When it came time to invite writers to read at our 30th birthday party, Rebecca Rosenblum was one of the first who came to mind. Not just because Rebecca is an outstanding and a longstanding TNQ cheer-leader, but because when I mentioned at the Eden Mills Writers Festival that I was planning such an event, Rebecca demanded to be invited. Unfortunately, when the date was set, she was in BC promoting her latest collection, The Big Dream. She sent me this proxy piece to read on her behalf at the event, and I decided that I’d rather save it for the blog.
I asked each of the writers to spend some time introducing themselves and their relationship to the magazine, then choose their favourite piece we’ve published in the last 30 years to share. Rebecca chose Elizabeth Hay’s “Last Poems,” which incidentally won our Edna Award in 2010.
My name is Rebecca Rosenblum and I am touring with my second book, which is awesome, but also being sad that I could not attend the TNQ birthday party.
I sent The New Quarterly my first submission, “Fruit Factory,” on March 5, 2006. I say “first” as in the first time I ever sent TNQ a story, but according to my somewhat confused Excel spreadsheet, I think that actually might have been my first submission ever. I had been writing for a decade, but certainly had no idea what I was doing. When I brought my stories to my mentor, Leon Rooke, later that summer, he asked me where I was submitting them. At some of my responses, he just shook his head, but when I said I’d sent “Fruit Factory” to The New Quarterly, he said, “Oh, that would be a good home for it.”
A home is truly what I feel I’ve found for my work at this literary journal—a place where people are comfortable and kind to each other, and never let each other get away with anything lame. I consider myself so lucky to have been edited by Kim Jernigan, and received her carefully considered critiques. I consider myself lucky to have been included in the same pages as marvelous writers that I admire—Russell Smith, Cynthia Flood, Alexander MacLeod, Kathleen Winter, and of course Mr. Rooke, among many others.
What I love about The New Quarterly is that this journal of the highest, most challenging literary standards is put out by some of the nicest people in the world. Who says discerning judgement has to go with snark? When I came to read for the Salon des Refuses journal [tnq# 107], Kim let me stay at her house and the TNQ board organized a pot luck party for the readers. Kim, Melissa and Rosalynn Tyo met me for coffee when I was lonely in Waterloo, and there is always a hug available when I stop by the TNQ booth at Eden Mills or Word on the Street.
The excerpt I have chosen is from Elizabeth Hay’s “The Last Poems” in issue 110. It’s a dark piece, but full of hope and beauty, and I read it at just the right time—in the middle of the night. I hope you enjoy it, and enjoy the magazine. Read in good health.
On August 14 the newspaper said we had had forty-two days and forty-two nights of unbroken heat, of temperatures above ninety during the day and above eight during the night. Ice cream sales had fallen off, but shish kebab and hot dog sellers were doing a roaring business. Salt. Everyone wanted the salt. On August 15 it was 100 degrees and the next few days were almost as bad.
Then on August 19 everything changed and nothing was the same again. In the evening strong cool breezes swept through the apartment and blew the smell of my nightgown into my face. I went to the kitchen window and opened it as wide as it would go and I stuck my head out into cool tumbling darkness and the sound of crickets, ummutable, a late-summer sound I’ve heard all my life, and I was overcome with joy at the northern turn the world had taken.
I lay down and pickup up my book. The scent of those pages came into my face. Then a new surge of breezes blew through the room, stirring my nightgown once again. The book was Emoke by Josef Skvorecky. It began, “A story happens and fades and no one tells it.” The words dovetailed with the cool air and I felt stories stirring all around me and in my soul, so close I could touch them with my hand.