14 July 2014

Two — 2! — new chapbooks!

I have never had so much poetry accumulated without publishing it. So I've made a concerted push this year to place some chapbook manuscripts. I put out the word on the Evil Facebook that I had many chapbooks' worth of poems available. So far, that has resulted in two very different, and very beautiful poetry chapbooks.

First out was Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead, published by Michael e. Casteels' Puddles of Sky Press this past May. I met Michael in 2010 when I was writer in residence at Queen's University. Michael wasn't a Queen's student, but he came by my office nonetheless and we had several excellent sessions in which I tore his poetry to shreds. Thankfully, he put up with my crap. Like several of the writers I met in 529 Watson Hall that autumn, Michael became a friend and we see each other a few times a year. He's from just near Cobourg, where I live now.

Anyway, Michael was the first to respond to my call on Evil Facebook and I sent him a couple of little sequences. He took almost a whole hour to reject them. I thought that was pretty nervy. I had sent him a bunch of minimalist poems because he'd been publishing a lot of minimalist poems, but he told me, "I've been publishing a lot of minimalist poems, so I don't want more minimalist poems, you moron." Or something like that. I made him wait for a while, just out of spite, and then I sent him a miscellaneous batch of poems: list poems, prose poems, centos, all sorts of stuff. He accepted that manuscript. Michael does beautiful work, and takes a lot of care in designing the perfect format for each of the books he publishes. I'm really pleased with this hand-stitched chapbook. And I like that Michael was willing to do a miscellany. I can't recall when I last had a chapbook published by someone other than my own Proper Tales Press. Giddiness ensues.

You can order a copy of Nice Haircut, Fiddlehead right over here.

The next chapbook to come out, just a couple weeks ago, was A Pretty Good Year, a sequence of mostly haiku published by Linda Crosfield's Nose in Book Publishing. Linda lives in Ootischenia, B.C., just outside of Castlegar. I believe Linda and I met about seven years ago. I was doing a reading in nearby Nelson, and Linda was one of the local writers I read with. We became friends, and we are always sure to visit when I make my almost-annual trips to New Denver. Last year Linda and I read together, for the second time — and this time on the patio of the beautiful home she shares with her husband, Ted. It was an amazing event: about 20 people crowded into chairs, the sun just beginning to set, a cool breeze drifting across the property, the mountains a beautiful backdrop.

I had just the manuscript to send to Linda: a sequence of about 15 haikus (and one haiku + 1) that I wrote during the second half of 2013, while my partner, Laurie, was being treated for a life-threatening cancer. (Laurie's doing really well now, about six months after her last chemo.) It was a very tough period: I used to leave the hospital in Cobourg late at night and come down to the waterfront, which was always empty around midnight, and I'd compose a haiku in my head. Once Laurie was back home, I continued with the cathartic haiku-composing. On New Year's Day 2014, Laurie turned to me and said, "You know, all in all, 2013 was a pretty good year."

I'm thrilled with Linda's design for the book. Like Michael, she took a lot of care. It's a tiny book, appropriate for the tiny poems, and it just might be — for me — the most meaningful book I've published. You can order a copy of A Pretty Good Year from Linda right over here.

Over and out.

30 May 2014

Donkey Lopez performance and CD launch: at last

I better get some sleep. It's nearly 2 a.m. and my knee hurts still, it's been bugging me lately, and I haven't been sleeping enough. And I need energy for tomorrow night because tomorrow night Donkey Lopez finally has its first full performance.

Plus we're launching our first CD, Juan Lonely Night.

So there it is. I designed the packaging; Steve Lederman drew the donkey; Ray Dillard mixed and produced the ten crazy tracks, recorded live during three sessions in his Crush Studio in Barrie, Ontario.

We did a fourth session, but there was a definite shift in our sound with that one, so we decided to save those pieces for our second CD. Which will manifest itself very rapidly.

We play on Friday, May 30, at Arrayspace, 155 Walnut Street, in Toronto. At 8 p.m. Ten bucks gets you through the door.

Also on the bill: the fantastic poet Aisha Sasha John, performing with Bea Labikova (sax, fujara), Raphael Roter (percussion) and Michael Lynn (bass). What will they do? What will they be like? I have no idea.

This will be Donkey Lopez's third performance in front of an audience. The first was in March, at the tribute to Paul Dutton, where we did a nutsoid interpretation of Paul's text piece "This and That." The second was at a surprise 50th birthday party for Steve in early May. He didn't know he was coming to perform at his own party. We did two sets, and a total of four improvised pieces. Steve said he was in shock the whole time. Here we are at that event, in a restaurant on St. Clair West in Toronto. (Photo by the awesome Chloe Lederman.)

I wonder what it'll be like to perform improvised pieces onstage for an hour. I guess I'll find out soon enough. Ray says we should just treat it like we do our sessions in his studio. Only difference is that we won't have the ten- or fifteen-minute break between each piece while Ray does whatever it is he does with our recordings.

I better get some sleep.

Over and out.

25 April 2014

The Ape Play

The Ape Play has been an ongoing project for nearly a decade. I originally created it for Steve Venright's Dream Bazaar at the Cameron House, in Toronto, on December 8, 2004. I created this stupid little "puppet show" consisting of me brandishing stuffed toy apes while sitting with a badly made cardboard house on my knees. The house had a door and on the door was the number "179" — for my childhood home of 179 Pannahill Road in Toronto's Bathurst Manor area.

I believe another performance took place at Toronto's Buddies in Bad Times Theatre in 2005, as part of RM Vaughan's 40 Tiny Queer Performance. Each performer was given one minute to do their thing.

The Ape Play went over pretty well. By 2008, it had expanded to an impressive two minutes. That meant I had to tape two minutes' worth of monologue to the roof of the house on my knees, because I can't memorize things. I performed this version in Ottawa and Calgary. Perhaps elsewhere. In Calgary, I accidentally left the Ape House in the bar where the performance took place, and all the little stuffed toy apes along with it. I had to build a new Ape House. It was identical to the original Ape House.

For the Meet the Presses All-Star Non-Stop Indie Lit Variety Show, held in spring 2013 at the Supermarket, I created a six-minute version of The Ape Play. Imagine that. I believe there is a video of that performance, but I've never seen it.

I soon began working on what I thought at first would be a 30-minute version, which I hoped to cram into Summerworks or some similar festival, but it turned out to be the beginning of a novel, which is still in progress.

When Ottawa director Fraser MacKinnon wrote me a few months ago, asking to adapt two of my pieces from Buying Cigarettes for the Dog for his stage anthology show Sans Sense, one of those pieces was The Ape Play. I told him it wouldn't be possible, though I didn't tell him why. But I felt proprietary about that piece, and it had become six times longer since the version he was looking at, and it was gradually morphing into a novel. Fraser chose two other stories from the book to adapt.

Earlier this week, I gave a reading at Lillian Necakov's Boneshaker Reading Series, at the St. Clair/Silverthorn branch of the Toronto Public Library. The readings take place in a tiny room, a room that happens also to house a bunch of puppetry equipments. The series usually attracts a modest audience of about a dozen to twenty people. I thought it would be a nice, intimate setting for the six-minute version of The Ape Play.

Here, then, is that performance:

Over and out.

22 April 2014

9 little-known facts

1. Tonight (April 22) I am reading at the Boneshaker Reading Series, along with my excellent friend Meaghan Strimas, at the St. Clair/Silverthorn Library (1748 St. Clair West), at 7 pm. Admission is free. This series is curated and hosted by Lillian Necakov, who is a very fine and underrated poet. Here is Lillian's fantastic poetry blog. What will I read tonight? I'm thinking of doing the six-minute version of The Ape Play, plus a bit of new fiction and poetry.

2. The Mansfield Press spring poetry launch in Toronto on April 9 was just amazing — with three additions to the "a stuart ross book" imprint. Dani Couture launched her third collection, the harrowing and brilliant YAW; her reading was quiet, focused, and intense. Gary Barwin launched his slim-and-trim wonderful collection Moon Baboon Canoe; his reading was alternately tender and bombastic. David McFadden launched his first-ever full collection of haiku and tankas, Shouting Your Name Down The Well; his reading was charming as ever, filled with humour and tragedy — he received a standing ovation. All of these books are orderable from your local bookseller or direct from Mansfield Press.

3. So far I am scheduled to have six chapbooks published this year: from Warren Dean Fulton's Pooka Press, in Vancouver; Linda Crosfield's Nose in Book Publishing, in Ootischenia; Jay MillAr's BookThug, in Toronto; Jim Smith's The Front Press, in Toronto; Michael Casteels' Puddles of Sky Press, in Kingston; and Pearl Pirie's phafours press, in Ottawa. I'll likely do another through my own Proper Tales Press. Maybe more will materialize. In the past, I haven't been very good at practising what I preach, and what I preach is this: give your poems many lives: get them in magazines and get them in chapbooks and then get them in full collections. I'm so, so lucky all these chapbook publishers have shown interest in my work.

4. Further to that bit of preaching, I have been sending out lots of poems to magazines as well. Thrilled to announce that I will see my poems published in three of my favourite American literary mags: Gargoyle, in Arlington, Virginia; Fell Swoop, in New Orleans, Louisiana; and Jubilat, in Amherst, Massachusetts.

5. I dream of publishing a poem in Hanging Loose. I better send them some stuff.

6. A book tentatively titled Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, the follow-up to my 2005 essay collection Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, is scheduled for publication in spring 2015 by Vancouver's Anvil Press. Water under a burned bridge. It will contain all my Hunkamooga columns that appeared in sub-Terrain since the first book, plus a few newer pieces.

7. I am working on about ten or so further books, including three novels, two poetry collections, a collaborative poetry collection, a story collection, a memoir, and a collaborative novel. It's a race against time.

8. This year, Mark Laba and I hope to release an eBook/PoD version of our circa-early-1990s collaborative pork-noir novel The Pig Sleeps, first published in serialized fashion in Kevin Connolly and Jason Sherman's magnificent WHAT! magazine, and then in book form by Contra Mundo Books. We are doing plenty of revisions, because we've become better writers since the early 1990s. I hope. The title is supposed to be a play on The Big Sleep, but you'd never know.

9. There has been a lot of muscling around and power-positioning in the blogosphere the last bunch of years, as poets (mostly men) have attempted to declare their way the right way. But I think the best blog post in recent memory is this one by poet Helen Hajnoczky, in which she takes on Michael Lista with wisdom and class.

I gotta get to work. There were supposed to be 13 little-known facts here, but I gotta get to work. More facts to come.

Over and out.

16 April 2014



Reading and re-
reading Nelson
Ball's books

to curate
a Selected

I put
a Post-It
on every

16 April 2014

Over and out.

14 April 2014

Se fue el Crad

Crad Kilodney, 1948, Jamaica, N.Y. – 2014, Toronto

Lorette reports that Crad died this afternoon at a Toronto hospice. He hadn't been conscious for several days. He was in peace.

I published one poem by Crad, a few decades ago, as part of my Proper Tales Postcard series:

There'll be no more giant leeches
when you find the good lord Jesus.

That era in the 1980s, of selling my books in the street, left an indelible stamp on me as a writer. On reflection, what Crad taught me most was not to compromise in my writing. We would come only so far to readers, by putting signs around our necks and self-publishing chapbooks; from there, the readers would have to come to us.

Good night, Crad.

Over and out.

09 April 2014

My stories onstage in Ottawa, April 9 - 13

So far as I know, my work has only once before been adapted for the stage. That was back in 2006, when Halifax-based choreographer/dancer Lisa Phinney created a dance piece around my wonky little poem "Three Scoops, Waffle Cone" ("When they took inventory / in hell / Velda thought maybe / Garrett / had took / some paper clips.")

Tonight, two of my short stories, adapted for the stage, debut in Ottawa.

It was a month or two ago that Ottawa-based director Fraser MacKinnon asked about the performance rights for a couple of my stories from Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. I was ambivalent, because I didn't want to see those particular stories onstage. So I told him that, and invited him to choose some other stories. Which he did.

So Sans Sense will feature works by four writers, including me, and the adaptations of my stories, both presumably brief, will be the evening's bookends. The stories he chose are "Shooting the Poodle" and "The Engagement." Both pieces are monologues. I'm going to make the trip to Ottawa to see what he does with them.

It's exciting to have my works seep over into other art forms! I'm still thrilled about Ben Walker's CD An Orphan's Song, for which he transformed 15 of my poems into songs — pop, jazz, blues, folk. And I guess, in a sense, that was a stage adaptation too, because for the CD launch he played the entire set live at the (now-defunct) Oasis on College Street in Toronto.

Over and out.