Apr 252011

Artist's rendering of a typical NC award winner. This is not the actual winner of the 2011 NC Aphorism Contest, but close enough. No animals were harmed in the production of this image.

DG woke the judges with a stick this morning and threw chunks of raw meat into their cage, rousing them enough to elicit a final judgment in the 2011 Numéro Cinq Aphorism Contest. It was a straight up/down vote: a paw in the air meant yes; no paw in the air meant no. (Wait a sec. There seems to be something wrong with the script. Didn’t we send this back for a rewrite?)

Rewrite: The esteemed and sapient NC judges have issued their writ; the smoke has risen from the chapel chimney, and (after the fire department left) a winner has been chosen. As is often the case, the competition at the top was fierce, bloody, internecine, sinister, foamy and radical. Really, the finalists were sublime. They all should have won, but it is the duty of a culture to crown its very best productions so that the culture, by competition, might better itself. In truth, there was much wit and arrogance in evidence, especially wit, puns, wordplay, reversals. Lovely stuff. Which, yes, required the judges to elaborate their critical demand. This time, all entries being equal on so many levels, the judges had to take into consideration the index of provocation–what was attacked? how deeply did the reader have to think to parse the aphorism?

And so the winner is:

To speak of heaven is to underestimate eternity.

—John Webster

This is a sly, understated, straightforward aphorism, a balanced antithesis, heaven v. eternity, that yet uproots the foundation of Western philosophy, Christianity, all religion perhaps, by simply pointing to a logical incongruence of vast consequence.

John Webster, BTW, is one of dg’s former students dating from eons ago, in the time before time, when dg used to do the summer workshop circuit across Canada. He lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick (also home of Mark Anthony Jarman and dg’s publisher Goose Lane Editions, thus very close to the Centre of the Universe). This, of course, does not imply that any favouritism came into play. DG does not know the judges personally. Aside from feeding them and taking them for walks, he has nothing to do with their deliberations.

The finalists for the 2011 NC Aphorism Contest are here (so you can check the judges’ decision for yourselves). A complete entry list is here. The People’s Choice Winner is here.


  10 Responses to “Winner of the 2011 Numéro Cinq Aphorism Contest”

  1. Bravo!!
    Congrats John. The judges are wise (and it is important to be nice to them or they’ll bite).
    I am going to take your aphorism out for a walk.

  2. Congrats, John! I really loved this one! Truism.

  3. Great choice! I love this one! It causes the brain cells to whirl. Congrats, John!

  4. I really dug this one. So much said with so few words. Bravo!

  5. Wow! I like this one, truly a winner. Hey, that’s a great pic of DG in full regalia BTW! 😉


  6. Congrats! I’ll alert the Talisker-keeper to break out the ceremonial glass and begin etching your name.

  7. Thank you all for the kind words.

    It has been quite a whirlwind of a week with all the events and challenges which apparently surround any NC award ceremony. Parties, travel by cover of night, receptions, hooted ribald comments by distracted judges at the most inappropriate times, endless reception lines, cross-gender impersonations, aphorism signings, outrageous haruspications, more parties, a suspected defenestration, after-parties, bailing judges out of… Well, if you can possibly imagine the best of times and the worst of times in one… Let us just say that by the end of the week I was sated. Quoting my friend N.C. (no relation to this august body): ‘I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart’.

    Nor had I realized that I was expected to buy my own costume and accoutrements for the ceremony itself.  It threatened to eat up the considerable prize monies in one swoop! But as you can see from the above photo, in the end, I decided not to scrimp.  And I think you will agree the effect is beyond dashing. A suitable vessel for the honours on offer and the circumstances in which I found myself. I am particularly fond of the ivory finger-giver.  Rather than having to move your hand when you want to give someone the finger, you simply have to glance up at it. A casual glance to the upper left is all that’s required. And they get the picture.  It’s a nice touch, I think.  Well worth it. Prize money well spent.

    But really, as I rest now, no richer perhaps in purse, and look back on the excesses, both of tribute and tribulation, the absolute acme was being referred to by dg as sly. From him, a priceless tribute I will always keep close.

    • Definitely the most expansive and gracious acceptance speech ever presented by an NC award winner. I don’t remember the haruspications though. That must have been when I was in the bathroom.

      p.s. You left some of your costume in the guest bedroom and the dog ate the ermine wrap. Sorry.

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