The most famous use of the phrase sub divo appears in Horace’s ode on patriotism, in which the poet enjoins the young to embrace the military, to suffer poverty, and, in a life of service to the nation, be sub divo (“under the sky”).
In this collection of poems, however, Norm Sibum suggests that we are all of us sub divo, no matter who or what we are. Living under a sky from which there is no escape, with the “conversion of value to parody almost complete,” our poets are as likely to be fascists as they are rebels or conscientious objectors. “Shall we talk it up,” he asks his friend Foulard: “how we’re isolate / In our skins … Harps strung for satire and plunging tears?”
Personal, epistolary, corrosive, vented with Sibum’s classical spleen and explosive prosody, Sub Divo delves into the “slap-happy passion” and the “colonial, scrappy, boisterous business” of American culture—while at the same time asking what future there is for a world “divided even now / In the only places where we cohere,” when “all the disparate pieces drifting in us / Pine one for the other and look / For the ceremony that will join them.”
Praise for Sub Divo
“Sibum’s poems are not everyone’s cup of tea … instead of breathing air they inhale the exhaust of apocalyptic times.”—Books in Canada
“The language, the focus on American politics and warfare, the contrarian dialogue with friends … gives way, just often enough, to rage … at how the century began.”—Gord Sellar
“Sibum has a natural gift of meditative narrative, a quite powerful instinctive sense of appropriate form, and a wonderful and diverse eloquence in the old sense of that word.”—Michael Schmidt
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