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The Walrus Poetry Prize: Readers’ Choice

Public voting open from August 31 to September 30
The Walrus Poetry Prize

Congratulations to the writers of the five shortlisted poems for the inaugural Walrus Poetry Prize, co-presented by founding partner the Hal Jackman Foundation. Voting is now open for the $1,000 Readers’ Choice award. Read the finalists here, then cast your vote (limited by cookies to one per visitor) using the widget at the bottom of this post.

The Devil’s Advocate

by Méira Cook

My lords and ladies, gentlemen of the jury—
when you hear hoofbeats, assume horses. Not zebras.
This is true in almost all parts of the world
except the African savannah, where it is safer
to assume zebras. Also eland, giraffes, herds
of this and that. In India, assume cows; in Spain,
bulls, matadors in their sun-blurred hooves.
In Tuscany, angels, in kingdom-come horses again,
pale quartets of “Wish You Were Here.” My client
sends his regrets. He is busy
falling through blank verse for all eternity while a mere afternoon
passes its shadow over us. The sun moves from one window
of the courthouse to the next, and then it is tea time.
One sugar or two? Perhaps a bun. Stretch
and yawn and back we go. I submit
for your perusal Exhibit A.
This is a map of the world, of God, and of everything.
Above is heaven, below is hell.
The future is to the right, the past is to the left.
My client, in his plea for mercy, wishes me to recall
his salient points. His sense of humour, direction, and yes, style,
his tendency to violent foreshortenings, and that finding
himself irredeemably zebra, he hoofed the streets
of his brawling, captious nature, kicking
up dust and all the limping platitudes
of this earth, our home. They tell you dreams
don’t come true. But they never tell you how.


by Nyla Matuk

The stoat takes a last stand, and, turning white
ermine as winter’s breath, would rather face its hunters
than soil its fur in a chase, buying purity
with its own death. This cui candor morte redemptus

is the word in the dream made flesh.
Look at the choppy surface on these headwaters.
How should I presume, excited to the moon,
the difference between such raptures?

In Mad Men, every car scene is a wavy ur-dream,
clouds from the recent past that seem
a reminder that I used to take a man
at his word. The feeling hovers, then begs,

finally coming to small death. I will buy
my own purity, wearing a red dress.
They say “rave” is from the French rêve.
Who are the great, mad men? Spell it “small death.”

Consider that the dream, riding the horns
of ornamental dilemmas, feels like mortality.
For and against the grain. Rave, death, rêve, dress,
the spotted stoat’s last stand, the dream the ermine’s last breath.

Rip Torn

by Stevie Howell

Almosted into marble by the Medusa-eyed hoi polloi,
The Queen’s stone jowls, éraillure of crow’s feet,
are freshly quarried—fifty years late,
her face is lithic-flaked into a new lustrous, toothy smile,

as electricity excites mercury vapour, she is light-boxed,
backlit, mounted, thrust every few paces in the chambers
of the London tube. Her
cumulonimbus-hued bust, the size of Easter Island moai,

is shit-grinning over diamonds, on exhibit for the great
unwashed to grub up drool over. Jewels encased in
UV-proof acrylic vitrines, whettingly
argon-sandwiched, cannot be made stonier by our

brutish, countryside-bred, dazed unblink. We share
our sheep’s hypoxic shrug at the Lorenz curve of the earth,
we leap magpie flat-footed, shriek obsidian
disbelief tidings, genetic-fervent for useless, shiny things.

The Janus of the Jubilee and Olympics has the Queen
loitering in tunnels, her visage pinned to brick; a tattered
flag to the proclaimed, uncharted
country of herself billows above the footbridge—

the gammon display reminiscent of Styrofoam castles,
glue and sand. Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom, Iraq
under Saddam. But my companion says no,
she looks like an albino Grinch. She looks like Rip Torn

in a Swarovski choker and cotton candy wig.

Barnacle Goose Ballad

by Bardia Sinaee

Barnacle geese enjoy Nordic palatals,
stone relief fish beds and aberrant gulls.
When shellfish submerge and wash up riding buoys,
the geese fly one lap, plunge into fjord, ease

back their black neckties and splurge.
Barnacle geese sing hymns to their children
then push them off cliffs to see if they live.
No trust falls. No terranean birds.

Barnacle geese sing hymns to their children
then teach them the words. We’d call this stoic:
ask Goose Dad for insects and have your pick,
but ask about sex and he’ll make you eat fins.

I saw it last Christmas: Mom gutting the bird,
bailing fistfuls of pebbles and sand from its craw.
She took out its windpipe and voice box intact
and blew out a goose call the neighbours all heard.

Goose heads on platters with poppy seed loaf.
Goose born of driftwood in barnacled reeds.
Goose on the cliff with sisters and brothers.
A few on the ledge, a few in the water.

To an Ideal

by Nyla Matuk

I noticed you first, your birth a paranormal float on that sintered
causeway of white light. As a gift moves us to tears, so your

amatory pleas reamortized all our uses for Moreau and Mastroianni
in La Notte, along Rome’s hospital road, the grace of her hardened outbacks

swayed by illuminations of buxom blondes on ceramic piazzas.
Do I take this man as a full bouquet? I do.

Bus stations when they mattered—when they épatait la bourgeoisie
rounded the corners of each View-Master slide.

They called me the hyacinth girl, an allusive-historical
moment propice that fairly educated T.S. Eliot on Henry James.

Then James was labelled “pale porpoise” by Vladimir Nabokov.
Quick to judge; aesthetically judgmental. In truth, like a hyacinth,

a limp handkerchief, a little goodbye. Whosoever has reason to object.
Juror, face the accused. Accused, face the juror. There’s that star moment,

the delicate cliffhanger when an Olympian gymnast’s taped feet come into focus
on TV, and it is the cliché, it is the still point of the turning of the world,

from which an analogical chain forms in our minds: torrential rain
to missed balance beam; Ayers Rock, resting as some junked furnace of the gods,

to a motherboard that, from Central Command on the deity’s planet,
was sent the final, last regulatory body for this mortal coil.

In front of the daily glow of your magic lantern, how do you adopt the
depressive position? How can such flickerings bring on suspicion, harvest

your light from perspective studies by Flemish masters? I can’t
know this, because there are some things that remain terrible, sublime,

agglutinous, in the gulf between what I notice and what I should want.
I look back in wonder. I’m always in recovery over such things.

Maybe curatorial velocity is realized with the help
of a lever-operated Scopitone, a one-armed bandit peep show.

Sunshine, so much of it, leaving a purple sheen.
Cinema of a fairy world, chimera of woods.

Cedar- and pine-framed memories of childhood.
The soft relief of those conifers across the lake, long and late.

My melancholias were prequels to my mortsafes.
Armed with the new logic, Paul de Man played the ingenue,

a Swiss Army knife of delusion and semblance. He depended on the kindness of strangers. They fell away, and he became that awful unheimlich: himself.

Get this: Titan arum, the world’s tallest flower, bloomed. A lime green
phallus, shot from the centre of an undulated, cabbage-purple cup of shrubbery.

If Longinus had a vagina. The long story of the vagina.
Pope says science can unite humans with God (Huffington Post).

The long and vagina of it.
Science says Pope can unite God with humans.

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Posted in Contests  •  7 Comments

Six Golds, Six Silvers, and Twenty Honourable Mentions

The Walrus leads the way at the thirty-fifth annual National Magazine Awards

The Walrus magazine is proud to have received twelve National Magazine Awards at last night’s awards ceremony in Toronto. This total — more than any other publication — included six gold awards, six silver awards, and twenty honourable mentions for our contributors and staff.

“These awards are a testament to the hard work and talents of our gifted contributors,” said editor and co-publisher John Macfarlane. “We are fortunate to able to create a truly national magazine featuring their writing, photography, art, and illustration, and we’re grateful for the recognition that the National Magazine Awards bring to our collective work. The staff and contributors who won or were nominated tonight are essential to us in our efforts to create and support the Canadian conversation, and we’re truly proud.”

The Walrus magazine came into the awards having received more nominations than any other publication for the sixth straight year. The magazine has also won more awards since its inception than any other Canadian periodical. With last night’s new bounty, The Walrus has now earned a total of fifty-nine golds and thirty-six silvers at the National Magazine Awards, as well as 202 honourable mentions.



Honourable Mention

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The CBC We Want

Live webcast at 4pm EDT, Thursday, May 31

The CBC We Want

Posted on behalf of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting:

Another round of severe cuts and service reductions has left supporters of public broadcasting wondering how to make a difference.

Tinkering on the margins or engaging in the old sterile debates are not options. What should be the future direction for our national public broadcaster?

Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is convening this national conversation because the CBC belongs to all of us. Please join us for this important web event right here at The Walrus Blog and at The Walrus Soapbox on Thursday, May 31st from 4 to 6 pm EDT for this provocative, thoughtful, and constructive discussion.

This webcast marks the beginning of a national conversation convened by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting to gather expert and everyday views about the future direction of our CBC.

Another round of severe cuts has left supporters of public broadcasting wondering how we can make a difference. There is a growing groundswell of opinion that we need to fundamentally rethink the CBC from the ground up.

Bring your ideas and opinions about the kind of CBC you want to this interactive forum, or simply plan to watch and listen to what promises to be a provocative, thoughtful and entertaining event.

Learn more and participate in the discussion at

Live webcast begins at 4pm EDT, Thursday, May 31.


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Posted in Events  •  1 Comment

And the Nominees Are…

The Walrus receives thirty-two nominations for the thirty-fifth anniversary National Magazine Awards

The Walrus Foundation is pleased to announce that for the sixth straight year The Walrus magazine has received the highest number of National Magazine Award nominations. Our contributors were nominated for twenty-three written, seven visual, and two integrated awards*. The winners will be announced at the thirty-fifth annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 7, 2012 in Toronto.

“We’re proud to receive these nominations, and congratulate all of the writers, journalists, and artists who have been nominated,” said co-publishers John Macfarlane and Shelley Ambrose. “The Walrus is committed to publishing thoughtful content, and we are honoured to be able to do so through our work with such talented and dedicated contributors.”

The Walrus has won more National Magazine Awards since its inception than any other publication, including the 2006 award for Magazine of the Year. During that time, The Walrus has won fifty-three golds and twenty-seven silvers at the National Magazine Awards, as well as 186 honourable mentions.

The Walrus congratulates all of our nominated contributors and staff members, listed here:

* Update: This post has been revised following the National Magazine Awards Foundation’s review of its previously announced nominations.

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Live Stream: The Walrus Talks

Watch “The Art of the City” as it happens at Calgary’s High Performance Rodeo

Ninety minutes of lively, thought-provoking ideas featuring: Edward Burtynsky, Douglas Coupland, Mark Kingwell, Lisa Moore, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Noah Richler, Chris Turner, and Aritha van Herk.

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One Hundred Fifty Nine

Joanne Tod updates her portrait gallery, published in the magazine, of Canadians killed in the Afghanistan combat mission
The Walrus’s July/August 2011 issue featured a portrait gallery, painted by Joanne Tod, of 157 Canadians who died during our military’s combat mission in Afghanistan. After press time, two more soldiers lost their lives in country. Bdr. Karl Manning of the 1er Bataillon, Royal 22e Régiment was found dead on May 27, 2011, in Zangabad; Master Cpl. Francis Roy of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment was found dead on June 25, 2011, in Kandahar. Tod’s portraits of both are presented here, and have been appended to the online version of the complete gallery.
Portrait by Joanne TodPhotographed by Michael CullenBdr. Karl Manning
Portrait by Joanne TodPhotographed by Michael CullenMCpl. Francis Roy
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Related to Illness

Author Michael Harris discusses his cover story “Life After Death” on Calgary’s QR77 radio

Yesterday evening on QR77 AM radio’s The Rob Breakenridge Show, guest host Whitney Deane interviewed author Michael Harris about “Life After Death,” his cover story for the current issue of The Walrus. Use the embedded player to hear them discuss HIV/AIDS at age thirty.

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“Dear Friends”

A letter to Canadians from Jack Layton

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.  (more…)

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Posted in Open Letters  •  6 Comments


Stella Artois Presents The Walrus Laughs, a new digital project by The Walrus Foundation
Directed by M.R. Horhager
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4’33” for the 157

Joanne Tod’s “Portraits of the War,” in video form

Click here to view the full gallery of Joanne Tod’s “Portraits of the War,” from the July/August issue of The Walrus magazine.

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Posted in Moving Pictures  •  4 Comments

And the Nominees Are…

The Walrus receives thirty-five nominations for the thirty-fourth annual National Magazine Awards

The Walrus Foundation is proud to announce that for the fifth straight year The Walrus magazine has received the highest number of National Magazine Award nominations. The thirty-five nominations in 2010’s National Magazine Awards represents an increase from its country-leading total of thirty-three nominations at the 2009 awards. Our contributors were nominated for twenty-eight written, five visual, two online, and one special award. The winners will be announced at the thirty-fourth annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 10, 2011 in Toronto.

“We are delighted to again receive the most nominations, and are proud of the writers, journalists and artists who have been nominated,” said co-publishers John Macfarlane and Shelley Ambrose. “Our contributors are key to our mandate to create public debate on matters vital to Canadians and to continue to provide a forum for the Canadian conversation.”

Since its inception in 2003, The Walrus has won more National Magazine Awards than any other publication, including the 2006 award for Magazine of the Year. During that time, The Walrus has won forty-seven golds, twenty-three silvers, and one hundred sixty-one honourable mentions. (more…)

Posted in Online Exclusive  •  1 Comment

Meet the Chimps

Video trailer for Andrew Westoll’s forthcoming book, The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary

Two summers ago, journalist, primatologist, and friend of The Walrus Andrew Westoll moved in with the chimpanzees of Quebec’s Fauna, a non-profit sanctuary that provides rescue and shelter for chimpanzees that have been subjected to laboratory research, including infection with HIV. Andrew’s current series for The Walrus Blog, My Time With the Chimps, published simultaneously on his own The New Animalist, introduces readers to some of the amazing creatures in his forthcoming book. The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary will be available for sale on May 3. In the meantime, we invite you to enjoy its video trailer — and read Andre Mayer’s book review from The Walrus’s May 2011 issue.

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Posted in My Time With the Chimps  •  1 Comment
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