Sending Up Kites

Newfoundland Quarterly was founded in 1901, the same year Marconi flew a 500-foot kite on Signal Hill and intercepted the first trans-Atlantic wireless transmission. The second-oldest magazine in Canada, NQ began as “a literary magazine of interest to Newfoundlanders at home and abroad,” which is not far off the way it describes itself today, as “a cultural journal of Newfoundland and Labrador.” That’s a remarkable persistency of purpose over 116 years.

Marconi watching associates raising the kite used to lift the antenna on Signal Hill, December 1901 (from Wikipedia)

From February through November 2017, I’ll be Newfoundland Quarterly’s first Creative Nonfiction Fellow, a position made possible through the Canada 150 Fund — thank you, Heritage Canada!

Over the next ten months I’ll be digging through the magazine’s extensive archives (both online and at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies), and producing writing and visual material for NQ’s new website, which launches later this month. I’ll also be identifying possible collaborations with other writers and artists, hopefully inviting others to respond to material through fiction, poetry and visual art.

Browsing issues of the magazine from 100 years ago, I’m struck not only by headlines and articles but by photographs, illustrations, advertisements and typography. Magazines are visual documents, and I’d like to respond visually as well as through text. I also want to explore what “creative nonfiction” can be — not just articles and personal essays, but found language, lists, annotations, interviews, postcards, prose poems, or impressions of images.

I’m a writer and visual artist in St. John’s. Last weekend I read poems at MUN’s Sparks Literary Festival, and I recently won The Malahat Review’s 2017 Open Season Award for creative nonfiction. I was longlisted for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize. In 2015, I was artist in residence at The Rooms.

Eva Crocker of The Overcast recently interviewed me over the phone about the NQ fellowship, and I’m pretty happy with my off-the-cuff description of the project:

“I want to think of this as creating passages for other people to find their way into this material too. I almost think of the archive as an attic, I just want to open some windows to let some light and air in and see what I find and what other people find.”

So this blog (and the new NQ website) will be one way of surfacing things from NQ’s archives, of putting things out there for others to discover and engage with.

Maybe it’ll work a little like Marconi’s balloons and kites, tossing a series of slightly whimsical antennae into the wind to see what works. Listening carefully for signals.

So, send me signals — subscribe, follow along, leave comments, get in touch! You can reach me at matthewhollett@gmail.com, or on Facebook or Instagram. Be sure to follow NQ on Facebook, too.

When the Quarterly was founded, Newfoundland was still a British colony, not part of Canada. You’ll also notice that subscription prices have gone up a little over the past 116 years.