Category Archives: Readings

Join us for our launch tonight.

Summer Subversions is summer, Descant-style!

The best summers are those brimming with journeys, explorations and great reads. It just so happens that Descant’s warm-weather issue offers all three.
Irreverent photography on a pothole theme by Montreal-based Claudia Ficca and Davide Luciano.

Fiction by Bill Bukovsan, Paul Carlucci, Andrew Creighton, Christine Fischer Guy and Arelene Somerton Smith get us thinking about issues of the outsider.

Heady and sometimes harrowing: poetry from Mathew Henderson, Angela Hibbs, Jimmy McInnes, Kathryn Mockler and more.

Editor Karen Mulhallen gives us a sensitive, funny and provocative interview with Czech-Canadian writer Josef Škvorecký (1924-2012). We see a portrait of a life coloured by the political unrest of post-WWII Communist Central Europe, dissent, literature, love and jazz.

Mark Kingwell takes us fishing in his essay “Slack Enters the System.”
Descant jumps into comics with Mara Sternberg, and artist Kyle Stewart considers the balance of nature and industry.

Crack the spine on Descant 157 and let your summer of discovery begin!

For details about the when and where of it all, click here.

Upcoming Launch for our Summer Issue

Descant157coverHi Descant Fans! We are thrilled to announce that the Descant Arts and Letters Foundation will release its Summer 2012 issue, Summer Subversions, on June 27, 2012. Summer Subversions brings together engaging, thought-provoking, and sometimes harrowing art, fiction, poetry, and essays that are definitely not your typical poolside reading.

Hereʼs a taste of what’s inside: Paul Carlucci offers a glimpse into a northern communitycaught in a cycle of addiction, desperation, and violence. Andrew Creighton gives us a story about a young white supremacist girlʼs self-discovery. Arlene Somerton Smithʼs “Ruby Slippers” meditates on the meaning of death. A not-to-be-missed highlight is editor Karen Mulhallenʼs provocative interview with the late Czech-Canadian writer anddissident Josef Skvorecky, in which he talks about love, politics, and jazz. Photographers Claudia Ficca and Davide Lucianoʼs imaginative portfolio on potholes is (literally) like something out of Aliceʼs Adventures in Wonderland.

To celebrate the release, a public event will take place on June 27, 2012, doors open at 7:00pm at The Magpie, 831 Dundas St. West. Contributors Angela Hibbs, Mark Kingwell, Jimmy McInnes, and Kathryn Mockler will read selections of poetry and non-fiction.The event will also feature a raffle with fabulous prizes, ranging from gift certificates and book packages, to subscriptions and gift baskets. We invite all lit-lovers to join us for an evening of readings, conversation, food, and libation as we toast the summer and all of its complexities!

Here is the event listing on Facebook.

If you’re curious and want more information contact:

Vera DeWaard, Managing Editor:
Amy Stupavsky, Production Editor, 157:

LeftWords addresses the issues that matter

This May marks the return of the LeftWords Festival of Books and Ideas, a day-long showcase of progressive and left-leaning authors, publishers, and book sellers. The festival, which has been on hiatus since 2005, is re-launching this year in partnership with the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts.

This year’s LeftWords has much to offer. In addition to a marketplace showcasing more than 20 exhibitors, the festival will host a series of panel discussions and workshops on subjects ranging from activism and dissent to community art and graphic novels.

According to Matt Adams, one of the festival’s organizers, what makes Leftwords unique is the way it responds to the salient—and controversial— social and political issues of our time. “Among our panelists this year, we have G20 critics, Occupy activists, and labour experts,” says Adams. “For better or for worst, the time is certainly ripe to re-launch.”

Highlights of this year’s festival include a keynote address by famed feminist and activist Michele Landsberg and a panel discussion featuring Frances Fox Piven, who recently earned the ire of Glenn Beck for her involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

LeftWords is on May 6, 2012 at the Ryerson Students’ Centre, 55 Gould St. The festival opens at 11 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m. It will be followed by an After-Party hosted by the Socialist Register. For more information, please visit:


Grey Borders Reading Series Logo - Large JPG Black2.jpg

Fall is an important season for the literary arts in Toronto. Reading and festivals abound, like this past weekend’s Word on the Street at Queen’s Park, as do writing awards both big and small. With all the hoopla and good cheer, it’s sometimes easy to forget that, though Toronto may indeed be the country’s largest hub of Canadian literature, strong and innovative literary communities do indeed exist and thrive outside The Big Smoke.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Eric Schmaltz, coordinator of the Grey Borders Reading Series based in St. Catharines. The series is the largest of its kind in the region and, in terms of its talent, among the most variegated in the province. It serves as a compelling testament to the strength of literary life beyond city limits.

Q: Describe the Grey Borders Reading Series. What are its origins? What does strive for?

ES: The series was conceived by Jordan Fry years ago, maybe a decade ago by now, maybe longer. I can’t speak to his curatorial practice, but it’s to my understanding that the series was created to forge an active literary space for St. Catharines and the Niagara region. Later, the series was passed from Jordan Fry to Gregory Betts who organized many outstanding events featuring big names, including Lillian Allen, Christian Bok, and Jaap Blonk. In 2010, Gregory passed the series on to me. I stepped in hoping that I could maintain the energy of the former curators and continue to welcome some of the best writers today. I’m now into my second year as curator and I think I’ve managed to do that.

Q: What, in your opinion, makes the series especially unique?

ES: I think what makes Grey Borders Reading Series unique is our community. Not only is the community supportive, but it is also engaged. People want to meet the writers and read and discuss their works, meet other like-minded people, and of course have a great time. It turns our evenings into lively events.

Q: What qualities do you look for in your authors?

ES: A great deal of thought and work goes into selecting our authors. I’m interested in all shapes and kinds of poetry and fiction—I strive to find writers who are active, but also engrossing, enthralling, exciting, and entertaining. Most importantly, I welcome work that is on the cutting edge. I love small press. I love multimedia. I love sound poetry, visual poetry, and conceptual poetry.

Q: Are many of your authors local to the area?

ES: We have featured some local writers. St. Catharines has a sizable group of young and emerging poets (and some well established). That said, the mandate of the Grey Borders Reading Series is to feature writers from outside St. Catharines. GBRS is a place where our local community can see what’s going on elsewhere. Exposure is really important to the growth of literary community.

Q: Speaking of which, what is the literary community like in St. Catharines and the Niagara region?

ES: The St. Catharines literary community is interested and supportive. We have a substantial crowd for a reading series in a small city—especially a city with few venues for writers and poets. It’s a good mix of young and interested people, academics, locals, and even out-of-towners. It’s encouraging to see so many people united in one place to see and hear poets from all over the country and the world.

Q: What authors/events are you most looking forward to this coming season?

ES: Honestly, I’m looking forward to all of the events this year. The series will include some of the most cutting edge, intelligent, and kind writers that are at it today. I’m grateful and excited!

On October 1 we have what is shaping up to be a night of eccentric poetry, featuring Geof Huth; NF Huth, launching her new 3 Words published by Gary Barwin’s serif of nottingham editions; and Angela Szczepaniak, who has a new book from Bookthug. And on October 14 we have rob mclennan, Tim Conley, and Liz Worth. The winter season looks to be just as promising!

For more information on the Grey Borders Reading Series and its upcoming events, please visit their blog:

DESCANT 152/Ghosts and The Uncanny Launch





Come out and help us celebrate the release of Descant 152: Ghosts and The Uncanny, which will hit store shelves on March 28th.

April 6th at 7:30 p.m.

George Brown House

(186 Beverley St., Toronto)

Enter – if you dare – the beautiful, historic and allegedly haunted George Brown House and be greeted by the eerie music of violinist Phoebe Tsang, of the National Ballet of Canada orchestra. Enjoy readings of fiction, non-fiction and poetry from Descant 152 contributors Richard Rosenbaum, Jennifer Oliver, Kate Cayley and Daniel Zuckerbrot. Help yourself to a drink at our cash bar and mingle with fellow literature and art lovers.

We received more submissions for Descant 152 than ever before in its forty-year history, and Guest Editors Alex Maeve Campbell and Tina Francisco bravely undertook to sift through all of them to bring us this outstanding collection of fiction, poetry, essay, memoir and visual art. The collection takes a daring look into the world of the dead, sometimes
beckoning to it, even daring to interact with it.

The line between life and death is a fine one, Douglas Curran shows us in his memoir, It Happens: The Death of John Kanjadza. Ghosts can be very friendly, as Katherine Hajer shows in her short story The Expected Ghost, or highly malicious, like the ghost in Jay Snodgrass’s poem My Ghost Made an Art Movie, Too. Most often, though, they seem too busy with their own affairs to mind about the living. Ben Rawluk brings the uncanny – a jingle-jangling man made up entirely of light bulbs – right to our doorsteps: “Don’t just stand there,” he writes, berating our open-mouthed shock, “Invite him inside.”

Don’t miss this ghostly gathering! Check out our website after March 18th, 2011 for a sneak peek at the issue.

DESCANT Congratulates 23 Poets

Further to our blog entry of February 16th, we would like to confirm the names of each poet short listed for this year’s Winston Collins Prize for Best Canadian Poem.*

For 2011, our ‘short list’ includes the names of 23 individuals. Their names and poems are as follows:

Wendy Brandts                         Ardent Awakenings

Roger Bell                                Oh Wendy

Barry Butson                            Things I Touch

Terry Ann Carter                       The Call

Joan Crate                                Cherry Jam

Barry Dempster                        A Circle Of White Deck Chairs

Kildare Dobbs                          September 1939

Kate Marshall-Flaherty             Apocalypse of Bees

Susan Glickman                      Things From Which One Never Recovers

Elizabeth Greene                     Planet of the Lost Things

Gillian Harding-Russell             Gerontian Thoughts

Margaret Hollingsworth            Some Sage Said

Sheldon Inkol                          She Does Not Want

Ellen S. Jaffe                           Remembering September Tenth

Ellen S. Jaffe                           Continental Drift

Donna Langevin                      In Lieu of an Obit

Kathy Mac                              Lachesis Descends from the Mountain Alone

Anna Mamcini                        The Treeplanters

Talya Rubin                            Leaving the Island

Renee Sarojini-Saklikar           June 1981

Karen Schnidler                      Brief History

Susan Stenson                       Romantic Poetry

Josh Stewart                          Skeleton Beach

Myna Wallin                          The Self As Both Object And Subject

Descant congratulates each of these poets for their fine contributions to Canadian culture and contemporary literature.

We would also like to thank everyone who participated this year. We invite you all to consider entering our 2012 competition this fall. More details about next year’s event can be found at:

* We wish to confirm that all short listed entries will be clearly cited on our blog and website in the future. This information was not included in our previous blog entry, for which we apologize. Staffing changes this January led, regretfully, to a few items ‘slipping through the cracks.’ Again, we apologize for this temporary oversight.

FEBRUARY 8: 2011 DESCANT/Winston Collins Prize

The Descant Arts & Letter Foundation Presents

An evening celebrating the 2011 Winston Collins Prize for Best Canadian Poem!

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011
7:30 – 10:00 P.M.
268 Augusta Avenue, Toronto

This free event is open to the general public and we encourage the entire Descant community to attend! Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres
will be served and a cash bar available.

Descant will present the 2011 Winston Collins Prize for Best Canadian Poem, celebrating its fifth anniversary this year. The prize commemorates the life of Winston Collins, a writer and enthusiastic teacher of literature at the universities of Cincinnati, Princeton and Toronto. The annual prize perpetuates his remarkable talent for encouraging self-expression through writing. The winner receives $1,000 in prize money, and two honourary mentions receive $250 each. They will be chosen by this year’s judges, writers Heather O’Neill and Michael Winters, from 100 submissions that Descant received from poets across Canada.

Please come join us in celebrating this exciting event! Readings and the presentation of the Collins Prize winner and runners-up will be featured.

For more information about the prize and event, visit:

DESCANT 151/Winter Reader Launch — February 8


Come join us for the Descant 151/Winter Reader Launch!

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011/ 7:30pm


268 Augusta Ave., Toronto

Descant is proud to announce the arrival of its winter 2010 issue, Descant 151/ Winter Reader, an eclectic ensemble of intriguing memoirs, a discerning essay, witty poetry, captivating fiction, and amazing artwork from some new and established talent in and outside of Canada.  Held at Supermarket in Kensington Market, the night will be filled with food and drink, as well as readings from our D151 contributors:  Giovanna Riccio, Linda Woolven, R. Brian Rigg and Elisabeth de Mariaffi.

Winter is a mixed season. Themes tend to vary from happy holidays with the warmth of loved ones gathered and fires roaring, to snow and ice, short days and long nights, and death. Poems like “Christmas Cacti” by Joan Crate and “Night” by Linda Woolven explore the various colours of winter, from the grays and silvers outside to the reds and golds inside. This season is also a time to reflect. With the lack of sunlight and warmth, it is only natural we are reminded of death. Touching memoirs by Brian Fawcett and William Kaplan reflect on Decembers past, the people they have lost, and what those people meant to them. But not all is dark and dreary: the approaching New Year brings hope for the future and the feeling of a fresh start. In this issue of Descant, we are reminded that it is just as important to look back as it is to look forward.

Don’t miss this important event!

You can catch a sneak preview of D151: Winter Reader, on our website.

HEAR/HEAR Reading Series – Wednesday August 11


Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Free Times Cafe (320 College Street, west of Spadina)

Doors at 6:30PM; Readings at 7PM

Featuring Readings by:
Devon CODE


Following the outstanding success of HEAR/HEAR #7, we’re getting ready to do it all again!

On Wednesday, August 11, NOW HEAR THIS! will be hosting an evening of readings and late summer celebration at the Free Times Cafe (320 College street). Taking the stage this time will be Writers-in-Residence Devon Code and Colin Frizzell, along with NHT! alumnus Paul Vermeersch. To learn more about these talented writers, just click on their names!

The HEAR/HEAR Reading Series is our way of saying thank you to the amazing Writers-in-Residence who have worked so hard to promote literacy and creativity in Toronto schools — not to mention, it’s a great way for you to experience new, experimental, and downright fantastic writing! Be sure to come out and support the people who have made the S.W.A.T. Program such a success.

We hope to see you there! Readings start at 7 — show up a little earlier for dinner and drinks from the Free Times’ menu.

For more information, check out the NHT! website.

HEAR/HEAR Reading Series – Wed Jun 09!


HEAR/HEAR Reading Series

Wednesday, June 09 (doors at 6:30pm, readings at 7pm)

@ The Free Times Cafe (320 College St.)

Featured Readings by:
Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Angela Szczepaniak
Natalie Zina Walschots

Next week, join Descant and NOW HEAR THIS! for a celebration of literacy and fantastic writing!

This year’s second installment of the HEAR/HEAR Reading Series is happening on Wednesday, June 09 at the Free Times Cafe (320 College St). This FREE, ALL AGES event will showcase talented local authors who have been working to promote literacy and creativity to the youth of Toronto through their involvement with NOW HEAR THIS!

Featured readers at this event will be Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Angela Szczepaniak and Natalie Zina Walschots. All three of these talented writers served as Writers-in-Residence with NOW HEAR THIS!’s Students, Writers and Teaches (S.W.A.T.) program; you can learn more about them and their experiences with S.W.A.T. by clicking on their names!

These writers have worked hard to make S.W.A.T. a success — help us to support them back by coming out to hear them read from their fantastic new works! Show up early for dinner and drinks from the Free Times Cafe’s menu — and stay for a special door prize give-away sponsored by This Ain’t the Rosedale Library.