Category Archives: Launches

On Launching and Leaving

The beautiful cover of Descant 165, chosen months ago by Editor-in-Chief Karen Mulhallen, turned out to be prescient on the eve of our launch party. But despite the deluge Tuesday night, we had a great turnout. Guests who didn’t quite make it before the heavens opened, arrived sopping wet regardless of umbrellas and mad dashes from cabs. But as drenched Descant Co-editor Paul Fowler pointed out, we’re not made of sugar.

Descant Editor-in-Chief Karen Mulhallen...

Descant Editor-in-Chief Karen Mulhallen, more than 44 years at the helm of one of Canada’s most distinguished literary magazines.

Production Editor Ekraz Singh not only put together a gorgeous issue, but she pulled off a great party too. Hot nibblies, cold beer and a room full of lit-loving friends. As good luck would have it, the guest who bought the most raffle tickets won the big box-o-books from ChiZine Publications. There must have been 20 novels in there, each one weirder than the next which suited Darren just fine.

Descant Production Editor Ekraz Singh

Descant Production Editor, Ekraz Singh, telling us about the raffle prizes.

Descant staffers Kim Griffith and Sophie .... at the "merch" table. I won the 3 copies of filling Station. No, there's no conflict of interest there.

Descant staffers Kim Griffiths and Sophie McCreesh at the “merch” table.

We had a surprise guest (I invited him on Twitter and he came, hence the surprise). Paul Carlucci braved the storm warnings and came in from Hamilton to celebrate with us. Last month Paul won the Danuta Gleed award for his first collection of short stories, The Secret Life of Fission (Oberon Press).

Paul Carlucci (in distant left, facing camera) asking Descant co-editor Jason Paradiso if we would pay for his gas from Hamilton. Contributor Assia Messaoudi in foreground checking out the raffle table.

Paul Carlucci (in distant left, facing camera) asking Descant Associate Editor-in-Chief (Production) Jason Paradiso if we would pay for his gas from Hamilton (no). But we did offer to walk his dog.

I was struck by the different styles of our four readers –Heather Babcock (“Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards”), Assia Messaoudi (“dear stranger”), Mary Corkery (“Conversation”) and Mark Kingwell (“Parties, Parties, More Parties”). Beneath Heather’s straightforward prose, lurks something sweaty and uncomfortable. Assia’s poetry-from-the-margins drew a number of nods and murmurs from her audience. Mary’s poems about her sister’s struggle with cancer were intimate and harrowing.

Heather Babcock

Heather Babcock

Mary Corkery

Mary Corkery

I think everyone clapped a little bit harder when it was announced that this was Assia’s first publication. Descant has published a lot of firsts who went on to award-winning acclaim, so we’ll keep our eye on this young woman.

Assia Messaoudi reading us "stranger aldkjfad".

Assia Messaoudi reading us her “dear stranger.”

Mark Kingwell, longtime contributing editor to Descant, told us a funny story and, I think, coined a phrase. Once upon a time he was in a bookstore in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He pulled out a slim volume from the shelves, Parties: Scenes from Contemporary New York Life, by Carl van Vechten, a patron of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and later the literary executor of Gertrude Stein. And, according to Mark, “a great narcissist.” Mark said he knew he’d found something interesting, but, in one of those later hard-to-explain moments, he put the book back on the shelf and walked out of the store without it. Despite the fact that it was only 98 cents. Ok, American. But still.

Then it set in: leaver’s remorse.

I know this feeling. It has a similar sinking feeling to buyer’s remorse, but where buyer’s remorse usually fills us with disappointment, frustration and anger, leaver’s remorse is tinged with sadness and longing. Probably because it begs the bigger existential questions.

It’s not like Mark could just slap his forehead and head back to the bookstore, fingers crossed the book was still there. He was back in Toronto before the full force of his leaver’s remorse set in (I’m leaving that rhyme there; it has rap potential). Instead, when he would hear that friends were traveling to New Hampshire, he’d ask them to look for the book.

He went so far as to draw a map of the inside of the bookstore and exactly where he’d last seen the volume. A map of where he’d been and what he didn’t bring back with him. A treasure map; a cartography of regret.

[If you were looking for a writing prompt today, look no further.]

Descant Contributing Editor, Mark Kingwell.

University of Toronto philosophy prof and Descant Contributing Editor, Mark Kingwell.

You’ll have to read Mark Kingwell’s contribution to find out what happened (you had to know I was going to say that). Lucky launch goers bought their copies for $10 and a year’s subscription for $20. Look for Descant 165 at your local book and magazine stores. Or have it delivered to your door four times a year.

You won’t regret it. No matter what you’re made of.

Cover art by Scott McKowen.

Cover art and inside illustrations by Scott McKowen.

Summer Launch: join us and let Descant 165 take you away

We celebrate each new issue of Descant with a big party. Our launches are free and open to everyone — plus, we provide great nibblies. It’s a great way for us to connect with our readers and contributors and carry on our conversations about writing and art in person… with a beverage in hand. If you haven’t been to one of our launches yet, come out and meet us on June 17, at Pauper’s Pub in Toronto.

Our summer launch is listed by blogTO as a top 10 summer 2014 book and literary event!

Production Editor, Ekraz Singh, is very serious about summer. Especially this summer, which, just a short time ago, didn’t even seem possible.

Cover art by Scott McKowen.

Cover art by Scott McKowen.

Ekraz is the person most intimately involved with the issue, so I’ll let her tell you about it.


Descant 165 Summer Carnival

Our Descant 165 summer issue will take you places you may, or may not, want to go. Our cover artwork by Scott McKowen, who has created numerous posters for productions of Shakespearean plays, features the goddess Diana holding Pericles’s ship in a protective embrace while generating wind and waves. The airy current is carried along throughout the issue as the stories, poems, essays and artwork contained within its pages have the potential to sweep readers to tropical destinations, modest towns, marvellous cities and the interior landscapes of sundry personae.

Through “Something Sour, Something Sweet,” Patrick Roscoe lures you several miles inland from a coastal town, far from any streets or lights or neighbours, into a hut that stands on the edge of a field filled with thistles and weeds — a place where you’ll witness a mother do the unthinkable.

With “Pilgrims and Indians,” Craig Hartglass pulls you into a snow-swept town that’s fully equipped with a skating rink and is frigid enough to make you want to put away the popsicles that the sweltering heat in Heather Babcock’s “Of Being Underground and Moving Backwards” might make you crave.

Clockwise, top left: Ekraz Singh, Jack Hostrawser, Yusuf.. Kim and Sophie.

Descant staff, clockwise, top left: Ekraz Singh, production editor for our summer issue, Jack Hostrawser, Yusuf Saadi, Kimberley Griffiths and Sophie McCreesh.

Jerome McGann puts us on a tilt-a-whirl in the form of “Some Incidents in the Life of My Old Pal Virgil” (a tribute to his good friend, Virgil Burnett). Gordon Massman shows us the sexier side of beloved cartoon characters in one of his poems. Alan Bao escorts us to China in “Waiting for the Rain,” where we can absorb colourful scenery and witness a young man struggle to understand his roots. Glen Sorestad showcases fragments of Cuba in his contemplative poems, “The Cuban Master Poet Reflects” and “Guantanamero.” Patsy Short transports us to nineteenth century Paris in “Opening” where we find out what happens after Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème.

Andy Verboom, winner of this year’s Winston Collins/Descant Poetry Prize, invites you back to his last day of school to watch him burn all of his books in “Rite.”

Andy Verboom, reading  his prize-winning "Rite" at the launch of Descant 164 in April.

Andy Verboom, reading his prize-winning “Rite” at the launch of Descant 164 in April.

Descant co-editor Rebecca Payne’s “Dear Ms. Gallant” is a salute to the brilliant Canadian short story writer who died this past February. Many more engaging writers — including Stephen Behrendt, Andrew J. Khaled Madigan, Kayla J. Schwartz, Mary Corkery, Robert Hirschfield, Assia Messaoudi, Cara Evans, Stevie Howell, Matthew Walsh, Charles Fraser, Milton P. Elrich, Jami Macarty, Kay Armatage, Mark Kingwell, and Karen Mulhallen — are sure to entertain and transport you.

Want to get your hands on a copy of the issue? Descant’s summer reader will soon be available from booksellers across the country and at our launch party:

 Tuesday, June 17th at 7pm

Pauper’s Pub (second floor, piano room) Toronto

Our five scheduled readers include some of the best emerging and established Toronto-based writers:

  • Heather Babcock explores the voids created by death.
  • Mary Corkery sheds light on an unconventional, inaudible conversation.
  • Stevie Howell takes you inside an outpatient methadone pharmacy.
  • Mark Kingwell candidly rifles through lush slices of New York’s past.
  • Assia Messaoudi dives into the dark depths of the urbanite’s lonely condition.

Thanks to our generous donors, you’ll also have the chance to win raffle prizes from North American literary magazines and publishing houses including Brick, Echolocation, Existere, Glass Buffalo, filling Station, Prism International, Riddle Fence, ChiZine Publications, Coach House Books, Goose Lane Editions and Thistledown Press.

As always, copies and subscriptions will be sold at launch-only discounted prices of $10 and $20 respectively.

For more information about the readers, updates on the launch and to RSVP for the event, please visit our Facebook page.

We look forward to seeing you!

By Ekraz Singh


Ekraz Singh is a nearby-Toronto writer and editor, and production editor at Descant as well as executive editor at Existere. She is currently working on her first novel. Follow her on Twitter: @EkrazSingh

Heads up: our October MASALA issue

Our Masala issue is due for launch in October. It’s a heartbreaker. The kind you want to read twice.

“Tangle” by Eisha Marjara.

Guest Editor Pradeep Solanki has put together a beautiful issue about the concept of place and displacement in the Indian diaspora. In poetry, fiction, personal essay and photography, Masala traces the effects of British Colonialism on the peoples of the Indian subcontinent and offers fresh perspectives on what it means to be Indian today.

Masala  presents slices of the India we think we know: the slums and sparkling chandeliers, the mangos and monsoons, and the (bad) Bollywood dancing. But it’s also about the delights and struggles we all experience: family, personal identity, skin colour, tragedy, healing, tradition, taboos, and the meanings of home.

After all, we are all immigrants. In one way or another.


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 –

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:


Join us for our launch tonight.

Summer Subversions is summer, unhealthy Descant-style!

The best summers are those brimming with journeys, this 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, viagra 40mg 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:

Event Announcement: Descant 154 Launch Party!

Join us October 5, 2011 as we launch Descant 154: Sicily in style. Come hear Sicily contributors Valentino Assenza, Gil Fagiani, Darlene Madott and Gianna Patriarca read from their texts in an authentic Italian atmosphere. The event will take place at grano restaurant on Yonge, with doors opening at 7 p.m. Arrive early to partake in the cash bar and antipasto.

The Descant 154: Sicily launch is the perfect place to chat up our Guest Editors Michelle Alfano and Venera Fazio while touring Sicilia through the words of our contributors, as their poetry and prose explore and probe this geographically and historically impressive island.

Don’t miss this exciting evening celebrating Descant 154: Sicily! (In stores September 20, 2011)

Descant’s 40th Anniversary!


You are invited to come and celebrate with us for the Launch of DESCANT 153: Exploring Descant in Past, malady Present, this site and Future.

Featured readers for the evening include:
bill bissett
K.V. Skene
Pasha Malla
Steven Heighton
Barbara Schott
and many others.

So come out and enjoy some light food and a cash bar. Tickets are only $10

Time: Wednesday, June 29th ~ 7:30pm

Location: Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON)