The temperature has dropped and it’s time to curl up with some flaming literature. But it’s also time to do that holiday shopping. So why not load Santa’s sleigh with independent queer zines, chapbooks and mags?
One of my most treasured discoveries is These Are The Licks by Sophie Mayer. Before reading this chapbook of poetry and short fiction, I knew Mayer as an academic and social commentator. But can she write! Her stuff is sexy, smart and weighty in all the right ways. Not to mention it has diggable cover art by Willow Dawson and is bound with a big safety pin ($2.50; firstname.lastname@example.org or Shebytches.ca).
Bushra Rehman’s poetry chapbook, Marianna’s Beauty Salon, has made Rehman my new favourite poet. I’ll let her speak for herself: “It’s the difference between/ whether you talk to the girl or not/ whether you carry the moon home/ in the seat of your pants…. Or whether you walk home/ with the moon in your stomach/ heavy as a rock.” Rehman is based in New York, but sometimes Toronto is lucky enough to hear her read ($12; email@example.com).
Talented Ottawa zinester Jess Carfagnini has released a new Slightly More Than Soundbytes. This lovely old-school zine divulges Carfagnini’s queer thoughts on anything from Anglican summer camp love and Janis Joplin to the humiliations of Canadian airport security. Hurrah for femmes who photocopy ($2; jcarfagnini@- rogers.com).
There’s more than one cool artist in Ottawa. Mackenzie MacBride’s Poems Even Your Boyfriend Will Understand: Uniquely Painful Poems And Desperate Accounts is full of soul-searching romantic longing. MacBride manages to undercut the clichéd confessional style of much journalling. I have no patience for love-whining, but this is a page-turner ($5; Mackenzie-macbride.com).
The majority of small pressers feature their own work. Understandable, considering opportunities for publication have diminished. But I am always on the hunt for those who go selflessly out of their way to produce other people’s work — sometimes even people they don’t know.
That’s what I found with Misunderstandings Magazine, edited by Jim F Johnstone and Ian Williams. This well-designed new magazine features poetry, postcard fiction and visual art — much of it is good. I’m especially enchanted by Dani Couture’s “Summer School” (also check out Couture in the anthology Red Light: Superheroes, Saints And Sluts, and her self-published A — she’s hot), and by new work from bill bissett and Sandy Pool ($3; misunderstandings. magazine@- gmail.com).
Kiss Machine has published the hilarious comic Skim intelligently written by Mariko Tamaki and gorgeously illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Remember the pain of high school? Remember crushes on teacher? This one is for you ($4; Kissmachine.org).
BookThug’s queer offering is a stunning chapbook by nathalie stephens, a poet I have a gigantic head-on for. All Boy pushes the boundaries of both poetry and gender, with words that slap and caress you, pulling thoughts and feelings from places you didn’t know you had them ($10; Bookthug.ca).
Katalogue, compiled by Andrew Shaver and designed by Richelle Forsey, is a compelling zine featuring a striking colour cover by stef lenk. The Traffic issue, number six, includes comics, art reviews, fiction, visual art and a promo for Buy Nothing Day. I especially dug Shaver’s satire on polluting Mars so it will warm up for the Left to inhabit once the Right has destroyed the Earth ($4; Katalogue.ca).
No zine roundup would be complete without Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Her SOY (Supporting Our Youth) writing group, Pink Ink, has produced a raw and startling collection called 10 Reasons To Riot. I’ve seen Annanda DeSilva perform her work, and if she’s any indication of the rest of this group, I would mark your calendars when these young folks next read ($3; Soytoronto.org).
We can’t forget dependable bi/trans/queer/feminist classics — the more established zines and mags on the block. In their newest issue, Shameless magazine tackles body modification and has an insightful interview with Trey Anthony. In The Fence, subtitled “a new place of power for bisexual women,” May Lui sings the virtues of being both a dog and cat person. SMUT talks with Annie Sprinkle and dishes out a spicy gay short by Bronx writer Sam J Miller. (Plus, they went glossy, which helps with the dreamy visuals.) S/he’s got labe delves into stories, poems, surveys and advice columns. Issue 10 features double x loving both his cock and his pussy, an intersex manifesto by Ted Burnes and hilarious and breathy tales of differently-abled sex. Trade magazine’s fall issue is full of the usual tantalizing pictures and interviews.
Perhaps the most perfect holiday showstopper is the newest creation from Pas de Chance, the dynamic duo of Ian Phillips and Grant Heaps. These yummy little sea monkeys have produced Faux by Derek McCormack in the form of a snowball. You have to crush the snowball to read the little booklet inside, and, like good sex, it’s messy when it’s over. But this illustrated treatise on fake snow is worth getting your hands dirty ($25; Pasdechance.com. See page 25 for more on McCormack.)
Great indie gifts, all. Look for them at Toronto Women’s Bookstore, This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, Glad Day or Pages.
Seriously, rethink The Da Vinci Code. Rethink the hir and hir Starbucks bath towels, okay?