Michael Lista, literary magazines and the future of MM
Michael Lista tackled a topic close to my heart on Friday, discussing the future of Canadian literary magazines in his latest column for the National Post. I’m passionate enough about literary magazines to have run one (Misunderstandings Magazine) for the past 7 years, and was pleased to see the drawbacks of the new Canadian Periodical Fund discussed as they relate to literature.
Of course, my own enterprise is much too small to have ever qualified for government assistance, nor have I sought it. The goal of Misunderstandings Magazine has been to straddle the line between zine culture and Toronto’s more mainsteam literary community, positioning itself as an alternative to what Jacob McArthur Mooney describes as the “beige standard of mainstream literary publishing“. From the outset, Ian Williams, Vicki Sloot and I envisioned MM as means to foster emerging writers alongside some of Canada’s best. It’s been a delicate undertaking, and I have no problem admitting that the quality of our publication varied significantly over the course of 15 issues – however we’re proud to have stuck close to our mandate.
I’m of the firm opinion that the quality of writing that Lista mentions in the Post is one of the lesser considerations as it relates to literary periodicals. To me they’re learning grounds as much as places to find a “comprehensive, concise survey of our very best and freshest work.” I do agree with his thesis however, and feel it’s time to scale back the number of literary publications that exist in Canada at the moment – or at the least the number of literary publications that do the same thing. Mooney is right when he espouses ripping the cover off copies of The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead and The Malahat Review to compare: you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between them.
All of this is a roundabout way of getting to the fact that as of June 2, I’m folding Misunderstandings Magazine. My decision has nothing to do with competition or the CPF, but more to do with what plagues all magazines that exist as labours of love: time. Instead of working with a large number of writers on an issue by issue basis, I’d like to put my time into fostering specific writers through Cactus Press, a chapbook imprint I run with Devon Gallant. So, I’m bidding literary magazinedom adieu for the time being. I do, however, hope that the mantle of the small and in-between continues to be held high in Canadian letters.