Front & Centre #27
Review by Mark McCawley
For just about as long as Urban Graffiti has been publishing — first as a paper-based litzine, then as an online transgressive underground arts magazine — so has Matthew Firth; first under the title of Black Cat 115, then under the banner, Front & Centre. All the while, publishing hard-hitting new fiction by new and established writers alike. Whether based out of Hamilton, Scotland (UK), or Ottawa — the writing in F&C has always been gritty “in-your-face urban realism” whether set among downtown crackheads, suburban housewives on the prowl, and everything in between.
Like myself, Firth and F&C has long been a vocal critic of CanLit arts funding, especially for Canadian magazines and journals, with their insane Canadian content quotas which determine not only which magazines and journals receive funding, but which ones are distributed as well. Due to the nature of our magazine’s individual mandates — seldom would our magazines approach the number of Canadian contributors necessary for funding and distribution under current quotas. That said, out of necessity, we both have become international magazines while our funded Canadian counterparts have remained, if not national in scope, provincial.
In the face of this, Front & Centre has produced 27 incredible issues, not one funded by the government. That says something, not just about the magazine, but about those who publish it.
When necessary, Firth is unafraid to change editorial direction, take the flagship F&C into unmapped waters, uncover and sometimes slay new urban literary dragons of complacency.
With Issue #27, Front & Centre makes some of its boldest editorial changes to date. Replacing the previous editorial format of individual guest editors for each issue is the new ongoing column, “Writing is My Bitch” by incarcerated fiction writer, Joel Williams. A truly transgressive editorial change. Somewhat akin to UG’s Daily Feature in which writers and poets are free to publish whatever they wish to publish. A form of anarchic publishing I admire Firth for embracing. Indeed, the state can incarcerate your body, but as long as your mind is free, you are free. I have long since recognized a schism between high literature and the stories which make up each of our lives. Between the two there is an almost complete disconnect. With William’s column, we are introduced to a writer for whom all “the old medicines have lost their charm and effectiveness. I look forward to further installments of Williams’ column in future issues and what new medicines he finds.
Another major change of editorial format at F&C is the examination of contemporary urban culture with the inclusion of the feature article and interview. The Feature Article of Issue 27 is “Old school Punk: Getting Dirty with Liz Worth.” Toronto writer Liz Worth looks back to learn something about the present and possibly the future in her seminal book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond 1977-1981 (ECW Press) in an interview with Matthew Firth.
This issue has strong, gutsy fiction by Heather Babcock, Ivano Stacco, Kit Jenkin, Lisa Foley, Tyler Keevil, S.C. Armstrong, & J.T. Siemens. Reviews of books by Lorette C. Luzajic, Cathy Stonehouse, Ashley Little, Sonia Saikaley, Heidi Greco and Michael Mirolla. Well worth the price of admission and then some.
Go to Black Bile Press to order this and other back issues.