Inclusive journal provides outlet for local poets

The sting of a publisher’s rejection bites hard. But Open Heart Forgery, a local poetry journal in Halifax, provides a platform for Halifax locals to be read, regardless of age or experience.

“We give everyone a chance,” says editor Georgia Atkin, a second- year University of King’s College student. “We have a very big range.”

The journal “aims to energize local writers from the grassroots up.” It has three simple rules regarding for submissions: no hate speech or racism, no poems over 28 lines longand only Halifax residents can submit. Other than that, any piece put forward is accepted.

“Their sister Kate, my mother/ heard the Explosion/looked out the splintering window/ and lost her eye/Head wrapped in a bloody towel/ stumbling cross the snowy Commons/to Camp Hill/a bucket of eyeballs at the clinic door,” reads Bill Hanrahan’s poem “Commons,” featured in the November issue.

Mitchell Brinton reads "Satisfying Clicking Sound" by Canadian poet Jason Guriel. (Photo: Jon Bolduc)
Mitchell Brinton reads “Satisfying Clicking Sound” by Canadian poet Jason Guriel. (Photo: Jon Bolduc)

The journal is printed on plain letter paper and folded into sections, with a different, bright colour every month.

The journal is free and can be found in coffee shops and libraries around Halifax. Since writer Donal Power founded it in 2010, the magazine has published 41 issues and featured 250 writers.

“As a labour of love, there are no government grants, advertising revenues, subscription fees nor newsstand sales. In other words, we scrape together the funds somehow,” the journal’s website reads.

Last February Mayor Mike Savage wrote a letter to the Open Heart Forgery commending it for publishing over 200 writers and for “publishing works of our region’s emerging writers, presenting a platform for new writers to be heard and providing an opportunity to enjoy HRM’s vast creative talents.”

“I’ve only ever been rejected because of format,” says Hanrahan, a local retiree and frequent contributor.

Hanrahan, 83, is a noted local artist who writes poetry when he’s not busy painting. He has a studio on the corner of Robie and Charles Streets.

According to the Griffin Quarterly, a publication from the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, his work “is currently in private and corporate collections, in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, Russia, and Korea.”

“I paint a hell of a lot more than I write,” Hanrahan says.

A longtime journalist, Hanrahan is used to the written word, and seeing his name in bylines. However, poetry is a fairly new endeavour.

“I started when I was 70,” he says. “It was something to do.”

Hanrahan has been published four times in the journal, and his poem appearing in the November issue entitled “Commons,” was also featured in the Gaspereau Press anthology Writing for the Common.

Although young, second year Dal creative writing student Mitchell Brinton has literary ambitions. His poem, entitled “ENGL2040” after a course of the same name, appeared in the November issue.

“I saw a paper posted on a wall, and it said they were looking for more poems. I thought, well, I write poems,” Brinton says.

Like many works of art, “ENGL2040” was crafted in a fit of distinct boredom.

“I found the class quite boring and wasn’t paying much attention, so I decided that each class I’d try to write a poem. That was one of the ones that came out of that exercise,” says Brinton.

“The girl sitting beside me has/ beautiful, amazing handwriting/It is slim and swirls like Arabic script/ and I can’t make out a word of it,” an excerpt from the poem reads.

For a young poet, being published is an educational experience, and often, seeing work in a journal can help keep literary dreams alive.

“You feel pretty good about yourself immediately,” says Brinton.

Editor Atkin agrees. “I’ve seen how much it can mean to someone …. We’re always happy to see new work.”