Contemporary Verse 2 — Editorial

July 27, 2014

I guess I have sat on five magazine and newspaper editorial boards or collectives.
If there is anyone out there who would like me to sit on another one, feel free to call me or twitter me or Facebook me or whatever.

Given the right mix of people, being on an editorial board or collective can be a satisfying, creative process in and of itself for a writer. There is something about deciding to publish someone else, especially if the writer is a novice, that is like being a fairy godmother and waving a wand.

I was asked to sit on the Contemporary Verse 2 (CV2) in the mid-1990s. Dorothy Livesay, who was born and lived a good chunk of her life in Winnipeg, founded this poetry publication in order to provide a publishing place for poets outside the university venue.

I have been fortunate enough to have heard Dorothy Livesay read her poetry. At first, I found myself thinking, “Her poetry is really quite ordinary” and then an extraordinary poetic line emerged from her mouth and took my mind soaring up, up to another plane.

Being on the CV2 collective netted me a copy of poetry journal’s first issue. Years later I donated this inaugural magazine to the Salt Spring Archives. I did this because this archives also houses important documents from other Gulf Islands. Dorothy Livesay lived many of her later years on Galiano Island so I knew an archives on the Gulf Islands was the right place to contain the CV2 document.

I liked the collective process at CV2. Publishing four times a year, each issue was put together by a rotation of three collective members and featured one or two themes. So when a collective member was working with two others on selecting poetry for an issue, she combed through all of the submissions. Then the three would discuss which poems would be published.

After that the editorial was written by a collective member among the three. The writing of the editorial was also rotational. In other words, this task was taken on by a different collective member each issue from among those who had selected the poems to run in the magazine.

The following is an editorial I wrote:

Contemporary Verse 2
Volume 18, No 4 Spring 1996

A long time ago, I remember listening to a radio broadcast on humour. The announcer claimed European humour tends to be peppered with references to bodily waste elimination because washroom plumbing often presents problems for people on that continent. In North America, the announcer continued, we often joke about sexuality because (you guessed it) we have so many problems with it.

Obviously, these are gross generalizations, but I do find it intriguing that several of the pieces submitted to CV2, in reponse to our call for humourous poems and prose, poke fun at our sexuality.

Some interesting questions come to mind. Like what does Angus really mean when he asks, “HOW ARE YA NOW?” in the first of Calabrese’s bawdy Ida-Mae poems? Or, was the apple in the Creation story really a metaphor for something else (maybe a tongue-in-cheek?) as Anna Marie Boquist speculates in her poem?

And has Arlo Raven’s V”I” Warshawski ever returned? And what about the two living upstairs in David Sealy’s “Apartment Life”? The ones who move beds with “gusts of lust generated/by two colliding warm front.” I wonder what they look lie?

So, seeing as I’ve started to fantasize, I have to say I especially like Kelly H. Cooper’s lines:

when you unbutton my shirt
breezes blew breasts of gulls
mine too were lifted

(Ah, the magic of poetry. Makes me believe summer will return even though it’s hovering around 40 below as I write this.)

Yes, the CV2 editorial collective — composed of Beth McKechnie, Naomi Guilbert and myself, this time round– have selected a number of bawdy poems and prose pieces among those on the topic of humour in this issue.

This spills over into the other featured theme: Cats & Dogs. I’m thinking now of Susan L. Peterman’s daring “Pleasure Study”. But the tone does begin to shift in this section. Tanis McDonald’s poems, for example are beautiful narratives written with a respect for the way cats are. In “Breaching”, she writes:

Morning mewled me awake.
My cat’s stomach dragged low,
her tail arrow straight,
too urgent to be merry,
she loped ahead of me
to the kitchen.

My mother said, it’s time.
The cat flopped panting on the linoleum:
something small and dark appeared by her hind leg.

Then in her “Coffin For the Bones of a Kitten.” the cat is imagined in afterlife:

Now crossing on the Great Barge
to the Beautiful west, her pharaoh’s mask
floats beside her down the starry Nile.
The desert wind whispers over her
small sarcophagus, curved and painted edges,
sand fronds and ochre-plumed birds.

A warm word picture. All this in our Spring (thaw) issue, coupled with the words of our featured multi-award winning poet, Lorna Crozier, who has been known to write with bawdiness from time to time; and Noreen Stevens’ always-good-for-a-laugh and sometimes bawdy cartoons.

All this and much more for you on the following pages. Enjoy!

Tanya Lester


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