Review | Room Volume 38.1 In Translation

Room is Canada’s oldest Literary Journal dating back to 1975 when a collection of like-minded woman decided to gather the female voices in literature and give them a place to showcase their work. Currently published by the West Coast Feminist Literary Magazine Society, the journal prides itself in being a “forum for women writers, including trans* persons, gender-variant and two-spirit women, and women of non-binary sexual orientations.”

Room accepts original submissions from woman only and frequently chooses to keep their editions attuned to a theme so be mindful of this when considering submitting to them. Because they publish quarterly, adequate time to research what they are looking for in regards to future editions is not difficult to ascertain.

In Translation, Volume 38.1, is Room’s first publication for 2015 and they have come out strong. Without reading a word I had a good feeling about it as it sat in my hands weighted with the promise of a lot of material along with a striking cover that had the art lover inside me clapping. This particular volume has a theme, as explained by Rachel Thompson in the Editor’s Letter, she writes:

“In this issue of Room we explore literature translated from languages other than English, and the act of translation in all its senses.”

The journal is sensual in its obscurity to define language as something separate yet oddly exactly the same in the sense that it is the one thing that binds us as humans together. In other words, through communication, no matter the language, we are one despite the varying degrees the translated words spoken in various dialects, accents and tongues. The journal conveys this with its memorable artwork, interview, fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and a play written by Erin Moure, a Montreal based poet and translator.  I will get back to this little nugget which was probably my favorite piece.

The look and feel of it right off tells you the pages within won’t disappoint but lets start with the look. Visually the journal is truly a work of art in and of itself. The benefit of this particular volume is that throughout its pages you are graced with delicious appetizers for the eye in the remarkable, even breath-taking imagery provided by Meryl McMaster, an Ontario based artist whose digital prints not only graces the cover but is sprinkled throughout the journal. Along with Ms. McMaster’s  work, the eyes are fortunate to enjoy the work of Amy Goh, originally from Singapore she specializes is black and white illustrations and Christina Tjandra, a free hand artist whose Indonesian culture is expressed magnificently as well.

Now let’s dive right into the feel.As I mentioned before, the journal has a little bit of everything. The poetry is strong and mostly written free-verse and juxtaposition-ed nicely with several works of art, almost to give visual aid to the words on the counter page. The opening poem, “Pregnant”, by Souvankham Thammavongsa sets the theme to the entire work by showing us that the word pregnant in the Lao language opens up the mind to a different way of seeing the word through this interesting translation leaving the reader to ponder the translation if only for a moment as it leaves you anxious to turn the page for more.

As mentioned before, the Room, has a wide variety of well written material. The read in general is easy, slows well and while diverse in the writing level with seasoned to beginning writers throughout, the collective is obviously chosen with care and consideration of the theme of the volume in terms of context. Two standouts for me personally was the poem entitled, “Notes From Across the Atlantic”, by Jane Iordakiyeva. She takes you into her personal world of the unknown in a different country than her native one and you truly feel her “voice” when she says “I miss the conversation, but I cannot say that I need you”,  with a matter of fact tone that is telling of her underlying true feelings of being just fine in the foreign country she writes from.

The gem of this particular volume for me was “from Kanycta” by Erin Moure. A play that is written in both french and English in a way that the two languages seem to battle for stage presence, leaving the reader breathless between feelings of sadness and utter joy with the banter of the cast of characters (living and not) and there is no winner in the battle, they equally share the spotlight.  I found it to be refreshing to read and also challenging and I love a good challenge, especially one that pays off in the end.

The 128-page journal consists of more that just the written word for creative purposes but also has a section that reviews books of fiction and poetry collections. Following this, the reader gets a treat in a section called Book Mate where the reader gets the privilege to get a behind the scenes introduction to part of the Room team. In this issue we were introduced to Sheida Azimi, Room’s poetry coordinator via a short question and answer section I enjoyed.  This is a true bonus to writers reviewing the journal for possible submission as it gives you a connection to someone on staff.  There is also a few pages of advertising and contest announcements. This particular issue reveals that Room itself is holding a contest for cover art and a call for submission from woman of color.

This journal gets a well-deserved 5 star rating without a bit of hesitation. With forty years behind them and no doubt some high hills and bumpy roads to overcome in the past, they have certainly mastered the art of a good literary magazine in my opinion.

Overall, this journal delivered some damn fine writing by talented and diverse female contributors and kudos to the editors with regard to choosing just the right work to fit this puzzle together in a way that results in a fine collective.

Joanne C. Spencer

A Death in the Family

Underneath the box is a stand

Upon the box there is a polish

An engraved flower

Around the box is a cold gray

Beyond that box is a chapel

Inside the chapel there is another box

On a stand like the first

Within the same cold gray

Beside the box is nothing

But unhappiness

Aside from the box

There are no important features

Of the onlookers who grieve in sorrow

With the people who loved him dear

Throughout the day people cry

About the boy they knew so well

Above the ground he lays now

Under it he will rest soon

Among the people that grieve

There is someone who sticks out

Except for the preacher

He is the only one who didn’t know the boy

Between the Mother and the Brother

Stood the Father he never knew

Until the day the mourners move on

His face will be ever present…

By Dylan Spencer




Maybe it was your footsteps slowing

as you drifted into the bar that

caused the hair on my neck to bristle.

Or the way you tapped your class ring against the

bottle in tune with the music

as you sat on the stool beside me

that caused my heart to race.

I suppose it could’ve been the way you ran

your  fingers through your dark wavy hair

that caused my skin to flush.

Although it might have been your warm breath

upon my neck as you bent down to whisper into my

ear that melted me deep within.

But it was probably just

the thunder.


No words do I say

no more is the day

No sounds do I hear

there’s no longer a ‘here’


No emotions are felt

no longer is this real

No more within distance

is there any existence


No longer can you see

even this, written to thee

The senses are diminished

the life that made them is finished


No earth, no galaxy, or universes

no songs, no pages, and no verses

The decomposition of All seems complete

The ultimate End, but it now has nothing to meet


The end appears merciless

with it’s infinite intentions

yet now it has nothing,

Nothing to give it attention


So the End, in it’s glory and power and rage

seems the only of sources

to the completion of this page


For nothing is in existence

to hinder it’s way

Nothing to offer and nothing to say


Nothing will stop it

Nothing will end

Yes nothing is out there

so rest well, my dear friends :)

by Tim Blaisdell

History of the Ballad

History of the Ballad

            The ballad began as a type of folk song that told an exciting story.  It is a popular poetic form and is widely used all of over the world.  The ballad is usually made up of simple words and rhyme.  Traditional ballads were first created in Great Britain six or seven centuries ago.  They were passed on by word of mouth; they usually rhyme and are divided into stanzas.  People would often make up and sing ballads in places that there was no reading or writing taught.

According to Francis James Child, author of the book The English and Scottish Ballads, in the “English-speaking world, some of the oldest ballads came from the ‘border country’ between England and Scotland where families lived in clans far from one another.  It was thought that this area consisted of fairies, witches and ghosts which all made excellent subjects for ballads.”  Child also explains about the time when the ballad in the form of song changed to that of a literary form, “When Scottish and English ballads were rediscovered by poets and scholars in the 18th Century, poets began to write literary ballads.”  These ballads were meant to be read and not sung but they still consisted of rhythmic and narrative structure and dramatic style.

Many ballads relate stories of tragedy, hardship and death while others relate to us stories about history, both the good and the bad.  Take, for example, the Ballad of Hector in Hades by Edwin Muir.  This is a poem, or ballad, that tells us the story of Hector, the leader of the Trojan army and his battle and demise against the infamous Greek hero Achilles.  The story is chilling and the visual images brought to life here will make your hair stand on end.  For example, the voice is that of Hector, it is as if he is telling us his recounting of that day after the fact.  It starts right off with, “Yes, this where I stood that day,” (the day of his death) and ends with the actual moment of his death,

Two shadows racing on the grass,

Silent and so near,

Until his shadow falls on mine.

And I am rid of fear.

This ballad not only tells an historical story, but it also tells of great tragedy and sorrow,material that most ballads are made up from.  Whether spoken out loud or written down and read, ballads always have vivid imagery that takes the audience into the story.

The traditional ballad has four-line stanza’s (quatrains); lines 1 and 3 have four beats; lines 2 and 4 have three beats and rhyme.

Lewis Carroll, however, was fond of the six-line adaptation of the ballad and used it very nicely in such poems as The Walrus and the Carpenter:


The sun was shining on the sea,

Shining with all his might:

He did his very best to make

The billows smooth and bright-

And this was odd, because it was

The middle of the night.

This disturbing ballad was the story told to Alice by Tweedledee in Through the Looking Glass.  Although meant for children, this sequel to Alice in Wonderland, seems to be a bit more horrific in my personal opinion.  This particular ballad is morbid and it surprises me that its intent is meant for a younger audience.  However, it is a perfect example of a ballad that tells a story.  In the book, The Image of Childhood, Peter Coveney, describes both books of Alice to be “works of psychological fantasies” and he describes Carroll as being a “neurotic genius.”  I would say that the ballad, The Walrus and the Carpenter, support that idea.

Repetition is often common in the ballad and repeating entire stanza’s just like the chorus is repeated in songs, is seen.  Another common element of the ballad is dialogue between two people.  In the poem Ballad of Birmingham by Dudley Randall, we can see the dialogue between the mother and her young daughter and we can see an example of lines being repeated:

“Mother dear, may I go downtown

Instead of out to play,

And march the streets of Birmingham

In a Freedom March today?”

“No, baby, no, you may not go,

For the dogs are fierce and wild,

And clubs and hoses, guns and jails

Aren’t good for a little child.”

“But, mother, I won’t be alone.

Other children will go with me,

And march the streets of Birmingham

To make our country free.”

“No, baby, no you may not go,

For I fear those guns will fire.

But you may go to church instead

And sing in the children’s choir.”

This poem is also a perfect example of all the wonderful things that make up the ballad, including drama, vivid imagery, an exciting tale of a real event, historical reference, dialogue and unfortunately, tragedy.

Do not confuse the ballad with the ballade, pronounced “bah-LAHD.”  The ballade is a 14th and 15th Century French verse form with a heavy stress on rhyme and has strict rules on form.  The word ballade comes from an old French word that means “a dancing song”.

The ballad, in my opinion, is a form well liked by most readers, young and old.  The ballad is a story, and everyone likes a story.  Ballads have been written to cover many different people, young, old, old, rich, poor, heroes, villains and warriors.  The tales are of bravery, death, disaster, tragedy and adversity, all the things that keep a story alive and exciting to the reader.  Therefore, the appeal of the ballad covers many people and many generations.  The ballad itself had every element of a good story that includes dramatic characters, rich dialogue and climate endings.  Moreover, you know that a good story always makes for great reading and a great read can and will always be read repeatedly.

Works Cited and Referenced:

Child, Francis James. The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. New York: Dover Books, 1965.

Coveney, Peter. The Image of Childhood: The Individual & Society, a Study of Theme in English Literature. Gannon Distributing Co., 1957.

Polonsky, Marc. The Poetry Reader’s Toolkit: A Guide to Reading and Understanding Poetry, NTC Publishing Group, 1998.

Untermeyer, Louis. The Pursuit of Poetry. Simon and Schuster, 2000.




Everyone there

no one listening

to the breaking glass

inside her

 as she


off the face

of the


Words Never Spoken Cry


Anxiety pleads to a painted sky

Emotions run from screams

Shadows dance upon the graves

Of ancestors left behind


Regret fills my soul

Words never spoken cry of

Pages of a book not turned

Lessons too late learned


The stone grows cold

Against my back

Darkened like the sky

Of courage lacking


Selfish whims and vanity

Shadows asking questions

Forgiveness seals the broken soul

Despite the death that stretches


Wrapping itself around close

Bringing the morning light

Tears dry as I sit alone

Reminded of a place called Home

Back and it feels great

Been gone too long from poetry. Not sure why because it always makes me happy. After working on my book non-stop for nearly two years I perhaps was simply burned out.  Now that the book is published and has shown more success than I anticipated I feel ready to come back to poetry.

Glad to be back, what have I missed?