Canadian Journal Anchored by Excellence
Review of Antigonish Review, Fall 2018 by Lindsay Gerano
The Antigonish Review reveals excellent poetry, fiction, book reviews and a single nonfiction essay in its Fall 2018 issue. Topics wide in range covered seemingly everything from health concerns to marital strife and more. Nearly half a century of publishing some of the best in Canadian prose, including Margaret Atwood, The Antigonish Review (TAR) carries vocabulary thick with glaciers and moraine, morass and Halifax, Adirondacks. More than half of the writers in its pages are Canadian or have close ties to Canada.
This is a solid journal full of talented emerging writers and established ones with advanced literary degrees. My initial reaction was that some poems had a triteness about them because there were some heavy, overused landscape metaphors but then it opened up and I fell headlong into Rachel Jansen’s “What Lifts the Tempest.” Full of maritime metaphors for love, she asks her readers, “is it taking this ship metaphor too/ far if I say I’m looking for a mate?” She answers her rhetorical inquiry with, “Too late, I already put a swiss-cheese/ moon in this poem and I bellowed.” We are gifted her originality and humor alongside desire that “bowls [her] over.” Similar entertaining musings ascribe Hector's girl in Julie MacLean’s “Breton Man” as “one lemon short of scurvy.” There are only a couple of poems I would call experimental in the entire poetry section comprising roughly the first third of TAR.
The bulk of the review portrays characters moving toward growth or resolution of some nature. The solitary nonfiction piece “The Old Man and The Bath,” written by Nicolas Ridley, was a succinct snapshot of a peculiar moment in a communal Japanese bath. It arrives at a small revelation, as many of the pieces do. The fact that there was only one essay in this genre left me wondering if the review is not keen on nonfiction submissions or is veering away from them despite its welcoming statements. However, previous issues have published more nonfiction essays than this most recent one. Thus, issue 195 appears to be an anomaly in giving nonfiction the proverbial short end of the stick. Issue 194 of TAR published five nonfiction essays. The fiction and nonfiction generally had no more than five to six pages maximum per piece. True to their guidelines on their website, this review rarely prints stories longer than 3,000 words. In this particular one, there was a single exception given to Jane Gillette’s “Anti-Herois,” a nine-page treatise about a purportedly boring graduate of Yale that seemed like it probably could have found its way as a nonfiction piece. It felt honest albeit meandering.
David B. Hickey’s book review of Sue Goyette’s Penelope had me in a frenzied must-buy-and-read state. I am interested in how Goyette managed to “colonize almost the entire Homeric universe...channeling the [first person] voice of Penelope”. Mostly, the review was a joy to read. It compelled me to buy this new version by inviting readers to explore an intriguing and artful take on a classic.
Ruth Edgett’s “That Good Night” was a striking piece about dignity in aging (or the baffling lack thereof) and was effervescent all around in its generational considerations. Brief dialogue in “Pejipug (Winter Arrives)” between father and daughter was compelling and effective. The pioneer settler story was told through the eyes of the onlooking but unobserved native Algonquin. The writing engendered curiosity. It drove the reader to follow naïve whimsy into an alluring, perhaps dark discovery: “But they brought children, they made homes and brought a magic flower that sings like a drum. Maybe they will stay this time?” It was a thoroughly imaginative account of a likely impression and gives a delightful taste of historical fiction.
TAR is laid out such that the genres are read back to back, separated by a demarcation page stating Poetry, Fiction, etcetera between sections. TAR prefers not to consider fiction that has been submitted elsewhere nor are they accepting of any previously published work. Response times are typically within two to four months and they distinguish between book reviews and review essays. They do offer modest honorariums for balanced reviews. The publication has preferences about the use of quotations, em dashes, and indentations. If interested in submitting your work for publication to TAR, be sure to visit the website’s information tab on style consistency. They also tend to prefer American style quotation mark usage rather than the British style but will accommodate either. Consistency throughout the piece is critical, regardless of the chosen style. This is not just a grammatical concern but seems to be of aesthetic concern to the editors as well. Lastly, Canadian spelling is the preference above others and they pride themselves on their local publications as much as their ones adopted from abroad.
Remarkably missing from this review was consideration of current social issues. In most reviews, there is some discussion of gender, race, or other subjects addressing an inequality. This is not the case in my sampling of TAR. The ages of the writers range from young to old with biographies from novice to master.
This is a highly conventional quarterly review in both form and subject matter with an admirably long history. A few small hiccups and my own bias that there could be more diversity in its pages do not negate that the writing in The Antigonish Review is excellent. If your prose rings traditionally Canadian, is chilled and smells like peat, Douglas fir, or deer musk, this may be the best home for your writing.