Panache was an NPL member some five years before I joined. He might have mentioned NPL to me (we've known each other about 40 years), but didn't exactly suggest I might find it of any note. Can't recall. Anyway, in 1984 he invited Smaug and me to a puzzle gathering at Hudu's, and then someone there invited us to an actual NPL minicon at Sir Ohm's house. Shrdlu was there, I remember, but only briefly, and (no, no more Oz thingies). N.E. One and Ruthless turned up, and at some point Ditto appeared and actually pulled a minisample out of her bag and invited me to join.
Though this gathering was at Sir Ohm's, Hudu and Merl Reagle were in charge of games and puzzles. I'd met Merl a few times before, through Panache at first. If you want to add him to your tree, I'm the one who more or less bullied him into joining for a year, after I'd become the editor.
Source: npl-folk email from Sibyl.
You know, there was an NPL Sibyl, only a few years before I became one. But no one told me until years later. If anyone had, I'd have found a different nom. As far as I know, she's still with us, somewhere in New England, and some folk still think we're the same person.
Back then in the 60s, when I gave poetry readings, I used to say of this one that, while I couldn't say I'd ever be a world-famous poet, I could say that if I became a world-famous poet, this would be the one poem that would turn up in all the anthologies. It's my version of the “portrait of an artist”–Baudelaire (I used to say) compared the poet to an albatross (beautiful and graceful in flight, clumsy on the ground); this was my “poet poem.”
Desert Plants Brightness has burned away all else from the sand, but here and there a few tough plants survive, solitary and strong beneath the unfailing sun, and in the dusty silence, astonishingly green. Conditioned by centuries of the hard light, they live on the rain within, and do not crave the temperate communities of shade. Yet something about them knows so well how to thrive that to endure where nothing else endures is not enough, and wonderful and alone in the sand and upon the indifferent rocks, they bring forth flowers. Judith Eisenstein, 1959
Well, I called my friend Don Blake, as I often did after writing something. (Want to know about him? As an infant, he'd been left on the steps of a Catholic orphanage, where he lived until age 16, when he ran away and joined the Navy. The nuns named him Donald Blake, I forget why, and when he was ten or so (I forget that, too), they said he could choose his own middle name. Donald H. Blake. H for Henry. Named (he didn't tell the nuns) for Henry VIII– “because he seemed to eat so well.” Went to school a lot, later. Liked Kenneth Burke, Greek philosophy, my poems. Not very relevant, is it? All this.)
I telephoned Don Blake, he liked “Desert Plants” and said something about my being a real sibyl. That's all I remember. I don't even recall what the fight was about a while later. But I wrote him this poem (we stayed friends, so I guess it was apparent that I wasn't entirely serious: he did say it raised the hair on the back of his neck), and that's kind of where my nom came from, in 1985, twenty-six years later. (Be sure to hiss all the sibilants.)
The Sibyl Will Now Say a Few Words Perverts who torture flies know glee like yours when, plump and snide with storing all that truth, you twist my words from yet unfinished phrases. Wait for a day--those words will soon twist you. Arouse a poet's fury and you'll find there's magic in metered curses. All your scorn, smiling as you smile now, all hissing teeth, will slither back in iambs to your throat.<br> Blast with your creaking insults, then, sneer down my protestations: even as you speak, I gather up my little, edgewise words and make them scan. Judith Eisenstein 1959