Just under a year ago — on October 23, 2015 — the Hamilton Arts Council presented the LivingArts Hamilton Symposium, an opportunity for creators and administrators to come together to share commonalities and work toward a vibrant future for the arts in Hamilton. I was thrilled to present and moderate a panel called “Navigating the Literary Landscape in a Time of Change,” featuring three people I greatly admire, Noelle Allen, Gary Barwin, and Dana Hansen.
“Among other interesting topics, we discussed coverage of the literary arts in Hamilton,” recalls Hansen. “The city is home to many remarkable, accomplished, diverse writers, poets, playwrights, and critics, and at a time when we should be promoting and celebrating so much talent and great writing from and about Hamilton, it seemed to those of us on that panel that outlets for doing so were increasingly hard to find.”
Hansen has turned this frustration into a new project called The Hamilton Review of Books, an independent online literary journal, which launched just last week. The Hamilton Review of Books’ first issue includes “critical reviews of recent and forthcoming fiction and nonfiction titles from large and small presses, from writers in Hamilton and beyond, written not only by our savvy editors, but also by some outstanding contributors,” including Quill and Quire’s Steven Beattie, Journey Prize-winning writer and former National Post books columnist Naben Ruthnum, Hamilton poet Autumn Getty, and music journalist Geoff Pevere.
“The Hamilton Review of Books really owes its creation to the Hamilton Arts Council’s 2015 LivingArts Symposium,” says Hansen, who adds the discussion stuck with her, “and I went about rallying some help to develop an online literary journal based in Hamilton — one that would include substantive critical reviews of books authored by Hamiltonians as well as authors from across Canada, and long-form personal essays on literary subjects.”
Full disclosure: Dana asked me to act as one of The Hamilton Review of Books’ editors, which I happily accepted. LivingArts Symposium panelists Gary and Noelle have also taken an active role: Gary’s visual art is featured in the debut issue, and Noelle acts as an advisor.
As it remains difficult for artists, festival organizers, and not-for-profit arts organizations (among others) to secure coverage in local mainstream publications, many of us are taking it upon ourselves, creating opportunities that didn’t exist in Hamilton’s recent past.
“I’m hoping to see the HRB become a fixture in CanLit, strongly focused on representing Hamilton’s unique literary scene,” says Hansen, looking toward a brighter future of arts coverage in this city