Please read:
An urgent appeal from Descant
Editor-in-Chief Karen Mulhallen

Descant needs your help to produce our coming issues, and your generosity is vital to maintaining Descant's pivotal position in the literary and visual arts community.


For the last forty-four years, Descant has been publishing the work of well-established and emerging writers, poets, essayists and visual artists in a beautiful high-quality, perfect bound book.


Help us to keep on publishing. Donations of any amount are gratefully accepted. We are a registered charity and all donations will receive a tax deductible receipt.


Welcome to Descant Magazine

Descant is a quarterly literary journal that showcases poetry, prose, essay, memoir and art.

Coming soon: D166 — The Berlin Project

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on — Descant 166 is counting down to launch!
Entering the city at the centre of the 20th century from unexpected angles, our 30+ contributors have returned to fill D166: The Berlin Project
with the fractious, energetic and thoughtful energy of Germany’s capital. The issue hits newsstands in early September.

Can't wait? Get a sneak peak right now by clicking over to the D166 webpage.
Then be sure to visit our Facebook pages to learn about our TWO launch events (an account is not needed to view these):

Toronto, September 19 
Four energetic and moving readers will perform from their pieces and our gracious hosts at the Goethe-Institut Toronto will provide refreshing drinks and delicious finger foods in their extensive and remarkable library of rare and uncommon books. Costumes are highly encouraged! Be creative!

Montréal, October 26
Join us at Le Réservoir for some fine atmosphere, drinks, food and readings fresh from the latest issue. Readers to be announced!


Descant 165: A Summer Reader is Launching!

Summer, the season you've been waiting for, is finally here. Instead of packing your suitcases and boarding long flights to who knows where, sit back with a glass of wine, thumb open the latest issue of Descant and allow yourself to be transported to tropical destinations, modest towns, marvellous cities and the interior landscapes of sundry personae.

Our summer issue is almost here and we are celebrating the launch on Tuesday June 17th at Pauper's Pub. Join us for food, prizes and readings. Listen to wonderful work by some of the best of Toronto’s established and emerging writers. Pick up discounted issues and subscriptions. Mingle with authors, artists, editors and friends. Look here for more details on the event, readers and raffle prizes!









Descant 164: Cartooning Degree Zero: Launch Party

Descant is releasing its Spring 2014 issue, Cartooning Degree Zero. This issue explores the medium of comics, from its sense of play with text and image and the literary possibilities these games entail, to the great Canadian artists responsible for the popularity of visual storytelling today.The issue will be released amid a kaleidoscope of food, drink and readings at The Handlebar (159 Augusta Avenue) in downtown Toronto on Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 at 7pm. Featured readers include essayist Rachel Richey, poet Andy Verboom, and comics artists Shannon Gerard, Maurice Vellekoop, Gillian Goerz, Chris Kuzma and Mark Connery. Feel free to RSVP on Facebook.

Until then, have a look at some excerpts here.

Announcement: 2014 Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem

Descant is pleased to announce the 2014 Winston Collins/ Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem valued at $1000!


The winner of the 2014 prize is Andy Verboom for his poem, "Rite"

This year's judges, Mark Kingwell and Leanne Shapton, describe Andy Verboom's poem:

Rite is a beautifully anarchic, even witchy poem: a detail-heavy tale of euphoric conflagration, a demon-lover’s catalogue of things and ideas sacrificed to fire. Academic knowledge of every conceivable kind is incinerated – “Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion,” David Hume enjoined against all system-building metaphysics. Insects, fruit, writing instruments, and notebooks all meet the same fate. There are arresting phrases throughout: ‘plashing / of plastic bags’, ‘Lascaux-style genitals’, ‘Pencils turn charcoal, their erasers / harder nipples’. Partly a sort of a high-toned version of Alice Cooper’s  School’s Out for Summer, partly a perverse but gorgeous lover’s-quarrel-with-the-world anti-poem, this neatly enjambed lyric is, finally, a funny and moving paean to fire. Like so many excellent poems, it communicates its own ars poetica even as it instantiates that position. Destruction, it says with quiet glee, is the linking concept of all language, ritual, human interaction, indeed life itself.

This annual prize is in memory of Winston Collins, writer and enthusiastic teacher of literature at the universities of Cincinnati, Princeton and Toronto. The prize will perpetuate his remarkable talent for encouraging self-expression through writing.
For more information about the prize or judges, please click here.

Descant 163: The Brink and the Break Prepares for Launch

Descant will be launching its newest issue, The Brink and the Break. This issue explores endings and the start of things anew, as the pieces skillfully straddle the line between breaks and near-breaks in relationships, workplaces and homes.

The launch will be at Charlie's Gallery, 112 Harbord Street (at the corner of Harbord and Robert), on January 23rd, 2014 at 7 p.m. Contributors will be reading pieces from the issue, featuring poetry by George Elliott Clarke, Rocco de Giacomo, Cathy Petch and John Ryan Scrivener, and fiction by Sharon Overend and Lori Vos. RSVP on Facebook!

Can't wait that long? Check out some of the artwork and excerpts from the issue here.


Coming out soon, Descant 162: Masala, issue and launch!

This issue of Descant traces the journey taken by many from the Indian subcontinent over the past two centuries during British colonial rule and beyond. Multi-layered and largely undocumented, it offers a glimpse of modern world history through fresh eyes.Masala presents stories from across the globe, picking up the scents, sounds and rhythms of the Indian diaspora through both historical and contemporary settings.

We would love for you to attend our launch for this exciting issue! This will be held on the evening of the 16th of October, at No One Writes to the Colonel in Toronto. Follow this link to our Facebook page for more information.

To see more about the issue itself, exclusive excerpts and the table of contents, click here.




Our summer issue, Descant 161: Into the Unknown, is out now!

  Pushing into the unfamiliar, exploring themes such as God, family, origin and other mysteries, this issue of Descant delves into short stories, memoirs and poetry of struggling through the unknown and reaching the end.

 Patrick Roscoe brings a mute boy who eats dirt and his long-suffering mother in a South American village.

 A little clown tries to find its origin in a bleak world by Hugh Graham.

 At Lake Huron, Trista Gilbert reminisces of childhood memories and the memories of the local history.

 With Al Purdy, Liza Kobrinsky finds comfort in the noisy silence of kettles and radios at home.

 Artist portfolios include photographs by Eliane Ling and Hall Jameson, and the photomontages of Mark Rappaport

 Also included is this year’s Winston Collins/Descant Poetry Prize for Best Canadian Poem winner John B. Lee for his poem “Bringing the Farmhouse Down” a blunt discourse on beauty and past life.

 Poetry and prose come from Richard Greene, Shane Neilson, Beth Goobie and Kildare Dobbs.

 Fiction, poetry and memoirs about God, dogs, subway conversation and more from Dave Margoshes, Randall Brown, Eugene R. Baker, Hunter Liguore, Trevor Laurence Jockims and Richard Farrell.

 Mark Kingwell discuses the insidious enemy in our neighbourhoods and cities, while Paul S. Fowler stresses on the over-anxiety of Y2K.

Click here to see the full Table of Contents, excerpts and images from the issue!

Now out! Descant 160: The Hidden City

This issue of Descant explores the hidden parts of a city — both its terrain (underground rivers, back alleyways, horse palaces) and its inhabitants (an aging machine operator, a homeless father and his son, a philosophizing baker and more).

Whether it’s under a bridge, along a back alley, inside a factory, down the sewers, in a town square, at a youth centre, or in catacombs, the writers and artists in this issue of Descant uncover the many layers of a city. Get ready to explore the untold concealed corners of Italy, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Inuvik, Vietnam and more.

If interested in attending the launch event at the Handlebar, check out the event details here.



Winston Collins Prize Announcement, Wednesday February 20th 2013


The Descant Arts & Letters Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem for 2013.


Winning poem:

“Bringing the Farmhouse Down”
By John B. Lee


The Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem is an annual prize awarded in memory of Winston Collins, writer and enthusiastic teacher of literature at the universities of Cincinnati, Princeton and Toronto. This prize, established in 2007, perpetuates his remarkable talent for encouraging self-expression through writing. The winner receives an award of $1000 and is published in an issue of Descant.

The judges for this year’s prize, Mark Kingwell and Leanne Shapton, provided Descant with a statement describing their choice:

"Bringing the Farmhouse Down" deftly and tenderly evokes the past life of a family home with refreshingly unsentimental texture. There is a wealth of concrete detail in the description of the house’s destruction, an act evoked with precise, even blunt, language that nevertheless reveals the aura of beauty that can surround things in our tough material world: "from the peen-bruise of the punched studs / and the dry-lime fragrance / of the splintering slats." The short lines, hyphenated adjectives, incidental rhyme, and alliteration create a jangly Anglo-Saxon rhythm reminiscent of Hopkins, just as the close attention to objects and tools recalls Ted Hughes or Galway Kinnell: "in the long hall / the wicker wheelchair / winced like a toy / while the girls played / broken-legged doll." Thematically, we found the shifts in time particularly effective in executing the major conceit and house-as-memory, and acknowledging the delicate, ever-haunted structures we call consciousness and identity. The poem works like a tiny ghost story: images, voices, and children gliding in and out of its rooms.

For more information about the prize, John B. Lee and the judges click here.



Descant 159: A Winter's Guide to Melancholia Launches January 23,2013!

Descant's winter issue will be out soon! In the meantime, mark your calendars - The launch will be at No One Writes to the Colonel located at 460 College St. in Toronto, from 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm. on January 23, 2013.The launch will feature Natalie Thompson, Daniel Karasik, Joshua Learn, Mark Lavorato and Bill Howell as readers.

The winter issue features a roster of 32 writers and artists from Canada and the United States, with additional submissions from France, Italy and Ireland. Touching upon sadness and grief through themes such as lust, youth and domesticity, A Winter's Guide to Melancholia is a cathartic experience perfect for the dreary winter months. In this issue, David Norman leads readers through the months just before a couple's divorce, disseminating the role of family, racial divides, and the preservation of innocence. Sandra Jensen tells the tale of grief and revolution in a war-torn land, while Hendrik Slegtenhorst and Karen Green speak of being away in foreign places.


For further information, please visit our Facebook listing or contact:
Vera DeWaard,
Stephanie Chan,