By BK Munn
The long-running literary magazine Descant is going out of business. Founded in 1970 as a mimeographed zine, it has since blossomed into one of the premier forums for short fiction, poetry and criticism in Canada. According to a letter from long-serving Editor-in-Chief and President of the Descant Foundation Karen Mulhallen posted to the magazine’s website on Tuesday, the reason for the end of its run is the lack of funds. Heavily-dependant on grants to sustain its prestige square-bound semi-annual publication and skeletal staff, Mulhallen can no longer keep things going:
“Our vigorous fund-raising campaign this fall was very successful and I want to thank all of you who donated to the magazine. Unfortunately, we did not raise enough money to offset the shortfall. Grants have been in decline for more than five years, although other revenues such as sales and subscriptions have held steady or increased. We have cut costs everywhere we could, but many expenses over which we have no control have continued to spiral up.
I have personally searched for a solution, but have been unable to find either a patronage base or an editor (or editorial collective) to replace myself and take over the magazine, and be responsible for its publication and its foundation.”
The magazine’s 167th issue, subtitled “A Cabinet of Curiosities,” will be its last and will debut early in 2015.
As well as being a forum for several generations of Canadian literary nobility, the magazine also has a connection to the world of small-press comics in this country. In its early days Descant published many of the 1970s representatives of the avant-garde comics-and-poetry movement like bp nichol and John Riddell. On the editorial side, the cartoonist-artist and publisher of Carousel magazine Mark Laliberte was Descant‘s managing editor & designer from 2006 to 2011. More recently, Sequential’s own Trevor Steven Abes served as an intern and production editor. Abes helped put together last summer’s special issue devoted to Canadian comics, guest-edited by Sean Rogers, Descant 164: Cartooning Degree Zero, which featured contributions by David Collier, Maurice Vellekoop, Ethan Rilly, Kara Sievewright, Michael DeForge, Fiona Smyth, Chris Kuzma, John Martz, Georgia Webber, Gillian Goerz and Mariko Tamaki, Henriette Valium, Betty Liang, Shannon Gerard, Julie Delporte, Pascal Girard, Laliberte, Michael Comeau, Marc Bell, Amy Lockhart, Ginette Lapalme, Dave Lapp and Rachel Richey.