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Digging the dirt on ex-zinesters

By Nathaniel G. Moore

Deleted in this issue: Edmonton’s Mark McCawley and, more specifically, Urban Graffiti

Mark McCawley has been the publisher and founder of Greensleeve Editions in Edmonton since 1988. While researching those whose zines are deleted in the Edmonton-Calgary region, long before blogs, Facebook, SARS or Nickelback, we logically go to the nation’s capital. Here Matthew Firth, who has been bitch-slapping the standards and practises of CanLit for a long time now with his own fiction work and lethal Black Bile Press, says he first read McCawley in the 1990s of all places. “In the long-gone magazine Paragraph in about 1994, though it might have been in a back issue I pulled off the shelf in a public library somewhere–Hamilton, I think.”

After reading a call for submissions for McCawley’s fledgling Urban Graffiti literary zine, Firth felt inspired by the “kick-ass example” he set. “McCawley boosted my writing and publishing,” says Firth. “[He was] someone else out there in some remote corner of the country interested in publishing anti-CanLit. I published him in Black Cat 115 and later in Front&Centre and an anthology called Grunt & Groan: The New Fiction Anthology of Work and Sex. Mark is a brave soul. He does what he wants on his own terms and at his own speed. He’s dedicated to providing a voice to writers who are shunned by the mainstream CanLit climate of workshops, grants, residence positions, etc.” According to Firth, and evident in the writers both men have published, McCawley knows that there are legitimate voices from outside the margin. Firth continues, “His own writing is straight-shooting, pulls no punches, honest and drenched in authentic experience. My day job takes me places and twice I’ve got to hang out with Mark on his turf in Edmonton.”

Now, as is the case with every single so-called “deleted” zinester, they always seem to come back, (by the middle of the column it seems) stronger and with a blog of some sort. But we’ll forgive McCawley for following this Canadian trend, as it may lead to a 3M “Part of Our Heritage” commercial somewhere down the road. Just remember, I get to play the kid with the stapler, or the mailbox.

BP: What are the plans for your latest zine project?

MM: Splurge has been in the works for the last three years. Under the editorship of zine creator, Devin McCawley, the zine’s mandate is to pull back the thin veneer of our modern “consumer” culture and both expose and subvert the ugly truth of what lies beneath our daily actions and inactions when we sacrifice the real for the hyper-real. To this end, Splurge pulls out all the stops, using all the tools in both the zinesters and culturejammer’s toolboxes to hold up a mirror to our culture and ourselves. The price is cheap: just everything you are.

BP: Mark, where will people find Splurge? How will they recognize it?

Mark: Splurge will have both paper and online editions, and welcomes submissions of creative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, rants and raves, interviews, photography, artwork and spoof ads of a subversive nature. Nothing is too outrageous. Splurge only frowns on the hateful and the cruel.

BP: When? [Listening to ear piece.] March 2008? That was last month!

Mark: Release and launch party was March 2008. I am also working on bringing back Urban Graffiti after its brief hiatus with both a paper edition and an online presence. It’s not easy finding a webhost that will allow me the freedom to do what I intend to do, especially in this increasingly right wing, post 9-11 hysteria: there is certainly a chill happening online today.

BP: What? [Talking into microphone on shirt collar.] Well I thought it was legitimately deleted too. I don’t know how that will affect our funding. That’s not my problem. Let the intern worry about it.

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