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The New CompassTen years ago today, the first issue of the online literary journal I co-founded and co-edited with my friend and colleague Michael DiSanto was published. I can’t believe it’s been a decade already since that first issue of The New Compass, which was dedicated to the memory of the literary critic C.Q. Drummond.

In honour of the anniversary, here’s a very brief history of the journal. Why was our Compass “new? To answer that, I need to tell you a bit about the journal my father, John Baxter, founded in 1977 and co-edited with Colin Ross, John Thompson, and Jim Young at the University of Alberta.

The nine issues of The Compass: A Provincial Review included essays, commentary, reviews, fiction, and poetry by George Grant, George Whalley, W.G. Watson, Olive Dickason, Richard Bosley, John Fraser, John Ferns, T.F. Rigelhof, Suzanne J. Doyle, Richard Outram, and many others. In founding a journal dedicated to the practice of evaluative criticism, the editors were encouraged and inspired by Professor C.Q. Drummond, whose teaching had a lasting influence on his many devoted students.

The CompassWhen I was completing my Ph.D. in English Literature at Dalhousie University in 2002, my fellow graduate student Michael and I decided to start a journal that would continue the conversations about literature begun in The Compass. It was easy, if a little too obvious, to choose a title for our new journal, The New Compass, and it was easy to decide to publish online to save on production costs. The subtitle was a little harder, as I was about to leave Nova Scotia for a postdoc in England, so we couldn’t insist on being “provincial,” as The Compass had done when the editors challenged the cosmopolitanism of other literary journals (“One lives on the spot where one is, or not at all,” they wrote in the first issue, adding “A Note on ‘Provincial’” to defend the term in the third issue). We didn’t aim at being cosmopolitan, but we did plan to focus on the discipline of literary criticism, so we settled on “A Critical Review” as our subtitle.

We were delighted to publish the work of many of the people who had written for The Compass, including my father, Brian Crick, David Middleton, R.L. Barth, Gordon Harvey, C.Q. Drummond, Ian Robinson, Steven Shankman, Duke Maskell, Richard Hoffpauir, and Janet Bailey, and the work of many new contributors. Our first issue included poems by both Barth and Shankman, essays by Baxter and Robinson, a review by Bailey, and a “Letter from Cambridge” from Harvey, along with poems by Helen Pinkerton and Turner Cassity, a review by Richard Lansdown, and an essay on George Whalley, mimesis, and tragedy by C.Q. Drummond, whose life and work we honoured in that issue. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about why we dedicated that issue to him.

More on The New Compass:

My online literary journal is now in print

That moment when you’re revising obsessively and it feels like “an attack of scrupulosis”…

“Coronach for Christopher Drummond” (featured on Patrick Kurp’s blog Anecdotal Evidence)

Helen Pinkerton’s “Coronach for Christopher Drummond”