Author Archives: Lesley Kenny

Grain magazine’s first regular issue launch in 40 years: be there

Let’s be honest: some literary magazines weigh more than others.

If you get an email from Grain magazine, declaring your submission worthy of publication, your happy dance is more likely to spill out into the street. Grain is (I’m going to say it), indisputably, one of the most respected literary magazines in Canada. Since the early 1970s, Grain has published the best of the best. Their contributor list reads like a who’s-who of the Canadian literary world. Many of these were unknown writers at the time of their first publication in Grain.

Grain mag ....

Grain magazine has a new editorial team. Buy a copy of “unsettling,” their latest issue, to see if you notice any changes.

This Friday, August 26, 2016, at 7 pm, Grain will host their first launch to welcome a new issue. Number 43.4 will be celebrated at The Woods Alehouse, in Saskatoon. If you’ve ever been published in this venerable magazine, I suggest you send them an email of congrats. Maybe they will read yours at the launch, like a 21st century telegram. And maybe I just gave them a lot more work they didn’t need.

But this is not just a blog post about attending a magazine launch. I have the inside scoop and, unlike a good ice cream (pralines), I’m willing to share it.

As of this issue of Grain, a new editorial team is at the helm and it would behoove you to pay attention. Writer Adam Pottle is the new editor, poet Sheri Benning is the new associate poetry editor and Nicole Haldoupis, former Descant production editor, is Grain‘s new associate editor of fiction. I don’t know Adam or Sheri, but I know Nicole so I called her and we had a chat about the new gig and the new issue of Grain. I started with the obvious:

Because I know you, will I have a better chance of getting published in Grain?

Yeah, for sure [laughs]. As long as your writing really stands out from the rest of the huge pile we have to read through, you stand a good chance!

Okay, I thought you’d say that. But what are you looking for, as the new fiction editor at Grain?

Well, I’m looking for that story that stays in my mind for days after I’ve read it. Some combination of unusual images and interesting plot that keeps my brain chewing on it long after I’ve put it down. Does that help?

Not really.

It’s hard because I’m mostly just looking for writing that’s good. Really good.

What defines “really good” writing?

It makes me feel things. If I’m still thinking about the story three days later it’s probably good. I’m also interested in new and different ways of using language.

Nicole Haldoupis, new associate fiction editor at Grain, reading her own work at The River Volta Reading Series at d'Lish Cafe, in Saskatoon.

Nicole Haldoupis, new associate fiction editor at Grain, reading her own work at The River Volta Reading Series at d’Lish Cafe, in Saskatoon.

With a new editorial team, will Grain be changing directions? What can you tell us that will help descantonline blog readers determine if their writing should be submitted to Grain?

I’m confident that if people read the new issue, they’ll get a sense of where we’re going with the magazine.

So — there are changes?

You can buy the magazine at the usual bookstores that carry lit mags, or you can subscribe online. You’re going to link that, right?

Are you going to give me Anything?

I can tell you this – you can now submit your poetry or prose to Grain via submittable. Until recently, it was just by mail.

Does Grain only publish prairie writers?

Grain is supported by the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild so there’s definitely an interest in publishing writers who live in the prairies, but Grain has always published writers from across the country as well.

Can you tell us a bit about the process of reading submissions for Grain?

Adam, Sheri and I meet in Saskatoon, usually at a café or library and-

I hear the Grain office flooded!

Yeah, apparently it did. But it works out for us to meet this new way. I like to think that we meet in the same kinds of spaces that our writers use to write in. We do get a lot of submissions so it takes awhile to get through the piles and then to discuss the ones we’re considering publishing.

Is this a full-time job?

I already have a full-time job so, four times a year, when a new Grain issue is published, I will be insanely busy [read Nicole’s bio below to understand the full extent of how busy she will be sometimes]. For this issue, my first, when I wasn’t at my regular job, I was reading submissions for Grain.

Is it okay if I explain to readers that your full-time job is, ah, in the food and beverage industry?

[laughs] Yes! I’m not the first or last writer and editor to work serving tables. Maybe it would be good for people to know this. But you know what? I meet all kinds of interesting people I otherwise might not. I ended up chatting with a customer awhile ago and it turned out that he’s Paddy O’Rourke, the first editor of Thistledown Press. Turns out he published an early book of poetry by my mentor, Dave Margoshes. We’re supposed to go for a beer some time.

I know you grew up in Toronto but that Saskatoon is your home now. What can you tell us about the literary scene there?

It’s very alive. There are regular readings and launches at bookstores — I’ve walked among bookshelves with a glass of wine in my hand! There’s a lot of stuff going on, more than you’d expect. More than I anticipated, anyway. There’s a weekly poetry series, Tonight It’s Poetry and a monthly reading series called The River Volta Reading Series.

Congratulations on the new job!

Thanks – I hope your readers check us out and let us know what they think of this issue.

One more thing, which I guess I should’ve started with but — why is this the first magazine launch for Grain, after all these years?

Grain has had events over the years, readings and such, and there have been launches for special themed issues, but I think this may be the first official launch of a regular new issue. Like I said, new team, new plans. Keep an eye out. Can you insert a winking emoji there?



Nicole Haldoupis is a writer, editor and designer from Toronto. She recently completed her MFA in writing from the University of Saskatchewan. She lives in Saskatoon where she works at a Greek restaurant and as the associate fiction editor at Grain. Nicole co-created the biannually published untethered, a Toronto-based literary journal. Her work can be found in (parenthetical), Sewer Lid, and The Quilliad.



In case you missed it, went live in May, 2016. It’s not the old Descant magazine, online, but something new. The Descant blog will continue, as above, but now it’s called the DescantOnline blog. My focus here will be on topics I hope will be of genuine use to writers. Please contact me if you have a suggestion that you think blog readers will appreciate. I won’t be flogging launches unless, as in the post above, there is something more of interest to readers.

Announcement: The 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 is Andy Verboom’s first time as winner of the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem.


The judges for this year’s competition are Mark Kingwell and Leanne Shapton.

Mark Kingwell is a professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto and a contributing editor of Descant and Harper’s Magazine. His latest book, Unruly Voices (Biblioasis, 2012) is a collection of essays about politics and human imagination.

Leanne Shapton is an artist illustrator, and writer who was born in Toronto and lives in New York. A previous contributor to The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, The New Yorker, Jane, Seventeen, Saturday Night, and Maclean’s, she has published several books and is also one of the founders of J&L Books.


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.

Last year’s prize was won by John B. Lee for his poem “Bringing the Farmhouse Down”. Lee also won the inaugural Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem in 2007.

For more information about the prize, please visit our website.

Descant 161 Summer Launch!

Descanters, readers, writers and the curious alike! Summer is approaching, the barbeques are sizzling and it’s time for another launch!

We are ready to step forth into the unfamiliar and the mysterious, with the release of the Summer 2013 issue, Descant 161: Into the Unknown, A Summer Reader. The launch will take place on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, at The Ossington, 61 Ossington Ave., from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM (Doors open at 6:30 PM).

Join us for the free food and a discount for the issue, but come especially to hear Richard Greene, Trista Gilbert, Linda Dobbs(on behalf of Kildare Dobbs), Richard Greene, David Mason, Shane Neilson and Hugh Graham, read excerpts from their work.

Plus we have a raffle, where it’s easy to win prizes that vary from handmade jewelry to magazine subscriptions from our generous donors: The Walrus, Taddle Creek, Chizine publications, Tightrope Books, Steel Bananas, House of Anansi Press and Broken Pencil.

Don’t forget to bring your friends and family! We can’t wait to see you there.

This event is free. For more details, please contact:

Vera DeWaard –

Joshua P’ng –

The Ossington –

Hidden City Launch!

Alright, pilule Descanters, advice it’s time to come out of hibernating — in one month!

And what better excuse than the launch party for Descant’s spring issue The Hidden City. The last of the snow will have melted (hopefully), viagra 40mg the streets will be damp with that fresh, earthy spring smell of things coming back to life, and you’ll be filled with that inexplicable desire to get to know all the hidden corners of your city all over again. Or maybe you just want to get out of your apartment and enjoy some good readings, good (free) food and good company. Both are acceptable reasons.

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, April 10, 2013, and come find us at The Handlebar (159 Augusta Ave., Toronto, ON), tucked away in Kensington Market, from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.

Six contributors will be reading (Ron Charach, Maureen Hynes, Cara-Lyn Morgan, Jim Nason, Sarah Pinder and Kilby Smith-McGregor), along with this years Winston Collins/Descant Poetry Prize winner, John Lee.

The night will also feature a raffle, presenting a chance for you to win (with incredibly good odds) all kinds of prizes including book bundles, tickets to a play (courtesy of The Factory Theatre), bar mixing equipment and more.

Also, for one night only, Descant 160: The Hidden City will be available at a discounted price!

We’re giving you a month’s notice to get all the winter hibernating out of your system and look forward to having you join us for a fun evening of words, food, drink and prizes. Remember to invite friends and family, and we’ll see you there!

For further information, please visit our Facebook listing or contact:
Vera DeWaard,
Lisa Aitken,

For directions visit:

Announcement: Winner of the Winston Collins/Descant Poetry Prize for Best Canadian Poem

The winner of the 2013 prize is John B. Lee for his poem
“Bringing the Farmhouse Down

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.

John B. Lee also won the inaugural Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem in 2007, awarded by judges Douglas Glover (author of the 2003 Governor-General’s Award-winning novel Elle) and Lisa Moore (author of the 2005 Giller-prize nominated novel Alligator). The judges then were struck by the “exuberant, nimble language” of Lee’s winning poem, “The Green Muse” proclaiming it “a gorgeous meditation on the colour green,” and were impressed by Lee’s linguistic craft, admiring the “deft juxtaposition and dreamy alliteration” of the piece.

John B. Lee was inducted in 2005 as Poet Laureate of Brantford in perpetuity, the same year he received the distinction of being named Honourary Life Member of The Canadian Poetry Association. Lee is the recipient of over sixty prestigious international awards for his writing including the CBC Literary Award for Poetry, the People’s Poetry Award, and the 2006 inaugural Souwesto Writing Award (University of Windsor/Black Moss Press). He has well-over forty books published to date and is the editor of numerous anthologies. Lee’s work has appeared internationally in over 500 publications, and has been translated into French, Spanish, Korean and Chinese

If you are interested in hearing more about the Winston Collins Prize, the judges or previous prize winners, click here.

Announcing the Finalists for the Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem

On Wednesday, February 20th we will celebrate the memory of Winston Collins by announcing the winner of the 2012/2013 Winston Collins/Descant Prize for Best Canadian Poem. In anticipation of this occasion we’d like to share with you the finalists for the prize, chosen out of the many who have been reviewed.

Here are the finalists (not listed in a particular order):

Richard Scarsbrook: “Fortune”
Laura Lamont: “Night Vision”
Elizabeth Greene: ”Summer’s Children and Their Mother”
Terry Ann Carter: “Letters of War”
Hector Williamson: “Aesthetics Come Slowly”
John Lee: “Bringing the Farmhouse Down”
Margot Maddison-MacFadyen: “The Emergent Seed”
Joan Crate: “Leda”

For more information about the prize please visit our website:

2013 Winston Collins/Descant Poetry Prize Shortlist

Congratulations on those shortlisted for the 2013 Winston Collins/Descant Poetry Prize!

Michelle Glennie: “When I Lose My Job”

Richard Scarsbrook: “Fortune”

Laura Lamont: “Night Vision”

Elizabeth Greene: ”Summer’s Children and Their Mother”

Jeff Bien: ‘Tilandsias” and “From the book of imaginary letters”

Myna Wallin: “Happy Centenary Mr. Lazarovitch”

Terry Ann Carter: “Letters of War”

Hector Williamson: “Aesthetics Come Slowly”

John Lee: “Bringing the Farmhouse Down”

Margot Maddison-MacFadyen: “The Emergent Seed”

Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni: “The Way the Mind Wakes from a Dream”

Josie Di Sciascio-Andrews: “The Red Accordian”

Pamela Porter: “Call her name”

Joan Crate: “Leda”

Joanna Lilley: “The Clockmaker”

We will announce the winner in the spring of 2013 and the winner and the shortlisted will be published in the summer issue of Descant.

Descant’s winter issue rolling out next month

Hello Descanters, it’s that time of year again!

Not only is it one month until Christmas, it’s also one month until Descant‘s winter issue hits the streets. The winter  months can be cold and lonely, so why not cozy up with a copy of A Winter’s Guide to Melancholia?

In fact, why not come and drink with friends at Descant‘s Winter 2012 launch? Remember to mark your calendars for the new year. 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.

We’re telling you early before you get swept up by the holiday season, so remember to invite friends and family and see you all there!

For further information, please visit our Facebook listing or contact:
Vera DeWaard,
Stephanie Chan,
In addition, thank you to the wonderful sponsors of this year’s raffle prizes. Please remember to give these folks some love this holiday season:


Renovations Launch!

Mark your calendars, store Descanters and friends! The launch of Descant 158: Renovations will be happening on Wednesday, October 17, 2012 from 7 to 10 PM at The Rochester (423 College Street).

Come and enjoy a free night of poetry and fiction readings, and free food! Descant 158 features new and exciting fiction, poetry, art and essays on renovations that are not limited to the home, but also extend to the text and self-identity.

Contributors Catherine Graham, Cora Siré, Jessica Parkinson, and others, will read from excerpts of their work. The event will also feature a raffle, where rafflers will have a chance to win magazine subscriptions, amazing book bundles, and much more! Pick up a copy of the Descant 158: Renovations, hot off the presses, for a discounted price (one night only)!

For further information, please contact:
Vera DeWaard,
Canaan Chu,

See link for directions:




Join The (Not so) Nice Italian Girls & Friends at Q Space

Join us Thursday, page October 4th at 7:30pm for a night of fabulous readings and new book releases at Q Space!
(382 College Street, at Borden)

The night will feature our own Whitney French from the NOW HEAR THIS! HEAR/HEAR Reading Series, and will be hosted by Descant Co-editor Michelle Alfano.

Hope to see you all there!