Because the 'Letters in Canada' number of UTQ is not just an issue of a journal but a kind of critical anthology that comes around every year, the thoughts turn first to books of that sort. In Canadian letters there are the big ones, the ones that remind us that anthologies are often less well-described as books than as tomes. From the collections of Dewart up to Smith, from Geddes up to Bennett and Brown (the latter couple former editors of this journal), such tomes have had an impact on the national literature, not only when considered at home, but also as it has come to be considered elsewhere. In 'tome' the skeptic may also hear the echo of the tomb, as an anthology these days is often felt to entomb as canonical what before was part of a living and breathing tradition. Arguments on this score have always struck me as wanting; truly living writing cannot be made moribund by being placed in new contexts, and the 'canon' is more chimerical than convention would have it. Instead, in 'tome,' one may rather hear the echo of time. The anthologies mentioned above took much of it in their making, while their making of an impact, though in some cases partially immediate, took still more of it to be better known.
Yet there is another way in which time may operate with respect to anthologies. Rather than biding one's time and producing a tome, an editor may be compelled to respond to events that are more immediate. In these cases, although collecting and sifting and evaluating remain of the essence as always, so too is the conviction that there is no time to spare, that the right time is now, that time stands still for no one, editors of anthologies included. Several such collections appeared in 2009. One of them, Gulch, edited by Sarah Beaudin, Karen Correia Da Silva, and Curran Folkers, gathers not only poetry but also prose, continuing both to accentuate the differences of these two modes of writing by placing them in close proximity (as have centuries of prosimetrists), but also to resist the perception of differences by blurring them (as have prose poets for the last hundred years or so). It calls itself an 'assemblage' rather than an anthology, the latter word doubtless too stodgy for this bright and youthful volume. [End Page 151]
The collection counts among its opening epigraphs a Wikipedia entry and this statement by Deleuze and Guattari: 'The book imitates the world, as art imitates nature: by procedures specific to it that accomplish what nature cannot or can no longer do.' At first I took this as a heartening defence of the book as book, which it may well be. But a likelier interpretation is that the editors are asserting that in a digital age, the printed book, to retain its relevance, must more effectively imitate the world, a digital world now dominated by the Internet - the only world, I suspect, ever known by some of the volume's contributors. From its opening statement, 'This Book Is a Rhizome,' to Adebe D.A.'s 'Poemagogy,' to John Unrau's 'New Age Muskie Considers a Change of Lifestyle,' Gulch privileges the rhetoric of (and itself exists as an example of) that ever-regenerative genre, the manifesto. Indeed, there is an assaultive claim being made in the very layout of the book, with Alice-in-Wonderland font sizes that shrink and shoot up willy-nilly; with poems and prose and pictures printed in passages every which way, be they upside down or crooked or shaped like a pyramid or nestled among one another like Russian dolls; with chunks of words in one column, two columns, three columns, four. It is all a little busy for me, but then the book, its texts and its layout included, is meant to be - must be - provocative to remain true to its intentions. In Shannon Webb Campbell's transparently titled 'A Fragmented Manifesto,' she writes, 'Because we live in a time beyond distinction. / Because we are characteristically uncharacteristic. / Because we've boomed, busted and echoed our way into a state of numbness. / Because...