Sunday, March 16, 2014


(Ontario, 2013)

The Ought Book was two sets of Strathmore Calligraphy 20lb Writing paper each 50 sheets with woven finish. The 100-page book was carried by hand for 100 days, rotated one page per day, beginning Friday 8 March 2013. The Ought Book was provoked by my daughter-in-utero in anticipation of her birth: Here's an excerpt:

Today is International Women’s Day, and I start this project four days after learning that I will become the father of a daughter (due in late July, no penalties for lateness). After the rush of that new knowledge, and the realization of her impending humanity, we began our quest for a name for this new she. Our first consensus happened with the name Callista which is Greek for ‘the beautiful’. It won’t be our last consensus and we are a long way from decided, but it is a compelling start. Calligraphy, literally the beautiful writing, begins in this anticipation of this beautiful life. The Ought Book, these blank pages are already filling up with my thoughts on what I ought to do, what kind of a father I ought to be to this girl, on who I ought to be, become in this process.

The book travelled with me to academic conferences and poetry readings in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Victoria, St. Catharines, Buffalo, and Niagara Falls. It came to birthday parties, family dinners, dinner parties, bar nights, and one hockey game at the Bell Centre in Montreal. It was dropped, forgotten, stepped on, spilled on, and ripped. It was with me as I walked, biked, drove, and travelled by bus, train, and plane. It was dirty, embarrassing, and richly marked. It sat on the lectern for dozens of classes as I taught, and in my hand or on a stool or at the podium for more than a dozen presentations and poetry readings. People sneered at it, gave me advice on what I should do with it, what it might be, how I should extend it, raise it, discard it. One page had had the clean outline of a boot, from whom I do not remember. Marked and dirty, curled and wrought, the book disappeared after the 100th day: sentimental sediment, it is now nought but the idea of a blank lifemarked book.

Gregory Betts remains deeply in debt, and that is okay. He is a poet, prof, and parent in St. Catharines, Ontario. His books include The Obvious Flap (a collage of voices co-written with Gary Barwin), The Others Raisd in Me (150 poems plundered from Shakespeare's sonnet 150), and If Language (56 perfect paragraph-length anagrams). If you like a laugh, you should check out This Is Importance, a collection of beautifully misleading student errors. 

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