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Romance Writing Workshop

On February 9 PEI Writers’ Guild will host a workshop entitled Heat Rising: Writing the Romantic R [ ... ]

Clyde River Lecture Series

The theme for the 7th Annual Clyde River Lectures Series is “Cars, Photography and Fashion” [ ... ]

Celtic High Spirits


Review by Joseph Sherman

Donnchadh Gough's a demon drummer. Built mast-high and crowned with a mop of unruly hair, he hunches low over his amplified bodhran and whacks the tar out of it with one of his several tippers. Except there's no tar and his playing is actually the subtlest I've heard, bar Donal Lunny's. Not many drummers can command so much of a concert without alienating even die-hard percussionophiles, but young Gough is remarkably adept, as well as engaging.

"Young" and "engaging" apply to all seven members of Danú, an award-winning ensemble that may well be the finest progressive-traditional (my term) Irish band touring today. I measure all such groups against the celestial standard set by the Bothy Band and Planxty a few decades ago. Danú weighs in convincingly.

Prog-trad bands are usually either pipe+flute-or accordion-driven (pipes nucleated the sound of the Bothies and Planxty both), but Danú dares to convene bellows and reeds, offering button and piano accordions (played by Brendan McCarthy and Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, respectively) and Uilleann pipes played by none other than Gough the goater. In fact, one of my few gripes about Danú-in-concert is that you can't hear both bodhran and pipes simultaneously. (McCarthy does tease the goatskin when Gough tweedles, but shouldn't bother.)

Danú's live arrangements are not subtle (though they impress on CD, curiously), and all seven players put out on nearly every tune, which makes for a righteous noise and an abundance of squeezebox. I'd favour a tad more finesse and some selective soloing.

These are impressive individual musicians. Tom Doorley's flute playing is wondrously confident, and Jesse Smith's fiddling is textured and stylized. Any good prog-trad group offers a significant rhythm player or players; here they are Eamon Doorley on bouzouki/cittern and Noel Ryan on guitar.

This was my second Danú show and first full concert-a real test of their stage presence. The boys aren't yet slick and showy, just a bunch of highly talented college-agers who happen to be musically disciplined, if like weary Celtic cherubim (having just flown in from Vancouver). And as much as I loved the jigs and reels -most traditional, some newly composed- the highlights for me were vocal. Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, a child of the Waterford Gaeltacht, is a well-trained Irish traditional singer, and his soulful rendition of "The Fair-haired Child" nailed down the first half, as did his harvest song and a version of "Fair and Tender Ladies" in the second.

In the years since the demobbing of Planxty and the Bothies (both linked to the venerable Chieftains by virtuoso flutist Matt Molloy), I've been hard pressed to find real satisfaction with another Celtic band. There's Déanta and, sometimes, Altan. But the raw spirit that infused my favourites seems reborn with Danú. If they can stick together (there's to be a fiddler changeover this fall), I expect to be listening with great pleasure to their umpteenth CD. They've put out two to date and have built an enviable fan base across North America.

Judging by the enthusiastic SRO audiences at both the concerts I've attended, the PEI roots Danú's put down will remain well watered. Maturity will produce an even richer sound. For now, exceptional musicianship and youthful exuberance are just nifty.

Joseph Sherman is a poet and dilettante bodhran player.

The Lost Accord

The Dal Segno Trio: Picasso in Paris

Review by Joseph Sherman

The premise behind Picasso in Paris, presented by New York's Dal Segno Trio (Mescal Wilson, piano; John Kneiling, cello; Stanley Hoffman, violin) is academic, at the undergrad level: if hindsight peepshows an early 20th century Paris beating with the Famous Spaniard's changeable heart, then why not showcase some of the `classical' music associated with these very decades of thrills and flux? As selected: Trio in D Minor, Op. 120 by Gabriel Fauré; Sonata for Violin and Cello by Maurice Ravel; Trio No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 8 by Dmitry Shostakovich; and Trio No. 2 in B Minor, Op. 76 by Joaquin Turina.

It was a beautiful summer PEI evening, all threats of a thunderstorm dissipated, and St. Mary's church once again an apt venue for the spiritual to be found in the religiously created. A mid-July sun inclined upon Fauré and Ravel, and set upon Shostakovich and Turina.

I know I might have enjoyed the first piece of music but for the way my ears met its interpretation. I am fond of Fauré's vocal compositions, and was pleased to have him served up as a representative of lushly melodic, late-era Romanticism. One would expect to find elements of trilling liquidity dangling from web strands among piano, cello and violin. In theory only. I don't know whether it was intentional, but the Dal Segno's playing, inclusive of a top-heavy piano and odd sounds from the strings, appeared to be elbowing this composer into the anti-Romantic camp without his permission.

More than one listener awaited the pianoless Ravel sonata, hoping to hear something different, yet familiar. This wasn't it. Perhaps this was the Cubist Picasso, chopping at the arterial strings; it certainly conjured up the puissant image of Pablo the Defiant micturating on the grand staircase of the Palais Garnier (as referenced in the program notes). In concert, Ravel surely stuck his tongue out more than once. Delightful. The problem with music that strives determinedly to make a point in the midst of sociocultural flux is that it does so at the expense of accord. Some folks prefer accord. I did smile back at the insistently playful "Très vif" movement.

Shostakovich was not a comfy fit at Indian River, and as much was declared. Other Russians found Picasso's Paris, but he wasn't among them. The ambitious composer, who would live to run afoul of Stalin as well as of the opposition, was 17 when he composed this single-movement piece, and it is an accomplishment at that level. Young Shosty had been taking himself seriously. But it's a fat splinter, a musical poem of modest breadth, and almost a novelty number when set among the sweated elaborations of Fauré, Ravel and Turina.

The Dal Segno musicians seemed most at ease in presenting the Turina Trio, as was the audience in taking it in. Joaquin Turina, like Pablo Picasso, left the backwater of provincial Spain to learn some lessons in Paris-thus qualifying for this clutch of composers-though he didn't stay. A mid-career accomplishment, the No. 2 is energetically confident, as dramatic as it needs to be, and astonishingly brief, even with its three melody-powered movements. Briskly performed, with no single instrument overwhelming its companions, it sent the sizeable and now reassured audience off into the starry, suddenly still night.

Touched by the Mews

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

I was licking myself silly the other day, when from the corner of one glittering eye I caught that signal incoming window-light that speaks unmistakably of approaching summer. While it's true that my outdoor gamboling (I range as far as the riverbank and the occasional glistening, pertly rotting fish carcass) means that I may innocently smuggle home a pallet-load of fleas, I've never been content to just loll about, contrary to the peccable opinion registered by the upright denizens of my domain. True, when I am at one with the universe, I relax all over the place. I know, I look so darned cute, white moustache aquiver, little white-tipped forepaws crossed, or paws crossed over nose (that one makes my uprights, as I refer to them, giddy with admiration). It amuses to see those who live to serve me vocalize so ecstatically when they spy me in at-ease mode. Rolling over and squiggling about, paws in the air? Don't even ask.

The home cat who presently outranks me mewls plaintively in order to be let out, but then hugs the foundation walls and ensconces himself in a mahonia bush, where he says he feels safe. Good for him. He's so neurotic I could convince him he's a ferret. For me there are open lawns to take in a bounce, and brainless spring-soaked rodents and birdlings worthy of my rapt attention. I may be a femme (neutering aside), but at times I'm as feral as all get-out. Luckily, I'm forgiven almost any assassination in exchange for delicious moments of winsomeness. I do winsome very well. And I also talk to my uprights regularly. They can't catspeak, but they do bleat and burble in response to my own cleverly nuanced exclamations.

Forgiveness is mine even after I've been creative with the toilet-paper roll. I'd taken it for a kinetic cat toy, designed to stretch one's paw muscles, claws extended, over the bathroom counter. As for those corners of artistically shredded of my uprights remains unrealistically indignant, while the other feigns indifference-almost catlike in her sagacity.

Where they seem united, regrettably, is on what I'll call the cat highway issue. Cat highways, invisible to all other creatures, are exclusive household avenues for moving about and include dining-room tables, kitchen-countertops and living-room furniture and shelving. Some surfaces are cluttered with brightly coloured glass and clay impedimenta. And if it's true that I once inadvertently dislodged a colourful pottery plate from its display stand, who cares, really? Some objects are so absurdly fragile.

Of course I lost interest in the dratted thing as soon as its shards settled upon the carpet. Heavens, three minutes after the item tumbled, it was ancient history to yours truly. But when the uprights returned home, they lectured me shamelessly. Winsomeness failed me for once. Their voices rose too. So displeasing to my delicate ears. I seriously contemplated looking about for better body servants. After all, if one is going to plunk strangely shaped objects in the middle of a cat highway, one must expect consequences. Now, if the silly thing had been edible...

From my perspective, whether I am floorbound or scouting the heights of bookshelf and piano, uprights are wasting their time deciding where to spend their money, which would best be put directly into cat comforts and cuisine. A cat neither spends nor barters (field mouse and chickadee cadavers on the doorstep are not offerings but proof of supremacy), she simply takes, and has no use for anything so abstract as currency; but my uprights do and this impinges upon my well-being. I have assiduously researched what it is upright society lavishes its money upon, and some revision of priorities is in order. These thoughts from a learned tabby.

Restored funding for that CBC? Forget it. Give it to the cats and cat culture. New Canada Council money for writers, performers and artists? Nonsense. Give it to the equally adept cats. Money to build museums and interpretive centres? A waste. Let the cats have it. Internet funding? Ditto.

Attend to the way cats navigate through an upright world. You'll pick up, among other things, the best techniques for paw/tongue hygiene and scratching behind your ears.

Summer vacationers are on the move, but they're not on the Island for that Lucy Mouse Montgomery-it's cultured cats they're after. If you think the best of us are cute and clever now, endow us with the appropriate funding and we'll knock your booties off.

Ask Mr. Culture

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

Mr. Culture, when I buy art, should I be complementing my décor or strategizing the best possible investment?

Neither. Buy what speaks to you in some, even inexplicable, way; admire what you acquire. Investing in art is a mug's game tops, and there's no guarantee you'll even get your money back.

Mr. C, why should I care about artists who cry poor when Canada's servicemen and women are so impoverished at home and in the field?
Mr. Culture's theory is that there should be a switcheroo: the military to be fully privatized and artists employed by the government (with a clothing allowance rather than uniforms).

Mr. C, Alex Colville constantly knocks public funding for artists, and he's an old guy now who owns fancy cars and property, with his paintings selling for $150,000. Is there a lesson here?
Alex Colville is a relentlessly talented artist who came to exemplify something otherwise non-existent called Maritime Realism. His exhibitions and publications required public funding, something he's content to ignore. He's a businessman, and his images reflect a chill, sterile view of our world. Rendering what he witnessed as a war artist in a liberated concentration camp left him feeling nothing, he asserts. Need I say more?

Mr. C, I admit that I find most abstract and pretty much all conceptual art unconvincing and suspect that it's something of a con job. Am I wrong-headed?
Obviously, you haven't been paying attention, you don't read, and you think Marcel Duchamp's Fountain to be a misappropriated bathroom fixture. The best art isn't what you see, it's what you make up.

Mr. C, was the late Balthus a pornographic painter? Yes.

Mr. C, Why are there so many giant supermarkets here and so few decent book and record outlets?
Because more people eat than read well or listen to fine music. Food stores are springing up like Carrie's hand and are the places to be seen nowadays. Anyhow, at least one local emporium features live music.

Mr. C, I think there are far too many arts awards, especially for literature-how about you?
You might argue that so many prizes will spoil the handful of giddy `lottery winners' and foster the illusion that a writer can actually make a living in Canada. Or you could salute such innovations as the Yusiuk Award for Best Last Book, to be given for the best last book published by a deserving author.

Mr. C, what's the best single reason against P.E.I. appointing its own poet laureate?
Nobody would notice.

Mr. C, what's the best single reason for appointing one? It would be a wise and sensitive thing to do.

Mr. C, why do so many really good movies never come here or arrive late?
Certainly, subtitled movies take a while. One theory's that Islanders dislike having to read their dialogue, so even Oscar-calibre foreign films rarely surface. The institutional exception is City Cinema, which thankfully brings in stuff we'd never see otherwise, this side of Free Trade city. City is, in fact, the only alternative cinema in Atlantic Canada now, something many flick-fans may fail to appreciate.

Mr. C, why is it so hard to find really good older movies at local video outlets?
We're being saved from ourselves. If they didn't routinely de-list the classics, old and new, there'd be no wall space for Nicholas Cage and Wesley Snipes hotties.

Mr. C, it's occurred to me that all those juice-and milk-carton pull-tabs must be useful for something. What do you think?
I collect popped pull-tabs, as a matter of fact, and hope some day to see them incorporated into some significant work of kinetic art.

Mr. C, which'd be more effective, a sign saying Welcome to P.E.I., the home of Milton Acorn or one reading Welcome to P.E.I., the home of Lori Kane?
More people gush over athletes than cultural practitioners, unless the latter are, so to speak, literary athletes. L.M.M. was one. Acorn wasn't. I was poet laureate at a golf tourney once; I guess anything is possible beneath the flowering sun.

Projecting Big

A Cultural Life

by Joseph Sherman

Last century, as residents of Snowbelt City, we learned to get through interminable winters by embracing the snowshoe and the cross-country ski (curling was no option), hosting talented visitors, having children, and imagining new uses for our classic Canadian climate and terrain. Brainstorm! Let's make a drive-in movie. Remember those? The sort of flick that now goes direct to video?

Working title: Bloodsickles. A noirama about a laconic, world-weary loner-Eastwood melded with Fonda fils, say-just home from a foreign war (pick one from column `A'), to find his little mountain-shadowed community invaded by virulent snowmobilers, a tribe bravely opposed by an awfully nice, environmentally sensitive and naïve cross-country ski faction.

See, it's a wintry transposing of Brit mods and rockers. Remember those? Hogs vs. scooters? The weary loner-I call him Shane-is himself a crack skier with oil-burner smarts (the fruit of his faraway war). His old flame, a lithe, long-tressed blonde (Yvette Mimieux rejuvenated), is pillaged by the head 'biler, a menacing Arafat-stubbled boyo-think Dennis Hopper meshed with Maury Chaykin-who wears a scavenger-ornamented sallet. (We know the bad set is really bad because cats don't trust them.) The justice-seeking rejoinder from the skiers is met with stock movie mayhem, and they're forced into sorry off-track retreat.

Our hero, reluctantly pried from his haunted reverie, arises with a vengeance, assuming leadership of the whupped and beleaguered. He teaches them how to wage guerrilla war in the Maritime hinterland: tripwires, pitfalls, slings and arrows, exploding snowmobiles. Blood, sex, rock 'n' roll (with a boffo soundtrack)...straight to a screen as big as all outdoors.

At The End, after the oil-burners are obliterated, Shane himself drifts into the setting sun, though urged to remain by those he's helped (heroine #2, a short-tressed brunette with a quiet command of Canadian poetry-think Janeane Garofalo-pitches him woo and loses), promising to return one day. The credits roll: a lone 'bile slices across a distant snowy bluff. Spawn of Satan...could this mean a sequel? Do birds bring forth the sun?

"You do," queried my incredulous half-brother Archie, "intend this as satire?" (Bro is a tenured media prof and favours tweed muscle shirts.) "No," I replied, "It's a straight-out exploitation flick devoid of redeeming social or moral value." C'mon, my intention was to avert storm-stayed dementia and embellish our bank account. But nought transpired, for all I knew about moviemaking; Bloodsickles remained a slushy dream.

After two decades on Canada's Island and a déjà vu winter, the idea has resurfaced like last summer's garden rake. Heck, who needs mountainside trails? Why not film right here on PEI?

This needn't cost a bomb...five mil, maybe? I can put up our summer home against a loan. Then there's product placement: machines, ski stuff, junk food. FedEx might lend us a plane, but I don't need a plane. I now know a consulting Hollywood producer, a Maritime ex-pat who often breaks bread with director Ivan "Meatballs" Reitman and Arnie "Hey baby, wanna fingerwalk my etchings?" Schwarzenegger.

PEI's never been the location of a proper feature film, though showbiz mavins summer here. I'd hire locally, except for the stars. Yeah, that sucks, but the movie-rental market craves familiar faces. I figure Keanu or Brad for the male lead (though I'd trade our two cats for Daniel Day Lewis). Maybe Charlize Theron for the blonde, Drew Barrymore as the 'biler moll who tries to corrupt Shane. There'll still be roles for all my thespian friends. I may even find a part for my Irish wolfhound, Fila.

The soundtrack? A winner, with lots of period hits (once I identify the period), and an original song from the Island to run with the credits...maybe something from Rude Rotweilers or a fresh tune by Lennie G.

Bloodsickles: it might even make the real reel screen if the celestial stars align. The screenplay's next. Heywood Shelkey is willing to produce, soon as he sells his lighthouse. Then bring on another winter of big snows.

What's my Name?

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

With all of the two-facedness normally attributed to composting politicians, glam-rock musicians, and junk-bond salesman, I blush to own up to my own brand of deception. Make that multiplicity rather than duplicity. Between 1979 and 2000, when the moon ascended to a certain phase, I assumed, though not all at once, the identities of as many as nine characters, besides the wily persona who bylines this column.

As editor of ARTSatlantic, I left most of that magazine's writing to the professionals and professionals-in-training. Once in a while, over my twenty-one years and sixty-one issues, I was unable to find a contributor for a certain assignment, or I thought to save the magazine a few bucks; or, most rare, I simply felt like writing a piece myself (other than the editorial)-so I did.

And then...something would come over me. I'd avoid reflective surfaces during these ID-shifting times, but I could feel my identity changing, a new spirit taking possession of my giblets. Shazam! Most would call these unbottled identities noms de plumes, pseudonyms; though I always felt that they weren't mere nomenclatural shadow figures but driven alter egos sharing the wickered security of my bones.

Martin Lerner was the first to arrive. A wee, tim'rous, if hormonally supercharged, Bluenoser, sprung to life in an autobiographical poem (included in Lords of Shouting, my 1982 book), he grew up to be an eagerly decent but presumptuous reviewer of unencumbered art and picture books, and the occasional popular play. For a long while he wanted to be me.

H. Felix Paravicino (the original was a Jesuit priest of that name painted by Velasquez...or was it Goya?) popped in once to adjudicate some Island music, trailing the silk scarf of vainglory. Having come of age in Firenza, he had little patience with his editor's instructions.

D. W. McDonald, a peripatetic Cape Bretoner, reviewed two Island plays before returning to school to become a Latin scholar.

Marc Loewy Danziger was a natural blowhard who couldn't believe he found himself writing for such a piddly spud of a magazine as ARTSatlantic. He resembled his name, poor fellow, and possessed a faltering mid-Atlantic accent.

Chris Gallagher was a kindly devotee of Maritime realism and its contemporary artist practitioners, who trafficked in Beatles memorabilia on the side.

Bryce Harris, just possibly a distant relation of P.E.I.'s Robert and W. C. Harris, was a simple man of modest build with an easy swagger, who made his way to the magazine's office late in my stewardship. He favoured beige polo shirts with an ash-gray or brown blazer, and sucked on unlit DuMauriers. Steve Smith, who came and went, came and went, and was a no-nonsense, call-it-like-it-is kind of guy, didn't know a great deal about well-made art, but recognized pulled wool when it brushed his brow. His toothpick-chewing habit was a bit off-putting.

Reuben Selskey was a nervous assayer of mid-20th-century craft, with a malaise of the pineal eye. An American from the northeast, and temporarily down on his luck, he and I had something in common, but neither of us could ever figure out what it was.

YKK-a mysterious flamboyard, sporting the moniker of an Oriental zipper manufacturer-was too self-consciously cool to succeed at being cool, too secretly square to be hip. YKK feasted on celebrities and celebrity-raising events and was inclined to indulge even the pious and sanctimonious. After making a few well-chosen, if contentious, statements in the magazine, YKK abruptly fell off the map.

Though I write about my sodality of nine in the past tense, as if their visitations are done, their lives gone back into the bottle, that bottle sequestered somewhere in Middle Earth, their return is not out of the question. Perhaps they are like latter-day golems, to be summoned at need. Heywood Shelkey, the Island's champion parvenu, has offered to bet that some of them, at least, will turn up again, whether I'm happy to see them or not.

Joseph Sherman is the sole author of American Standard & Other Poems, to be published later this year.

Poets on the Half Shell

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

The time has come for P.E.I. to have its own Poet Laureate. While a bill to appoint one nationally died in Ottawa with the latest election call, the news that Saskatchewan has recently named its own has given me the incentive to paper the table.

The traditional image of the Poet Laureate is a familiar one to even the non-literary, if only from grade school and the memorizing of lines and stanzas by John Masefield, Alfred Lord Tennyson and others. In that light, it does seem a British thing.

And yet even the Americans have their own PL-the vitally 95-year-old Stanley Kunitz being currently installed. A few years back it was Mark Strand, a powerful poet with a P.E.I. past. Some states too have their own; the late Gwendolyn Brooks represented Illinois.

If the inclination is to associate the Poet Laureate with stodgy commemorations of royal and sur-royal nitterings and heroic manifestations of governmental behaviour, bear in mind that the current UK Laureate (the infamous Ted Hughes' successor) wrote a moving elegy about one of Britain's recent rail disasters, something that can't have charmed Whitehall. These days, commemoration of official deeds and doings can be expected to share page space and air with any number of societal goings-on that a perceptive poet determines might be plumbed for his or her expanded public.

Why bother at all, you ask? Even if you can get your head around that whiff of fustiness, why do we need a `state' poet to observe and comment, when we've the media in all its digitized glory? How does the notion of a quill-bearing scribbler mesh with the reality of a word-processing maven? Why, simply because. Our options in communication and idea-dissemination are too diverse, and too cynical. Its practitioners are devoid of lyricism. The finest poetry is an essence, a distillation, as with a superlative potable, and celebrates the use of language at its best, communicating observations and ideas both-memorably, if all clicks. Fine poets navigate a tightrope by choice.

So why poetry and not prose-why not a Writer Laureate, as one prominent Island storyteller asked me? (Why not a Painter Laureate, for that matter?) Many non-poetry writers mention the smaller reading audience for published verse. Because the genre of poetry speaks to all that is key to thinking, is why. Good poetry, as opposed to doggerel (which has its place), is not readily disposable. Anyone claiming writerhood owes a debt to poets in history, among them the fictioneers and dramatists, comedians and tragedians. Shakespeare's plays are an amalgam of both poetry and prose, with the poetry reserved for the best parts-the most eloquent thoughts, the ones generations of teachers had their students recite.

Saskatchewan's Poet Laureate will receive no salary but will be given many opportunities to read, presumably in schools mostly; with a guarantee of ten paid readings over a two-year period. If that's at the rate of $200 per, he'll rake in $2,000 before taxes over the span of his appointment. Glen Sorestad, the inaugural PL, is a fine and prolific poet as well as a publisher of note (Thistledown Press), and highly respected within and without Saskatchewan. P.E.I. has been experiencing a poetry revival. If Milton Acorn was the Island's most celebrated poet of the last century, there may now be almost too many worthy candidates for this posting to name here. It's enough to say that, if the two-year model were to be adopted, we'd have no trouble filling the post with first-raters for years to come. And if it matters, most of them write more than poetry.

We can develop whatever terms are suitable. A P.E.I. PL might, in traditional fashion, write on the gilded activities of the Crown, but also opine on the workings of Island society. He or she would be chosen by a committee made up of writers, publishers and teachers, from a list of established published poets with impeccable credentials. Saskatchewan's payless plan is not my ideal, and it sets a precedent, though surely a respectable honorarium is possible, along with the recognition. The assurance that the PL would be invited to all government functions, as well as to schools throughout the province (expenses paid), would be requisite. Not incidentally, I would like to see a spot reserved in the Island's daily, and in this publication, for a regular contribution from the Poet Laureate.

The PL could represent P.E.I. abroad and during tourist season. No knee-breeches or funny hats, though; this is a respectable and dignified business, and will carry the word that the creative spirit is alive, well and welcome across P.E.I., a province whose time-capsule writers are always being invoked: MacPhail, Montgomery, Acorn. We're already on record as lovers of fine literature.

The best traditions are those that can be reconsidered and reconfigured, in service to the times. It is now officially the 21st century, and what better than for P.E.I. to sign on with enthusiasm for the creative process-progressive traditionalism of the finest kind.

Creation Theory

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

Herewith a short debate on cultural issues (conducted in election limbo) between our old amigo Heywood Shelkey and one Gabe Melkart, new to you.

GM: Mr. Shelkey, no-nonsense Princess County entrepreneur and pragmatic visionary, I presume...?

HS: Hail Melkart, Phoenician god of Tyre and the Maritimes.

In unison: Let us begin.

HS: Well, now, that re-formed Reform party had no spot for matters cultural on its election deck, and remains inclined to eviscerate public funding for the arts and auction off the CBC, if empowered. Me, I kind of concur.

GM: How can a true visionary such as yourself shun perspective and not recognize cultural activity in all its facets as being intrinsic to society’s well being, and so worthy of continued government support?

HS: That cultural tourism and cultural industries stuff is one thing, but encouraging people who claim to be creative while they make art you can’t understand or sell? The great Alex Colville doesn't buy that. I don’t buy that.

GM: Exactly, you don’t buy that. But you do bandy about terms that are misleading, even dangerous, prompting false expectations. Genuine art—the real megillah (as we say in Tyre)—gives the mind a workout. Society benefits accordingly. And your Colville, my dear sir, now a wealthy artist, has accepted Ottawa’s largesse over his career. How dare he sell short the young, nurturable artists of today.

HS: When I ogle art I want to be reassured and inspired by beauty and the artist’s skill, not made to fret and squirm. The finest art’s a tonic, not an emetic.

GM: You are afraid to think, sir. And what of your CBC?

HS: Despite the radical phlebotomy performed on it, CBC Radio’s still for elites and effetes. CBC TV belongs in the 20th century. If Canadians want a public broadcaster, let ’em pay as they go, like they do due south.

GM: CBC Radio’s a tarnished gemstone, sir. I am appalled by many of the recent changes, but it’s still the broadcaster to which a curious god cocks his ear. Michael Ondaatje swears by it, and by informed public funding.

HS: So Canadians are supposed to divert millions from health care and athletics to ensure that a few odd socks have a broadcast presence, and that brooding artists get rent and grocery money?

GM: It’s so unjust to play the health issue off against culture. An arts-deprived country must itself be sick and soulless.

HS: You’re not only an elitist, Melkart, you’re a ditzy deity. Dedicated artists will do their thing no matter the hardship. Ol’ Colville knows best.

GM: Do we ask our political and business leaders to toil for naught, to exist on sporadic handouts?

HS: Mustard and marmalade. Take a gander over the border to see the consequences of a leadership vacuum; and money’s not even the issue there.

GM: I beg to differ. But see here, Shelkey, I’ve examined some of your early screeds. Your dogmatic attitude of the moment, here in limbo, appears to be a volte-face.

HS: Trying it on for size, O god of Tyre, just. Some visionaries are businessmen. And you? Are you as lily-liberal as the guy with the name beside the title?

GM: I pity all who self-righteously espouse the abandonment of funding the arts and its institutions. They are sadly ignorant, deficient in common sense, and must be frightened creatures indeed. As for our host and facilitator, he is a poet, after all.

HS: Ever tried reading what he writes? You’d best keep his profile low if you want to make a point.

HM: Perhaps you’re right. But why spare him?

HS: Ah, let’s do it in the spirit of the season.

Joseph Sherman is a Charlottetown-based writer, editor and facilitator.

Events Calendar

January 2019
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31

Some Upcoming Events

Raised on TV #3

February 15 & 16
The Guild Now in its third season, Raised on Television (RoTV3) is taking a loo [ ... ]

Sequential thinking

Serial arrangements at Confederation Centre Art Gallery Until March 19 The tradition of artists wo [ ... ]


January 29–February 3
City Cinema 14A, coarse language, substance abuse
Dir: Ethan Hawke, US, 129 m [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Music PEI Canadian Songwriter Challenge

In partnership with ECMA 2019 Music PEI and ECMA 2019 have announced a partnership bringing togethe [ ... ]

The facilitator

Profile: Steve Bellamy by Jane Ledwell “Arts are ways into emotions. Arts are where we connect, [ ... ]

A gift of Island poetry: John MacKenzie

The Feet of Blue Herons If you happen to live in another town,
Or country, or even galaxy
As dim and  [ ... ]