All posts filed under: Editorials

“The Baffled King, Composing”: Writerly Worship and Mimesis in Leonard Cohen’s Secular Hymn “Hallelujah”

by Donald Shipton Leonard Cohen’s writing career spanned over sixty-five years and throughout this time, he made a profound impression on the tradition of Canadian folk music. Among his greatest contributions, is the practice of using religious texts as the metrical and conceptual basis for his music. Infusing ancient stories with his own reflections and vernacular, Cohen asserts the presence of the secular hymn in modern music. While many of his songs invoke biblical stories, none are more widely listened to than his magnum opus, “Hallelujah.” Maclean’s Magazine called it “the closest thing that pop music has to a sacred text” (Johnson). Like the Bible, which can be found in nearly every hotel and motel across the country, “Hallelujah’s” presence is nearly as sweeping. Sung in churches to remind parishioners of the cautionary tales of David’s adultery, or Samson’s foolishness; slurred and crooned in dimly lit karaoke bars; played faintly in the background of a teledrama; Cohen’s masterpiece is omnipresent in Canadian culture, although it does not always assert the same significance. A song about …

The Thing about Stories Is…

“Once told, stories are loose in the world” -Thomas King Massey lecture The Truth About Stories: “You’ll never                                                                                        believe what happened” is always a great way to start. For the purpose of this essay, the artist Rae Spoon will be referenced in the gender neutral pronoun: they/them. I recognize the grammatical problems this may pose to some readers but until the language evolves, the gender binary of “he” and “she” and the gender neutral “they” will continue to be a necessary grammatical issue for readers, writers, presenters, performers, and anyone whose identify does not fit in either singular binary pronoun. Stories are a funny thing. When they happen, they feel unique: like no one else could ever fully understand the experience that created that story. When written down, fiction or non-fiction, they are very much the …

Writing for Performance

What I learned about performing from Ivan Coyote: Ryan and I attended the Wordfest Workshop: “Writing for Performance with Ivan Coyote” back in October 2014. Ivan is one of Ryan’s favourite performing artists, so as soon as we realized that Thomas King and Ivan Coyote would be in Banff Friday night and Saturday afternoon respectively, there was no discussion as to what we would be doing that weekend. Full disclosure: I’m a social klutz. The thought of speaking in front of a crowd doesn’t actually scare me like it once did, but I bumble like I’m twelve years old none-the-less. I remember being terrified when I had to participate in a mock parliamentary debate in high school. I nailed my argument in a way no one else had but I shook the whole time. It’s frustrating to be so confident and still trip over my own tongue, or worse, to have my systematic mind start circling mid-sentence (think of standing in a circle of people at a party, arguing with yourself under your breath, when …

Fourty-Four Fragments

Press Release: “Forty-Four Fragments is a durational writing project done alongside Wreck City: Demo Tape in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. All entries are written by the author, J.D. Mersault. Part aesthetic philosophy, part comedy, part love story, Forty-Four Fragments for a Car Wash is an epistolary novel written in the empty parking lot of a pre-demolition building. Through the fragments, the book follows the life of a narrator obsessed with sexuality, repetition, isolation, and the great abandoned car wash of all things: other people.

In Defence of Meaning

Richard Harrison (February 3, 2010) Last November’s much anticipated Cage Match at Mount Royal University promised us Christian Bök and Carmine Starnino – poets with opposing views of poetry in general, and each other’s poetry in particular – letting their arguments fly in front of a live studio audience. (You can find the recorded event, courtesy of Kit Dobson, the Match’s moderator, at http://www.vimeo.com/7963755.) Though the issue between the two writers was framed in the form of The Avant-Garde vs The Tradition, or Experimentalism vs Mainstream Poetry, the question at the core of their debate as it developed might be unpacked as this: which approach produces poetry that does today what poetry ought to do – show the present to itself as it is, represent the future of poetry as it will be, and offer, implicitly or explicitly, the standards by which any work, past, present or future, is to be judged poetry at all – and, if poetry, poetry worth following. As is almost always true of such staged debates, much was said. And much …

Poetry, Prose, and the Sexual Metaphor

On September 12, The Under Western Skies conference wrapped up in Calgary with a moving keynote address by David Schindler. If you don’t know his work, I’d recommend you look him up. The week of keynotes, panels, and discussion hit on many topics that are dear to my heart and my politics. Despite the great variety of sessions I attended I keep going back to one in particular, “The Earth Works Like a Poem.” Maybe it’s my writing background or maybe it’s because the panel was made up of poets I know and respect but, it got me thinking. Or to be more specific, a question posed by Weyman Chan, a Calgary poet, got me thinking. Weyman asked the audience, “why read poetry?” As a fiction writer who dabbles more and more in poetry and as a fiction reader who loves to get lost in the larger world of the Novel, I had to really think on this. Why do I read poetry? And why are there times when I feel that the poem is …