Chapbook Review: a portable typewriter/une dactylotype portative

a portable typewriter/une dactylotype portative

Chapbook, Jill Mandrake, 12 pgs, Vancouver Desktop/Geist,, $5

typewriterJill Mandrake has created something that lies at the intersection of the concrete, typewriter and visual poetry styles. Each of a portable typewriter’s 12 entries consists of a one-liner poem/title, followed by an image that’s built from typewriter keystrokes — the ASCII art of the pre-computing era.

Decoding Mandrake’s illustrations is a bit like staring at a Magic Eye poster. It takes a minute of studying her image of a music box, for example, to realize she’s built it with the letter b (lower-case) and pound signs, mimicking the symbols for musical flats and sharps. There are a few veiled jests hiding in the snippets of text, as well. Over an image of a house, Mandrake explains: “here’s a vancouver special / it can’t help itself,” referencing a much-maligned architectural style found in British Columbia.

Such textual insights aren’t the norm, however; the focal point of this chapbook is its illustrations, and the time, care and ingenuity that must have been required to assemble them. That being the case, there isn’t much reason to return to a portable typewriter after an initial perusal. Mandrake’s creations would probably be better utilized as larger-scale artwork. (Scott Bryson)

Book Review: The Year 200

the year 200 agustin de rojasimage via

The Year 200
, Agustín de Rojas, 640 pgs, Restless Books,, $18.99

Agustin de Rojas, dubbed “the father of Cuban science fiction”, begins the last instalment of his famous trilogy with a provocation to “those who choose fear.” This dedication would seem to champion the characters in the novel who refuse to be fearful of expressing and standing by their ideologies, but by the end of the novel, it seemed to me an ironic reference to de Rojas’ own obvious fear of the disabled.

The novel describes a utopian future where the Communist Federation must face Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ style sleeper agents sent to reignite the Capitalist Empire. The communist society includes “normals”, cybernetically enhanced robot-human hybrids referred to as “cybos”, and “prims” or primitives, who choose to forgo modern technologies and society by living in nature, all of whom are free to select their own fate and future.

All of this high concept world building, along with the complex, tension-mounting plot, is intelligently and beautifully written. However, the beauty of the novel is undermined by an obvious disdain for disability, which shatters the story’s illusion of utopia. The cybos come into being in order to “fix” mentally disabled humans, who are otherwise encouraged to “give up” through suicide. Several ableist slurs are used. Individuals stripped of their souls to become vessels for the capitalist insurgents are described as “vegetables”, and modern lonely-hearts are considered “nothing more than mutilated cripples who dream of recovery, of obtaining something [they] have never known.” In de Rojas’ utopian vision, all mentally and physically disabled individuals should be cognitively or prosthetically enhanced to become communist heroes, capable of contributing to society, or otherwise disposed of through suicide.

An otherwise intriguing speculative tale describes a utopia I have no desire to be a part of. (Nicole Partyka)

Comic Review: Day One

Day One

Comic Zine, Matthew K. Hoddy,, Space Pyrates


day oneMatthew K. Hoddy’s sweet and unassuming comic deservedly won first place in the non- manga category at the 24-hour Comikaze Challenge. Though the final product was clearly rushed to completion for the purposes of the contest, it hardly affects the impact of the story; it’s about loneliness, isolation, shattered dreams, and the wonderful joy our animal friends can bring when no one else is left.

Day One tells the story of a man living on a space station whose routine has become dull and life-sucking. He wakes up each day at 4:00am to get to his job doing routine maintenance of the outer hull of the space station. Through subtle hints, the reader knows this life was once a dream for him. His daily breakfast of “Picardos” and his longing looks at the awesomeness of space betrays his once-passionate desire for this kind of life.

Now he goes through the motions and is disillusioned with life on the station, opting for the strip club as his after-work hobby. He looks out the window to view the beauty of space and wonders where his affinity for it has gone, before passing a man peeing in a corner on his way home. One day upon returning from work, he finds everyone on the station dead, killed by an airborne pathogen from which his spacesuit protected him. As the only one left on the station, he finds himself more alone now than ever before. That is, until he hears a meowing behind a door, realizing that only humans were affected by the virus, and that he isn’t alone after all.

Day One is a worthwhile read for anyone who has ever become disillusioned by their life, whose once shiny dreams of the future have become dull, and for those who have been emotionally rescued by a furry friend when no one else was around. (Nicole Partyka)

Nicole’s Pick: The multimedia worlds of TMPL

tmdl bpwimage via

As someone who grew up far away from the city, I had never been very in touch with Toronto’s  artist and indie music scene. It wasn’t until recently, after a long day in the office needing something to listen to, that I actually started looking into what music Toronto had to offer. It was upon literally googling “Toronto Indie Music” (sometimes it’s what you gotta do!) that I originally came across TMPL, and now I can’t seem to get enough.

TMPL is a project formed by Toronto-based artists Kevin O’Brien and Eli Andreas, who fuse their music and art into one multimedia project. The project utilizes a futuristic, washed-out electronic sound and pairs it with intense imagery and soaring vocals. Add in glossy but strange design, and they’ve created a unique viewing experience. The sound and visuals merge so seamlessly that it is impossible to imagine one without the other. Not to mention, the music from their self-titled EP is super catchy. In particular, their track entitled “Keep Falling” has both a beautiful melody and upbeat electronic sound that keeps me pressing replay every time.

TMPL’s multimedia experiment is something that you should experience for yourself to fully grasp it. You can check out their website at They also have a Soundcloud at

Nicole Sumner is a writer and editorial associate at Broken Pencil for the summer. 

Zine Excerpt: Menstruate #2

Menstruate the Magazine for Straight Men Vol. 2: A Galaxy of Life Fills the Night
By Hart,, $20.00

EXCERPT_Menstruate Zine 2

Hart is an artist, videographer and zinemaker based in the shadows of Montreal. We’re stoked to be presenting these images from Menstruate #2, a beautiful, sexy and bizarre assemblage of collage, painting, sketches and other found pieces. Hart says the zine is “three years in the making – humour, art and tragedy. A universe assembled in chapters. An experience.  A project begun amongst failures in London, Ontario, Toronto and finalized in Montreal.”

Although his brilliant and confusing letter to Broken Pencil didn’t explain exactly why the zine is called Menstruate, it did leave us with the following poem about life’s disappointment:


Every path forward is buttered
Margerine stains the seat of my pants


What do I have to hold
But a fistful of thinning hair?


The highlight of my week
has been crying
While cutting onions



Hart will be debuting Menstruate issue #3 at Canzine Toronto. In the meantime, enjoy the excerpts above and below.

Jonathan’s Pick: Qweendom


For the uninitiated, ballroom house (also called vogue house) might seem abrasive or confusing — some combination of chanting and rapping over a fast-paced, rap and R&B influenced house beats with a repeating “crash” sound originated by “The Ha Dance” by Masters at Work. This is music made primarily for people in the underground ballroom scene to vogue to, having evolved and gotten faster alongside the dance’s evolution. But within the somewhat tight parameters of this genre, a slew of creative forces, be they the commentators, DJs or ballroom participants, almost all of them queer and trans people of colour, have found unlimited possibilities.

Perhaps the biggest crew of musicians working in ballroom today is Qween Beat, and despite having dozens of hits and hugely successful independent careers in ballroom, the supergroup’s offical debut album Qweendom dropped only this week. From the short, chant-centric “Some Type of Way” by Gregg Evisu XL and Jay R Neutron to tracks revisiting classic ballroom sounds like “Legendary Children” from Byrell The Great, there’s something for every era and every category of ballroom here, as well as for those whose interest in the scene left off with Paris Is Burning.

Press play and let it on out! Get into Qween Beat and Qweendom here. 

Jonathan Valelly is a writer, editor and community artist living in Toronto. He’s also a member of ballroom’s House of Xclusive Lanvin and Father of the kiki ballroom scene’s House of Constantine. He is the Assistant Editor of Broken Pencil.