These are strange times, friends. I’m writing this editorial from my writing space in my Montreal home, more than a week after the Quebec government asked the general public to practice social distancing to slow down the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness it causes. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and we have been inundated with new phrases and words: “social distancing”, “flattening the curve,” “self-quarantine,” “self-isolation,” “self-monitoring,” and so on. (I challenge you, dear reader, to use some of these words as a writing prompt!) I have been using the internet to keep in contact with the outside world and to keep up to date with the news yet I’ve also been doing my best to distance myself from screens and social media to spend time with my family. It’s been challenging, I admit, to find the right balance. Read more →
“Borders. They can separate and define geographical locations and boundaries. Borders can be literal or invisible to the eye. Politics, language, ideology, philosophy, poetics, religion, family, sexuality, culture, all of these ideas exist within and without borders. What happens when we cross a border? When we step outside our comfort zones or are made to check a box? What happens when we leave it blank?”
This summer we put out a call for writers and artists to consider the above words for our final issue of 2019 and my fellow editors and I we were so very pleased by the results. We invite you to step over the divide and immerse yourselves in the pieces found in this new issue of carte blanche, which take on the theme of “Borders” in a multitude of ways: In her sensual audio piece “We Kept On Making Love”, Moe Clark envisions the borders of our bodies and what happens when they melt away into the other, dissolving into a bounty of animals, spirits, and dreams. Or in Mona Awad’s “Monster”, an unnerving feminist modern fairy tale continuously tugs at the edges of our expectations. Natalie Wee’s poem “Frequent Flyer Program” takes on immigration, diaspora, and the divide between the heavens, land, and sea. Read more →
A friend recently told me that the word empathy can be etymologically traced back to a German construct connected to the experience of consuming art. That is, standing in front of a work of art, really engaging with it, is like the empathetic ability to share and understand the feelings of another human entity. I’m not sure whether this etymology is, in fact, true, but I do love considering it, especially in view of Issue 36 of carte blanche, thematically undergirded by Empathy. Read more →
I grew up between two polarities: on the one hand, anxiety of influence, the necessity to seem utterly independent as an artist, to somehow divorce oneself from the progress of predecessors, to have a voice so completely, starkly unique; on the other hand, emulation of influence, the mistrust of own creative impetus, the drive to find another’s voice and try to copy and embody it, the need to disown personal force in favour of what has been done. Of course, both these examples are extremes and there is a beauteous middle ground, which I might call the generosity of influence. For me, influence is an acknowledgement of the work peers and predecessors are doing or have done; it is a move from isolated work into conversation between works; it is collaboration, communication, and credit; it is the strength which also drives new work to be produced, which creates a climate conducive to risk and creative exploration. Read more →
Despite the genre categories to the right differentiating fiction from poetry, translation from comics and creative non-fiction, this Fall issue 34 of carte blanche aims to expand the fixity of such literary markers. Jay Ritchie’s piece “Just 8 Men Own Same Wealth As Half The World”—officially categorized as fiction—alternates between verse and prose. In contrast, the poetry section includes Alexandra Dillard’s prose poem “I Feel So Uneasy About,” combining a nostalgic lyrical openness with what resembles the customary paragraph structure of fiction.
Beyond genre cross-pollination, this issue also includes a number of interdisciplinary works, and especially visual material. Gary Barwin’s visual poems brighten up the issue with colourful typographic designs; Kaie Kellough’s poem “Bow” (currently on the carte blanche 3Macs/Raymond James shortlist!) positions a flowing, almost musical image—completed in collaboration with LOKI—between portions of text; both Jane Gatensby‘s short story “On Dorchester Boulevard” and Alexa Sonnefeld’s personal essay “Menus: A Photo Essay” incorporate photographs to illustrate, ground, and expand the context of the narratives presented.
As always…Read more →
Multi- or at least bilingualism is a given in Quebec, and identifying a common language is often the starting point of an everyday interpersonal exchange—will this person speak English? will this person speak French? what will the implications be of prioritizing one language over the other? And, in contrast, imagine the consistent delight of hearing, speaking, reading, and integrating an international heterogeneity of languages, beyond the official English and French, that reside all around us. While retaining its English-language focus, this brand new, summer 2018 Issue 33 of carte blanche celebrates linguistic diversity, particularly in light of being based in Montreal, Quebec. This issue showcases a handful of exceptional authors’ reactions to relationships between languages—the joys of multilingualism, the creative potential of language slippage, the complexities of language acquisition, the inventive scope of neologism, and much more. Read more →
I spent December and most of January in South Africa, working on this brand new issue 32 of carte blanche from afar and with the kind support of the team who held editorial meetings via Skype. More to the point, though, my time in Cape Town put me directly in touch with the extremities and potential crises of climate—currently, there is a major drought threatening “solutions” such as depopulating the city when water reserves leak down to rock bottom by mid-March.
Relevantly, authors in issue 32 relate to an ecological consciousness through literature. “My mouth develops its very own microclimate,” writes Madhur Anand in her poem “Love Numbers.” Through language, she directs a discussion of the responsibility of humanity living on this planet through the mouth, the primal organ of language, navigating an ecological consciousness onto the page.
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This is not the place to remind of news sources and Twitter feeds. But even within the contexts of the short stories, poems, translations, Q&A’s, and comics included here, the outside infiltrates and characters struggle to absorb or extricate their inner lives from the clash of existence. Addiction features. Death offers its mournful cloak. Relationships disintegrate and interpersonal contact chafes. Society impinges with striking defiance of what individuals actually need to be content.Read more →
There have been more reasons than usual in recent years to wonder about the connection between the worlds authors create on the page and the lives they in the real world. I’ll cite the most famous examples here: the controversy surrounding the “unveiling” of Elena Ferrante’s identity, and the almost polar opposite case of Karl Ove Knausgaard, who has deliberately placed almost his entire existence in view of the literary public.
Or has he?
It’s possible that the days when authors could speak only through their books are over, or at the very least, it’ll take exceptional luck and/or persistence to be able to succeed commercially while retaining a fully private life. In the social media era, can anyone afford the luxury of privacy?
Twenty-seven is a number with a bit of a 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?