28 August 2006

I got some workshops coming up!

I've got three workshops coming up this fall at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, including two I've never offered before. This Ain't has a whole brochure of workshops from a variety of, um, instructors, so drop by and pick one up.

All the workshops take place upstairs in the gallery space of This Ain't the Rosedale Library, 483 Church Street (just below Wellesley), Toronto.
Call 416-929-9912 to register. Spaces are limited.

Here's the guff on mine:

Sunday, October 15, 10 am - 5 pm
Cost: $75 (includes materials and light snacks).

A pleasurable, intensive one-day workshop for beginning poets, experienced poets, stalled poets, and haikuists who want to get beyond three lines. Poetry Boot Camp focuses on the pleasures of poetry and the riches that spontaneity brings, through lively directed exercises and relevant readings from the works of poets from Canada and abroad. Stuart also touches on revision and collaboration. Arrive with an open mind, and leave with a heap of new poems!

Tuesday, October 24, 7 - 10 pm
Cost: $30 (includes materials).

A workshop that opens up the world of publishing for beginning and emerging writers of fiction and poetry. How can you give a poem its biggest audience? Where should you send your short-story collection? What are the benefits of self-publishing? How do you prepare a manuscript for submission to a publisher? What are the best magazines to publish in? We’ll look at these questions, but bring your own as well. This discussion-based workshop will be rounded off by a couple of lively, relevant writing exercises.

Saturday, November 11, noon - 5 pm
Cost: $60 (includes materials & light snacks).

Explore the forms and possibilities of memoir. In this fast-moving (but relaxed!), hands-on workshop for writers both beginning and advanced, we’ll look at memoir through fiction, poetry, the postcard essay, and other forms. We’ll also tap into secrets, lies, and dreams, and compare your voice to that of a potato chip. Bring along your sense of adventure for this session.

Hey, if you live out of town and know of a bookstore, arts organization, or writers' group that might like me to come and offer up a workshop, let me know!

Over and out.

25 August 2006

Lou sends (all his love)

OK, first thing: I was wrong. Ben Walker does indeed have a website from which you can order his CDs and at which you can look at cool photos of him. My dream is that he someday puts out a full-length live CD of vocals with mandolin. But he's great on guitar and keyboards too.

Next: I visited with Walmsley yesterday. He's recently written an opera libretto. But we got to talking about music, perhaps because I mentioned the movie New York Doll. Anyway, we agreed it was strange how one's taste changes. I mean, I almost never listen to Elvis Costello anymore, but I still love the Clash. Tom says that his great constant is Lou Reed. The idea of putting on Berlin again is so depressing. In fact, I think I only listened to that brilliant album in its entirety once, because it's so fucking sad.

Next: I've been editing a lot of French-to-English translations lately. Both children's stuff and adults'. It's fascinating. My French is pretty basic, so at first I was suffering a bit of imposter syndrome. I called Anne several times, because she's a translator, and I picked her brain about how editors worked with her. Seemed I was on the right track. We had a really interesting discussion about what happens when the translator is working on a mediocre novel. Is it her duty to make it better (loyalty to the publisher) or to reflect exactly the quality of the author's writing?


Anyway, the translators I've worked with have so far been thrilled with my edits, so now I'm confident.

Next: Rox has set up his own blog. It's the second Rox blog. The first was set up by Jeff for Rox, and Rox ran it for a day and then exploded. I suggested maybe Rox set up a poem-a-day kind of blog. I see that some writers do that. Go see his poems over here. It'll be interesting to see what form his blog eventually settles into. Or if it eventually settles at all.

Next: I don't like blogging about blogs. Just like I don't like including computers in my poetry or fiction.

Next: How can I expose a used bookstore owner and his assistant as anti-Semites without getting myself in trouble? It makes my blood boil that these fuckers take so much business away from decent bookstores, and do such hot trade in obviously stolen books?

Over and out.

24 August 2006

I, Bernie Taupin (sort of)

My English buddy Ben Walker, one of the great "undiscovered" singer-songwriters of our time, bills himself as a George Formby for the 90s. Well, at least he did that in the 90s.

He started recording his songs at age 13 or 14, making cassette compilations. Just like Sam Andreyev and Daniel Johnston, a couple of other musical geniuses.

Anyway, word has it that he has turned one of my poems into a song. I was pretty shocked when I heard which poem: "Ladies & Gentlemen, Mr. Ron Padgett." I mean, that thing is about 15 pages long. But apparently it's now four or five tidy verses, with chorus.

I haven't heard it. Anne McLean, his partner and my dear friend, has heard it. She's the one who told me about it. She did a little rendition of the chorus over the phone for me, long-distance from the U.K.

I hope to hear it someday. I'm flattered. Ben is a great songwriter and doesn't really need my words to fuel his lyrics. But it seems like a neat act of solidarity between one fringe artist and another.

(I looked for a link on the Internet so I could encourage you to buy his self-issued CDs, but I couldn't find one.)

Thanks, Ben. Your next assignment: "Stubborn Furniture."

Over and out.

23 August 2006

A writer's riches

I was talking with Sandra today, and mentioned how giddy I was to get $50 for my writing from sub-Terrain.

Later, I thought about my royalties for this past year.

I got $50 from Anvil Press, though Brian had given me a generous $500 advance for Confessions Of A Small Press Racketeer, so that's where most it got swallowed up.

I got $36.23 from The Mercury Press. That huge sum represented about 17 copies of Surreal Estate, the brilliant fucking anthology I edited and published through them in 2004. (I think my $300 advance was swallowed up in the 2005 royalty statement.) Seventeen copies sold. In a year. And that's an important book. I can never hope to recoup the money I paid the contributors out of my own pocket, but I sure would like to know that the book is getting into people's hands.

Still haven't got my royalty statement from ECW, though Jack did have the courtesy to send a note saying it would be late. It is amazing how the printers get paid, the distributors get paid, the staff get paid (I presume), the landlord gets paid... and the writers, well, they can wait a bit, can't they?

Over and out.

22 August 2006


A fat envelope between my doors held five copies of the new issue of sub-Terrain, plus a cheque for 50 bucks. It's nice to see "Hunkamooga" emblazoned across the top of the magazine's back page. It's nice to have a regular column again. It's nice to actually get paid for my writing, even if it is such a modest amount. I'm 47 years old and I'm excited at getting $50 for 1,000 words.

Go figure.

In other news, on Saturday I met my shrink outside his building (well, the building that contains his office), and he was wearing a harmonica-holder around his neck. He told me he was going to play me some songs upstairs. So, up in the office, he stood in front of me, fitted a harmonica into the holder, picked up an acoustic guitar, and played Phil Ochs' "Love Me, I'm a Liberal" (with some cool Toronto-specific lyrics added) and Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice It's Alright." He was amazing. He could really sing. As an added treat, he rounded it off with a 1951 song by David Levy, who he said was "a nice Jewish boy." The song was called "Sigmund Freud." It was pretty damn funny, but it didn't show off my shrink's voice as well as the Ochs and the Dylan.

Speaking of Zimmermans, I recently received a wonderful gift in the mail from the wife of Roy Zimmerman, a comedy-political-folk singer-songwriter from California. I got the gift because Melanie had just found out that it had been I who named Zimmerman's listserv fans: the Roi Polloi. Anyway, this disc is a Best Of from Zimmerman's former group, the Foremen. I'll write in more detail about it later. It's a wonderful record (as bipeds of my generation call music-bearing discs).

Speaking of music, I'd been avoiding buying any for a while, but last week had a bit of an old-fashioned CD blitz. Picked up Chinatown by the Be Good Tanyas (so far don't like it as much as their masterpiece first album); Master of Disaster by John Hiatt (which is way better than it looks, with its Mexican-wrestler cover art); Bananamour by Kevin Ayers (though I already have it on vinyl, along with just about everything else he's recorded); the fifth American Recordings disc by Johnny Cash (which I think will be unbearably sad, so I haven't listened yet, because I don't want unbearably sad); and a disc by Miranda July. Gotta be in the right mood for just about all those platters. The John Hiatt sounds good on the car stereo, though: John Hiatt always does.

O Beach Boys, the summer's nearly over and I wonder where it's gone.

Over and out.

16 August 2006

New workshops and Teeny Tiny


Alrighty. I'm teaching three workshops at This Ain't the Rosedale Library this fall. I'm doing the ever-popular Boot Camp, plus a workshop on publishing and one on (sort of) memoir. Very excited about the two new workshops.

You can read all about my workshops right over here.


A few weeks back, I got a very nice email from an American named Mandy Laughtland, who had stumbled upon my blog and wondered if I'd like a copy of her miniature lit mag. Gosh, this reminded me of the old Factsheet Five days. Been a while since someone has written me out of the blue like that to trade lit mags.

Anyway, just got Teeny Tiny today, with a neat postcard poem by Mandy. As promised, it's little. 8 pages, one sheet. A bunch of poems and a very very very short story. I like just about everything in it, but especially Mandy's "Random Entry from My Headache Diary," Harvey Goldner's "At the Puyallup Fair," and Emma Barnes' "sing a song of." Well, that's half the mag right there.

I just love this idea of a magazine you can read in about 5 minutes. A definite improvement over those brick-sized university mags. Reminds me of a magazine I saw many years ago: This Is Important. It was, like this one, about 8 pages, but it was designed to look like a religious pamphlet, so was ideal for leaving in phone booths or subway cars, ready to ambush unsuspecting civilians.

But since everything in my life transforms into an excuse for me to feel guilty, I'm suddenly panicked about getting out my next issue of Syd & Shirley (60 pages).

Over and out.

14 August 2006

Run for Your Life, starring Ben Gazzara & Evalyn Parry

So tonight I went to Supermarket, where Evalyn Parry was playing. I like the way she has a's where you'd expect e's in her name. Also, I like her singing, her songwriting ... and even her spoken word. Plus she's a really nice person.

Anyway, it was a short set, because she was opening for someone else. The first song didn't work too well for me, partly because the sound was muddy, but after that everything was great. My favourite phrase in her set was "bell hooks books." Evalyn performed a really sweet song called (I think) "We All See Stars" and a freaky stalker song called (I think) "Stop Following Me." Her lyrics are so smart. Oh, and there was a first-person thing about a Soo sailor named Dave. She explained that Dave had basically dictated the whole song in a parking lot up there in the town that trapped Karl Jirgens for too many years. Well, she didn't mention Karl Jirgens.

Nice to bump into Chris Warren at the show. Chris is a really good songwriter too. I wish he'd been playing tonight. But he didn't. And after Evalyn's set, the next guy up was so earnest, grinning, and practicedly pigeon-toed, that I had to run for my life.

Over and out.


"Do the needful."

13 August 2006

The ties to powerful anti-American regimes are already in place

Toronto Wordstage, Thursday past:

Excellent readings by Sky Gilbert and Paul Dutton. Really looking forward to Sky's JD Salinger novel. Liked how Paul punctuated his linear poems and novel excerpt with brief sound blasts.

McFadden excavation:

Have moved from David's mid- to late-70s poems to the 60s and early 70s, with Intense Pleasure and Letters from the Earth to the Earth. Gawd, he did some crazy things. Next stop: my favourite book of his: The Art of Darkness, from mid-80s. But I love all his books. I'm going to push for this Selected to end with The Art of Darkness. There's just too much good stuff in those first two decades: more than enough to fill up a couple of volumes of Selected. Really, what should happen is all these books should be put back in print in full.

Bookcase excavation:

In the one-book-tag of the other week, I mentioned Robin Wood's brilliant book of film criticism, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. Well, dear Lynn McClory gave me a copy of the 2003 revised/expanded edition, and I just stumbled upon it: it was one of those things that had immediately disappeared into a hidden strata. There's a book that hasn't been left out of print for too long. Again, Robin is such a seminal influence in my life. This book is a map to reading contemporary mainstream culture. My favourite chapters are those on horror film.

Brain excavation:

Why, when I have too much to do, do I take on new projects? Avoidance through creating more things to avoid.

The rock:

Dana took me to see her favourite rock. I sang: "You run to the rock for rescue, there will be no rock." But there was, and a very fine rock it was.

The next poetry book:

The deal is on: Anvil Press will publish my next poetry book, in April 2007. The title of the book is: I Cut My Finger. It will be four years since my premature Selected. Though there was the chapbook Robots At Night in between.

Ga-ga, goo-goo:

Lance and Lisa had a baby. They already did that once, but now they've done it again. Congrats.

Over and atavan.

07 August 2006


I lie on my back
and close my eyes.
The world is sucked
into the drain
of the sky.

05 August 2006

David McFadden & Killer Kane

Spent the morning reading David McFadden's A Knight in Dried Plums, published by M&S in 1975. As I gradually construct this volume of Selected Poems Of, I realize that in a country that actually valued its writers, there would be calls for a Collected Poems Of. David's poetry is miraculous. It's appalling that he has never won the Governor General's Award for Poetry. He should be the next Canadian Poet Laureate. Let's get the ball rolling on that.

I am struck by how brave and adventurous David's poetry is. In person, he often says things that makes your jaw drop. The way South Park can make your jaw drop. As an artist, he does the same thing. He makes his readers laugh, but he also doesn't hesitate to make his readers uncomfortable. Just as so many of his poems end in gorgeously serene epiphanies, so many others end in some shocking statement, some out-of-left-field twist.

So I'm putting little stickies on the poems I want to include in the Selected. But it's tough not to put stickies on 90% of the pages in McFadden's books. I'm thinking perhaps this volume should go only until the mid-'80s. Or even the mid-'70s. A Selected for each decade of his career would be the way to go. There was a time in Canadian publishing when that would have happened.

Thing is, too, I get so excited about writing while I read his work. I'm dying to get to my own poetry again.

* * *

Last night Dana and I watched New York Doll, an amazing documentary about Arthur "Killer" Kane, the New York Dolls' bass player. My most excellent friend Joe Grengs, who has introduced me to so much great stuff in the realm of music (the Ass Ponys! the Jayhawks! Brenda Kahn! Joe Henry!), urged me to watch this. It is a truly brilliant, humanist, artful film. It, too, made me want to get back to my own writing again. And back to my friends. It also made me cry.

I've had a real feeling of aging in recent times, or a feeling that I've aged, man I've aged. But it was exhilirating watching all these aging punks still full of passion and craggy charisma.

* * *

A quick note of thanks to Kate for explaining to me why I couldn't format or create links here in Blogger. Now I can.

Over and out.

04 August 2006

Profound passing of a perfect pooch

Got some sad news this week. Dear old Tess of New Denver, B.C., made the final leap to the Great Doghouse Above last month.

Tess was Terry Taylor's beautiful dog. I have such great memories of Tess. Tess taking me for walks along the trails around Terry's property. Tess competing with Sam the cat for my attention while I blogged late at night in Terry's house. Tess staying in the magic cabin with me while Terry was away for the weekend. Tess lunging for the splash-points as I lobbed stones into the lake. Tess trotting happily from the cabin with a mousetrapped mouse. Tess and me playing tug o' war with stripped branches in front of the cabin. Tess lying quietly and contentedly on the cabin floor as I got the fire going in the woodstove. Tess pushing her snout eagerly into the driver's-side window of my rented car as I drove up to the house after visiting Kimberley. Tess leading me caringly down to the cabin in the dark of night.

Terry gave me an incredible gift when she first brought me into the Kootenays in 2005. My view of Canada expanded exponentially. So did my view of the generosity and warmth of humans. I will always treasure the time I've spent at the cabin. The beauty of the lake, the trees, the glaciers. The serenity.

Terry also took me kayaking a few times in her two-seater. I'd never kayaked before, but it was another way of achieving peace. The last time we went kayaking, in late April, here's what happened.

Thanks for everything, Terry! I hope you and Kate find a worthy companion to fill Tess's pawprints.

Goodbye, brilliant Tess!

02 August 2006

OK, OK, I got tagged

I'm mopey today. I have tons to do. So here's a good way to avoid my responsibilities: Jenn LoveGrove tagged for this one-book thingamajig. I still have no idea how to create links -- I don't get any link icon on my page, but here goes anyhow.

1. One book that changed your life:

Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan, by Robin Wood. Robin was my film-theory prof during my undistinguished career at York U/Atkinson College. He changed how I read books, viewed movies, listened to music.

2. One book you've read more than once:

Toujours L'Amour, by Ron Padgett. I think this was the first Padgett book I discovered. It's one of the most wonderful poetry books ever created. And as I age, it does different things to me, so I keep reading, keep learning, keep discovering.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island

Commentary on the Torah, by Richard Elliott. Friedman. I've been looking for a big wide space of time to work my way through this one. Is there a particular flight I should take to wind up on a desert island?

4. One book that made you laugh

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline and Other Stories, by George Saunders. It's chilling, but funny as fuck.

5. One book that made you cry

Just about anything makes me cry these days, but the first one was The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. That part where Johnnycake runs into the burning church to rescue the kids.

6. One book that you wish had been written

My Afternoon with Buster Keaton, by Samuel Beckett.

7. One book that you wish had never been written

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I can't believe they gave away all our secrets!

8. One book you're currently reading

Paula, by Isabel Allende (trans. Margaret Sayers Peden). A memoir by the Chilean novelist about her daughter's death. I imagine it will make me cry. So far, I like it better than her fiction. David McFadden gave me this book. Thanks, Dave.

9. One book you've been meaning to read

Soldiers of Salamis, by Javier Cercas (trans. Anne McLean). I can't believe I haven't read this through yet. My dear friend Anne translated it, and she's a brilliant reader and translator and I feel terrible I haven't read this yet! I feel terrible! But I'll read it!

OK, I'm supposed to tag five people now. I don't read enough blogs to know who has done this thing and who hasn't. So I'll tag some people who've commented on my blog: Rox, debby, Dana Plato, Pearly, and Kev. Feel free to run your lists as comments here.

Over and out.

The corporate catches up with art after only three decades!

Well, it took nearly 30 years, but the corporate/mainstream world has finally caught up with the Three-Day Novel-Writing Contest. They're on the cutting edge!

Seems that BookTV/Chapters-Indigo and various other corporate entities are doing a "reality TV show" around this year's Three-Day. Of course, that means that the finalists (since when are there finalists?) are chosen by their TVability perhaps more than any idea of how to write. That said, two of my pals, Wayne Arthurson and Ali Riley, are in the running, and they do know how to write. I'll feel bad for them, but I'll root for them. Having cameras stuck in your face constantly while you're trying to be creative is a life-draining, very frustrating experience, as my Heart of a Poet shoot proved.

In more cheerful news, another of my Western friends is in the Toronto area these days. Got to spend a great Sunday afternoon and evening with Jeff Pew, a teacher and poet from Kimberley, BC, and also the co-editor (with Rox) of that recent bill bissett homage anthology. Jeff and I listened to some tunes at my apartment, watched some video of a Ron Padgett reading, then headed out for a great meal in Little India (at the Famous Restaurant). We stuffed ourselves until we were in pain. Afterwards, I toured Jeff to some other Toronto neighbourhoods: the Beaches (we had to elbow our way through the Boardwalk crowds), Chinatowndowntown, Kensington Market (it was a Pedestrian Sunday!), and finally the Annex. Nice to see the guy, and here in the big city. I put a very cool poem by Jeff in the current issue of This Magazine (along with an amazing short story by Susan Kernohan).

Another quality social outing was last week's evening with Sandra Alland, who took me out for my birthday. We talked mainly poetry and hedgehogs, and she gave me what looks to be an amazing book: The People of Paper, a McSweeney's-published novel by Salvador Plascencia, a Mexican-American writer I've never heard of. Sandra says it's great. It has a quote by George Saunders on the back cover. Sandra also laid her new poetry MS on me, so as soon as I dig myself out of all this work, I'm on it.

Yesterday's visit to CKLN was pretty fun, though I could barely afford the time. After knowing Charlie Huisken for about 30 years, it was odd but neat to sit down with him in a radio studio and be interviewed by him. But Charlie's an easygoing guy, and it wasn't much different from the kind of chats we usually have. I also read my poem "Submission," the opening paragraph of "I Am the King of Poetry," and we spun a couple of Pernice Brothers tunes.

Over and out.

01 August 2006

Ahhhh! I'm on the radio today!

Gosh, Charlie from This Ain't the Rosedale Library just called to remind me I'm on his radio show today. I'd completely forgotten. I believe the show is called "In Other Words," and it's on Ryerson's community radio station.

In Toronto: 88.1 FM
On the Internet: ckln.fm

Oh, and I'm on at 2 p.m. Toronto time. Gawd, I better go shave!

Over and out.

Miklós Radnóti

A couple of months ago, Camille Martin gave me a wonderful, sad, and intriguing gift. A collection of poems by the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti. The poet died in 1944, at age 35, "executed by the Fascists following a forced march from the labor camp where he had been interned." Two years later, his wife found his body in a mass grave, and in his trenchcoat pocket there was a notebook of poems he had written during his years in the labour camps.

This book that I have is called Clouded Sky, and much of it comes from that notebook. It's a raw and difficult read, but there is so much beauty, thought, and freshness in the writing. There's brilliance. (This translation by Polgar, Berg, and Marks is published by The Sheep Meadow Press.)

It's night as I write this, so here's a poem called


The heart sleeps, and fear sleeps in the heart.
The fly sleeps near the cobweb on the wall.
It is quiet in the house,
the wakeful mouse is quiet,
the garden sleeps, the branch,
the woodpecker in the tree,
the bee in the hive, the chafer in the rose.
Summer sleeps in the spinning grains of wheat,
fire sleeps in the moon.
A cold medal hangs in the sky.
Autumn wakes. It steals through the night.

(June 1, 1942)

Radnóti was born Jewish, but converted to Roman Catholicism. Another great poet, Max Jacob, a Frenchman, followed the same pattern. The same year Radnóti died, Jacob was arrested by the Gestapo and died while in a holding cell on the way to a German concentration camp.

Over and out.