The dilemma with writing anything edgy or transgressive in Canada, isn’t that it is all too often written from the margins, or by choice or circumstance — it comes down to the harsh reality that edgy, transgressive writing is an unwelcome commodity at Canadian magazines, journals, and ultimately, publishers. The number of Canadian magazines and publishers that publish relatively edgy and transgressive writings by Canadian authors can be numbered on one hand. Given that edgy, transgressive writing is at best a niche genre in Canada, the skewed writer to publisher ratio almost assures that edgy, transgressive writing never sees print. It also does not help that Canada has no celebrated transgressive history of its own.
The first of three online magazines presently pushing back against the literary status quo in Canada is ditch, an online literary periodical edited by the Canadian writer John C. Goodman. Launched in August 2007, ditch is designed to promote Canadian experimental poetry by celebrating the innovative, the non-conforming, the radical, the alternative, the surreal, the avant-garde, the non-linear, the abstract, and the experimental. Much as other new online magazines do, ditch pushes the definition of what an online periodical can be by not arranging the magazine into individual issues. Instead, as new work is added to the main page, older posts are moved to the archive. In four short years, ditch has published the front ranks of Canada’s most experimental and abstract poets.
Next is The Danforth Review, an online short story magazine, founded in 1999 by Michael Bryson. It includes interviews, archived back issues, and reviews. Since its inception in 1999, TDR has been a welcome hub of new fiction and interviews not otherwise found in their paper-based counterparts. After a brief hiatus, Bryson has brought back TDR in a more abbreviated format, access is still available to its wonderous backlist of issues, stories, interviews, and reviews. TDR is a site for those (writers mostly) interested in the direction that contemporary fiction and literary criticism is taking. In depth interviews take a view into contemporary literature and fiction that one simply does not find in the paper-based journals.
Last on my list is The Puritan, a paper-based literary magazine founded in late fall 2006 in Ottawa, Canada, and from February 2007 to November 2008, released seven print issues before moving to Toronto and online. Now an online, quarterly publication based in Toronto, Ontario, it’s committed to publishing the best in new fiction, poetry, interviews, and reviews. Works featured “push toward the symbolic frontier, challenging limitations and forging into previously unexplored aesthetic territory.”
Spend an evening, perhaps a weekend, exploring how each of these online magazines push boundaries, challenge limitations, and how the writers they publish forge new aesthetics. I guarantee you will be both surprised and satisfied.