Author: blackbearreview

Belonging: A Personal Reflection on the Physical and Emotional Barriers of Breastfeeding, by Rochelle Christensen

The first night was the easiest. At our request, our new family was discharged from the hospital early; we were supposed to have a home birth after all. Of course, we were exhausted from the 30-hour marathon we just endured, but we were still riding that natural “high” of endorphins. With some early success at latching, it was clear that our baby was receiving small amounts of colostrum, and we were assured that my milk supply would improve within a few days. In retrospect, they did send us home with a few bottles of formula; it’s almost as though they expected me to fail from the beginning.              It wasn’t until three days postpartum, when the opioids had worn off and a myriad of hormones started to plummet and surge throughout my body, that I found myself feeling inexplicably detached from my new role. One assumes, at least I did, that becoming a mother was going to be difficult; I’d heard how challenging the fourth trimester can be due to lack of sleep alone. What came as …

Small Pedestals by Carina Costom

A collection of interesting and beautiful images from the clear ice of Lake Baikal captured in a photo-essay by Alan Taylor (and many other photographers) for The Atlantic entitled “Bailkal Zen” inspired this heartfelt tribute to my Father. “Lake Baikal, in the Russian region of Siberia, is a massive body of water—the world’s deepest and most voluminous freshwater lake. Its location and the surrounding geography can lead to fascinating phenomena in the winter, as ferocious winds and cycles of melting and refreezing build and sculpt works of structural beauty—stones supported on wind-worn pedestals, undulating surface ice, encrusted beaches, crazy icicles, frozen methane bubbles, and more”. – Alan Taylor — — — Siberian-born, lost son of Lake Baikal, your worldly names were Michael, Mike and sometimes-Misha. I like to think that when you crossed the Atlantic Ocean with your family as a child in the 1930’s, something silent, eternal, crystal-like came along with you, for keeps. This thing covered you like delicate frost on a windowpane – enhancing without protecting you. I was a young 23 …

Clickety-Clack by Fiona Brown

I love old European sleeper trains, the clickety-clack of metal against metal, the whirr and screech of brakes in darkness, the deceleration and acceleration as old wooden stations approach and depart, the blur of lights and buildings, and the invisible rustle of people on a voyage. Night trains seem to simultaneously condense and expand time and space, stimulate layered and unrelated memories in a pseudo dream-world of jostling images adjacent to reality, and the wild introduction of the random events. The trip from Prague to Budapest is about eight hours on a second-class night-train. Praha Hlavni Nadrazi Main Station smells like old trains and grease. Engine oil and decades of dirt stick to once shiny surfaces in a building that was once an architectural highlight. Art Nouveau figures, a vast window arc, and a vaulted latticework ceiling float above multiple tracks, trains, and two opposing arcade corridors. The building’s grandeur has decayed under forty years of communism, and although change is coming with Vaclav Havel just elected president, the regal station is in severe disrepair. …

Farewell from your Managing Editor

The Black Bear Review is a community project to behold. I landed in its midst for this sixth print edition and, well, there is a lot to love. Part School of Rock, part work experience, and part summer camp, Black Bear Review is fierce, bold, and best of all, a warm den for writers and artists of all ilks to incubate. It’s a literary magazine, a website, a blog, a podcast, and a virtual work-study hub. Here I take the opportunity to thank our award winning Faculty: Leesa Dean, Almeda Glenn Miller and Renee Harper of the Creative Writing Program, as well as Marion Lowe from Digital Arts and New Media for their guidance and support and also the amazing student Editorial Collectives in poetry, fiction, non-fiction and copy editing (and our pals in digital arts) who made this multi-step publication process possible. I send a special shout out to our contributors in this year’s print issue of the Black Bear Review: not a bad circle of over 25 creative socially distanced collaborators including the …

Dragons and Castles by Ben Demoskoff

When Ben draws, he doesn’t have a conscious intent, just like when he is enjoying the great outdoors. “But the feeling that Fantasy Perspective [His one panel comic series] gives, is a simple way to come to a conclusion or an answer about anything” he says.  “It’s like saying to heck with it all.  It’s a way to see any kind of life as an adventure, good and bad.”  Says Ben:” it gives me hope when I’m down as I wake up to dragons and castles (work and rent). All artists/creatives have their unique way of moving through the world. Moment to moment some generate their own symbols for things. “No Brains” [how he signs his one panel comic series] can be a nice thing to say to someone in Russian, says Ben.  Depending on your [the reader’s] perspective, it may or may not help the comic make more sense, but absurdity is part of Life isn’t it? Ben thinks of the movie [Roger Rabbit] when he imagines fantasy.  Ben is not afraid of making …

Line Those Street With Gold By Gracjan Kraszewski

The man does not say anything. He appears to want more. I’m happy to oblige. ‘It’s not hard to find people online, upline, or in plain old real life who will tell you at the drop of a hat that nothing is real. I’ve found the reason for the many reasons they give, the various theories and postulations they put forth, usually comes down to sexual license. These people are not as sophisticated as Descartes was—that if there is a res cogitans which I can be sure ofand the res extensa outside the mind, my own mind, which I do not know, then if follows that the unknowable cannot make rules which must be followed. If all in the res extensa, and this certainly includes community-societal standards of sexual morality, is not to be understood than I can do whatever I want because who knows what the right way is anyways, right?—and they do not have to be. It doesn’t take a lot to arrive at: go ahead and have unlimited promiscuous sex. It’s easy …

Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family by Jane Byers – Reviewed by Stephanie Henriksen

Published by Caitin Press, 2020 Small Courage: A Queer Memoir of Finding Love and Conceiving Family is a story that explores the author’s multi-faceted identity: a writer, poet, athlete, mother and lesbian, partner to a loving wife, and a member of an unconditionally loving non – traditional family. Her memoir challenges the popular notion that an ideal family consists of a mom and a dad, inspiring readers to live a life that is honest to who they are and not what society expects them to be. Organized as a series of personal essays with a sprinkle of poetry, the memoir reveals her journey towards finding her true identity, including finding the woman of her dreams and adopting magnetic twins, a boy and a girl, children of colour. Small Courage offers a refreshing feminist perspective by sharing intimate details of Byers’ experience as a young woman growing up in Ontario in the 60’s and 70’s, discovering she was queer, and keeping aspects about herself hidden because society had yet to catch up. Same–sex marriage was legalized …

I’m Done by Nichoel Sutton

Combining creativity, freedom from violence, activism, and committed parenting takes courage. Nichoel Sutton’s spoken-word series “I’m done” can be seen as part of a poetic tradition called Incantations. Braid and Shreve in their book “In Fine Form” share the Canadian Oxford Dictionary’s definition: “a magical formula chanted or spoken” which comes from the Latin “cantare”, to sing. Although many forms of poetry use repetition, the incantation relies particularly heavily on rhythmic insistence to create an intensely emotional, mesmerizing effect, for magic, ritual, or performance purposes. Like spoken-word, incantation overtly appeals to the senses – especially the ear.” (Braid and Shreve, p.110). Part 1. I’m done. I’m done with the words that don’t match the actions…Part 2. I’m done with the meetings where they say nice words…Part 3. I’m done. I’m done with not being able to protect myself…Part 4. I’m done with knowing that if I call the police…

Breathing Underwater by Judi Anani

Rabaul, Papua New Guinea (PNG), August 2016   I am on board a 5-meter-long aluminum dinghy, Miss Ginny, as it unapologetically carves a path through otherwise serene blue waters. Squinting against the sun, three of us propel across the tropical expanse. We allow the shore to shrink behind us until the ever-intimidating volcanic mount Tavurvur becomes a mere wisp in the horizon (1).    Jonathan, our local guide, sits with a hand casually placed on the tiller steer and stares ahead thoughtfully. Our eyes meet and he smiles genuinely bearing red buai stained teeth (2).    Everyone I have met on this island nation smiles like they mean it. As if they do not mind at all an arduous trek up the mountain in the tropical heat to access freshwater. As if they do not care that the lime powder they mix with betel nut has eroded their teeth. As if they are not perturbed by foreign-owned mines growing rich from local commodities, while the local economy struggles.    Nathan, my employer, and scuba companion sits across from me …