Zine Review: Let Go

ZINES_Let-GoLet Go
Artzine, Marta Chudolinska, Private Spectacle Press, $7

Let me begin by saying that this zine is straight up beautiful. It approaches you softly, welcoming you inside. Chudolinska creates a variety of searing metaphors for our inability to move forward, with both text and imagery; falling deep into a hole, holding a collection of balloons in each hand, fresh greenery and optimism, the passing along of skeletons and hearts and circles and… just go pick this zine up. The pages are wee and the lines are clean, each paragraph of text held up by a black and white image. In the end the protagonist releases all of the balloons. You know you are holding on to so much more than you need to right now, she says. Do not despair (for long). You, too, are strong. (CJ Blennerhassett)

Zine Review: Unproductive #3

ZINES_UnproductiveUnproductive: don’t worry about it
Comic, issue #3, Robbie Robert,, $3

Unproductive is a zine that features dark-humoured portraits of everyday life. Whether featuring two characters watching a video of the conditions of a cell phone factory in China on their mass produced phones or a conversation between two friends on the inevitability of death, Unproductive is by no means a zine that will make you feel better about the world. There is no overarching narrative behind the characters in the zine; what seems to be the unifying factor of each of these strips is their cynical content. At times, the oversaturated darkness of Unproductive is comforting in a way that reality TV can be — at least this isn’t my life. When overdone, sadness can seem gimmicky, like the performative nature of a Tumblr filled with nothing but complaints. I think that the blob-like characters of “don’t worry about it” alleviate this stress, they aren’t trying to fit into our human dimension — they live in a world filled with dread that detaches the darkness somewhat from our world. (Rachel Davies)

Zine Review: The Toronto Comic Jam Compilation

ZINES_Toronto-Comic-JamThe Toronto Comic Jam Compilation
zine, vol. 19 issue #7, Dave Howard (ed),, $3

For those who are unfamiliar with the Comic Jam, it’s a gathering of comics artists that takes place in Toronto (as well as a few other cities) on the last Tuesday of every month (except for in December). One artist begins the comic with one panel, and then each respective artist draws a new panel until the “jam” comic is complete. This zine compiles one of several examples of this exercise. Some of the artists adhere to a surrealist (and occasionally silly) style, which occasionally derails the narrative. One such page features Bingo and another dog that wonders if it really is his “name-o” and ends in a disco party that eventually leads to Bingo’s demise (keep in mind that this story is a mere seven panels long). The Comic Jam is perhaps more alluring to those who work in the scene and understand on a deeper level how difficult and interesting it might be to work with so many different artists, but it still steals a few giggles and is a neat enough idea to keep readers hooked in. (Richelle Charkot)

Chapbook Review: meat // machine

meat // machine

Astoria Felix, Words (on) Pages,

meat // machine, written by emerging poet Astoria Felix, and published by the Toronto micropublisher Words (on) Pages, is many things. Slipping between poetic forms, Felix’s chapbook feels like a choppy journal entry written over the stretch of a long, humid Toronto summer. With the title taken from what appears to be a rumination on a lost lover, it leaves readers reflecting less on the words that they just read and more on their own youth. This collection does not appear to shy away from its juvenile tone, but instead embraces it through imagery, style and theme.

There is much to be found wanting in this selection of poems. Most particularly, both in length and depth, the poems feel lacking. There is an attempted concentration on youth, but one that feels desperately superficial and missing any real confrontation of the book’s themes of youth, love, and bodies. A reader feels that if they could but shake the collection, an accordion of deeper distillations would unfold and develop the but-grazed meanings.

For its failings, Felix’s collection is not without merit (and Rossetti had a very similar juvenile collection, so let’s be level-headed about this). There is a sweet lovability to verse that is written with such abandon. Rarely, especially in contemporary poetry, do we read something that feels untouched by editors. With entire poems consisting of “There’s a circuit board in everyone’s brain. Some of them/crash when your first lover spits in your face, others/when their dog got hit by a neighbour’s car. I cracked/my skull against the pavement; a walnut in a christmas/cracker.” the verses feel like a selection of stained cocktail napkins bundled up and sent directly to the printer.

I would love to see Felix spending more time with her verses, using her obvious keen and capable turn of phrase to catalogue more than what feels like the contents of a linty turned out jeans’ pocket.

meat // machine is to be enjoyed with an apple juice or other non-alcoholic beverage allowing for easy transport back to a time of innocence and self-discovery. A reader is encouraged to suspend (too much harsh) criticism and extract from the anthology their own meanings of first kisses, summer fucking and a constant return to “eyelashes”. (Lyndsay Kirkham)

Welcome to our Fiction Editor, Colin Brush!


I’ve been a fan of Broken Pencil’s short story section since I first peeled open the magazine way back when I was an undergrad. The subversive, against-the-grain aesthetic, the idiosyncratic voices of the first-time-in-print and seasoned rebels, the willingness to push the boundaries toward kink and weirdness – this is why I kept coming back as a reader. As a writer, I wanted to be in the magazine, and got my wish in 2011 when my story Free Therapy was selected to compete in the Indie Writers Deathmatch. After vomiting from stress and arguing my lungs out in defense of the story, I ended up in second place – high enough to see my name in print. In 2012, I became an Associate Fiction Editor. Now, I’m leading the fiction department.

In spite of our mandate to publish the unpublishable, there are still many ideas we haven’t explored. There are still writers in the margins who we haven’t found a place for. So Broken Pencil’s fiction department is expanding. We’re bringing in new editors, with tastes that cover all aspects of indie creative action. We’re going to cultivate new outlets to bring you more content. We’re going to read faster to give writers a quick turnover.

So if you write fiction that stands against the norm in publishing, we want to read it. Click here to submit it.

We’re super stoked to have Colin on board as we reimagine what our fiction section can look like. Feel free to email him at

Follow him @colinbrush

Colin’s Pick: Collin Willis


[image via]

This’ll do for anyone wanting some weird art. Collin Willis toys around with a bunch of media – gifs, videos, sound stories, photos. It’s the kind of art that feels like anyone can do, but it’s too appealing for that to really be the case.

I’ll talk about the videos – good for anyone into film experiments. “Heat Sureens – Meet Quan Yin” is 21 minutes of mostly gif length clips, often with several visuals in the frame at once – clips of subways, nature, gun shops, and people turning on room fans.  It kind of messes with your eyes to see two clips with movements in different directions at one time. There’re no filters, no easily digestible angles, but the shots never drone on. There’s something pleasing about a lobster crawling over ice when you only have to look at it for a second.

“WiTOWMAKER – Where Are” runs 35 min and kind of watches like a music video that won’t end. It loops a soundtrack of someone saying things like “I fucking love you. I know people tell me that I deserve better but I don’t want nobody else – I want you” while sobbing and sniffling. It’s a collection of slo-mo, black and white shots of what seems like a gay pride parade. There’re a lot of naked men. It’s clearly a celebration, but the video editing makes it seem grotesque. It’s fun for anyone looking to leave their comfort zone.

Colin Brush is the fiction editor of Broken Pencil.