A social scientist’s wet dream: an answer to the question "What do you get when you lock three poets in a bookstore for three days?" Between April 8th and 11th, 1997, Kedrick James, Alex Ferguson and John Sobol decided to find out and a small slice of the answer looked like this: It takes some people months to bring a single poem to term, but in that orgiastic weekend each of the three rogue scholars personally produced 122 of them, a feat next to which the statistic of one poem per poet every 101 minutes seems somehow anticlimactic. It is true that in an atmosphere such as that of the venerable Black Sheep Books inspirational boosts would seem nigh inevitable (could one resist the endless distractions) and it is rumoured that each of the writers prepared themselves each to his own with whatever rituals, observances, meditations and/or imbibances as they thought might optimize their creative flow during the severely-constrained time they had to embark on this grueling literary marathon. Perhaps any of us might have fared as well or better under the same circumstances, because assuredly there are as many misses in this slim volume as there are hits, but how many of us would actually have gone through with it?

Because of the relatively low demand for volumes of improvisational poetry, the project was conceived with an ulterior mandate. The project was subtitled "a book of daze" and feeding off that playful pun combined with the nominal identity of an almanac, the collection of poems was destined to turn into a calendar, providing arcane words and not infrequently notation of historical-cultural-political precedents to open each day with. August 15th, to pick a date at random, not only informs us that on that day in 1969 the Woodstock festival opened but also gives us the following mind-tickler worthy of entering the arena with any of Gary Larson's tear-off dailies:

rene magritte and john cage meet on a calendar

this is not a poem

you do not care

Some days tell you what to expect, some comment on annual events or holidays and still others give you advice or urge retrospection. Then there are the skeletal few which only hint at any discernible connection between its sparse and immaculate words. A good example of one of those occurs a few days later where we are faced with the starkness of Ferguson’s minimalist-arcane trimmer-than-a-haiku entry for August 21st:

Interpretation of these sparse words may have to come from somewhere within, which Sobol notes in his contribution to the introduction in his suggested translations of "Exstatic", the first and foremost of which is "out of self." Other, all equally-applicable senses of the Latin phrase include "out of one’s senses", "out of place" or more literally "displacement" or "entrancement."

Where the entrancement really kicks in is the accompanying CD Verbomotorhead, showing what a solemn vow of orality in a Bohemian monastery as a group and a few hours in a studio can result in. Dissonant, unintelligible, psychotic, cacophonous, yes. But also unique, demanding and terribly interesting. (Whether the emphasis will fall on the interest or the terrible is ultimately up to your own tastes and tolerances.)

James, Kedrick, et. al. Exstatic Almanac. Toronto: Insomniac Press, 1997.

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