Tuesday, April 11, 2006

On the importance of community

Here's the editorial I wrote for the upcoming issue of fS. I thought it would appropriate to post it here given its focus on community, which is something that people need to be reminded of from time to time. Including me.


In filling Station time, four years is pretty long. I started for fS in February of 2002 reading poetry and helping with other things. I became poetry editor two years later and helped put together the poetry section for 8 issues. I’ve worked with four managing editors (tom muir, Natalie Simpson, Carmen Derkson, and derek beaulieu), two General Editors (Paulo da Costa and Jordan Scott), three poetry editors other than me (Natalie Simpson, Carmen Derkson, and Trevor Speller), five fiction editors (Julia Williams, Adrian Kelly, Christopher Blais, Jani Krulc, and Neil Scott) and one visual arts editor (Sandy Lam). The poetry collective I’ve worked with has contained many brilliant people (other than myself and the poetry editors listed above: Dean Hetherington, Aaron Giovannone, Jordan Scott, Mark Hopkins, and the unfailing Jason Christie) and the other collectives weren’t too bad either (Andrew Wedderburn, Heather Edey, Aaron Grach, Tim Uruski, Garth Whelen, Laurie Fuhr, Chris Ewart, and the super-energetic J Alary spring immediately to mind). Not to mention some super-cool designers (Alden Alfon, Jesse Reardon, Warren Lysechko, Twila Niblock, and Andy Kennett). If it sounds like I’m taking an account, it’s because I am. After all, this is my last issue. I’m allowed.

For me, filling Station has always been about two things. The first is the transformative power of the written word. I remember getting in arguments at meetings that were about whether or not we should publish certain poems. There was a specific meeting between Jason Christie, Aaron Giovannone, Jordan Scott, and myself where Jason unrelentingly argued in a piece that I still get flack for today (no, I won’t tell you which one). The fact is that literature and art should show us something about the world, whether through the dramas of character and narrative or the pulsating flux of language itself.

The second thing is community. This is a word that gets me into trouble, because I like to think filling Station is an important literary voice in Calgary even though there are a lot of people here who think filling Station is full of elitist, academic language poetry. Basically just a bunch of shit that doesn’t make sense. It’s not a coincidence that community and communication are so closely couched in each other, and I could make arguments defending what we have published in the magazine’s pages over the past four years, but I won’t. What I will say is that my two proudest moments on the magazine were both massive love letters to the Calgary literary community: fS’ 30th issue and last year’s Blow-Out festival.

Both issue 30 and Blow-Out were all-Calgary love-ins and both were extremely successful in the way they brought different aspects of the community together. The collectives changed drastically in the year between these two events, but the impulse to give back to the Calgary literary community was the same. After all, Calgary is a rich place to grow up as a writer, full of support and challenge if you want it. Many great and important writers have walked through the doors of filling Station as they spent time in Calgary. Just in case you’re new to this, some awesome books by former fSers include Jill Hartman’s A Painted Elephant, Raj Pal’s Pulse, Julia Williams’ The Sink House, Adrian Kelly’s Down Sterling Road, Shane Rhodes’ Holding Pattern, Jordan Scott’s Silt, Ian Samuels’ The Ubiquitous Big, Paulo da Costa’s The Scent of a Lie, and Jacqueline Turner’s Careful. This doesn’t even include the ones that just came out like Shift and Switch (edited by derek beaulieu, Jason Christie, and honorary fSer angela rawlings) or derek beaulieu’s Fractal Economies. It doesn’t include books that are about to come out by Chris Ewart, Jason Christie, or Andrew Wedderburn. It doesn’t include the hundreds of chapbooks that have come out by Calgary writers or the books that we are all waiting to see that just can’t seem to catch a break (dear Canadian Publishers, publish Natalie Simpson already!). Looking at this, anyone who cares about language can see that Calgary is awesome. Totally.

So it feels weird after sitting back and watching the lines shift under me almost constantly during my time on the collective to be the cause of the shift. But filling Station is in good hands. derek beaulieu will continue steering the ship (mostly) on course. Jordan Scott will continue to bring fS some of the most interesting interviews and talks fS has seen, as long as he can keep his pants on. Neil Scott has a few cards up his sleeve as fiction editor before he heads to Vancouver to be replaced by the brilliant Jeremy Leipert (if he can manage it with two kids on the way). Coming of a run as the managing editor of dANDelion, Natalie Walschots will do a great service to the poetry section, and even though I’ve joked that the issue you’re holding is my attempt to show her up, she and her collective will no doubt produce issues as good as this one, if not better. Sandy Lam will continue the work of making filling Station’s visual arts section as challenging and wonderful as it has been. And events coordinator Mark Hopkins will keep the flywheel turning alongside some other great events including the second-ever Blow-Out (fingers crossed). Also in this issue you’ll see the beginnings of fS’ new film section, which is another way fS is trying to bridge the arts. See guys, it’s all milk and honey from here on in. And you were worried.