A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman
Three thumbs up for government fostering of organized gambling, so long as it benefits poets and other creative writers and artists, which I have little doubt it will.
The alphabet is the latest discovery for writers…employing it as a motif or grid. If you’re a reader, you’ll notice this more and more in days to come.
There’s talk about having overly prolific writers tested for performance-enhancing drugs. You think I’m kidding? But what a waste of writing time.
Speaking of government encouragement of writers, there’ll shortly be an announcement about PEI’s Poet Laureate. The popular and estimable John Smith has completed the inaugural two-year term, and the designated committee will recommend a successor to the Minister. Given the successes of Dr. Smith’s appointment, this is no small decision. What a validation of the concept his tenure has been.
And then there’s Hugh MacDonald’s well-publicized recent week of Random Acts of Poetry. Fifty unwary and disparate Islanders listened as he read them a poem, and then accepted a copy of his book, Cold Against the Heart, gratis. What’s right with this picture?
Lesley-Anne Bourne’s Labyrinthine is brave and powerful poetry about the experience and consequences of her debilitating eating disorder. Such touching insights and skill with the words that infuse them are what the best literature’s about.
Zack Wells‚ impressive first full collection, Unsettled, is out. PEI’s Saturday Morning Chapbooks published his Fool’s Errand earlier this year.
Alice Munro, when asked if there should be awards for writers—she’d just been handed this year’s Giller Prize, a cheque for $25,000, and a specimen jar—replied that of course there should be, because awards sell books. (What befalls the books that lose?) It irks me that some excellent writers are never even nominated for awards. Having judged literary competitions, I can attest to its sometimes being a crapshoot. Still, some persevering writer does get handed more than he or she is likely to earn in Canadian book royalties, and the media sits up and drools if the bucks are salary-big. While out in the wintry darkness, some still-nameless writer may note that it’s possible to make real money by being a determined scribbler, never mind that it’s like any lottery, a gamble.
If I had awards to hand out, I’d give one to Louise Vergnano, prop. of The Reading Well.
To digress a tad, I spent few sleepless hours pondering the implications of the latest American election results; in the end, all seems copacetic. Mr. Bush and his councillors will again be good for art, if principally of the samizdat variety. Of such cosmic (if not celestial) errors as his reelection are heroes and legends engendered.
About the NHL lockout (and why not?)…the ones I feel for are the ordinary folks whose livelihoods require a season. I stopped watching domestic hockey (I prefer movies) when the six teams became legion. My disinterest has less to do with the end of that format, as such, than with the transformation of game to spectacle, multi-dozen-team grid and all. Spectacle is fine for an Olympics aloha, but not in the stead of a game. Spectacles abet the diminishment of the individual, something sewn up through the use of masks and masking helmets. Baseball players have faces. (North American football doesn’t register in my camp; the game reminds me of furniture being moved.) There are now as many NHL players as there are poets on PEI. Imagine poets wearing helmets and masks…reading to spectators in The Reading Well.
After digesting my November column, restaurateur and rover Eugene Sauvé remarked to me that he was disappointed I didn’t acknowledge him as one of my PEI characters. Those I named as such are deceased, I reminded him. To all our still-functional characters I say, in the words of the bard of rubber and cosmic refinement, Live long and prosper.