Twenty-seven is a number with a bit of karmic weirdness to it. Music lovers know that 27 is the age at which many talented rock stars meet an untimely end. Not cool. More edifying is the fact that 27 has its own Wikipedia page. That’s how we’re able to tell you other interesting facts about 27. “Twenty-seven is a perfect cube, being 33 = 3 × 3 × 3. 27 is also 23.” Perhaps even more marvellous is the fact that 27 is the “atomic weight of the only stable isotope of aluminum.”
There are many very nifty things about 27, and Issue 27 of carte blanche is no exception. How about we just dive right in, then, and get you acquainted with this beautiful, tragic, comic, life-affirming number?
In poetry, we have no less than Canada’s Parliamentary Poet Laureate, George Elliott Clarke, bringing a combative and historical flair with his “Hannibal Dreams of Rome.” (Of the many great interviews with Clarke, we really love this one at CANADALAND COMMONS.) Jay Ritchie’s “Upcycle” takes us to Montreal’s Jarry Park and, thanks to Google Earth, to the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Midtown. Meg Eden, meanwhile, transports us many leagues further down in “I Ask My Mother What It’s Like, Living at the Bottom of the Ocean.” Mallory Tater’s beautiful “Unbendable Light” goes beachside too — at Semiamhoo Bay. We’re delighted to have a poem in translation — Alain Lance’s “Paris-Prague and Back” – artfully rendered by Erika Luckert. And in Alison Strumberger’s “Inheritance” we learn how a “mother drove a fern / from Montreal to Vancouver / in a Datsun.” Through this poem we learned of ficus, “a genus of about 850 species of woody trees, shrubs, vines, epiphytes and hemiepiphytes in the family Moraceae.” (Thanks again Wikipedia.)
It is lilac trees that move Natalie Levtova, as they are bursting into bloom when she arrives in Moscow, where she turns her camera on her family and surroundings for a photo series called “Your Motherland, Not Your Home.” In comics, Meags Fitzgerald’s “Holding Part 1” captures the complexity of Major Life Events through just a few simple, clever panels. When will we see Part 2?! “Unpleasant Sense Memories,” by Teva Harrison, also addresses Major Life Events, although through a rather different lens. Stepping on a banana slug is one of the featured icky moments.
When “An Education” by “Gabe Marcus” opens, its narrator has a gun pointed at his head by a man “wearing a porkpie hat exactly like Gene Hackman would wear in The French Connection” – which is all the more striking because we’re now in the realm of nonfiction. “Living Right” by William Russell Wallace does fantastic things with time, as the search for a car in a parking lot is interspersed with reminiscences of fast living in New York City. And you have to check out Nicole Breit’s “Spectrum,” the winner of the 2016 carte blanche/CNFC competition for creative non-fiction – lyrical, poignant and courageous.
“Sometimes when we think we know what we need, it is surprising to realize we can live without it,” one of the protagonists of Desirée Jung’s exquisite “The Messenger” affirms. As with so much of Issue 27, we’re just a little infatuated with this sentence. We’re in the realm of fiction now. What’s definitely no fiction is the serious talent of 19-year-old Raphaëlla Vaillancourt, who wrote “Breathing Lessons” with support from Monique Polak through the mentorship program of the Quebec Writers’ Federation. Fellow Quebecker, Steve Bourdeau, has delivered an audacious suburban drama about digital indiscretions in “Things Rotten Under.” Richard Kelly Kemick, meanwhile, is concerned with the far older medium of mail – and what it reveals about a person – in his cleverly wrought “Staying Clean.” The visceral and vivid details in Douglas W. Milliken’s “Yellow Cake” leave us in no doubt as to why its author has won prizes through Glimmer Train, McSweeney’s and the Stoneslide Collective.
So, #27 – good karma? We believe only positive things can happen to you if you jump in feet first and explore for yourself. It goes live May 31.
–Laurence Miall and Gregory McCormick