Welcome to Descant Magazine

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

Coming Soon... Descant Online!

Coming Soon… DescantOnline.com will go live in May 2016!

Spotlight on Descant Contributors & Friends

The print magazine is gone, but the Descant community of writers, readers & visual artists thrives.

This is not Descant magazine, online, but a new, legacy project.

If you've been published in Descant print magazine, we have a new opportunity for you!
Descant blog will continue, plus writer resources, thesis-worthy archives and MORE!

May 2016

Descant Special Issues

Descant began to publish special issues with an international focus early in the journal’s development. I began to work on Descant in its second year, although I had been invited from its conception as I was friends with the quartet who had set out to publish their own writing while we were all graduate University of Toronto PhD students together. I took the mimeographed sheets, and later the printed and stapled pages of Descant, and initiated its perfect bound format. Shortly afterward, two other friends who had gone to Greece to write books and later stayed there to work as journalists, wrote to me proposing a Descant issue on new Greek writing . Donna McDonald was Descant’s first guest editor.

Since our publication of Contemporary Greek Literature in 1977, Descant has travelled the world in its special issues. Our aim was always to bring together artists globally and to put Canadian artists into an international context. Over our 45 years, Descant has published 55 special issues, some of which have had guest editors. Many others of Descant’s 167 issues have been organized thematically, utilizing the serendipity of submissions to our always open post office box. What has distinguished the special issues from these general thematic issues is perhaps not always clear. However, special issues characteristically arise as editorial decisions, sometimes taking many years to come to fruition, and often including solicited material and world-wide calls. In all cases I was the guiding editor, although we often relied on the skill and contacts of a distinguished group of guest editors. The names of all of Descant’s guest editors appear in the list which follows below. We have added short essays to some of these listings, each signed by the author of the particular short essay.

Karen Mulhallen, Toronto, Summer 2015

To see the full list of special issues, please look here.


The Last Issue: D167 - In a Cabinet of Curiosities

Come and celebrate in the (45 years of) Descant launch tradition! Descant will be releasing its last issue, Issue 167, In a Cabinet of Curiosities, on January 29th, 2015 at 7 PM at Supermarket Restaurant and Bar. BRING YOUR stories, mementoes or wackiest outfit from the back of your closet. Come and share in old and new memories: Descant’s, yours and the ones in our new issue. There is no entrance fee and, as always, there will be great raffle prizes and delicious nibblies. Our talented line-up of readers includes:

  • Josh Stewart reading from “A Song of Empty Aisles.”
  • John Lofranco reading from “Thorsteinn.”
  • Lesley Kenny reading from "Standing Beside Margaret Atwood in the Cheese Shop"
  • Kay Armatage reading from "The Geopolitics of Women’s Film Festivals: Fem-Cine, Santiago"
  • Georgia Wilder reading from “Coco Divine and the Lightning Police.”
  • Mark Kingwell reading from “Can’t we Talk about Evil?”
  • Jim Nason reading from “All the Manure.”

RSVP on our Facebook event page There are plenty of raffle prizes for you to win thanks to generous donors like Brick, Brokenpencil, Hart House Review, White Wall Review, Tightrope Books, ChiZine Publications, Inanna Publications and more. MORE DETAILS

Descant: the Grand Finale/ A Farewell Party

Come and enjoy a grand intimate evening with all our closest  friends!

After 45 years and 167 issues  growing our culture of  literature and the visual arts, descanting “ on the supreme theme of art and song”, we have much to celebrate.

Bring a bag to fill with back issues of Descant; complete your set of Descants for free.

Swoon at our exquisite raffle prizes!

Swap stories about how Descant has affected your life.

We will entertain you; we will make you smile!



Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 7 PM



Revival Bar (the old fire hall)

783 College Street, Toronto


Refreshments: Catered appetizers and a cash bar.


Donations are welcome to help us retire the debt.


Warning: Dancing may break out!

Important Notice From the Editor in Chief of Descant magazine

Important Notice

From the Editor in Chief of Descant magazine

After long and painful negotiations and deliberations for four years, with the literary and arts community, with the arts councils and donors, with our co-editors, and our foundation directors, we have jointly decided that Descant magazine in its present form is no longer sustainable.

In A Cabinet of Curiosities, Descant 167, Winter 2014, will be our final issue.

This has been a very hard decision to make. For the last three years Descant has been in a deficit position, and as head of the Descant foundation and Editor in Chief of the magazine, I carry all the debts.

Our vigorous fund-raising campaign this fall was very successful and I want to thank all of you who donated to the magazine. Unfortunately, we did not raise enough money to offset the shortfall. Grants have been in decline for more than five years, although other revenues such as sales and subscriptions have held steady or increased. We have cut costs everywhere we could, but many expenses over which we have no control have continued to spiral up.

I have personally searched for a solution, but have been unable to find either a patronage base or an editor (or editorial collective) to replace myself and take over the magazine, and be responsible for its publication and its foundation.

Descant has an enormous community. It is an international magazine with a strong focus on Canada and on emerging artists. We have trained dozens of interns, hundreds of editors have worked with us over the years, and thousands of writers and visual artists and musicians and dancers have been published in our pages.

Our issues have examined cities, like Venice and Berlin, countries like China and Latvia, regions like North Africa, artistic practices like music. We have published special issues on writers, Michael Ondaatje, Dennis Lee, Barbara Gowdy, and composers, R. Murray Schafer, themes like History of the Book, Romantic Love, Hotels, Fashion.

We couldn’t have done it without all of you.

We are now in production with our Winter issue, number 167, and the launch date will likely be late January 2015. We are also planning a huge celebration on the cusp of Spring.  Check this site for news or send the office an email to get on our email list.

The co-editors and I are proud to have been able to publish for so many decades. It has been a pleasure and a privilege. We thank you all.

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.