29 September 2006

A coffee-stained reading in Ottawa, Oct. 3

I'm appearing at the Ottawa International Writers' Festival on Tuesday (October 3)! This is my first "solo" event at the Festival, and it'll involve readings from my poetry, fiction, and essays -- mostly unpublished stuff -- and an onstage chat conducted by Stephen Brockwell, who's an awesome guy, a great poet, and rather handsome.

I will likely be in town Tuesday through the following Sunday. If anyone is interested in a manuscript evaluation (up to 10 pages of work) during my stay, please email me, and we'll arrange something. Such "blue-pencil sessions" are sort of like getting your own private writing workshop.

Well, here's the info on the event, pulled from the Festival's website:

TUESDAY, October 3 @ 7:00 pm
Hunkamooga’s Return:
Coffee-stained Notes from the Underground
An evening with Stuart Ross

At the Library & Archives of Canada, 395 Wellington, Ottawa

$12 / $10 Student or Senior / $6 Festival Member

Canada’s inimitable master of the surreal, Stuart Ross, a Festival favourite, is back for an unforgettable evening of prose and poetry. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear from his novel-in-progress, some new poems and a taste of his acclaimed essays – plus an on-stage interview by Ottawa’s Stephen Brockwell.

“If Stuart Ross was living and working in the United States, and writing the exact same poetry he does now, he would be rich and famous. Well, famous, at least.” — George Murray, The Globe & Mail

Note to bridge entries

Been a whirlwind of a week.

Lots of time in Hospitalville, but all is looking OK now. So buried in work I can barely believe it.

The Fictitious Reading was a wonderful success on Sunday night. Good crowd, fabulous writing presented by Marnie Woodrow and John Lavery. It's a very different crowd that comes out for this reading — different from poetry events (though some crossover). Really interesting to see that we have to get the word out not to writers necessarily, but to readers of fiction. Different from promoting a poetry reading.

Better go – I have to do my next blog entry quick!

Over and out.

25 September 2006


Pussy Galorazepamela Anderson

23 September 2006

We interrupt this blog: Come hear some amazing fiction on Sunday!

The world getting a little too real for you? In the mood for a little fiction?

Come to the Fictitious Reading Series this Sunday for readings by two great fiction writers, plus an onstage chat conducted by Kate Sutherland and nervous introductions by Stuart Ross!

After a great first season, we're kicking off this season with two wonderful — and wonderfully diverse — writers, John Lavery and Marnie Woodrow (see their bios below). This is a rare opportunity to hear these two acclaimed fictioneers.

John Lavery & Marnie Woodrow
Sunday, September 24
7:30 p.m.
This Ain't the Rosedale Library (upstairs in the gallery)
483 Church Street (just below Wellesley), Toronto
Admission is PWYC

But also, BYOB! Really!

Now featuring exciting door prizes.

And visit the Fictitious website for more on this reading and the full season's listings:

The Fictitious Reading Series
is the only Toronto series devoted entirely to fiction. We hope you'll come out and support both the concept and our great readers. And please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested. Thanks!

Jon Lavery is the author of two collections of short fiction. His first, Very Good Butter, was a Hugh MacLennan prize finalist. His most recent collection, You, Kwaznievski, You Piss Me Off, was described in The Montreal Review of Books as "the literary equivalent of a Dali painting." The Danforth Review credited it with "integrat[ing] traditionalist excellence with inspired innovation" and opined that it was one of the best books of 2004. John is a founding member of the Orchestre de la société de guitare de Montréal. He lives in Gatineau, Quebec.

Marnie Woodrow is the author of two acclaimed collections of short fiction and a novel. Her novel, Spelling Mississippi, was short-listed for the Books In Canada/amazon.ca First Novel Award. The Vancouver Sun pronounced it "a spellbinding tale," and Books in Canada described it as an "original, sexy" story that "presents an unforgettable portrait of New Orleans." Marnie teaches at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies for which she recently earned an Excellence in Teaching Award. She is a co-director of The Word Lounge, an online and in-person coaching and editing program for creative writers. Marnie is currently completing a new novel and a short story collection.

18 September 2006

Beans & Nothingness

Kanty is Dante,
but Sartre was smartre.

Over and out.

15 September 2006

Life like likwid

Yeah, so tomorrow my dad would have turned 80. But tomorrow is the Sabbath and Jewish cemeteries are closed. I made the drive up to Keele and Wilson this afternoon. Dana had chosen some small lovely rocks when we were in Muskoka the other week, and these I divided among the headstones of my uncle Sol Mainster, my father, my mother, and Owen. I think some of my greatest time with my family was spent at the Wapaska cottage we rented for a few weeks for a few summers when I was a kid, so those rocks felt like the right rocks to leave.

I talked to them all, as I always do. No Jewish prayers this time. Just reports on those the departed have left behind, some promises to keep closer touch with Barry, requests for guidance, and that perpetual lament: "Can't we have just one more conversation?"

I walked slowly from the cemetery today, looking at many of the other headstones, thinking that among this field of rock were likely some childhood friends of mine. The other day I got an email from a guy named Jack Daiter, who I knew slightly in junior high. He had stumbled upon me in a Google search for our old junior high school (apparently, I was the only hit). We exchanged a couple of notes, and one name that came up was Bobby Weinberg, who had been a friend of both of ours and who I think died in his teens or 20s. I thought of two more friends from then who'd died too young, one a suicide and another in a drug-related accident, and I guess there must be more.

Anyway, I also visited my old house on Pannahill. This house — and especially its neighbourhood — features big in the novel I'm on the cusp of completing. I parked out front and delivered an envelope to my old porch, which is now a much bigger porch. The envelope contained a copy of Henry Kafka and Other Stories, which contains a short story called "This Is the Story of My Family," which takes place in the drive of that old house. I attached a note explaining that I'd once lived there and that perhaps this story would interest them. I included my email address.

What will happen? I'm thinking most likely they're shrug and throw the book away. I mean, a book? What's a book anyway? Who is this crazy guy who left this here?

Maybe I'll be wrong.

In the driveway of "my" house was a garishly painted old turquoise bus. On its side were colourful illustrations of bananas, cherries, strawberries, and more. And the words "LICKWIDLIFE Real Fruit Ice Crushers."

It was such an odd feeling standing on the old street. My public school is now a Jewish school, and the vast gravel yard is now lawn. A couple blocks away, I pulled into Bathurst Manor Plaza. The gas station where the guy had gotten shot during a robbery when I was a child -- it's now a combination Country Style Donuts and King David's Falafels. I ordered a falafel and wandered around the little plaza. Only the CIBC bank was the same. The Dominion was closed down and boarded up, as was the old cigar store. The sign for the LCBO outlet still hung, but the venue was now a menswear and tailor shop, with an old guy sitting in the window working an old sewing machine.

Monday is my brother Barry's birthday. It'll be nice to talk to a living relative.

Over and out.

14 September 2006


Those who happen upon my blog through searches are most often searching variations of:

- hermaphrodite cats

- rocks on Jewish headstones

Speaking of the latter, this Saturday would have been my father's 80th birthday. Perhaps I'll go put some rocks on his headstone tomorrow or Sunday. He was a good man, a Razovsky.


A blog, a website, both awesome

Two other addresses I've been meaning to write about.

My friend debby florence in Missoula, Montana, keeps an excellent blog and website called Umbrella Tooth. Her latest blog entry is a really thoughtful, really interesting review of Radiant Danse Uv Being, the bill bissett homage anthology edited by Jeff Pew and Steve "Rox" Roxborough. It always blows me away when Americans show this kind of interest in Canadian poetry. Richard Huttel of Chicago has a similar enthusiasm. We need more visits by both of them! (Plus Richard should start blogging.) debby runs an amazing small press, as well as a small press co-op called Slumgullion, through which she puts on all sorts of audacious and amazing-sounding events. Visit her site! Send her money for her books!

The other site of interest belongs to a Toronto comrade, Sandra Alland. www.blissfultimes.ca was built around her fantastic new poetry manuscript, which some smart publisher better snatch up quickly. The site has visual and sound poetry connected to the book, plus info on Sandra and her various projects, including her chapbook imprint. She says the site will continue to evolve as she delves deeper into her poetry laboratory.

In self-pitying news, the Toronto Arts Council turned me down today.

Also, isn't it about time for a resurgence of interest in the poetry of Victor Coleman?

Also also, I saw Dani Couture's new book, Good Meat, at Book City the other day. It's gorgeous. It's so gorgeous. I would've bought a copy, but the back cover is devoted to a crazed blurb by me, so I'm hoping I'll get a copy free. I've never had a blurb look so gorgeous on the back of a book. You can see the book right over here.

Over and out.

11 September 2006


It's like a Fellini film here on the patio of the Green Room. But the kids are starting to arrive, so I'll have to leave soon. I came to get a huge chunk of work done, some of that editing that's weighing me way down, but I made the mistake of popping into Book City first, and Paul showed me a few new books on the poetry shelves, as he usually does, and here's the strange coincidence. Last night I flipped through some Mark Strand, thinking that I should read some Strand every day to balance all the goddamn CNN I watch. And today Paul points out a new Mark Strand: Man and Camel. So I plunked myself down out there with a beer and read the book – well, everything but the last sequence, which is based on the seven final words of Christ, which I think made a good piece of music by Mahler. Anyway, beyond this new book's hideous cover are some beautiful poems, quietly beautiful. I can't remember if Mark Strand ever astonished me – maybe he did when I first read him – but now I get a different kind of pleasure. "People Walking Through the Night" and "Afterwords" are my instant favourites, but there's a lot here to reread of his simple declarative sentences.

He's getting old. He's looking old like Johnny Cash or Samuel Beckett looked old. Well, maybe not that old. I started going grey when I was 18.

Oh, also I was dead wrong last night when I said the Americans who blamed Bush for 9/11 weren't counted. In fact, Ugly News Source reports today that such a poll has just been taken, and nearly half of Americans blame Bush for 9/11. But I think it's more that they think not enough was done to stop the attack, not that Bush's (or Clinton's) foreign policies were to blame.

Well, maybe I wasn't that wrong after all.

And back to poetry for a moment: among the new books Paul pointed out to me today was Dani Couture's Good Meat, from Pedlar Press. It's a gorgeous-looking book, and my blurb on the back says it's a good book too. I've never had a blurb look so attractive.

The blurb is as attractive as Mark Strand once was, or perhaps still is.

Over and out.

Voiceless yanquis and snot-filled hankies

Mark Strand writes in "The Hill":

"The longer I walk, the farther I am from everything."

That's how I feel about all the goddamn time I spend watching the news, watching Osama bios, watching Iraq and 9/11 coverage, watching Harvey Keitel playing John O'Neill in an ABC docudramaschmuckery.

Last week, though, I watched the repatriation of five dead Canadian soldiers on CBC Newsworld. It was incredibly moving. Their coffins, one at a time, conveyor-belting off the plane from Afghanistan. Fellow soldiers carrying the coffin to the hearse. A guy with lots of stripes approaching the hearse and saluting the coffin. The soldiers dispersing as the family members approach the hearse and weep and hug and put flowers on the coffin.

This particular repatriation ceremony also included a soldier named Graham, who was killed by U.S. friendly fire. A representative from the American Air Force was present. Which was apparently extraordinary, and I guess so. He must've been squirming inside. But his presence acknowledged the U.S.'s responsibility, showed some respect for the Canadian effort (in a war we probably shouldn't be involved in).

Anyway, it was very moving, very respectful, these ceremonies. And there was something poignant about them being televised: the Canadian public could, through their idiotboxes, join in the mourning with the families. Americans don't have this opportunity, because the sociopath who's running their country won't allow it. If it were allowed, Americans would have seen this scene nearly 3,000 times.

But maybe more. Because the "official" death toll counts only those who die on the scene. Of the 15,000 or so who've been wounded and sent off to hospitals in Germany or the U.S., how many of those have died? And how many suicides have there been of Iraq and Afghanistan vets?

It was encouraging, as we live under the Bushite regime of Stephen Harper, that a large majority of Canadians polled recently believe that U.S. foreign policy was responsible for 9/11. Now, there's a point of view that I have never heard in my thousands of hours of watching CNfuckingN. My friend debby, in Missoula, says she think a lot of Americans feel the same way. But I guess those are Americans without a voice in the media, without even a poll to count them.

Last night I dreamt about an American. Larry Fagin. Now there's a guy with a voice.

Over and out.

08 September 2006

Goddamn cigars

A few months ago, I thought my editing career was kaput. I had no work, and no prospects of work. Now I am buried in work, as I have been since the beginning of the summer. Is there such a term as "freelancer's panic"?

Anyway, it's nice to be immersed in all these different projects: from poetry to fiction to art to children's writing. It's nice in the way that quicksand is nice. Though quicksand doesn't send me a cheque afterwards.

A break last night: I volunteered at the book table for a couple hours for Coach House Books' annual open house. It's an amazing event. There are people there who've never been to a publishing house before, and of course there's no on-site experience quite like Coach House's. And this year they took over bpNichol Lane and turned it into a giant outdoor cafe, complete with a hot buffet. But me, I stood behind the book table, where I am most comfortable and chatted with people and sold books.

I've never had a book published by Coach House, though there was a close call a few years back. Back in the 80s, when the press was run by an editorial collective, I submitted at least a couple of manuscripts to them; they sat on them for a year and I took 'em back. Things are different now under Alana. And I do have an essay in the sequel to uTOpia, a sort of expanded Hunkamooga with more of an informational emphasis.

I first entered the Coach House coach house when I was about 16 years old, as part of my alternative school's creative writing class back in about 1975. I sat upstairs in that ancient meeting room with Chris Dewdney, with Joe Rosenblatt, with Victor Coleman, with David Young. So that place has always had magic for me. By golly.

But in all the years I've known the press, and gone to its events, and there have been some great ones, I've never seen the kind of community around the press that Alana has developed. And so many young people. Geez. The launches and open houses are phenomenal.

As has always been the case, I don't like every book that Coach House publishes, of course, but there are some really great ones every year. At this open house, as I reluctantly gave up the table to the next volunteer, I picked up copies of Margaret Christakos's Sooner and Jon Paul Fiorentino's Theory of the Loser Class.

Then I hit the road and did some more editing.

In other news, I picked up a great CD today: Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins — Rabbit Fur Coat. It was Ali Riley who told me about Jenny Lewis. Man, it's good. I just listened to it three times. Up there with the first Be Good Tanyas album and Kasey Chambers' The Captain.

Oh, editing. Someday my editing jobs will end temporarily and I can write again. In the meantime, here's an untitled poem I found in one of my many unfinished notebooks:

Hipshot his chin
from the rail.
His shoulder plunged
further and further.
I was slow motion,
a stack of folded deck chairs,
the multiple lacerations:
terror, anger, outrage,
appeal. A fat man
hooked my ankle smartly,
like mirror images.
Goddamn cigars.

Over and out.

06 September 2006

A leaf, a page

At the next table at Grapefruit Moon sat three women.

One said, "I hate names that have 'Blatt' in them, like Silverblatt."

Another said, "It probably means something, like it's a Yiddish or Hebrew word."

The first said, "I just don't like that name."

Well, it went something like that.

My mother's name was Blatt. "Blatt" means "leaf" or "page."

Here's a poem I wrote about my grandfather. It's in my book Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Poems New & Selected. Over and out.


Mr. Sam Blatt
sewed a coat
for the dog,

his foot on the pedal,
his teeth by the sink.
We played in his room.

Mr. Sam Blatt
stood in the kitchen,
slicing up cow's tongue

and clearing his throat.
Mr. Sam Blatt
lay back in his bed,

his mouth contorted,
a pen in his hand.
He wrote Hebrew letters

on brown paper towel
and then he was dead.

05 September 2006

Stuart does Brazil

Well, here's a curious thing. An online surrealist magazine called Agulha: Revista de Cultura has translated (into Portuguese) and published Dani Couture's interview with me. They've also added some pretty cool illustrations.

It's right over here.

The interview originally appeared on The Danforth Review's website. I get the feeling the Agulha people didn't even ask permission. But that's OK! I'm glad they're interested.

Next step: translate a bunch of my poems into Portuguese and fly me to Brazil!

Over and out.

Bland on the run

Hoofed it to Ottawa this past weekend to celebrate my buddy Michael Dennis's 50th birthday. I met him about 25 years ago, when I was selling my books on the streets of Toronto. He's a poet too. With a million books. At his best, he writes some pretty amazing stuff. I often use poems of his in my workshops to show what direct language what can accomplish. I also like his second-person, present-tense approach. McFadden does that really well, too. Anyway, nice party, but I got way too fucked-up. I forgot that when you drink, you get drunk. And then it's really hard to drive back to Toronto the next day.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Saturday afternoon I visited Sean and Kira, who drive the Ottawa International Writers' Festival. They now have a beautiful son, named Aidan. It was a great visit. And as a bonus, Sean passed me a copy of Gunnar Kopperud's newest novel to appear in English, The Backpacker's Father. Gorgeous design. Can't wait to dig in, but I have to, because I'm drowning in freelance editing work.

The drive back to Toronto was pretty shakey (after I got kicked out of my hotel room, I went back to Sean and Kira's to crash for a while, nurse my hangover, drink V8), and I swung into town just before 8, with a reading to do at 9 p.m. in Dundas Square, part of the World Jam poetry marathon that Denis De Klerck of Mansfield Press set up. Four readers an hour from noon to midnight. I got there pretty much in time for my reading, which I wasn't entirely pleased with, though lots of people said they thought it was great. And then I had to leave pretty quickly, because I was still in pain. I really wanted to stay for Goran Simic and Evalyn Parry. But it was not to be.

On the drive to Ottawa, in the privacy of my car, I was croaking out some improvised sound poetry in between (and sometimes during) Talking Heads, Shelby Lynne, Mary Lou Lord, Graham Parker, and Stump ("Charlton Heston put his vest on..."). The ride back I didn't want much noise, but I found this cassette in my car: Band on the Run. Oddly, I had never heard that record. I do remember, though, once mentioning Paul McCartney to my neighbour Karen Nefsky back on Pannahill Road. "Oh, he's the guy from Wings, isn't he?" (Karen was a few years younger than me.) Anyway, gosh, it's not a bad album, though the two songs I'd heard before -- the title tune and "Jet" or whatever it's called -- where awful. Otherwise, yeah, pure pop for then people.

I will never drink again. Unless Ringo Starr comes back to Casino Rama.

Over and out.

01 September 2006

Portnoy's Travels

Dana and I got the hell out of the city for a couple of days. The intended destination was Gravenhurst, the small Ontario town not far from where I spent some cottage summers when I was a tyke. We checked into a B&B, where the otherwise charming German hostess grilled me about my background (Polish and Russian) and set out for a long walk into Gravenhurst's evening. The wharf hadn't been there in the early '60s, I'm just about sure of that. But it was real nice, and we passed some time there looking at the big old cruise boats, sniffing the waftings from Boston Pizza, and sitting sodas by the water. There was almost no one else around; it was midweek; it was peace.

A walk into town showed that Gravenhurst wasn't insanely different from my memory of it: more developed, a bigger downtown, I guess, ten zillion pizza joints... and Sloanes was gone! Well, Sloanes was still there, but the sign was covered over by a sign that read "Mike's Place." Sloanes had been the restaurant we always went to. Everyone went to Sloanes. Anyway, from the outside, it looked nearly unchanged inside, except for a big new bar.

The next morning we decided to head for Honey Harbour, where Dana had spent her childhood summers. I didn't even bother trying to find Wapaska, my family's old cottage site and the location of several chapters of my novel. But not a minute or two out or Gravenhurst, there was a little sign that read "Wapaska Estates." I turned off the road. We parked. We looked at the list of people there: the Allens were still listed! the Levmans! I was nervous about trespassing, but we wandered onto the properties and the memories came slamming back at me. There were a lot of big cottages now — earning the name "Estates" — but still a few smaller ones, including one that I'm sure was where I spent several summers. The physical terrain was just as I remembered; the structures had mostly changed.

It was sorta mind-blowing. A little sad, as I thought of my childhood days with my brothers Barry and Owen, but overall really nice. Again, peaceful.

We drove along, Dana reading aloud, as she had the day before, from Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. An appropriate book after visiting a Jewish enclave in the goyishe Muskokas. Fuck, that book is outrageous.

We stopped for a little picnic by the Lake Rosseau, about an hour north. Some hummus and pita, some fruit. We walked along the beach with our toes in the water. We read a bit more Roth. Again, it was quiet, peaceful, beautiful. We could see why people liked this cottage-country life, though Dana says she'd go insane living there. I could last half a year, I think, before I'd need the big city again. Dana said maybe two months for her.

We weren't all that far from Toronto, but it was like being on another continent, in another time.

An hour west and south again and we reached Honey Harbour, home of the Dellawanna Inn, where Dana spent most of her childhood summers. Big insane resort. I'd never been to one before. The dining hall, just as she'd remembered, the first bar she'd ever been in (where the bartender plied the 10-year-old with Shirley Temples), the cabins, tennis courts, swimming pools.

There was lots of new stuff, including obnoxious non-stop announcements on the beach, teenage staff luring children into competitive games on the water, rock-climbing, and other stuff that wasn't part of Dana's Dellawanna.

We must've spent a few hours there. It was vast and sorta nice. Though I don't think I'd want to stay somewhere like that. Good material for the novel, as was the brief visit to Wapaska.

A few small towns on the way home, with stops in antique shops, like my family used to always do. I bought a hideous painting of a dog that's really nice. Dana finished reading Roth before we got home, and I listened to Destroyer's Rubies.

It was a magical 30 hours. A testament to the curative powers of leaving the city, if only briefly.

Over and out.

World Jam spreads downtown

Well, here's a thing I'm reading at on Sunday! I wonder if it will be readable. Anyway, I'm reading sometime between 9 and 10 pm, along with Souvankham Thammovongsa, Priscilla Uppal, and others. The next hour includes Clifton Joseph and Goran Simic, and chiming in with midnight will be Evalyn Parry. The readings begin at noon on Sunday and go on for 12 hours. That's a big blob of poetry, all right!

Over and out.