Matthew Hollett Sheds Light On 100 Years of Newfoundland Quarterly Archives

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Matthew Hollett has been selected to be the first Newfoundland Quarterly Creative Non-Fiction Fellow. Over the course of the ten-month fellowship, he will receive $10,000 and office space at MUN’s Botanical Garden.

During the fellowship, Hollett will be creating new works of creative non-fiction that engage with material from the magazine’s archives.The work will be posted on the Quarterly’s new website, which is set to launch this February.

Founded in 1901, the Newfoundland Quarterly is second oldest magazine in Canada. Hollett will have more than a hundred years worth of material to explore.

“Looking through the archives of the magazine, there’s two world wars and the collapse of the fishery, the railway starts and ends. There’s a crazy amount of stuff documented in the archives of this magazine. I’m really excited to dive in,”Hollett says.

Hollett is a multi-disciplinary artist who writes poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction as well as creating visual art. He has an MFA from NSCAD University in Halifax and a BFA from Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus.

In art school he began by focusing on painting and later moved towards photography and new media arts. He has been writing for as long as he has been making visual art and is excited by the possibilities that open up when you combine the two mediums.

“I’m really interested in ways visual art and language can come together…People who are interested in both kind of end up on the margins of both. That can be a fascinating space because there’s not a lot of rules there.”

His attraction to the lawless space where text and images merge will impact how he reads the archives. He won’t just be responding to the articles in the Quarterly’s back issues but also to the magazine as a visual object.

“The Quarterly has text but it’s also a very visual document, you can look at the photos and the illustrations, even the advertisements in the magazine and look at how they evolved over a hundred and sixteen years,” Hollett explains.

He will also be applying this multi-disciplinary approach to the work he produces for the Quarterly’s website. He plans to test the boundaries of creative non-fiction as a genre.

“Creative non-fiction is a fun genre because it’s only defined by being not fiction, so it can be almost anything … it can be found language, it can be lists or encryptions of visual material from the archives, I could do interviews.”

During his fellowship, Hollett hopes to invite other writers and visual artists to respond to compelling material he unearths in the archives. For Hollett, one of the most exciting things about this project is making the extensive archives a bit more accessible.

“I want to think of this as creating passages for other people to find their way into this material too. I almost think of the archive as an attic, I just want to open some windows to let some light and air in and see what I find and what other people find,” Hollett says.

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Eva Crocker

Eva Crocker is a writer from St. John’s, her short story collection, Barrelling Forward, was published by House of Anansi Press in 2017.

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