The Fiddlehead: Atlantic Canada’s International Literary Journal

FH259_CoverSelections from The Fiddlehead: Atlantic Canada’s International Literary Journal. No. 259 Spring 2014, including “When Stars Fell Like Salt Before the Revolution,” selected by Douglas Glover as one of two honourable mentions in The Fiddlehead’s 23rd annual fiction contest.



Blog Announcement Winners Spring2014Announcing The Fiddlehead’s 23rd annual contest winners.

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short fiction 7, university of plymouth press, united kingdom

plymouth international book festival.2013

Short Fiction 7, University of Plymouth Press, launches tonight at the Plymouth International Book Festival 2013


and inside,

short fiction 7.the line-up

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franz wright again. a room again. an april room.

I know I’m not supposed to be posting these poems that I wouldn’t even have happened upon if it hadn’t been national poetry month. I love this one. And its structure. The idea of enclosing a poem in a block of prose.

But I don’t like the way it begins. I don’t like thinking about illness or pain. I almost want to cut those first lines away and begin instead with the ones that remind me of opening my eyes to the red of tulip heads, falling now, petal by petal, and the stone Buddha resting on his block of wood among the stalks and fern.

I like the tall room opening onto another. The way he says that. The way he feels watched, as if someone is listening, critically, but not too. In this April room.

From Franz Wright’s Kindertotenwold

Each day I woke as it started to get dark and the pain came. Month
after month of this—who knows when I got well, the way you do,
whether you like it or not. With dawn now, risen from the rampage
of sleep, I am walking in the Lincoln woods. A single bird is
loudly singing. And I walk here as I always have, as though from
tall room to room in a more or less infinite house where the owner’s
not home but is watching me somehow, observing my behavior,
from behind the two-way mirror of appearances, I suppose,
and listening, somewhat critically, to what I am thinking. Not too,
however. At certain moments I could swear there is even a sense of
being liked, as sunlight changes swiftly, leaving, leaving and arriving again. A bird is chirping bitterly, as if these words were meant for me, as if their intent was within me, and will not speak. Nothing is left me of you.

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cynthia zarin again

Strange to come by chance upon the work of a writer–a poet, which is slightly odd–to be struck as I was by a poem, when poetry is not what I reach for first.

Wasn’t I reminded just this morning that there is no such thing as coincidence:

You keep running into the same people. Unexpected events take you where they want to take you and for some reason, you end up seeing the same faces time and time again. This is no coincidence. Talk to these people more. They have wisdom for you.

Years ago I dreamed someone called me Cynthia. I knew he was speaking to me and couldn’t understand why he was calling me by that name. I thought it had to do with the mythological Cynthia, another name for Artemis, the goddess of the moon.

Just the other day I was reading–I can’t remember where–someone else’s attempt to decipher the appearance of the name Cynthia in a dream. She decided finally that it referred to sinning.

So this morning, when I came across a prose poem by Cynthia Zarin that appears in her new collection An Enlarged Heart: A Personal History, I wanted to mark the impression she had made on me somehow. The second impression. The first was two years ago. When I found her poem called “Late Poem” that begins with an epigraph by Nabokov:

. . . a matter of changing a slide in a magic lantern.

I want to read more of her work.

from “Real Estate”
In the apartment where we used to live, the front door opened to a long hall. At the end of that hall was a window, a fire escape, and beyond that the view opened up like a painted fan. In the middle distance was the green copper roof and steeple of a huge church. Beyond it lay the low flat rooftops of Harlem, the elevated train, and a narrow bright wire of river. I never learned the name of that church, although every day I admired it. I thought it looked like a church in Prague. When once I said that to my old friend, who has been to Prague—she, unlike me, has been everywhere, while I, who live three blocks from where I was born, am the most provincial person in the world—she told me I was ridiculous, it looked nothing like churches in Prague, it looked as little like a church in Prague as it was possible to look. Nevertheless, I continued to think that in my mind, like a child who has been told that the words she is singing to a song are wrong, but continues to sing them.

Not everyone had kind words for this view. After we moved out, the woman who bought that apartment came to see me. It was a winter evening, and she had on a violet wool coat that I immediately coveted. At that time the cost of heating was astronomical, and we kept the house to which we had moved so cold that the tiny stars of snowflakes on her coat stayed frozen. She told me that a month after moving into the apartment she had discovered that her husband was having an affair with a younger woman. Now less than a year later, they were divorced. When I first met this woman, whom I will call Joan, I felt I already knew her, because she so reminded me of the mother of a boy I had once loved. She had her long, wide, flat bones and straight brown hair that fell in a comma over her forehead. Both of them were from the South, and decisive. After I had left school, and my friend and I had parted, his mother came once to visit me in the small grimy city where I was bored and unhappy. She was on her way back to India, where for half the year she sat at low wooden tables in houses that flooded during the rainy season and taught women to read. The other half of the year she lived in an apartment in New York near Carl Schurz Park. At that time her life greatly appealed to me, and I imagined that someday I too would do good work, crouching in mud, and bestowing beneficence. I had no idea that I was entirely unsuited to selflessness. As a way out of my boredom and unhappiness and the slight fear I felt every time I walked out the door in this city (once on the way home from a store a car had followed me), I was learning to cook. I had picked up a paperback in a used-book store. It was Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking. Standing in the bookstore, I’d read, in the section on sweets, the words, “Everyone knows the recipe for chocolate mousse.” I did not, but I wanted to. I wanted to be a person who knew things, and I believed then that there was a programmatic way to do this. I was in this city, accompanied by a boyfriend with whom my exchanges had become increasingly rancorous, because I had been given a fellowship to spend a year writing poems, but month after month, I couldn’t think of a single poem. Out the back windows of the apartment I could see the blank windows of closed down red brick factories, and the huge hands of the electric company clock. The hands of the clock were lit day and night, and folded and unfolded like a giant’s pocketknife. I had counted the recipes in the book; if I made one recipe a day, the year would be over. By then, I was sure, I would know what to do next.

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a green raft on a muddy swell

A Green Raft on a Muddy Swell, a collection of short stories that includes a novella-length excerpt from The Smell of Sulphur–that novel I’ve been working on for so long–has been shortlisted for the 2013 Scott Prize (Salt Publishing, UK). Feels like a dream. Thank you, Jen and Chris Hamilton-Emery. Thank you, Salt Publishing. Thank you, United Kingdom.

Posted in place names, readings trouvé

friday harbor leaving

Strange to think from here that I was there. It was a kind of scouring being there. The days shone and then went dry, were light then dark, as was the writing, which flourished and disappeared like the moon, like the weather, like the day, like the night. And then it hailed, and then I was leaving.

I spent a few days with a woman I met on a train from Geneva to Barcelona when I was 22. She was a student of architecture from South Africa and had travelled to Europe to study the buildings. I was looking for romance, or for whatever happened to turn up. She said, when you find yourself alone in a strange room in an unfamiliar place, buy flowers, drink tea, light a candle, walk. She said, I’m going to Berlin, you can come if you want. I followed the label on the tangerine and went to Ibiza. I think her name was Francine.







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from lost to found: on pl travers

I dreamed last night of a postcard. Not the image on the front, but the handwriting on the back, which I recognized, as well as the feeling of calm reading the handwriting had on me. The note was brief. Write to me. Not, write me. Write to me. When I awoke the emphasis seemed to be on a literal letter I should write, but as the hours passed, I thought, no, it’s a suggestion. Maybe the writing that is coming hard now would come more easily if I directed it to someone. If I thought of the story as something I needed to say to someone, a particular someone, in a letter.

One day at Hawthornden, in the library, I found a 1956 issue of the Paris Review Interviews and found myself drawn to an interview Edwina Burness and Jerry Griswold had conducted with PL Travers, author, of all things, of Mary Poppins, but also–I hadn’t realized–one of the founding editors of Parabola: The Magazine of Myth and Traditions.

250px-PL_TraversWhen I returned to the states I found a collection of essays and interviews on, with, and by PL Travers, A Lively Oracle: A Centennial Celebration of PL Travers, which I’ve been reading tonight. One of the essays, by DM Dooling’s daughter, who knew PLT, as she was called by the Parabola coterie, for 25 years, elucidates Travers’ interest and part in the collaboration.


The theme of movement from lost to found runs through much of PLT’s work [. . .] At a certain moment in many stories, someone or something is lost–discarded, forgotten, banished, enchanted or in some way removed from the first field of action–while continuing to exist on another plane or level. The action on the original level goes on without them or it for a certain time–until both the one lost and the story itself demand reunification, so that “ever after” can be sounded. [. . .] PLT suggests in “Unknown Childhood,” written for the issue on “Liberation,” that “all  that is lost is somewhere, [and] whatever is lost is longing for that which has lost it.”

–from”Exploring the Homeland of Myth: The Parabola Essays,” Ellen Dooling Draper

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