The Cormorant was a bi-annual literary magazine composed and created by students and faculty of the University of New Brunswick’s Saint John campus. It was published by the Purple Wednesday Society and the Lorenzo Society. Founded in 1983 by William Prouty, a literature professor at UNBSJ, the magazine released a spring and fall issue for fifteen consecutive years.
The Cormorant was “a magazine of local writing,” which Sharon Gallant, the first editor, explains in the opening editorial of the first issue (5). The magazine became a forum for many local artists who may not have had the opportunity to be published, recognized, and appreciated.
The first edition of the magazine contained thirty-one poems and three short stories. Submissions were collected at a bistro on campus, and as Elizabeth McKim, a former graduate from UNBSJ and editor of The Cormorant recalls, there was plenty of interest in the magazine from the beginning (Personal interview). In an equally important way, the magazine created opportunities for the literary community to come together and share common interests. As McKim recalls, The Cormorant was a “low budget project, but with energy, encouragement, and a democratic approach.” As such it became “a real community project” (Personal interview).
One of the authors frequently published in The Cormorant was Kay Smith, a graduate of Saint John High School, and a well-known poet during the early twentieth century. Smith’s poem “Which Storm?” was the first poem in the first issue (7). She subsequently had poems published in most of the issues of The Cormorant, was the first author examined in the “Feature Articles” section (which was introduced in the second issue), and was the subject of the entire Fall 1992 issue, dedicated in her honour.
Over the fifteen years of its existence, The Cormorant underwent several changes. Beginning as a magazine of poems and short stories in a soft-covered casing, the magazine grew larger in its second year, and began to include drawings. Along with the addition of visuals, the magazine also made format changes. The front cover, which in one year had pictured a cormorant, now showcased a different picture with each issue. The cormorant bird would not appear on the front cover again until the tenth anniversary issue in Spring 1993.
An advertisement for both the Royal Trust Company and the Bank of Montreal appeared in the back of the second issue, but all following issues only displayed advertisements for the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick and The Purple Wednesday Society. A Table of Contents was introduced to the magazine in the third issue, and continued throughout all subsequent issues. The most substantial change was made in Fall 1992 when the magazine became a soft-covered book bound together with glue, as opposed to staples. That issue also happened to be the one dedicated to Kay Smith, signifying her importance to the magazine and the province.
Although the purpose of The Cormorant was to display the diversified literary talents of New Brunswickers, there seemed to be common themes and emphases that recurred. These biases were encouraged in the editorial message of the first issue by Sharon Gallant, when she asked writers to focus “on the history of a local landmark, or [make] a comment on some aspect of today’s society” (5). Writers chose to focus mostly on the latter, writing about hopes and dreams, the search and seductions of love, the emotions of loneliness and life cycles, and the imagery of New Brunswick throughout it’s changing seasons.
Following Prouty’s retirement in Spring 1998, the final issue of The Cormorant was published and appropriately dedicated to the works and life of Prouty. As Susan Mowery, the editor of that issue states, it was thanks to Prouty’s “vision, wisdom and determination to establish this university magazine with its unique Maritime flavour” (7) that so many kinds of local talent emerged. Although the appearance of the magazine changed over the years, the goal remained the same: to showcase the literary talents of New Brunswickers. Many of the authors published in the magazine have continued writing, and many became known nationally, such as Fred Cogswell, Kay Smith, and artist Peggy Smith.
A few years after The Cormorant ceased publishing, another literary magazine was created in Saint John by UNB students and faculty. It is called The Vox. This literary magazine has been in existence for approximately ten years, and it continues many of the traditions started by William Prouty and The Cormorant (“UNB Literary Tradition”).
Kaitlyn Roeding, Winter 2012
St. Thomas University
Bibliography of Primary Sources
The Cormorant 1.1 – 14.2 (Spring 1983 – Fall 1998).
Gallant, Sharon. “Editorial.” The Cormorant 1.1 (1983): 5.
Mowery, Susan. “In This Issue.” The Cormorant 14.2 (1998): 7.
Smith, Kay. “Which Storm?” The Cormorant 1.1 (1983): 7.
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
McKim, Elizabeth. Personal interview. 16 Oct. 2012.
“UNB’s Literary Tradition – Saint John.” Unb.ca. n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2012