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Zine Review: Zoom

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Poetry zine, Stephen Cain, issue 1, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.com, $4

This is an excellent collection of poetry for people who don’t care if the words make sense. Cain plays with sound, sight, and meaning in a chapbook that hearkens back to the Dada days of early modernism. He engages with sound poems by the likes of Kurt Schwitters and Claude Gauvreau in a process of reversehomophonic translation. He listens to poems that lack semantic meaning and finds words in them. It’s all quite fun. Compare Hugo Ball’s lines “zitti kitillabi billabi billabi / zikko di zakkobam / fisch kitti bisch ” with Cain’s ”city kitty liable billy’s bi billy’s bi / sicko the psycho man / fish kitty bisque.” The transfer from meaningless sounds into words with definitions pits sense against nonsense. Cain is a man drunk on word spitting and hollering joyful absurdities. His juxtapositions are rapid and twitchy and unexpected. The work demands to be read aloud. Cain is a professor at York University, where he has initiated many a student into the secrets of Dada, Surrealism, and the avant-garde. This guy is deep in the history of experimental poetry, and thus finds himself in line with innovative Canadians like The Four Horsemen, Chris Dewdney, and Christian Bok. His work strikes a balance between thoughtfulness and playfulness that is appealing even when it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Highly recommended to weirdos. (Neal Armstrong)

Broken Pencil on PYSO Podcast!

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The Toronto-based PYSO Podcast (short for “Put Your Shoes On”) recently released a Canzine episode. They interviewed zinesters Emily May Rose, Tess Eneli Reid and Broken Pencil editor Alison Lang. You can listen to the whole podcast below. Be sure to follow them online for new episodes.

Zine Review: 398

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Litzine, Elizabeth J.M.W., issue 13, etsy.com/shop/ElizabethJMW398, $3

The subtitle for this collection of short stories — “The Rejects” — is apt on multiple levels. Its characters more often than not get the short end of the stick, and the stories themselves, says author Elizabeth J.M.W., “were not originally intended for 398. But they got rejected.” In “Apocalyptic Breakup,” a woman — possibly the last one on Earth — gets dumped in the middle of a zombie Armageddon. In “About Us,” a college dropout watches helplessly, as his relationship disintegrates. Only in the closing piece, “In The Flies,” do we see something resembling a stable relationship, but by that point we’ve been conditioned to suspect there’s more going on than meets the eye. While all of 398’s tales are charming, it’s “Apocalyptic Breakup” that stands out, even in the thick of a zombie-saturated climate. You’d be hard pressed to find a narrative about people trapped in a house, waiting for the undead to bust through the door, that isn’t thrilling to read. Reviews of previous issues of 398 seem to suggest that it typically focuses on the fairy tale genre, but these stories (zombies aside) are all down-to-earth endeavors. The deviation in theme was worthwhile; it’s reassuring to see rejects getting a second chance. (Scott Bryson)

Zine Review: Paper and Ink

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Litzine, Martin Appleby (editor), issue 2, etsy.com/shop/paperandinkzine, £4.50

Reading the occasional British zine can be an amusing enterprise for North Americans; it’s not every day we get to look up a word like “numpty.” Vocabulary aside, Hastings, Englandbased Paper and Ink — so named, because of its hard-copy-only existence — stands out initially because of its proclivity to tread on stylistic thin ice. Each poem and short story in this issue is presented in a unique and occasionally garish font (more often in the titles than the body text, thank-fully). It’s a potentially disastrous format but somehow manages to work in this case, with the font changes often capturing the differences in mood between the entries. The theme for this edition is “Home,” and there’s no skirting the subject; each piece is explicitly on topic, and provides an intriguing glimpse into the varied ways people choose to define home. For one contributor, it’s a house full of squabbling relatives. For another, there’s no identifiable thing called home — there’s only a vague notion of what it’s supposed to be. This is all perfectly passable poetry and prose, but one contribution stands out: Jennifer Chardon’s “Your Life Is The Story You Keep Telling Yourself,” a series of short prose fragments that she refers to as a “collection of musings.” While the individual pieces appear to be from unconnected narratives, she weaves them together with skillfully-placed segues and shared, relatable themes: turmoil, escape, longing. (Scott Bryson)

Deathmatch Round 2: Tasty Bits, Sad Rocks and Snacks Galore

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Hello from your humble Round 2 moderator, Alison! This was the “Food” round of Deathmatch, with the tasty themes in each competitor’s story naturally revealing something deeper and quite often, sadder. Aerin Fogel’s “Chicken n’ Bits” is a gently surreal tale of a woman dealing with the rejection of her sister (after she stole her sister’s boyfriend.) Scott MacAulay’s “Bombay Blossom” features down-and-out Mickey, who borrows a suit jacket and eschews the soup kitchen for his first-ever meal of Indian food. There has been a lot of agonizing snack talk on the comment boards (much like Round 1, actually) with people talking up beef jerky and other salty delights.

Zine Review: Mitsumi Elec. Co. Ltd.: Keyboard Poems

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Visual poetry zine, Eric Schmaltz, issue 1, above/ground press, abovegroundpress.blogspot.com, $4

This chapbook is kind of boring, but in an interesting way. Maybe that’s not a good way to start a review, but it’s true. The poems in this collection are actually little visual art pieces made with a disassembled keyboard and black paint. Calling them poems is even a stretch, because there is very little that can be read; a few words and a few letters. This process violently brings the digital world into physical space, reminding us of the abstract visual quality of printed language. The page becomes a field, a space ripe for exploration. Schmaltz plays with chaos and order, alternately presenting Dionysian smudges and intricate latticework mandalas in an Apollonian mode. These pages are wry works of minimalism and the book contains no semantic content besides an ironic little note about safe typing posture and practices, hence why I called it boring. But maybe that’s the wrong way to go into it — these are meditations on the ambience of language and the tools we use to express ourselves. This zine should be approached with a mindset of contemplation, like a poet yogi waiting for the dance of the cosmos, perfect in its imperfections, to reveal itself in a quiet moment. It is compulsively re-readable, hypnotic like looking at a fire or the stars at night. (Neal Armstrong)