Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
Our very first Argo Featured Reading with (in order of sonic appearance) Jaime Bastien, Gillian Sze and Marko Sijan. The event was hosted by Argo co-owner J.P. Karwacki.
An Aylmer, Quebec-born resident, Jaime Bastien’s short stories have been shortlisted for the Irving Layton, Eric Hoffer and Great Blue Heron awards.
Winner of the carte blanche award for her poemÂ Like This Together – Crisis, Gillian resides in Montreal where she co-edits Branch Magazine and is pursuing a phD in English Literature at Universite de Montreal. When she is not teaching, she is a writer/facilitator at the Quebec Writers Federation’s (QWF) Writers in the Community Program. Her debut collection Fishbones was shortlisted for the QWF McAuslan First Book Prize, and her work has appeared in a number of Canadian and international journals. The book she is reading from in this recording The Anatomy of Clay was published by ECW Press in April 2011.
For more information, visit her website.
Marko Sijan (Shee-yan) co-wrote a script for a short film entitled Eva Meets Felix, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September of 1999. His poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in Maisonneuve, Canadian Notes & Queries, Branch and Encore magazines, and on the Parliamentary Poet Laureate website. Marko lives in Montreal, where he teaches and is now an editor of Encore magazine. Here’s Marko’s website. Mongrel was published in May 2011 by Mansfield Press.
Here’s the review that is riffed on for Marko’s introduction:
“(As) Jim Bartley of the Globe and Mail aptly wrote of Marko Sijanâ€™s debut novel: â€œOut of the mud of teenage hope and desperation, [Marko Sijan] generates black diamonds.â€ These â€˜black diamondsâ€™, gems of dark and elegiac humor, are the bookâ€™s five interconnected chapters, capturing five aggressive youths in the prime of their dreams and delusions. While the catalysts of their lives range from drugs and sex to power and ambitions, with anxiety hovering above it all, the book itself maintains authenticity through plausibility of voice and detail. Yes, there is intensity and urgency to Mongrel, but the text doesnâ€™t peddle shock value, especially when one considers its framework: A parallactic and simultaneous catharsis in five separate lives set over the course of 12 hours in Windsor, Ontario.
As todayâ€™s turn-of-the-century youth aspire to culturally slip further and further from definition, itâ€™s a novel like Markoâ€™s that captures the spirit of this demographic: Its veneration of elders, its grapples with shunting old traditions and creating new ones, issues of vocation and social rolesâ€¦ As was said in the New York Timesâ€™ article â€˜What is it about 20-somethings?â€™, itâ€™s about feeling both elevated and trapped in a world of pure possibilities.
All this, topped with a pervasive ambivalence toward self and North American multiculturalist society as a whole. Sijanâ€™s book is an odd contrast to what is the presumably contented view that Canadians culturally live in relative harmony with one another. While some may take that as a safe assumption, Mongrelâ€˜s outsiders and immigrants (Jamaican, Quebecois, German-American and Serbian) demonstrate a different reality. Given the setting with Windsorâ€™s proximity to Detroit, Michigan, one may infer some feeling that this is a conflicted environment composed of fringes, but really, in terms of just Canada, a peach canâ€™t be without a bruise now and then.”