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High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of cre­ative writ­ing and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

The Surfer by Amelia Garvin
The Surfer by Amelia Garvin

Grammar School
By Megan Jones

Unlike the others,
my father loved
my first boyfriend like
a son; he
actually likes
“doing” “things,” he said. He
is “productive”; he
“wood,” wipes
cutting boards, “cuts”
at them.

Lately, reluctantly, poet
ically I too have asked: are fathers
the poets?

No, really: I imagine them moulding
our little pink
mouths at birth, mouths
later fluttering
wings, loose but
tied and tethered, always,
to some rotting
estuary of words.

Do normal women love
a man’s
as much as I

Do they archive
Facebook messages?

Do they sit cross-armed
like a
“bitch” at
“barbeques” just

Do they wrap and dispose of
like tampons
that is to say: shamefully?

You must be thinking: she has
wasted half
this “poem”

But it must be so
lonely to be a
displaced male word!
Pushed out by the woman’s
new lover
firm mouth
planting words like
hard seeds.

“The green room,”
is the thrashing “barrel”
of a wave, or
“to get pitted” means slipping
beneath the wave’s
inverted belly.

The slope
of the “break,”
is waves, curling
their white fists.

I think I would like
to write a poem
about that next.

I think I like fists now
more than I like “break.”

In winter, this boyfriend,
the one who surfs, shook
snow from his “deck.”
“Let’s get in
the green,” pulled my wet
suit down: a glimpse
of “chicken-skin” chest.

Back then I did not
“breast” or, worse,
“sex.” “Sex” was
is fragile, an unripe
banana of a word: stuck in the
cheek, fuzzed.

My life, a girl’s life
could’ve been all white knuckles
and sexy silence. Waves of blue.
Dark odorous

Instead it was/is the flat
pan held by one who is liked
who has become a real
“thing,” worth
“doing.” It’s “wood,” productively

A“long iron” at the driving range
is a long shaft, it was
my “athletic” boyfriend.

We liked “red” and “winner”
“gold” and “burn.”

Green fists of grass, clenched
white balls. What comes
next, over the rolling
hill? The fathers,
crouching with their daughters,
ducks with heads in the water
Get your bums right up, in the air!
I’ve never
known men in love
with waiting
for words to flow up, ideally:
yes, all, and.


Megan Jones lives and writes poems in Vancouver. She also splits her time between working at two different publishing firms: ZG Communications, a boutique marketing agency for authors, publishers and not-for-profits; and Page Two Strategies, an innovative literary agency where writers publish in a variety of ways. 

Amelia Garvin is a painter and illus­tra­tor who has exhibited her work in group shows across Van­cou­ver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here. 


Amber Dawn
Amber Dawn

It’s difficult to describe Vancouver-based cultural “badass” Amber Dawn in a single sentence–poet, editor, teacher, mentor, filmmaker, performance artist, and now award-winning writer, it might actually be easier to list all of the things she isn’t. She is the author of Sub Rosa (which received a Lambda Award in 2011), How Poetry Saved My Life: A Hustler’s Memoir (which won the Vancouver Book Award in 2013), and most recently, Where the words end and my body begins, a debut poetry collection which continues to draw outstanding reviews. One thing is certain: Amber Dawn is a literary force to be reckoned with.

SAD Mag was lucky enough to chat with Dawn about her teenage years to celebrate the upcoming launch our High School edition. Turns out, Teenage Dawn was every bit as cool as Adult Dawn, even if she didn’t know it yet.

Amber Dawn at Age 14
Amber Dawn at Age 17

Tell me what you were like in high school: would Teenage You get along with the person you are today?

I don’t think I’ve changed that much since high school. Back then I valued humility and kindness, and yet I was a badass who liked to kick holes in walls, still do. I coloured my hair red then, still do. I listened to Bongwater and Siouxsie and the Banshees then, still do.

Any strange high school hobbies?

Shoplifting. Food mostly, I was hungry. I became so good at stealing food, I’d steel foot-long submarine sandwiches for other poor students short on lunch money. For a while, It became a daily “thing” to see if I could nab a couple of foot-longs and a couple cans of 7 Up from the cafeteria.

What did you think you would become after graduation? Were your sights already set on becoming an (award-winning) author? Or did that come to you later?

Many kids leave the small community I’m from after high school. Most go to Toronto. But I heard that Vancouver was like Canadian San Francisco (and Toronto like New York). I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do with my life after graduation so I came to Vancouver before my 18th birthday to be a “Canadian San Franciscan queer hippy punk.”

What was your most mortifying teenage moment? If you could send Teenage You a letter (or maybe an instant message) about it from the future, what would it say?

I was bullied a lot. I could draw a great number of mortifying memories of surviving bullying. But all these years later, what truly darkens my memory are all the times I was a bystander to witnessing other kids get bullied. It took me a long time to learn about strength in numbers organizing. I wish I could have banded proudly together with all the other outcasts back then. This is what I would tell Teenage Me: build your army of misfits now. Love each other. Keep each other safe. And try smashing the system while you’re at it.


Find out more about Amber Dawn on her website. Stay tuned for more High School Q&As on sadmag.ca. 

High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of poetry and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

Illustration by Amelia Garvin
Illustration by Amelia Garvin

I am remembering the sacredness of sleepovers
By Sarah Ens

I am remembering
the sacredness of sleepovers
and the holding of hair, holy in our hands
twisting braids too loose, taking care
with their undoing, over and over
like an anointing

our ritualized rating
of those poor boys, a sacrifice
until Ryan got a ten out of ten out of
nowhere so we started watching LOTR in slow-mo,
Spiderman backwards, I don’t know why
it was so funny, these things
we could control

and when Abby’s mom died
Abby lay on the floor in the basement at Meg’s
and her cousins lay beside her
like three fingers on one hand that said a-okay
Abby pulling the sleeping bag up
over her head, staying still
just like that

I could never keep vigil, I always
fell asleep only to be woken up
to choose which teacher to kill marry
or screw, shouting elementary school songs like
swears, like spells, I Am
Chiquita Banana shaking the walls of the spare room
and then sneaking our mothers’ vodka, the first time
we did puzzles all night before crumpling
to the floor to confess the way we felt
ourselves, the spaces we’d found that made
us feel ashamed

one time I threw a whole cake
on the floor at the end of an all-nighter
and we scrubbed and scrubbed
but the stain on the unfinished wood
just spread, reckless
and so full of feeling every night, catching
our new mouths on old magics
on baby feminist god-fearing poems
speaking together our scriptures in so
many pink tongues

and I wanted to soften the matted knot
at the nape of your neck, escaped from my attempt
at a French braid, you looking to me fuzzy,
blurred with tenderness, tangles
telling me that he touched you when you were
just a kid

I am remembering
how we pressed our shirt sleeves to our chins
how our eyes burned that dark room, I am reciting
the prayer that curled up from our growing lungs
and lengthened like smoke, stretching
up and up into safer sleep.


Sarah Ens grew up in rural Manitoba before moving to Vancouver to study Creative Writing at UBC. After earning her BFA, she returned to Winnipeg to write sad poems and surround herself with books and Mennonites as an editorial assistant at Turnstone Press. Her work has appeared in Poetry is Dead, The Garden Statuary, and Fugue.

Amelia Garvin is a painter and illus­tra­tor who has exhib­ited her work in group shows across Van­cou­ver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.



High School, our 20th issue, is on the way! To cel­e­brate, we’re pub­lish­ing a series of poetry and illus­tra­tion that cel­e­brate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hope­less, funny, mov­ing, or just plain embarrassing.

Illustration by Amelia Garvin
Illustration by Amelia Garvin

By Nathaniel G. Moore

To her, every road wasn’t made of material itself,
but animalistic memory and sensory sent out
the way bats see, bouncing infrared animation depicting
what we can’t see or the way beacons, other worlds contact us.
It’s as if we are riding over people’s dreams, dog’s dreams, made
of ancestral bones made of skin clouds made of a million soup craving,
bank robbing sister’s shameful tears
I didn’t create language, Kathy thought. Later she
would think about her mother and father and the people she loved.
Now she wants to tell us teenaged or otherwise that the world is a complicated
place and that you can put ribbons on everything but it doesn’t
change the fact
That beauty isn’t something you can pluck from a grocery hearse and everyone
is different and feels fucked up for no reason but there is
always a fucking reason.


Nathaniel G. Moore is the author of Savage 1986-2011(Anvil Press), winner of the 2014 ReLit Award for best novel. His next book, Jettison, is a collection of romantic horror stories. It will launch in Vancouver in May 2016 along with an art show of the same name. A life-long Torontonian, Moore now calls Pender Harbour, where he has a PR job in the book creation industry, home.

Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here. 


Look out for High School Poetry on Tuesdays on sadmag.ca.

High School, our 20th issue, is on the way! To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of poetry and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.

How Art Would Save Us by Amelia Garvin
How Art Would Save Us by Amelia Garvin


By Esther McPhee

Ten years out of high school, I watch six seasons
of Glee in three months. It’s embarrassing to admit this

but when they burst into song I got that shining
feeling again. You know, that cocktail of conviction

and desperation that insists something inside of you
is important enough to become a poem.

If graduation was when I wedded myself to real life
(rent, grocery bills, the kind of heartbreak that makes you sober

and cautious), then I’m on my tin anniversary,
year of brittle metal. I remember high school pretty well

and I’m sure it was neither as cruel nor as gay as it is on TV.
I’m sure I spent whole semesters dreaming of a kiss

that would shock my fist open the way Kurt’s hand uncurls
when Blaine falls onto his mouth that first time, like water finally

after a long thirst. I cried after that scene the way I cried
when I found out a senior had killed himself

over spring break. I knew he was gay even though
I’d only talked to him twice in the hallway. We all knew

he was perfect. In a building made of pretending
no one else existed, he met your eyes

whenever he walked past. There was no song
for how immediately he disappeared. Just static.

Everything is pain and magic when your dreams
are as big as stadiums. Once in a while I want to remember

how completely I believed art could save anything
—anyone—when I was sixteen.


Esther McPhee is a genderqueer writer, magic-maker and organizer who lives in a cozy collective house and reads a lot of kids books. They hold an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and co-organize a queer reading series called REVERB. Find out more about Esther here. “REMEMBER HOW WE FELT ABOUT ART AT SIXTEEN” will also appear in SAD Mag‘s upcoming issue: High School. 

Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here. 


Look out for High School Poetry on Tuesdays on sadmag.ca.

Due to a design error, the version of this poem that appears in SAD‘s print issue is centered rather than flush left as the poet intended. To Esther McPhee, to the poetry community, to our dear readers, we extend an embarrassed, heartfelt, left-aligned apology. 

SAD Mag is pleased to announce our first call for poetry and fiction submissions. We are soliciting pieces of up to 1,000 words related to the theme of high school (we encourage you to interpret our theme creatively and broadly). Successful submissions will be published online alongside an illustration by one of our featured artists.

SAD is particularly interested in publishing the work of queer or emerging writers, especially those based in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. We are committed to supporting and fostering Vancouver’s creative community and giving voices and opportunities to people who aren’t heard in the mainstream. We tell stories and publish art pieces that are thought-provoking, insightful, sincere, and wonderfully weird.

Work that perpetuates racism, ageism, homophobia, biphobia, acephobia, transphobia, sexism, body-shaming, slut-shaming, ableism, or other forms of oppression will be rejected. We welcome writing that examines and challenges these issues.


  • We only accept submissions via e-mail
  • With your submission, include your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address
  • Note the genre of your submission(s) and an accurate word count
  • Please use a standard font and margins and submit your work as a doc or docx file
  • In your e-mail, we ask that you include a short bio and links to any social media handles you use so that you can be credited and accessible to readers who love your work
  • We cannot accept work that has been previously published elsewhere
  • Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know if you are submitting a piece elsewhere or if it becomes no longer available
  • All submissions will be responded to within one week of the deadline
  • Make sure you designate us as an approved sender to prevent our response from going to your spam folder
  • If we select your work it may undergo an editing process in collaboration with a SAD editor
  • SAD is volunteer run and we are not currently able to compensate our contributors

Deadline: 11:59 PM, September 15th. Please send submissions to: kyla@sadmag.ca. 

Non-fiction writers, we would also like to hear from you! Our print issue contains exclusively non-fiction writing alongside film photography and original art and illustrations. You can read about pitching us for the web or print here: http://www.sadmag.ca/contribute/.

The poetry scene in Vancouver is huge, and the amount of local talent staggering. On May 16 at the People’s Co-op Bookstore, poetry fans had the opportunity to experience some of the coast’s best poets with The Poetries: 5 West Coast Poets. The intimate night of readings featured work by Vancouver poets Jordan Abel, Jordan Scott and Chelene Knight, as well as Seattle poets Elizabeth J. Cohen and Deborah Woodard.

Jordan Abel kicked off the evening with a performance piece from his book Un/inhabited, a collection based off of passages from 91 Western Cowboy and Indian themed works. Abel selected words relating to the politics of land and ownership from these books to inspire his poems, paying particular attention to the terms “frontier” and “colony.” Rhythmic recordings of Abel’s voice intermixed throughout the performance, in sync at times, overlapping at others. The performance was humbling, with multiple voices resonating throughout Abel’s politically charged work. I’ve seen Jordan Abel perform before, but the way in which he hypnotizes his audience is always astounding.

Jordan Scott is another poet who reads his poetry with humbling beauty. Scott’s poetry plays with words and setting. He read from his most recent publication, Decomp, an “extended photo–essay and prose poem” written in collaboration with Stephen Collis. In contrast to Abel, Scott stood alone in front of the audience with his poetry on sheets of paper. But his poetry still read as performance; words bounced off the walls, forming vivid imagery in the mind to a rhythm like no other.

Chelene Knight, a graduate of SFU’s Writer’s Studio, was the third poet of the evening. Knight opened with a poem dedicated to a deceased friend and then moved on to read from her first book, Braided Skin. With a liquid voice, Knight read a selection of work focused on issues of race. She was expressive as she moved through her poetry with ease, reading also from her upcoming collection, Dear Current Occupant, which promises to be as exceptional as Braided Skin.

Next up was Elizabeth J. Cohen, the first Seattle poet to read. Using lyrical essay in poetic form, Cohen incorporated elements of biography and prose. Cohen is a magnetic performer; her poetry created an intimacy with the audience that was simply captivating.

Deborah Woodard, a Seattle-based translator and a poet, read last. Woodward uses erasure, a form of poetry that involves erasing words from existing texts, to create new works from borrowed words. Reading first from her own work, with poems such as “Maiden Flight” and “Gorilla Girl,” Woodard then moved on to a translated collection by Amelia Rosselli. Though originally written in Italian, the poems did not lose their eloquence when recited in English. Her vibrant performance was a strong finish to an incredible evening.

150505_PID-5 YR Poster - smallJoin Poetry Is Dead to celebrate five years of poetry and the launch of their 11th issue “Youth Culture.” Poets and performers will take on the subject of youth culture, from high school to Tiger Beat crushes.

Hosted by: Cynara Geissler & Daniel Zomparelli

Readings, Stand-Up and Performances by: 
Dina Del Bucchia, Sara Bynoe, Kayla Czaga, Cass Keeley, Richard Kemick, Curtis LeBlanc, Poetry Is Dead’s Drag sister Shanda Leer, Geoff Nilson, Shannon Rayne, Mallory Tater, and Alicia Tobin.

When: Thursday, May 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm
Where: Historic Theatre at The Cultch
1895 Venables Street, Vancouver

Tickets: $22.00 (adult) / $19.00 (student)
Tickets available at tickets.thecultch.com or at The Cultch box office.

All tickets include a one-year subscription to Poetry Is Dead.

The 5th annual Verses Festival is not a mere celebration of words, but a celebration of voices and viewpoints from poets across Canada. Since undergoing rebranding three years ago, the festival continues to get bigger and better each year. The recent transition has led to a more diversified festival lineup that includes a wealth of spoken word performances, slam poetry events, and poetry workshops spread throughout Vancouver for first timers and seasoned poets alike.

New to the event this year is a curated exhibit of visual poetry entitled That One Thing You Said,  a collaboration with local poetry magazine Poetry Is Dead. Tucked away inside a Latin American restaurant along Commercial Drive, the quaint gallery features works by five Canadian visual poets: Jordan Abel, Dina Del Bucchia, Lindsay Cahill, Helen Hajnoczky, and Eric Schmaltz.

14031994273_c3ca31a947_zThe exhibit blurs the lines between visual art and poetry while taking a closer look at how the role of language has shaped each poet’s worldview and relationships on an interpersonal, social and global level. Some pieces are illegible and undecipherable to the viewer, hinting at the transformative power of language as a tool for communication, or rather, the lack thereof. And isn’t this what poetry, at its core, really achieves? This art form is unique in that it can speak to readers without requiring them to fully understand the context of its symbolic reference points.

At the heart of the festival is the Hullabaloo series, a competitive youth slam that kickstarts the season. Fueled by spirited energy and infectious enthusiasm, aspiring teams engage in friendly interschool competition to see whose school has the best poetic chops and is most deserving of the coveted shark trophy.14012444024_5e7fe8981c_z

According to Hullabaloo Events Coordinator and local Vancouver poet RC Weslowski, it is important for today’s youth to get involved in the poetry scene because these events create situations where young people are validated and listened to in a way that goes beyond being seen as “target markets” for corporations. One of the most pleasant surprises for Weslowski is seeing youth poets surprise themselves with the power of their own wordsrealizing that what they have to say resonates with others, that their work can connect people on a larger scale.  


Get a sneak peek of this year’s festival line up at the Hulla-Verses Remixer opening gala this April 26 at 7:30 pm at the York Theatre.

The Verses Festival of Words runs from April 23 – May 3, 2015. For more information and  a complete schedule of events, visit the festival website.

Sister Spit began in 1997 as a lesbian-feminist spoken word and performance art collective founded by Michelle Tea and Sini Anderson. Since then, Sister Spit has toured North America’s theatres, universities, and festivals, performing at the Casto Street Fair, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and San Francisco’s LadyFest. Today, the legacy continues with Sister Spit: The Next Generation, a no longer exclusively female continuation of the original collective. Renowned writers and poets hit Vancouver’s Wise Hall on April 14 as part of Sister Spit’s 2015 North America tour.

Sister Spit
Sister Spit North America Tour

Hosts Esther Tung and April Alayon introduced Sister Spit and ran through the preliminaries of the night before passing the mic on to Virgie Tovar. Virgie, ‘a hot fat Latina femme’ writer and activist, M.C.’d the show and broke up the string of poetry with engaging, hilarious and quirky personal stories. An excellent story teller is rare to find, and she has the talent to unearth something sparkling and extraordinary in everyday life situations. Poets Myriam Gurba, Mica Signourney and Tom Cho surprised the audience with the diversity of their styles and their dedication to performance. Each artist was honest and unabashed, able to express their uninhibited thoughts through performance and movement. Sister Spit established a strong sense of community throughout the night; the audience was comprised mostly of friends, family and Commercial Drive locals, and all bathrooms were gender neutral.

The content of the program was generally amazing and, most often, hilarious. Poets’ use of voice, tone, volume, accents, facial expressions, and gestures added so much to their words; it was a completely different experience to watch, rather than read, their work. This is why Sister Spit is so brilliant; it is obvious that these artists belong on stage, sharing what they love and hate and think about the world. Their performances were inspiring, empowering, and educational, wrought with humour and strong opinion.

The next time Sister Spit rolls into Vancouver, I’d like to be there, because I know that this brilliant collective will continue evolving, creating, and finding original ways to express itself to whomever they encounter along the road.