Saturday, April 9, 2011

Release: Ottawa Arts Review vol 5.1

What a pleasure it was to receive in the mail a copy of OAR 5.1, beautifully bound in quality semi-gloss. The cover art, “Transient” by Tracy Drumhann, displays footprints fading into grey-shaded earth. It epitomizes the philosophical theme of this issue.

Editor Kathy Andrews explains, in her preface:

Impermanence is a fact of life. People die, and over the course of time (maybe years, maybe generations) they gradually fade into obscurity, their lives, their cares, and their accomplishments forgotten.

Given this grimly presented scenario, Andrews asks, In what fashion should we live during the precious time allotted to us? Should we be daredevils? Should we be cautious? What is best?

And then she dives into the essence of 5.1:

Whether they speak of life, of death, of memory--or of anything in between--the artists in this volume join the tradition of artists who, throughout the centuries, have speculated about the answers to these questions. Generations and generations of artists have considered the fleetingness of human existence, the shelf life of human creations, the relative insignificance of everyday human concerns.

After reminding us of the immortal words of Tennyson, Keats and Gray, and the relevance of their verbal sorcery to the conundrum of impermanence, she emphasizes in a boldfaced, centered line:

It is art, then, that is the thing

OAR, which has a fine logo--a regal O with an A and an R mostly inside--is a muse of many faces. It receives funding from various branches of both the English and Arts programs at the University of Ottawa, as well as assistance from Alumni Relations, the Development Office and individual private donors. The last few pages of the review are ads for literary magazines and contests in Canada, including Fiddlehead's 21st Annual Literary Contest.

This is clearly a well-received journal with a strong presence within Ottawa and yet also internationally through its varied yet discriminating selection of poems, stories and art. 5.1 contains one short story, one review, nineteen poems and eight pieces of visual art. It’s a svelte volume yet charismatically monumental.

The poetry is excellent and absorbing. Here’s a tiny bit from “Dark Angel In Baskin Robbins” by Laura Sobbott Ross:

Her black bra hooked
across a pair of wings--
tattoos of mitigated flight.
Feathers etched in tar
coloured ink. Arc of wing
spanning should blades,
then down the stark white
shimmer of her back.

William Doreski is a tremendous poet, and here is an excerpt from his “Jerusalem 1944”:

Squat before a goat-dung fire
in fifteen degrees of December,
I wonder how the Jesus-myth
plays in Berlin and London
these days. The plaster walls crack
to reveal the ancient adobe,
a mode of construction older
than the account of Yahweh’s beard
secreted deep in Exodus.

I’m honored that my “Hurt Faun” is one of the lead-off poems in this issue. Here is how it starts. If you want the rest, you have to purchase a copy of OAR, which I strongly recommend!

i wandered places
where butterflies were walls
and tempests confessed,
drank from the great
honeyed lip of pain,
and hid under quilts
of feasting that would never be.

This is one of the best little collections I have held in my hand in quite a while, full of philosophy, passion and sonorous depth. Go to OAR’s website to find out how to get a copy. You’ll also gain a window into the vibrant art scene of Ottawa.

Thanks to all the hard-working staff at OAR for offering the world such an outstanding trove!


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