Ephemeris by Norm Sibum

It only just now occurs to me to leave the state of literature to the state of literature and get on with polishing the silverware or attending to that buzz which has developed in my Martin D21 Special, which it is a guitar, not a banned assault weapon. It was my intention with these ‘posts’ to find a way of talking about literature and related matters without resorting to ‘reviewese’ à la the NYRB or other oracular sources closer to home. I did not mean to stoop to cleverness or literary jingoism of any kind. When a critic tells me that some poor poet’s use of language is ‘smart’, I find myself pitying the poet: he or she has just been garroted, if not dismissed. I am still recovering from a now distantly receded decade when I heard some poor schmuck’s poem being likened to a ‘word salad’. Good gravy, man, were we then to sample the dressing, say Roquefort Blue and so, pronounce on the piquancy-levels of the language concerned? The Trojan gift of the high-lighter compliment ‘word salad’ only reduced the work to an assemblage of words, which all poems already are in a topographical sense, unless I have missed some vital clue or other along the way. If one does not want to cave to stuffiness and pretension, neither does one want to capitulate to what cheapens or trivializes, or simply completes the review’s word count. There is no use maintaining that literature is a sacred activity (what else keeps the house honest? You mean our system of laws and our innate sense of justice have the house in question covered?) while treating it no better than hogs are treated in an abbatoir. For all that, it seems that in the post immediately previous to this one, I did ‘stoop’. Worse, I committed the sin of taking myself too seriously. My rule of thumb has been to, yes, take literature as seriously as possible, but myself, no, not so much. So then my apologies to all those good people who, at the Word bookshop two or so weeks ago, made up the panel discussion that had as its theme: ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Poetry’. To Messrs Guriel, Starnino, Wells. To Ms Lahey. That Esteemed Publisher subsequently worried for my sanity is perhaps worth remarking, his concern a kind one. I had only wished to make a point, but not being confrontational by nature, I forgot myself and was carried away in the wishing. I was told that the ‘panel’ went on to acquit itself just fine at other venues along the ‘corridor’, even Hamilton. I was told, for example, that Mr Guriel’s stipulation that literature ‘entertain’ was not the simplistic, lowest common denominator-seeking missile that a certain Sibum took it to be when the notion was broached in Montreal. And then someone else came along and suggested to me that when it comes to taking things seriously, I have not been taking my own poetry career seriously enough. Ah well, talk about unassailable logic. So I entertained the notion of quitting these posts. I was entertained out of the notion by various personages in each their guises as Concerned Citizens. What I will do is take a breather for a while and open Ephemeris up to others who wish to take up arms against a sea of troubles, to guest writers. I extend the invitation to the aforementioned panel members to write on any subject they please for the Ephemeris masses. My only caveat: I do not want to hear the dreaded ‘word salad’ meme applied to anything, including hapless words, sovereignty movements, dead horses—


Postscript: The CNQ Montreal Issue launch (also at The Word) went off without a hitch two nights ago. Adrian King-Edwards delivered his customary deadpan pre-game patter, a brief disquisition, in this instance, on the rather whimsical notion of profit margins in respect to second-hand bookstores. Mr Sijan directed traffic and Mr Boxer provided a literary backdrop by way of Cohen, Layton, Boxer and Klein that helped the evening cohere around the foreground of Sarah, Melan< class=“st”>çon, McGrath, Ferguson and Gill. The scene at the bar afterwards, speaking of ‘seriously’, was seriously boozy and amicable. A good time was had by all.