ice” that lies between Siberia and Alaska (which mentioned more in the news media in the US in 2008 than it likely was in the entire century before the last presidential election).

Journalist and filmmaker Tadzio Richards won the magazine’s 2008 Far Horizons Award with “Travels in Beringia,” selected from more than 500 entries and featured in this issue. It’s an odd time, to be sure, to be reading about the “sea frozen with chipped ice” that lies between Siberia and Alaska (which mentioned more in the news media in the US in 2008 than it likely was in the entire century before the last presidential election). The poem is odd, too, in its way, and oddly beautiful. You’ll leave the poem cold and lonely, wondering about the relationship between the poem’s escaped circus elephant and the amazing blue elephant trotting down a highway on the cover of the magazine, painted, not for this issue, but in 1984, and you’ll be impressed by the poet’s ability to render fresh and original frigid images that in less capable hands could seem tepid and ordinary.

The award-winning poem is joined by equally fine poems from Shannon Stewart, Kanina Dawson, and Diane Reid, among others. There is more “nature poetry” this issue than is typical for the Malahat Review, though there are a number of poems that consider metaphysical concerns, as well. As always, the poetry is serious, sturdy, well made, nothing that tries to show off with tricks and gimmicks, but poems that expect readers to care about precise and thoughtful diction and meet that expectation every time.

Barry Dempster’s “A Carver Afterlife” (sudden fiction or a long prose poem, I’m not sure which and the label seems unimportant), complements the elephant-loose-on-the-deserted-highway theme beautifully: “And on poemless nights when the highways are quietly reduced to pavement, Carver and I find a phone booth, a little lit-up shack in a corner of the Milky Way, and call everyone we ever had a drink with.” This poetic moment, captured in prose in a most effective way.

The prose is especially good this issue with memorable stories from Harld Rhenisch, Ian Bullock, and Tsering Lama. Best of all is a short work of creative nonfiction (I assume this is nonfiction. At any rate, it is a story that captures a physical reality and considers a historical one) by Sioux Browning, “Lost Pueblo,” which, in its own way, extends the elephant-lost-on-the-highway theme. It concerns an old dog, an old man, and an old desert. The prose manages to be both plain and lyrical all at once, and the piece was the highlight of the issue for me.
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