Published at St. Jerome’s University in Waterloo, Ontario, The New Quarterly is a handsome journal, obviously produced with great care, respect for the relationship between good reading and good design (short columns! white space!), and an appealing shape (think Brick or Tin House, but less bulky). I spent a long time appreciating the magazine’s physical appeal before I even began to take in the exceedingly good contents. Editor Kim Jerrigan tells us this issue’s theme is “Assorted Pedestrians,” a line from one of the stories featured in the issue, a theme borne out by intriguing photos of “human subjects” from Jonathon Bowman on the cover and title page.
This issue features the work of 14 poets, including four poems by Andreae Prozesky preceded by her terrific essay, “Falling in Love with Poetry,” and commentary on poems from Heather Cadsby and Shawn Riopelle by Tristanne Connolly and Barbara Carter; six stories; “Night Flight: A Story in Words and Pictures” by Diane Schoemperlen, a marvelous “collage story” complete with gorgeous reproductions of the collages; two insightful essays on writing; two wonderful “magazine as muse” essays, which are part memoir, part magazine critique; and a “postscript,” what I might call “sudden memoir,” a short narrative on vintage photos (well, circa 1950).
All of the writing (poems, stories, essays) are fresh, engaging, inviting, serious, intelligent, and original. There is some comic relief, but no effort to show off, outsmart the reader, or obscure meaning. At the same time, there is nothing throw-away or easy here. The New Quarterly takes writing and reading seriously. There isn’t a story you’ll want to skip because the first line is pedestrian (assorted pedestrians aside) or an essay that gets bogged down either in academic jargon or excessive self-reflection.
Schoemperlen’s collage essay is a highlight. Part meditation on the meaning of “night,” part memoir (a trip the author made to New York City; childhood experiences), part “discovery” of the images in other media (maps, books), part gallery (the collages), the piece makes for delightful reading and viewing.
A series of poems by K.V. Skene in narrow columns is based on a practice of creating a title for the next poem inspired by the last line of the previous one. I’ll close this review with a remark inspired by her last title, “To Walk Outside of the Ordinary.” If you want to read outside of the ordinary, order this journal. It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s extraordinary.