Canadian Journals

Further to my first round of discussion on Canadian Journals, and the poll taken about where people would send a non-Canadian to learn about Canadian poetry. The results of round 1 & 2 are as follows:

8 (22%)
West Coast Line
12 (33%)
The Malahat Review
9 (25%)
Grain Magazine
4 (11%)
5 (13%)
The New Quarterly
4 (11%)
4 (11%)
11 (30%)

I suspect that the category of “other” probably refers to The Capilano Review.

The Capilano Review 13 (35%)
The Toronto Quarterly 1 (2%)
Taddle Creek 2 (5%)
Canadian Literature 2 (5%)
The Windsor Review 0 (0%)

The Antigonish Review 4 (10%)
Rampike 4 (10%)
CV 2 8 (21%)
Brock Review 0 (0%)
Brick 3 (8%)
Prairie Fire 7 (18%)
Previous poll: Arc, WCL, Malahat, Grain, Event, TNQ,
dandelion 6 (16%)
Online (poll coming soon) 4 (10%)
Other 8 (21%)

What I love about these results is the diversity of the top five: West Coast Line, Malahat Review, Capilano Review, CV2 and Arc, followed closely by Prairie Fire…of course it’s hopelessly unscientific. Particularly as you can see above that 16% of the people in the last poll chose a journal from the previous poll, and 21% chose other, as did 30% in the first poll! All of which ensures that my statistics are skewed. But it’s reassuring to me in some way that these journals are finding readers and that there is a diversity of people stopping by this site.

There are journals that didn’t make it into the mix at all–Exile for one, Fiddlehead and Descant. Sorry guys. I wish someone would do a real poll with more precise results. Meanwhile over at the National Post they have a feature on the literary journal in Canada, and much to do about funding formulas that threaten several of these journals–including the top five.

The polls were conducted to get a sense of who is reading what, but as I said earlier, I also wanted to get a sense of what my students would discover. The sad news is that after all my attempts to open up the world of journals, the librarian at Concordia failed to put actual physical journals into my introduction to poetry students’ hands. Rather he spent the entire information session with them online, showing them how to research journals…

This move–which I took great pains to guard against by making an actual worksheet with directions such as “describe the journal,” and “find a poem published twenty years ago”– illustrates the range of problems facing Canadian literary journals. If not even the librarian thinks the physical artifact is important to have “in hand” what hope have we for print?

One student said it didn’t matter, he was more interested in the random “blog type” lit journals that were starting up in any case. Another questioned the need to read these obscure tomes in any case. If none of my undergraduates care to read them, where is the new and sustaining audience coming from?

But it’s not all bad. On a positive note, my advanced poetry students had an entirely different experience. They simply had the worksheet and so went and actually engaged with the journals in hand. Most of them found several that they were interested in subscribing to and ultimately submitting to and a few of them were struck by the ability to see the development of certain strands of poetry over time–it is in fact very instructive to take twenty years of any journal and sift through.

Writing is reading is thinking. Poetry must engage with the context it comes out of. We need these journals, past present and future.


Then do something. Might I suggest Thing 1 or Thing 2?

Thing 1
Subscribe. How many journals do you subscribe to? When is the last time you bought a journal? If you want a place to publish in the future, if you want to be part of a conversation, then I suggest you fill out the little form and send it in.

Thing 2
Take action. Details on actions to take regarding the threat to funding as follows, lifted from the facebook Coalition to save funding:

On February 17, 2009, Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore announced in a speech he made in Montreal that the Canada Magazine Fund and Publishing Assistance Program will be merged to create the Canada Periodical Fund. Initiatives from this new body will come on stream in 2010.

Departing from his prepared remarks, James Moore indicated that eligiblity for funding could potentially be restricted to those magazines with an annual circulation above 5000. With notable exceptions, the circulation of virtually every Canadian literary and arts magazine, large and small, is below 5000.

We have to make sure this possibility does not become an actuality, for if it does, as April 1, 2010, these important and praiseworthy magazines will no longer qualify for funding that they have been receiving for years from the CMF and PAP despite the excellent work that they undertake for the readers and writers across Canada (and around the world)!

The Coalition to Keep Canadian Heritage Support for Literary and Arts Magazine feels strongly that to render these magazines ineligible for this support would be unjust. To quote Andris Taskans, editor of Prairie Fire, to do so would be “a slap in the face”—not only to the magazines themselves but to the many writers that they publish, many of whom began illustrious, international careers in these seminal if modest publcations. To do so would also be a “slap in the face” to the ordinary (and extraordinary) Canadians who read them.

By joining the Coalition, readers and writers everywhere send a strong message to the Honorable James Moore, the Department of Canadian Heritage, and the Canada Periodical Fund that we believe in our literary and arts magazines and feel that they should continue to do so by supporting them through well-deserved and sustained financial support.

To do so, would be the cheapest economic stimulus package the Government of Canada could initiate. Every single dollar granted to us or paid to us by a subscriber or a newsstand buyer goes back into the economy.

Put it this way, when Canadians get into their Chrysler and GM cars, they have to drive somewhere. A lot of them drive to their newsstands and bookstores to buy a literary or arts magazine.

For more details about these potential funding cuts, read coverage that appeared on the Quill & Quire website on February 20 and 24, 2009 (scroll through the news section to read both stories).

Magazines that received Canada Magazine Fund assistance through Support for Arts and Literary Magazines (SLAM)

Magazines that received Publications Assistance Program support

Literary magazines that belong to Magazines Canada

Arts magazines that belong to Magazines Canada

Members of Parlaiment

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