Friday, February 05, 2016

`A Monument as Fragile as the Grass'

I was warned to be prepared, like any good Boy Scout. Seasoned bloggers offered cautious encouragement, though I could hear the unspoken message: “He won’t last.” I half-agreed with them. Consistency had never been among my virtues, and I worried about my digital incompetence. Then one Sunday, ten years ago today, almost impulsively, like a kid diving into a quarry for the first time, I posted something. I have just forced myself to read it again, and I shiver in shame. If I have accomplished anything in a decade of blogging, it’s that my writing is tighter, less effusive, more attuned to linking words to thoughts and less devoted to making an impression on imaginary readers. I work hardest at writing, not reading.

At first I envisioned the blog as some variation on a commonplace book, a repository for whatever was memorable in what I happened to be reading. But I have never been a passive reader, though I don't fancy myself a critic. Even a lousy book stirs a reaction, so I soon began using books, or minute passages in books, as grit in the grit-to-pearl metamorphosis. This came naturally, like breathing, and so I have posted something every day for ten years, 3,911 posts as of this morning. I find the germ of this practice in my years as a newspaper reporter. You don’t argue with a deadline. Without an editor I have every writer’s dream – utter independence. On second thought, I do have an editor and he works cheap – Dave Lull — mon semblable, — mon frère! I also thank Helen Pinkerton, Joseph Epstein, Bruce Floyd, Mark Marowitz, R.L. Barth, Bill Vallicella, the late D.G. Myers, Terry Teachout, Nige Andrews, Mike Gilleland and others.

My unscientific impression is that some of today’s finest poetry is written by Canadians, whether by birth, or present or former residency, including Marius Kociejowski, Eric Ormsby, Norm Sibum and David Solway (to list them strictly alphabetically). Likewise in their company is Robert Melançon, author of For as Far as the Eye Can See (trans. Judith Cowan, Biblioasis, 2013). Here is the last of that collection’s 144 twelve-line almost-sonnets, which says something about Anecdotal Evidence and the fate of most writing:      

“I have built up a monument as fragile as the grass,
as unstable as the daylight, as fleeting as the air, and
as fluid as the rain we see running in the streets.

“I’ve consigned it to paper that will dry, and
which may burn, or be splotched by the damp
with a bloom of pink, or green, or grey mildew,

“and give off a pungent earthy odour. I’ve worked
in the transient substance of a tongue that will
cease to be spoken, sooner or later, or be pronounced

“some other way, forming other words to convey
other thoughts. I’ve pledged it to the oblivion certain
to enfold all that this day bathes in its sweetness.”

7 comments:

Choderlos Laclos said...

Happy tenth anniversary Anecdotal! A relative newcomer to the site. Loving it so far. Sitting pretty in France.

D. I. Dalrymple said...

Congratulations on ten years! I've been visiting your blog almost every day for the past eight of them.

-Z. said...

Another relative newcomer here. I enjoy AE very much. You've produced a real gem, Mr. Kurp.

Di said...

Happy anniversary! I love your blog.

Tim Guirl said...

I've been a daily reader, much to my intense delight, for several years. Happy 10th Anniversary to Anecdotal Evidence.

Unknown said...

Happy anniversary Patrick! I don't know what I'd do without Anecdotal Evidence.

Cal Gough said...

Congratulations. You've been at it for so long! (Maybe you should add consistency to your list of characteristics? If not now, when???) Your writing is always interesting, even when I disagree with your sentiments occasionally. And your blog has guided me to numerous treasures I would never otherwise have fallen upon. (The latest, Alexander Smith's DREAMTHORP - what amazing essays!) I hope you don't tire of the blogging any time soon.