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A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

Reception to my PEIBA (Prince Edward Island Book Award) suggestion of last month has been so encouraging, I am advancing the second of my Big Ideas for (I trust) the benefit of the PEI literary community and Island culture in general; granted, this proposal gives precedence to our seasoned poets.

I don’t have a clever name for this one yet, but let’s call it a sound archive and cultural tourism venture. Poets in Voice, perhaps.

I feel strongly that the Island’s most mature/senior poets should be recorded in a studio (not live) reading a selection of their finest work for professional quality CDs (one per), filling as much of each as possible, suitable material permitting. I envision a qualified editor or selector and a professional producer, utilizing sound equipment most suitable to the human voice.

On an archival level, this concept seems a natural for PEI and certainly an important venture to implement. Schools and universities will have a fresh resource. A literary friend has suggested including a video element, and while I am not against the notion, I am just traditional enough to be happy hearing the human voice reading its own words.

Where cultural tourism is concerned, I see each CD as being designed in both dignified and zaftig fashion. In fact, I can picture a suite of recordings, with nifty liner notes. Island artists might be asked to sketch or paint the poet’s portrait for each cover, though other forms of attractive design are acceptable. The CD series can be marketed though book and music shops, supermarkets and hardware stores, at provincially managed outlets, at UPEI, and online through any number of approved sites. Many people tell me they listen to their literature of choice while driving or walking, why not well-recorded poetry? Though sit-down stuff this certainly is.

The release of each individual CD might be tied to other literary and arts events over the span of a year (book launches, festivals), but the important thing is to produce them, get them out there, and promote. Count on the CBC to become involved on this level.

If I imbued my PEIBA proposal with a sense of near-urgency, this one might be taken on as urgent without the “near.” I can name three or four senior and truly accomplished book poets, and there are several others who belong on any list. Time and achievement will account for fresh names. Produce most of these prioritized recordings in one extended session (to save money maybe) or select and produce over a strategically extended period. But do it right.

Details—funding, management, selection and so forth—can, as with the PEIBA project, be sorted out through commitment.

I begin with the poets because they are our most conspicuous and refined literary crop.

A happy holiday season to you all.

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