31 July 2006

Take this job and

I was thinking this morning about applying for a full-time job. I've been thinking lately about getting some kind of regular employment, anyway. The freelance life -- what Paul Dutton refers to as "swinging from $100 vine to $100 vine" -- has very definite stresses, of both an immediate and existential nature.

I haven't had a full-time job since, hmmm, was it 2003 when I left eye Weekly in disgust?

I wonder what effect it would have on my writing. Not that I've been all that productive anyhow. But full-time jobs sure do get in the way of travelling (to festivals, readings, workshops, retreats).

I'll think on it some more. But I do have a few freelance jobs due today!

Over and out.

28 July 2006

Cockpit (p. 253)

Veronika intention

Veronika husband

Veronika husband
good night

Veronika aerospace

26 July 2006

Crap & Swill

The opening of a C.K. Williams poem I read today seemed apt. The poem is called "Doves." It opens thusly:

So much crap in my head,
so many rubbishy facts,
so many half-baked
theories and opinions,
so many public figures
I care nothing about
but who stick like pitch;
so much political swill.

24 July 2006

Workshopping around

Had a blast at Saturday's Poetry Boot Camp, and received great feedback from the participants too. Over the past year, I've been writing more poems in my own workshops, so that's a bonus for me. I wrote only two poems this time, but I was pleased with them, and it's not like I've been cranking out a lot of poetry recently. Also tried out a couple of new projects with the group and pleased with the results; I'm really enjoying how the sessions evolve in this way. Saturday's participants included one guy who hadn't written poetry before and one woman who has several books published. This kind of range of experience always enriches the sessions.

If I recall correctly, the first time I led a poetry workshop was 30 years ago. I worked with kids in grades 3-6 at my old public school, Wilmington, as part of either my sociology or English class at AISP. Around the same time, Mark Laba and I did sound poetry workshops with a mixed group of "gifted" and "challenged" kids through something called the Green Door Project, at Harbourfront. I remember we took the kids outdoors, and told them we wanted the people on Centre Island (is it still called that?) to hear them.

It's been a long journey since then. And planning two or three new workshops for this fall at This Ain't the Rosedale Library.

In other news, although I resisted, I turned 47 last week. Dana and I went back up to North York, where she took me for dinner at Vinnie Zucchinis. The food was actually pretty good; lots of veggie options. The last time I was there was when I took my brother Barry and my dad out for their birthdays (September 18 and 16, respectively) in 2000. It was to be my dad's last birthday. Through a miscommunication, my brother Owen ended up at the wrong restaurant. Especially sad, because he died a couple weeks later. It would've meant so much to my dad for us all to have been together. I wondered how I'd feel being back in that place, but it was a really nice evening.

Got some editing jobs completed and turned in last week, too, which felt good. It's been a while since I've been productive. Though it's been an act of willpower to keep the TV off in the background; but the relentless, boneheaded American coverage of the Mideast crisis is a waste of time, anyway.

Lots of projects on my plate still: editing, writing, publishing. Hoping I have another productive week ahead. Still hoping, too, to nail the novel, the eternal novel.

Hello, Atavan.

Over and out.

19 July 2006


I've just put on the Clash album Sandinista! to celebrate the anniversary of the Popular Revolution in Nicaragua, spearheaded by poets and novelists Daniel Ortega, Tomás Borge, Daisy Zamora, Sergio Ramírez, and other Sandinista combatants. Where did that revolution go, anyway?

I've spent two July 19's in the Plaza de la Revolución in Managua, at the celebrations. Both times I was in the VIP section, sitting on a nice folded chair, drinking bottled water, while tens of thousands of Nicaraguans were crammed up against each other in the plaza in unbearable heat. The first time, in 1989, my friend Anne Maclean was in the crowd; the second time, in 1996, my friend Joe Grengs was in the crowd. Both times, I felt guilty.

¡Nos venceremos!

Over and out.

18 July 2006

The House of Mathilde & Happy Birthday to Me

When I worked at NOW, years that I remember fondly, I was invited to write for the paper a few times. My only contribution to the Books section was an interview with Hassan Daoud, the Lebanese author of the novel The House of Mathilde. I conducted the interview with Hassan long-distance. I was in my little apartment here in Toronto, and he was in the office of the newspaper he wrote for in Beirut. He was warm, fascinating, humanist. When he read at the Harbourfront International Authors Festival a couple of weeks later, I went up to introduce myself afterward. He clutched my hand, said he enjoyed the piece in NOW, wished we had met up earlier in his Toronto stay, and invited me to visit him if I ever got to Beirut.

Here is an excerpt from Hassan's beautiful, sad novel, which takes place in a single residential apartment building during wartime:

"She and her husband were sleeping in their separate beds when the bomb exploded. Abraham was the only one in the building who headed for the big balcony. He saw nothing there. He assumed that once again he had been mistaken about where a shell had fallen. His wife called to him from the door, and when he brought his head closer, peering down, he saw a dense dust-cloud that blocked his view of the ground-floor entrance. He shouted down, but no one replied, though a few moments later he heard the second-floor man land on the pile of masonry and plaster.

"Abraham wanted to help but there was nothing he could do. The stairs to the lower floods had collapsed or been smashed, and when he tried to go up, to the fifth floor, his wife prevented him, afraid of more collapses. The al-Siblini flat near him was still locked despite the fact that two panes of glass had fallen from their frames in the door. His wife grabbed him and pulled him inside. They stood in the kitchen, looking from the doorway out at the big balcony. A cool breeze blew. He told his wife to shut off the butane-gas canister.

"The explosion had come two full hours after the shelling had stopped. When he heard voices in the street, he knew that men from the al-Munla district had come to see what had happened to the building."

It's a quiet novel. The "enemy" is never named, a very deliberate choice on Hassan's part. Violence is faceless, inherent. Hassan inscribed the title page of the book for me: "To stuart / with my friendship / Hassan / 27/10/1999"

I've been thinking about Hassan lately. Is he OK? Is he still in Beirut? Is his newspaper office still operating? Is his family OK? Would he still decline to name the "enemy"? Somewhere, in a little notebook, I have Hassan's phone number still. I imagine the phone lines are down.

What else?

On Saturday, I took Dana out for her birthday, which was Friday. We drove up to North York, just a few blocks from where I went to high school at AISP, to a small French restaurant called Pourquoi Pas?, which I had passed on the way to school a thousand times, but had never gone into. It was really nice. The owner kept addressing me as "Mr. Ross." Our food was really delicious. I think that's the fanciest restaurant I've been to, but it was cozy and living-room-like, because we were in fact in a living-room. Happy birthday, Dana.

About an hour ago, I turned 47. Happy birthday, me.

Last week, I met with Walmsley, the only person to read the current state of my novel. He offered some excellent feedback, some very practical things. The great relief was that he had no problem with the structure, which is what I've been most worried about. Tom didn't seem to love it, but he was interested and encouraging. I'm buried in editing right now, but I'm looking forward to a couple of weekends in the motel in Paris, Ontario, where I can finish the damn thing already.

The week before, my friend Mary and I drove to Guelph for the day. That's a great little city. I told the guy in Macondo Books, one of the best used bookstores I've ever been to, that he looked like Ray Robertson, because he really does. He says he gets that a lot. Thing is, he sings lead for a C&W band, which Ray would probably like to do. Over at the Bookshelf, Dan gave me an advance reading copy of the new poetry collection by Patti Smith, which looks pretty good. Dan's such a sweet guy. At the little thrift shop on the main street, the girl at the cash turned out to be Jenny from the Bar Mitzvah Brothers. I bought two BMB CDs, plus a few thrift items, including a copy of Doug Melnyk's Naked Croquet. It was a fun trip.

Today (yesterday), brunch with Sam Andreyev, who is visiting from Paris (France). I always find it inspiring to visit with Sam. He is so incredibly devoted to his music. He works so hard at it. If I had worked as hard at my art from such a young age, I'd have written 27 novels and 1,672 books of poetry by now.

Over and out.

14 July 2006

The lake has water

I can't go to the Eileen Myles reading tonight at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, but you should if you can. I think it's at 7.

This morning I found myself in the Beaches, and there was the lake. I sat myself down on a bench and did a little work. God, now I understand why Kev and Gil banish themselves to the ends of the earth. They get a lake. It was beautiful. It made me weepy. Does everyone who lives in the Beaches just weep all day? Poor folks.

Bumped into Gil, who was taking her cat to get a nose thing fixed.

Last night was Toronto Wordstage at Cervejeria. I went, but there was no lake. Readings by Sandra Kasturi, who read some poems she did in my workshops, among other good things; Robert Priest, who was being shot by the Heart of the Poet people (I declined to sign the audience release when I went in); and Beatriz Hausner, who offered up a very sonorous reading backed by some excellent live music by bill bissett's friend Jordan. Beatriz is so cool. Read her poems in my anthology Surreal Estate! Sorry, I don't have the ISBN handy.

Oh yeah, I don't want to get into any cross-blogging battles, but there was something in Greg Betts' blog I want to talk about a moment, because I think I am among the "some people" he mentions and because what he wrote has been eating at me. After the final Lexiconjury reading in June, he blogged, "Some people have suggested over the years that Lex was an intimidating environment, but, from my perspective, this could only be true for those who write without being interested in the tools of their art." I wrote Greg and told him I thought this was harsh and unfair. It might have been an intimidating environment for someone who is shy; some lacking confidence; or someone who was new to the scene, and didn't know anyone in a room filled with people who seem to know each other. In fact, I know at least a couple of people who were invited to read at the Lex who found it intimidating. (I read there, had a great time, and was not intimidated.) So to say it "could only be true for those who write without being interested in the tools of their art" is crap. I'm surprised, because Greg seems to otherwise be a very thoughtful, open person.

OK, that's off my chest. I wonder what will happen to all the positive energy that the Lex triggered and gathered. The Scream probably absorbed it for a while. Mark Truscott's excellent Test Reading Series will nurture it to an extent. When Nick Power and I disbanded our year-old Meet the Presses series in 1985 — a monthly mini-small-press-fair-and-reading series — we hoped someone else would take up the banner and continue it, or create something like it. Never did happen.

In a related note, Kate and I met up yesterday to scheme this fall's Fictitious Reading Series. We're going to take the summer off, regroup, and concentrate on finding the fiction audience for our series. We've got a great Wish List Lineup. More on that subject here in the future.

Over and out.

11 July 2006

Screaming in the rain

Dana and I went to Scream in High Park last night. We were among the heroes who arrived for the first set, while it was raining, not the wimps who showed up after the rain had abated. Of course, the bigger heroes were the organizers and cheery volunteers who forged on through the early part of the evening, armed only with faith, camaradie, and umbrellas, doubtless hoping that they'd eventually get a bigger audience than the average Art Bar. Which did eventually happen; and it was a generous, warm crowd that mostly stayed to the very end.

Seems like a lot of people in the lit community aren't talking to me these days. I hope I don't increase that number by saying that the supportive, upbeat spirit of the evening seemed to surpass the quality of the work. It's always a challenge to read from a stage, across a "dance floor," to the audience, with spotlights in your eyes. It must've been especially difficult in the rain, which tends to muffle all sound and response.

Not to say there weren't some excellent moments. Kevin Connolly overcame his initial discomfort with the mic to give an excellent reading, and funny too, mainly from his most recent book, Drift. For me, he was the evening's spirit of poetry. This was what it was all about. Alarming, surprising, jarring, fresh words on a page. No show-biz or flash in the presentation, though certainly good humour. Just good, solid poetry. The audience rewarded him with perhaps the best response of the evening.

Jon Paul Fiorentino always cracks me up. But I think he'd have done better crammed into a living room somewhere with the audience. With the rain turned off. But I liked what he read, and I look forward to the new book, and I like how he sort of pathetically flung his finished-with books towards the audience. Reminds me a bit of Daniel Jones literally launching his book Obsessions with a giant slingshot at the Paddock Tavern in the '80s. The book hurtled about one meter and clunked to the floor.

I'm never quite sure what Maggie MacDonald is doing in her writing, but I like her attitude, her politics, and her preambles a lot. I've gotta sit down and read her work one of these days. But even better preambles, postambles, and midambles were to be found in the evening's closer, Ryan Knighton. I imagine last night wasn't one of his greatest readings, but it was an awful lot of fun anyway. And educational, too, for a blind-ignorant person such as myself.

Perhaps the weirdest performance of the night was that offered by Mindbender. He reminded us before, during, and after each poem that he was, in fact, Mindbender. And he shared with us his plans for world domination, and told us how he'd remember us as he travelled the planet spreading word of "heaven." I got the feeling that he'd never actually read a poem before, or studied a good lyric. So his work was a kind of atrocious immaculate conception. It soon became apparent, though, that his role was merely as straight man to the mic. The mic gradually was broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, until it was like the Terminator's mechanical hand, detached from his destroyed body, crawling painstakingly along the floor, threatening to throttle Mindbender for crimes against poetry.

A good time was had by all.

Over and out.

06 July 2006

I am (in) the Walrus

The Walrus is a gregarious marine mammal of the arctic waters. It has long ivory tusks, a tough wrinkled hide, stiff whiskers and a poem by Stuart Ross.


I have no idea how to create a link.

Over and out.

04 July 2006

Editing and also editing

I'm immersed in the edit of a book about The Twilight Zone for ECW Press. Should have it done shortly. It's been a long time since I've edited a book for them. I love this thing of wading through hundreds of pages about a topic I know only peripherally. The guy who wrote this book -- his life must be The Twilight Zone.

The other editing I'm doing is very different: I'm reading all of David McFadden's books -- every poem in every one of them -- and putting together a Selected for Paul Vermeersch's imprint at Insomniac Press. What an honour to be invited to do that. Some of these poems of David's I haven't read in maybe 30 years. They were such a huge influence on me. David McFadden and Ron Padgett taught me so many similar things. This glorious editing task should last through the rest of the summer, and it's uplifting. David is as profound as he is a goofball.

Yeah, McFadden's my favourite Canadian poet. Send me 10 bucks and I'll send you the first issue of my mag Syd & Shirley (I swear, the second issue is coming out this year!), which features my interview with him, plus three of his wonderful poems.

Over and out.

02 July 2006


What would happen to poetry if there were no poetry readings in Canada — or even just Toronto — for an entire year? Yes, there'd be far fewer poets by the end of it, but what would happen to poetry itself in the ascribed region?

Over and out.