23 March 2007

Patchy's ten-spot

Great mini-Boot Camp in St. Catharines Wednesday night with a small group from the Niagara Region troops of the Canadian Authors Association. One woman had never written a poem before and did some really neat stuff. All of them were great characters and great sports. Dinner beforehand at the Merchant Ale House and ale afterwards at the Blue Mermaid. I really liked the dedicated but playful spirit of this group and hope to work with them again sometime.

Next night, the fifth installment of my critiquing workshop at This Ain't. Excellent chemistry in this group too: each of them writes very distinct stuff, and there's no risk of everyone winding up writing like Lorna Crozier, which seems to be the danger of such workshops, as I understand it. One more session to go, and I hope they all keep in touch and keep supporting each other's work.

Meanwhile, Patchy has over 100 subscribers already! I figured our first mailout would be to about 20 people, so this has gone way beyond my expectations already. And at the Art Bar reading on Tuesday night (Stephen Price, Terence Go, and Susan Elmslie), someone came and tucked a ten-spot into my hand for Patchy!

Going to take Camille Martin's Plagiarism Poetry workshop on Sunday at This Ain't. I like the idea of taking a workshop instead of leading one, and concentrating on my own writing for a good five hours.

And then, that night, again at This Ain't the Rosedale Library:

The Fictitious Reading Series presents:

Salvatore Difalco


Leona Theis

Generous readings followed by an onstage chat conducted by Kate Sutherland. I'll be doing the hosting. It's at 7:30, and attendees are encouraged to bring their drink of choice. We'll supply the pretzels and pop. PWYC. Details at fictitiousreadingseries.com.

Over and out.

19 March 2007

When squirrels attack (and farfel confuses)

Dani Couture and I launched the Patchy Squirrel Lit-serv today! Well, we sent out our first announcements. Patchy won't start delivering till April 2.

Patchy is a free weekly mailout with detailed listings of literary events in Toronto. Details are available on Patchy's page, beautifully designed by Dana Samuel.

A little note on my Friday reading. During the Q&A, Rod talked at length about Flarf, a very weird and intriguing poetic "school." Like an idiot, I began riffing on farfel, a Jewish side dish made of little egg noodles. So there I was babbling about the mysteries of farfel and it never occurred to me that just about nobody in the audience would have any idea what farfel was.

At one point, though, I mentioned that it does well with matzah-ball soup. I then kept hearing murmurs of the word "Jewish" from the audience.

This morning, I sent off what I hope are my final corrections for the I Cut My Finger page proofs. I don't really know how Anvil is going to get the book done in time for the April 22 launch, but I have faith in Brian. Last night I was going through some of the pages and thought, "Gawd, this is awful." Today, though, it all sounded pretty good: a book of poetry I'd like to read, which is, I guess, a good goal.

My sigh of relief to get that out of my hands was shortlived: the doorbell rang and the proofs for McFadden's Selected — Why Are You So Sad? — arrived. I thought it was going to be a 250-page book, but typeset it comes out to about 330 pages! Damn, it's gonna be a good book.

Over and out.

17 March 2007

Rod Squirrelling

I get colds, and then they subside when I have a reading, and then come back.

Read last night for Mark Truscott's Test Reading Series, along with D.C. poet Rod Smith, of whom I knew only a little. Test takes place at Mercer Union gallery; it's nice to do a reading in a gallery. I remember when I was a teenager, Mark Laba and I read in a (commercial) gallery on Yorkville called the Plewes; a woman there said I looked like Tom Jones.

Anyway, I was up first, and as usual had a few different directions available to me. Read a bit of new fiction, some poems from my exchange with Richard Huttel, a couple of recent Razovsky poems. Was going to read a whole bunch of very strange poems I wrote while listening to John Ashbery being read aloud, but while I was up there, I decided that would be pandering to the Test audience, and I read a couple more short stories instead.

Rod Smith was up next, and he has this great way of reading, with these rapid-fire poems that splutter casually from his straight-faced face. Often very funny and very political, always very smart. It was a bit like watching a guy with multiple personalities, too. I picked up his book Music & Honesty (from Roof) and dug in this afternoon. Very different experience from hearing him read, but equally satisfying and mind-fucking.

Rod has a press called Edge and he brought a nice selection of those. I picked up Once Upon a Neoliberal Rocket Badge, by Jules Boykoff, the gorgeous Caller and Other Pieces, by Tom Raworth (who has a fast and clever delivery similar to Smith's), and American Whatever, by Tim Davis. Rod and I also swapped publications and I got a copy of his CD fear the sky (Narrow House Recordings), which I look forward to dancing to.

Mad scramble this weekend to deliver final edits/changes for I Cut My Finger to Anvil. Gary Clement has coughed up the back cover, and it really does look coughed-up! It's a beautiful mess, and just what I'd been hoping for.

Another scramble this weekend: preparing for the launch of The Patchy Squirrel, my project with Dani Couture, details of which will be out on Monday.

Over and out.

15 March 2007

Test Reading & oh yeah I'm a poet

Tomorrow night (March 16), I read at Mark Truscott's excellent Test Reading Series, along with American poet Rod Smith. Happens at 7:30 pm, at Mercer Union, 37 Lisgar. It's PWYC. I'm a little intimidated by this one. Also, I was sort of hoping to work up a sound-poetry set, but things have just been too hectic.

I'll get back to sound poetry another time. I really do feel like howling and mumbling.

And the other day, when I was celebrating all the things I'd finished, and all the time that's now opened up for me, I sorta forgot my own book coming out from Anvil Press next month. It's in the editing process right now, which should make for a pretty panicked schedule!

Over and out.

12 March 2007

I'm drowning in books, and it's raining books

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
of the Bush administration imploding

Been a week of much activity, and today a lot is tied up: my taxes are done, a MS evaluation delivered to a very happy client, and the intro to the McFadden Selected finished. This last thing has been a huge albatross for weeks. Now, just a little more to prod David to finish, and the thing can go to press.

Last week's full-day workshop, There's More To Memoir Than Truth, went over really well, and I had ten students, including a TV star! The poetry-critiquing workshop continues along nicely: interesting chemistry happens once the participants get to know each other and each other's work.

And the Padgett book is at Coach House being printed. And the May This Mag lit selection is off to the editor; it features fiction by Alexandra Leggatt, and poetry by David W. McFadden and Camille Martin.

I feel like time will open up now for me to write. And read. I've had all sorts of fantastic book accumulations over the past few weeks, and barely a moment to dig in.

A nice score from Apollinaire's Bookshoppe:

Lev Rubinstein's Catalogue of Comedic Novelties (ugly duckling press, 2004) looks like a pretty wild extended poem; Stigmata Errata Etcetera, with poems by Bill Knott and collages by Star Black (Saturnalia, 2007), should be a treat, and appears to be evidence that Knott is whining way too much over on his blog; and Jay MillAr's own chapbook Lack Lyrics (BookThug, 2007) I'm really enjoying.

A nice little batch of stuff arrived from Adventures in Poetry, including Carla Harryman's Baby (AiP, 2005), which I had regretted not buying in NYC last year, and Jean Day's Enthusiasm: Odes & Otium (AiP, 2005). And they very generously threw in Philip Jenks' My first painting will be "The Accuser" (Zephyr, 2005; I know nothing about Jenks, but man, what a great title!) and the huge Zoland Poetry: An Annual of Poems, Translations & Interviews, which looks really eclectic.

The IGA grocery store nearby recently turned into a Sobey's, and the prices went up, but they're still open 24 hours and they still have a crazy remaindered-books table. The other night I found Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber's The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq and Hugh Miles' Al-Jazeera: How Arab TV News Challenged the World, each for $3.99.

A lovely little package landed in my mailbox, from Nelson Ball, one of Canada's greatest (and quietest) poets. Nelson enclosed a copy of his visual poembook Visitation (Rubblestone Press, 2nd edn, 2007) and the wonderful Three-Letter Words (Rubblestone/Laurel Reed Books, 2006). These are not what one would expect from Nelson, which makes them that much more exciting.

Over at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, I nabbed my copy of John Ashbery's new book, A Worldly Country (Ecco, 2007), which I think will give me the hiccups. And at Talking Leaves in Buffalo I decided to gamble on Charles Bernstein's with strings (University of Chicago Press, 2001), because it's supposed to funny, even though Bernstein scares the hell out of me. Also picked up Laura Kasischke's Gardening in the Dark (Ausable Press, 2004; don't know who she is, but Dean Young blurbs it and the taste test was positive) and a big honkin' anthology called Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande Books, 2006).

Goodwill never fails to deliver goodthings unto me: a recent treasure: West Kootenay: The Pioneer Years, by Garnet Basque (Heritage House, 1990), for only two bucks! And it's jampacked with photos!

And from the library, because I occasionally do that, though I'll likely end up buying a copy of this anyway, I got Anne MacLean's tantalizing translations of two novels by Javier Cercas: The Tenant/The Motive.

I will read them all.

Over and out.

05 March 2007


Fantastic trip to Buffalo last week to visit the Joe Brainard retrospective at the University of Buffalo's north campus. On the drive in, I stopped at one of my favourite little towns, Grimsby, and had a great meal at the Smiling Dog Café. Then I wandered down the road to one of the town's two thrift shops and picked up a few paperbacks for 10 cents each: The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck, Twenty-One Stories by Graham Greene, and Badlands by Robert Kroetsch.

And then it was hi-ho towards the border at Lewiston, which I crossed in about 30 seconds. The campus was in a barren wasteland, or so it felt. But the gallery itself was spacious and well-lit, and I was giddy entering a room filled with original Joe Brainard artwork. The walls and some of the display cases held original artwork from Joe's C Magazine, which featured primarily poems by others that Joe illustrated. There was "The Fleur-Love Story," with Peter Schjeldahl; "Title Page," with Bill Berkson; "Red Rydler and Dog," with Frank O'Hara; "The Earth Machine," with Kenneth Koch; "Poem," with Frank Lima (a beautiful three-panel piece: the title panel is an ink blot; the second panel is a silhouette of a tape dispenser and a silhouette of an ink bottle, each thinking, "IRON"; the third panel is Nancy — the cartoon character, a favourite borrowed image for Brainard — in silhouette, thinking, "I have burned down the sky"); the magnificent epic "Pay Dirt," with Joe's life partner Kenward Elmslie; "Foreheads," with Barbara Guest; and other collabs with Ron Padgett, Jimmy Schuyler, Tony Towle, and others.

Most of this stuff was from the early to mid-1960s.

There were also issues of Larry Fagin's mag Adventures in Poetry, one featuring a Brainard ink drawing of a cherry on the cover; a copy of the legendary Padgett collaboration Bean Spasms, open to a 4-panel "Nancy" comic strip attributed to "Ernie Padgett." One wall held five 1971 watercolour/collage collaborations with Bill Berkson, with just a minimum of text, and a single-sheet ink-drawing collab with Kenneth Koch. Sharing the display case with a cloth-bound Bean Spasms was a copy of Schjeldahl's book An Adventure of the Thought Police, featuring a spectacular, pristine blue and black Brainard cover. The case also held issues of the great mag Mother, and also White Dove Review, which Joe and Ron started up when they were in high school.

More conventional but no less engaging were the 1971 graphite portraits of Dick Gallup, Berkson, Padgett, Schuyler, and Ted Berrigan. Man, I didn't know that half of this stuff even existed! What an incredible era for American poetry, this period mimeo mags and artist/poet collabs.

A couple of oddball items were neither poet- nor book-related. Mounted on one wall was a piece called "Icon," a 1965 wooden sculpture that included cloth, watercolours, and beads, with images of Jesus and his mom. And across the way was a 1967 fabric collage called (uncalled?) "Untitled (Garden)." There were also a couple of white-paper-cutout collages from 1971: "Dunes" and "Birches." Stuff you'd never expect from Brainard.

I spent a couple of hours in the gallery, going around in circles, imagining Brainard bent over these very sheets of paper, laying down ink in his trademark style: clean, comic booky, loving.

A nice tie-in: this afternoon I went to Coach House to pick up the proofs for a book I'm publishing by Ron Padgett: If I Were You, a perfect-binder featuring collaborations with Allen Ginsberg, James Schuyler, Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, and a few others. The cover is a wonderful drawing by Joe Brainard.

It's sort of hard for me to believe I'm publishing this thing. Maybe a copy of it will someday be in a future Joe Brainard exhibition.

And now I recall that I've published Brainard before: a photocopy reissue of one of his old mimeo books, The Friendly Way, originally published by Siamese Banana Press. Brainard and I were both reading at an Elliott Lefko-organized two-day lit festival about 25 years ago. The reprint project grew out of that meeting, which also included an interview I did with Brainard and Elmslie for the first issue of my magazine Mondo Hunkamooga.

I think I was only vaguely aware of the New York Poets at the time. I asked Joe what he thought of Margaret Atwood, and he said, "Who?" That was one of his more expansive answers. He was pretty shy.

Joe died in 1994. More about him right over here.

Over and out.

02 March 2007

C'mon, sign up for tomorrow's Memoir workshop!

Just a few spaces left for tomorrow's workshop, There's More to Memoir Than Truth.

I first ran this workshop this past fall, and it was a great success. It's a relaxed and free-ranging exploration of the idea of memoir, and of approaches to memoir. We'll be writing some autobiography, some fiction, a bit of poetry. We'll talk about organizing principles, and about point of view. We'll talk about telling the truth and lying. We'll talk about the many people each of us are. Or each of us is.

The workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at This Ain't the Rosedale Library, 483 Church Street. It'll be a cozy place to be, scrawling away, taking a reprieve from our crappy Toronto weather.

Cost is $75 and you can still register today by calling 416-929-9912. Have your credit card ready, as they say on the late-night toilet splatter-shield infomercials.

Over and out.