29 November 2006

One Little Goat, One Little Goat my father bought for two zuzim

So Dana and I met up with Sandra last night to see the One Little Goat production of Thomas Bernhard's Ritter, Dene, Voss down at Alchemy Theatre. It's a great space — reminds me of some of the little alternative theatre spaces I went to in the 1970s to see Sam Sheppard and Tom Walmsley and Patti Smith plays.

One Little Goat is Adam Seelig, a Toronto poet who likes to dig up plays by poets. His last production was of work for the stage by the great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai (my parents met him when they were in Israel thirty years ago and got him to sign a book for me! how the hell did they meet Yehuda Amichai? and what an incredibly thoughtful thing for them to do for me!).

Anyway, Ritter, Dene, Voss was an amazing experience. Wonderful acting by Shannon Perreault, Maev Beaty and Greg Thomas. Three distinct, complex, hilarious characters. Both in and occasionally out of character. Great set design, lighting, and direction, too, not that I know anything about theatre. Two sisters receive their nutso philosopher brother back at their inherited home after he's released from a sanitorium. The sexual tension, the competition between the sisters, the mad obsessiveness of everyone on the stage: a fabulous two hours.

The play is on until Sunday. Only $12 for artists and the low-waged! And Adam Seelig is such a sweet guy.

This morning I finished off my Hunkamooga column for sub-Terrain. I think it will piss someone off. But it had to be said. And I don't name names. Is that cowardly or sensible? This particular column is about "money." I'm not crazy about this sub-Terrain thing of themed issues, but so far I've come up with something appropriate without compromising.

So that's two completed pieces of writing in the past week. Two reasons fewer to feel guilty and useless.

Next thing to dig into is the final version of my poetry manuscript for Anvil. To my astonishment, I got a cover out of the artist I most wanted to design my book. He did exactly the cover I might have dreamed of. It's going to be perhaps the most insane cover of a Canadian poetry book ever.

Over and out.

28 November 2006

Owen and Riley and fiction in between

My brother Owen, who was really into wrestling (back in the days of the Sheik, the Fabulous Kangeroos, and Haystack Calhoun), used to do this thing where he'd pretend to slap me in the face and I'd fling my head to the appropriate side, and he'd slap again and I'd fling my head back the other way, and with each "slap" Owen would somehow make a slapping sound, presumably with his other hand. Back and forth, forth and back. It's nice to have a memory of playfulness with Owen.

What brings it to mind, though, is getting Writers' Reserve rejections back in the mail. I sent out a heap of them, and I've received two nixes so far, each like a slap in the face. I expect a whole bunch more slaps, and then hopefully at least one of the publishers out there will pinch my cheek affectionately and tell me I'm a mench and I'll get $1,500.

But let's back up a couple of days. The Fictitious Reading on Sunday night at the gallery above This Ain't the Rosedale Library featured very strong readings of fiction by John Degen and Jennifer LoveGrove, both perhaps better known as poets. The readings were followed by a really interesting onstage chat conducted by Kate Sutherland. My favourite part was when John said writing poetry and writing fiction were equally difficult, and they were both about writing sentences.

The audience was pretty small — maybe about 10 aside from readers and organizers. That never prevents it from being a good Fictitious night, and the featured writers always have a great time in our intimate little setting above Church Street. But it's a struggle to get audience out each time: each time it's largely a different audience. I continue to be surprised how few people from the various poetry series come out for Fictitious. Do most poets not read fiction? Are they unable to? Well, the lesson has been, reading after reading, that, while some writers do come out to Fictitious, it's readers of fiction that we have to reach to create audience.

Still, a good time, as they say, was had by all who attended. And most attendees were very generous when it came time to pass the hat and show appreciation for the two hours of art offered up.

I bought John's novel and look forward to reading it. I look forward equally to reading Jen's novel when she finishes it.

Tonight, Dana and I are going to see Adam Seelig's production of Thomas Bernhard's Ritter, Dene, Voss. Judging by Barlow's prediction, we'll miss the Lex stampede on Sunday's final PWYC.

And in Ottawa, Riley Tench has died. I met Riley for the first time just a few years ago at the Ottawa International Writers Festival. He was an old friend of Michael Dennis, Ian David Arlett, Ward Maxwell, and the sadly also late Dennis Tourbin' they all met up, I think, in Peterborough in the late seventies/early eighties. Didn't know Riley well, but liked him. I think he had been away from poetry for a couple of decades and was just coming back to it and was glad to have other writers to talk with. His funeral is this weekend. Michael tells me that bill bissett will be making the trip to Ottawa to lead a chant at the service, at the request of Riley's family. That's a beautiful idea.

Over and out.

26 November 2006

Unflailingly polite

Nice night last night. Went to the IV Lounge for readings by my friend Dani Couture and by Steve McOrmond. Weird thing for me is that I blurbed both of their excellent new books, Dani's Good Meat (from Pedlar) and Steve's Primer on the Hereafter (from Wolsak and Wynn). Now, those are the only two books I blurbed this year; it's not like I'm running around blurbing everything in sight.

Anyway, I'd never met Steve before, and he turned out to be a very nice and friendly fellow. Good reader too, with this sort of Anglican-minister delivery and some excellent between-poem jokes. Dani also read very well, with a more low-key approach. Both very smart writers, and they both also ended off with a couple of new poems, which is always a good thing. Dani kicked off, though, with a poem by her one-time prof and friend the late John Ditsky; I realized I'd perhaps never heard or read a Ditsky poem before: it was great. I want to know more about Ditsky. I know that Emily Schultz and John Barlow also studied with him in Windsor (Ditsky, I think, was an American, living in Detroit).

There was a third reader, and he was one of those people with a first initial, like T. Anders Carson and L. Ron Hubbard and C. Thomas Howell. When his name, which I now can't recall, was announced, I sorta inwardly groaned, because I remembered seeing another first-initial poet at the IV in the past few years and I wondered if this was the first-initial-poet venue of choice. Turned out to be the same guy.

Later, rob mclennan arrived, fresh off the train. Well, not fresh, as he himself announced. Anyhow, I was determined to be friendly and polite and welcoming-to-my-city, because he felt I was a prick to him in Ottawa this past fall (perhaps I was). And he, graciously, seemed willing to give me another chance. Life's easier when you're nice to people.

After the readings, I headed off to InterAccess, where Quebec artists Plan B were opening their show Flock [on]. In the darkened gallery, three fuzzy coloured spheres lay on the floor. Nudge them with your foot, toss them a little, or pick them up and carry them and strange, evocative noises emit from the speakers on the walls while coloured arrows — a little like bill bissett seagulls — dart around you on the floors and walls. Well worth a visit.

Managed to get a piece of writing done in the last couple days, which felt good. When I saw Richard Truhlar at the Mercury launch Thursday, I was flooded with guilt because I didn't come through for him on a fiction anthology he's putting together. He had extended my deadline several times and I finally had to write him and say I just couldn't do it. But Thursday he mentioned that he was waiting "for the last two pieces." So there was more time! I asked him and he said sure, I should go ahead. And I went home that night and pushed myself through some prose for him. So now it's finished, and I have no idea if he'll use it, but I like it, and I'm glad to have produced a piece of short fiction for the first time in ages.

Over and out.

24 November 2006

A Fictitious Utopian Sunday approaches!

It's busy Sunday, this Sunday.

First, beginning at 2 p.m., at the Gladstone Ballroom, it's the launch for uTOpia TwoThe State of the Arts: Living With Culture in Toronto, from Coach House Books. I've got an essay on small-press stuff in the book, and I'm on a panel on "unofficial culture" at 3 p.m. with several people much smarter than me. The book is packed with essays that range from the whimsical to the academic, about a multitude of aspects of culture in Toronto. For example, Dana Samuel and her colleague Brenda Goldstein have a dialogue about the potentials of artist-run centres, and Jason Anderson wrote about Toronto dressing up as American cities for Hollywood films, and Sandra Alland wrote about the evils of corporate dominance in the publishing and bookselling industries.

Later that day,

it's time once again,


The Fictitious Reading Series



Sunday, November 26, 7:30 pm
This Ain't the Rosedale Library, 483 Church

The evening, as always, features two substantial fiction readings from works both published and in progress. The month, my co-coordinator Kate Sutherland (of Katesbookblog fame) will conduct the "onstage" chat with John and Jennifer, and I'll look after the hosting duties, which include refilling the Cheezies bowl.

There will also be excellent door prizes as I continue to winnow down my personal book collection.

This Ain't the Rosedale Library generously donates its upstairs gallery space to us once a month, and it's a great venue: sort of like a reading in someone's living room.

More about John Degen, Jennifer LoveGrove and the series here.

Over and out.

Over and out.

That was the week that was (a particularly incoherent posting)

Before the fever set in on Monday, I worked. I'd forgotten that I worked.

I drove out to Whitby, to All Saints Catholic S.S. and did a reading and a talk about chapbooks and self-publishing for a couple of Writers' Craft classes. They were a very quiet group, but also very attentive. And they had some smart questions. One girl asked, "How come some of your titles have nothing to do with the poems?" No one had ever asked that before. I pled guilty before the Court of Title/Poem Incongruity.

I spread out twenty or thirty chapbooks and other strange publications on a table and after my presentation invited the students to come up and check them out. I fully expected that just a few keeners would approach the table and start examining book constructions and bindings, while the rest fled the school for the day (it was last period, after all). But what happened was that they all gathered round the table, picked up a random book and began reading silently and intently. It was so weird and yet so lovely.

Right, and then I had a flu.

And then tonight I went to the Mercury Press launch, the proper one, at the Supermarket in Kensington Market. What an intense night it turned out to be for me. It was also a good night, I think, for Mercury, in spite of the continuing absence of Jay and Stephen's book. I felt a little guilty being there after my recent Mercurial grumblings, but I had friends to support, and Mercury has supported me, and I also had Fictitious Reading Series flyers (be there! Sunday!) to give out. It was incredible to see David Lee and Maureen Cochrane — David has a new Mercury book about the Five Spot, a jazz club mentioned in Frank O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died." I interviewed David and Maureen for Mondo Hunkamooga about two decades ago.

Also had a fantastic and cathartic talk with Richard Truhlar. I told him I'd just bought — after 30 years of coveting — a copy of B.S. Johnson's loose-pages-in-a-box novel The Unfortunates. As a teenager, I'd once drooled over a copy at the Village Bookstore on Queen West, but couldn't afford the $25 or whatever it cost. Janet at Annex Books told me this was likely the same copy: it had been bpNichol's and bpNichol used to hang around Village a lot. Does anyone talk about experimental fiction anymore? In Toronto, I dunno. But it's a passion Truhlar and I share.

Oh yeah, David Lee performed a couple of jazz sets with Bill Smith, David Prentice, Stuart [can't recall last name], and Arthur Bull. Amazing sets. I remembered that Smith, Lee and Bull had performed at the first-ever Toronto Small Press Book Fair, in 1987 at Innis College Pub, as the Bill Smith Trio.

Talked to many others, heard some readings, bought no books (yet), and came home very fired up, wrote a short story, something I haven't done in what seems like ages.

Now I lay me down to sleep.

Over and out.

21 November 2006


Thirty hours of fever have come and nearly gone. They made me feel like a little kid. Sweaty and bed-ridden. And not clear-headed enough to use the time usefully, though I did manage to get through Daniel Cloewes' "comic-strip novel" Ice Haven this afternoon. I'd forgotten what a night of fever was like: haunted by persistent, muddled scenarios that can't be pushed from the noggin. So I was sent back to Pannahill, where I grew up and where I had most of my fevers, as well as measles, the mumps, and tonsilitis. My mom used to bring me a big metal cup of apple juice, which was the most refreshing thing on earth.

One event I missed because I was sick was the Mercury Press launch of Sharon Harris's Avatar and Jay MillAr and Stephen Cain's Double Helix, as part of the stupid This Is Not a Reading Series, at the Gladstone Hotel. Stephen was sitting this event out, so the evening consisted of Sharon and Jay. And Sharon's book. Incredibly, Jay's book was not ready for the launch, and he only found out when he got to the venue. Nice surprise. You'd think maybe someone might have let him know. Rumour has it that the Mercs themselves didn't show up either.

Now, I do remember a BookThug launch with a book not yet back from the printer. And I remember a launch of one of my own books where the printer desperately shipped 22 hand-bound copies to the launch after a series of screw-ups.

Jay's talk is up at jaymillar.blogspot.com. It's a great read, and pretty 'pataphysical, though he's gotta do something about that "to all intensive purposes" thing.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to reading both Stephen/Jay's book and Sharon's.

Over and out.

17 November 2006

The social week.

Nice evening Tuesday. Sandra and I headed up to North York, just a few blocks from where I used to go to high school (AISP), and we met up at the Black Sheep with Jenn. Disgusting food, but the red wine and conversation were excellent. Oddly, three poets got together and poetry was barely mentioned over the course of the evening. A sidenote: I had my job interview for my old Ministry of Transportation gig at that bar.

Wednesday, another great social time. I'm not used to all this social. Alana and I went to the Victory for white wine and, again, excellent conversation. She showed me some of her photos of Finland, including several she took from a glider (!!), which was pretty cool. I used to go to the Victory at least twice a week, especially back when it was on Bathurst, but haven't been there much lately, except for lit events. It's gotten too damn crowded. Good for the owners, bad for me.

Thursday was Going to Press, a brilliantly conceived event organized by Katharine Parrish at the school she teaches at, Marc Garneau C.I. in East York. A little thin on presses this year, but still a great time. It's not about selling stuff, but just being there to expose kids to the possibilities of writing and publishing. That said, I did sell seven items, totally $55. Should make up for the gas it took to get out there. Because when I arrived, I realized I'd forgotten the tiny chapbook, 4 Poems, I'd made especially for the event. So I drove home and then drove back.

For the first time, Katharine skedded a reading for this fair that has so far consisted of book tables and a variety of workshops. And I got the job. I ended up keeping it pretty light and hopefully sorta funny and engaging, but immediately felt remorseful afterwards, like I should have read them some heavy stuff. But the students enjoyed it, and Katharine said what I did was exactly what was needed. Phew.

The evening. My dear and generous friend Mary had tickets she couldn't use, for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, so she gave them to Dana and me. An excellent night out at the symphony for some Mozart, Bach, and Berlioz. Conducted by Andrew Davis; I'm certain I saw one of his first-ever appearances with the TSO back at Massey Hall a couple decades back. Very funny, charismatic guy. Man, he really got into it, particularly with the Berlioz. Nice to get a bit of the high-end culture once in a while.

Now it is Friday. The fun is over. I have things to do! Jobs to finish, an apartment to clean, books to read and write.

Over and out

13 November 2006

Memoirs, book fairs & anal whores

I was amazed at how well Saturday's workshop, There's More To Memoir Than Truth, went. A really great group of writers who ranged from "beginner" to "published," some of whom had been in previous workshops. It was exciting to spread dozens of memoirs and memoir/fictions and memoir/poems all over the table and explore the bridge and the blur between memoir and fiction. I did some writing myself and was very pleased to have the beginnings of some new work, since writing's been a little rare for me lately.

I will definitely run this workshop again and try to travel with it, if possible.

The next day was Day 2 of the Toronto Small Press Book Fair, which was the day I was scheduled to do a table. Which I did. The fair took place upstairs at the Victory Cafe, and it was certainly the tiniest fair (even doubling it mentally, since a whole different group of presses had been there the day before) in TSPBF history. The "audience" turnout was dismal, but somehow there was still a good, if resigned, mood in the room. One treat was that Nick Power, with whom I founded the fair back in 1987, was back with his Gesture Press, after a long absence, and we sat at neighbouring tables, had a good visit, wrote a couple of collaborative poems. Nick also had three new publications on his table, and it was so great to see him producing all this new work.

Ryan Bird was there, too, with his Um, Yeah Press, and it was neat to see the Byword gang from Ottawa, as well as Murderous Signs from Ottawa. Jen LoveGrove was down the row and, like me, she didn't have anything new, but she'd made a whole new batch of the last issue of dig and the covers were fantastic. Nice visit with Beth Follett, of Pedlar Press, who is one of the fair's coordinators — though this was her last fair in that role.

One thing that irked me was that Beth's co-coordinator, Lindsay, had a table the day before, and in Lindsay's mass-mailing about the fair (from her Puddle Press) and on her website, didn't mention that the fair was two days. She only gave the hours for the Saturday half of the fair. When she was doing a table. Anyone looking at that would never have known the fair was over two days. And she was one of the coordinators.

There was some talk about whether this stunted little fair was the death throes of the event, but I don't think so. Besides, that nice vibe in the room made it worthwhile, and reminded me a bit of the monthly Meet the Presses events that Nick and I organized throughout 1985. Plus I sold $127 worth of stuff, which isn't too bad.

Speaking of books, I spent a couple hours this afternoon going through the online catalogue for Jay MillAr's Apollinaire Bookshop. Only scratched the surface of the catalogue, but found some great stuff, especially some of the items in the New York Poets list.

One of the books Jay has published through his BookThug imprint is a collection of Rob Read's spam-derived poems. But a couple years before that came out, Dana Samuel released a tiny artist's book delicately titled Anal Whores, which does it much better and much more concisely. You can find a PDF version right over here, if you scroll to the bottom of the page. Though you don't get to see the hot-pink cover paper. It's a great little book of poems.

Over and out.

11 November 2006

Me and Wallace Stevens just sorta hanging out

Souvankham Thammavongsa just sent me the link to a review of Hey, Crumbling Balcony! that I'd never seen. That cheers me up! It's from the University of Toronto Quarterly, and it's part of a 2003 poetry roundup by Jeffrey Donaldson (wasn't there a famous American murderer by that name?):

Stuart Ross has published a volume of new and selected poems, Hey, Crumbling Balcony: Poems New & Selected. His allegiance to the creative-destructive element in underground literature is evident throughout, as is his dreamlike perspective on the quotidian round, his penchant for the psychological surreal (which recalls, like Adamson above, the Latin American influences of Mark Strand), his attraction to a kind of dry tongue-in-cheek existential angst: ‘I am sitting here looking / out the window. / Someone walks by / who is not me / doesn’t even look / like me. // A few moments later, / another person who is / not me walks by! / What are the / chances of / that happening?’ Ross turns the classical ‘instruct and delight’ imperative into the activist’s ‘amuse or bug,’ and very often succeeds in his line of attack. The language seems perfectly adequate to the job, though I am more attracted to the comic sensibility here. Consider a reworking of Wallace Stevens's ‘Poetry Is a Destructive Force.’ Stevens has ‘The lion sleeps in the sun. / Its nose is on its paws. / It can kill a man.’ And Ross: ‘She sits on the subway / eating Zesty Cheese Doritos / and reading the Enquirer. / Maybe she killed someone today.’ There’s Ross for you: poems that don’t make too much of themselves, whose language makes for a kind of fast food, plentiful as chips, but with a deadly intent.

(Communist) party time

Getting ready for today's workshop at This Ain't. I call it There's More To Memoir Than Truth. Always very anxious before presenting a new workshop for the first time. Will it be what the participants were expecting? Will they think they got their money's worth? Do I have enough material to fill the time? And then there's the impostor syndrome that strikes me. But people write good things in my workshops and they're happy afterwards and I never get around to all the material I've prepared. My job is to provide a time and space for them to write; give them new things to explore, things they wouldn't otherwise try out; be encouraging but not blindly so; impart whatever personal experience I can that might be helpful.

Today and tomorrow is the Toronto Small Press Book Fair, from 11 to 5 at the Victory Cafe. Curious to see how that works: haven't seen an awful lot of publicity for it. Then again, it's in such a small venue, it won't take many people to fill it up. Half the presses are displaying today, and the other half tomorrow. I've got a table for Sunday, but nothing new to sell. That's a first for me. Thinking of dragging out ancient Proper Tales Press stuff. And pushing Surreal Estate and Confessions. Main thing, really, is just to be there. Check out the tables, see old friends, meet some new people.

A bit more of a social week than I've had lately. On Monday, got together with Alice Burdick and her husband, Zane, who were passing through town for a few days, en route from out east to out west. Alice is an incredible writer and a fun person to hang out with. It was great to see them again here in Toronto.

Wednesday was the 40th anniversary party for This Magazine. I wasn't really in the party mood, but it turned out to be a real nice time. Dana came for the first couple of hours and enjoyed herself too. Big contingent there from my days at Eye: Jason, Bill, Mary, Tyler. Good to see Trevor from the Arrogant Worms again, and he told me all about the Toronto Writing Centre, this weird thing that I knew existed but that is not part of my world. The night was a good mix of young people out for a progressive cause, and then members of the old guard. Rick Salutin spoke, as did Mel Watkins.

The 40th anniversary issue itself is pretty damn good. I'm happy with the big lit section, which has stuff from Kevin Connolly, Atwood, John Degen, Lau, Bowering, me, Chris Chambers, Lillian Allen, Phil Hall, Sky Gilbert, RM Vaughn, a nice cross-section of past contributors. The newish editor, Jessica Johnston did a great job with the rest of the issue. The presence of Andrew Coyne must have a lotta people scratching their heads. Good long article by Salutin. Also nice overview of four decades' worth of protest songs.

Speaking of protest, the U.S. election was a relief. Hopefully those Dems won't be the wimps they say they're going to be. Hopefully they'll investigate, instigate, and impeach.

Shit, I gotta get back to work.

Over and out.

07 November 2006

Hooray for Windsor perfectbound

Well, as the Diebold evil entities are working overtime to ensure a Republican victory today, I reminisce about my weekend at WindsorBookFest, where I read with a Detroit backdrop.

Ended up being a really nice festival. My only complaint stands: too many events scheduled simultaneously. I was treated very well, though, with just about all my meals looked after, in style, and a nifty hotel room at the American-teenager-clogged Ramada: I peered out the window down at the toll booths that slid cars along between Windsor and Detroit. Strange view.

Saturday early afternoon I checked out "For Better or Verse" (really!), readings by Ken Babstock, Brian Joseph Davis and Barry Dempster. Davis played some of his aural collages and read a bit from Portable Altamont. Nice overview of the kinds of things he does. I enjoyed Ken's reading, but worry about that formalism influence on his work. Some great stuff, though. Barry Dempster was a real departure from the first two readers: folksy kinda narratives that entertained at times, but didn't thrill me. And then I had to leave suddenly because it was time for...

Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. It was astonishing to me that they were there. And not even mentioned in the programme. Seems someone else dropped out and somehow WindsorBookFest organizer Lenore Langs, a truly cool woman, was able to bring in Harvey and Joyce as replacements. Anyway, this event took place in what I think must have been a kids' craft room. Big space, though, with high ceilings and a construction-paper-backdrop for the special guests, who sat at a foldy-legged table in front of the audience of 100 or so. Harvey read from the Best of American Splendour, while Joyce sat immediately to his right, knitting or crocheting or something, and occasionally whispering to Harvey about something he should have said (to which he usually responded with a slump and an eye-roll). They were amazing. After the reading, they alternated talking: she telling about the making of the bio-pic, he talking about how he met Crumb over their mutual jazz appreciation. They were just like they are depicted in the movie and in Harvey's comics. Smart, funny, tired, all-suffering.

Had to flee that event after 90 minutes, as I was on a panel called "Small Press, Big Ideas," along with Brian Joseph Davis, Emily Schultz, David Helwig, and moderated by Marty Gervais. About 30 people in the audience for this pretty specialized talk. I liked the balance of the youngies (Schultz and Davis), the getting old (me), and the oldies (Gervais and Helwig). The trajectory of the conversation was tending largely towards the struggles of the small press, and at the end, Gus Morin, of all people, reached out from the audience to suggest we talk about the positive things small press can do. Point well-taken. Gus has this amazing quality of spewing bile and stirring shit on the one hand, and being idealistic and earnest on the other.

Soon it was dinnertime again. The meals were mainly offered up in the Art Gallery of Windsor restaurant, and man was it good stuff. Tomatoes stuffed with cous-cous, green beans in toasted sesame sauce, spectacular soups and bread....


And soon it was time for the evening reading. The name of the reading was "Oh Baby, It's a Wild Word." Karl Jirgens curated and hosted. It was up on the third floor, in this very long, triangular room that pointed towards the Detroit River and the hideous GM buildings beyond. Each writer stood in the point to read, back to Detroit (where scaly-skinned Diebold fucks were crawling around the sewers, getting ready for today's travesty).

Karl had a really good percussionist kick things off, doing a John Cage piece. Hate that I don't remember the guy's name. Next up was Louis Cabris, who I'm sure years ago I was prepared to dislike for his Languagey leanings. But first, he is an extremely nice and smart guy, and second, his work is really good. He also showed a lot of breadth in his 15-minute set. Some very political work, some pretty funny stuff. All read very effectively and engagingly. Equally engaging was Nicole Markotic, who was up next. Again, a real variety of approaches, and even with a strong Language influence, a lot of room for denseskulls like me to enter the work. Gus Morin was next, and he walked up from the back of the room wearing a black shirt and black pants and otherwise painted a very attractive blue. He lunged directly into a very long sequence, and while there were some phrases here and there that caught me, it felt like an unrelenting wall. And he read it all with a "This is important stuff, you stupid fucks" seriousness. After nearly 25 minutes (we were to read a maximum of 20), Karl quietly let him know his time was running short. "My time's up? I've got one more. No, two more. Okay fine, if you don't want me to read anymore..." And he scooped up his poems and strutted grit-toothedly outta there. I like a lot of what Gus does, especially his visual and performance stuff, but this didn't do it for me.


Post-break, and the night is getting on. I'm wondering if my diet of Ashberyesque density is gonna be the thing to read. Darren Wershler-Henry heads up to read from the Apostrophe Engine, a book I've avoided because I didn't think I could handle a 300-page joke. Turns out I'm wrong. At least, from the sample Darren read. Lots of interesting things in this book he created with Bill Kennedy and a team of robots. Darren also read very well, and seemed as amused as the audience with the results of the robotic work.

So, I backed off my masterplan for a reading unlike any other I'd done. I kicked off with the short story "The President's Cold Legs," which is about a president who falls into a river and is crippled. Sorta neat to read in front of the Detroit River. Read a few poems, both dense and less so, and ended off with "I Am the King of Poetry" from Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer. In the end, it felt sort of good to reading a wide range of what I do.

Karl wrapped up the evening with a fantastic short story. Brilliant stuff, and read very well. Intense, funny, and harrowing. Looking forward to seeing the other prose he's been writing and hopefully nabbing something for This Mag.


Sold quite a few books afterwards, both from the bookstore and from my supply of contraband. And then we were off to a tiny upstairs restaurant called La Cuisine. Very charming place, and incredible food. I ate 792 spring rolls. And a few stuffed mushroom caps. Great chats witih Marty Gervais, Dan of Biblioasis, Louis and Nicole, Carolyn Marie Saoud, some of Karl's students, Gus Morin (still blue, but not at all angry; I wondered if his stomp-off had been an act), Nicole Brossard, Karl, Mary-Lou, Babstock, Lenore, and others. A great party, and I hit my hotel room for about 2 a.m.

A look at CNN made it clear that Saddam would soon be sentenced. I stayed up till 5 to watching him yell "God is great" repeatedly while being sentenced to death by a kangaroo with Dick Cheney in his pouch.

Sunday: an excellent final breakfast and a ride to the train station as everyone clustered into the big hall to watch Alistair McLeod remove his red nose and announce winners of some prize or another. I'm still waiting for him to fork over the Trillium he nabbed from me in 2000.

Wound up sitting on the train beside Gail Nyoka, a novelist and playwright I hadn't met at the festival. Excellent talk for a couple hours, followed by exhaustion.

And homecoming.


Over and out.

04 November 2006

BookFestWindsor and book-supply conspiracy theory

Up all night Thurday to finish a copyedit and then boarded a 7 a.m. train to Windsor. Hadn't been on a train for so long and really enjoyed the ride, though I mainly nodded off, woke with a start, nodded off, woke with a start. Fun to pass through London and peer into the downtown, where I spent so many wandering days when Dana went to university there.

They plunked me into the downton Ramada here in Windsor, a nice little room with a slightly interesting print on the wall. I immediately headed out and found some good Indian food in a little hole-in-the-wall place, and then hit the used bookstores. Biblioasis is either moving or going out of business, so they're selling pretty much every book for $5 or $2. I had to really restrain myself, but I made some good finds: a hardcover of Stuart O'Nan's non-fiction book The Circus Fire, about a horrendous 1944 fire in Hartford, Connecticut, that killed over 150 people; Simon Worrall's the Poet and the Murderer, about Emily Dickinson, mormonism, and murder; some book on revising fiction that looks pretty good; a paperback copy of Hula, by Lisa Shea, one of my favourite novels ever; and the Doctor and the Soul, a book about existential psychotheraphy by Viktor E. Frankl.

I could easily have bought five times that number of books.

Over at Art Gallery of Windsor in the evening, the festival's opener was a quiet affair, with a classical trio, lots of cake, a nice dinner for the authors (no one had told me about it, so I had to go into the kitchen after everyone else had eaten and begged them to rustle something up for me: it was delicious). Harvey Pekar and his partner Joyce were there in the gallery! They are mentioned nowhere on the programme, but apparently are part of the festival. Sorta curious.

The festival bookstore had no copies of Hey, Crumbling Balcony! — the guy there said they simply didn't come and that, after reading Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, he wondered if it was deliberate. Luckily, I brought a few contraband copies. My persecution complex is duly fed.

Hung out mainly with Karl Jirgens and his cool son Nicholas, as well as Louis Cabri and Nicole Markotic. Met Marty Gervais after all these years. Was disappointed that more of the writers I know weren't there: Babstock, Morin, Schultz, Davis. But I guess they all made it to the dinner (he said bitterly).

The festival schedule is a little strange: though it's nominally a three-day event, almost everything takes place today. In the evening, there are three poetry events simultaneously, which seems a little foolish.

I'm hoping to do a reading tonight unlike any reading I've done. Want to read a lot of dense and difficult things. Might experiment with delivery. Seems like a good opportunity to do all that. It's exciting to read with Karl and a bunch of other poets who are serious about their work.

Over and out.

03 November 2006

When the writers outnumber the audience

In the midst of an unbelievable deadline crunch, I had to do a reading Thursday evening, with Susan Kernohan and Ania Szado (we were all in All Sleek And Skimming together) for teens at Parliament Street Library. Reading for teens is trickier than reading for a general audience, so I spent a bit more time than usual prepping.

No one showed up. I mean, pretty much no one. The librarian was mighty embarrassed. She ran off and corralled five kids who happened to be in the library. We all sat in a circle in chairs. Ania read first, a very nice reading. She's a good writer. Three of the kids left. Then I read; after all my prep, I dusted off my story "The President's Cold Legs," which I'm rather fond of, and read that, and it made everyone laugh a lot. Then Susan read. She's a great reader. It ended up being pretty fun, just sitting in a circle reading pretty much to ourselves.

The librarian had promised us modest payment — "but no more than $50." We didn't get paid anything, as it turns out. Which I guess is "no more than $50," isn't it?

I'm really tired. I have about 30 pages more to copyedit, and in three hours I'm on a train to Windsor for BookFest. I will read my weirdest fucking poems on Saturday. Maybe I'll write something new and crazy to read.

I'm really tired.

CAVE CANEM (home of prehistorical pooches)

I owe many friends — and even after the recent attrition I still have many friends — emails and phone calls. If you are any of these friends, I have not forgotten you.

I will bring the new Frank Bidart poetry book with me to Windsor. And Kathy Acker's Great Expectations.

Over and out.

01 November 2006

Don't nobody step on my blue suede — I mean, my brown leather — I mean...

This afternoon I was sitting in my psychotherapist's office as we discussed depression, existentialism, and schizophrenia, when I looked down at my feet. On my left foot I wore a grey-and-white canvas sneaker; on my right I wore a brown leather walking shoe.

Over and out.