As I stare at the cover of this particular issue of The Malahat Review, three smiling faces greet me, welcoming me to the realm of their works. These women, Paulette Jiles, Diana Hartog, and Sharon Thesen, are the focus of this issue, with a generous selection of their poetry and with a preceding interview by editor Constance Rooke. “Getting into Heaven: An Interview with Diana Hartog, Paulette Jiles, and Sharon Thesen” anticipates the poetic works to come, exploring each writer’s creative and imaginative processes – including ways in which they contrive titles, approach difficult or painful subject matter (personal or otherwise), as well as their thoughts on poetic authority and audience. I was drawn to the discussion of writing as both empowerment and vulnerability, how they became interested in writing, how they began their careers, and which writers most influenced their own work.
While reading poetry was never a strong suit of mine, I did enjoy this collection, each of these women having contributed a wonderfully diverse selection.Twenty-one poems are by Thesen; Jiles’ contributes “Ragtime,” an eight-part poem, and Hartog follows with seven poems. After each poet’s collection, two critical analyses (a total of six) explore themes such as intertextuality, anti-authoritarianism, and love. These contributions are provided by Phyllis Webb, Stephen Scobie, Aritha Van Herk, Dennis Cooley, Smaro Kamboureli, and Brian Edwards.
Thus, the issue concludes with reviews of fiction, poetry, and a cookbook. While I have not read any of the books reviewed in this issue (a true tragedy that literature can be lost to time), I did find Constance Rooke’s review of David Adams Richards’ Nights Below Station Street interesting. The novel focuses on connections to community and family dynamics, and Rooke notes that the novel itself is “as funny as it is painful.” The novel went on to win the 1988 Governor General’s Award in fiction.Since this issue’s publication, two of the reviewers of poetry and fiction have passed way. Bronwen Wallace (1945-1989) was a Canadian-born poet and short-fiction writer whose first collection of short stories, People You’d Trust Your Life To, was published posthumously. Mike Matthews (1937-2012) was born in Aklavik, N.W.T., taught English and theatre courses at Vancouver Island University (formerly Malaspina College), and was a long-time reviewer with The Malahat Review.
— Miranda Marini