29 April 2007

On a basketball in B.C.

Got to Vancouver Friday and drove directly to Anvil Press, where I bugged Brian and Karen for a couple of hours. I don't get to do that often. The recent Anvil books are pretty gorgeous: mooched a few titles, and then bought a box of my own book for my Kootenays travels. Also picked up my copies of the new sub-Terrain, which contains my new Hunkamooga column, plus a letter attacking my last one (for all the wrong reasons, I think).

Stayed a few days with Dave & Alison & Lily, had some nice visiting time and got to see a sneak-preview of Ricky Sprockett, and I hit the long road for the Koots in an hour or so. Gas here is $1.20 a litre! But cars are evil, so tough luck for me. Popped over to Main to see Clint yesterday and talk about our May 16 launch at Pulp Fiction. Had a nice little telephone conversation with Pete McCormack, who I haven't seen in years. He's making documentary films and recording songs. I love his songs and singing. Great memories from the 1997 Via Rail Cross-Canada Writers Tour.

Oh, did some biking with Dave and Alison yesterday; hadn't been on a bike in a few years. Also played a little basketball. Haven't been on a basketball in a few decades.

Over and out.

26 April 2007

I'm being danced in Halifax

OK, so I think I mentioned recently that Halifax choreographer (and scientist!) Lisa Phinney came across my goofy poem "Three Scoops, Waffle Cone" a few years back and wrote me a little fan letter about it. That was really nice. Well, now she's created a short dance piece entitled "Hell's Inventory" inspired by that poem, and it's seeing its first performances in a couple of weeks.

Here are the details:

The Young Company of Halifax Dance
Friday May 11th, 2007, 8:00 pm
Saturday May 12th, 2007, 8:00 pm
Sir James Dunn Theatre, Dalhousie Arts Centre
6101 University Ave, Halifax, NS
(902) 494-3820 or 1-800-874-1669 for tickets

Hell’s Inventory

Choreography: Lisa Phinney
Performers: Emma Kerson, Bridget Lappin, Bhreagh MacDonald
Music: Track 10 by Kevin Breit; Little White Lie by Erik Moll (edited); Exclamation Mark! by Andrea Parker (edited)
Text: Poem “Three Scoops, Waffle Cone” by Stuart Ross; additional text from the dancers' experiences
Costumes: Rachael Grant
Lighting: Marcel Boulet
Set Design: Lisa Phinney
Understudies: Ellie Wedlake, Meghan Bebbington, Kayla Mallery


Oh, and here's the poem. The title, incidentally, is by Kevin Connolly. He gave it to me during a month-long title exchange back in the 1990s.


When they took inventory
in hell
Velda thought maybe
had took
some paper clips.

A few years back, this poem also appeared in Toronto subway cars and buses as part of the Poetry on the Way programme. I was stunned that they'd choose such a weird-ass poem. Before they printed up the posters, they checked with me to make sure the grammatical error in the second-last line was intentional.

I can't dance.

Over and out.

25 April 2007

Post-launch, pre-Kootenays

LThe Toronto launch of my new book, I Cut My Finger, and Kate Sutherland's All In Together Girls was a packed and sweltering success. All my anxiety for the days leading up to it was wasted energy.

The backroom of Clinton's is a great venue, but it was a warm night and a lot of people spilled out onto the patio. So many people there — Kate's musician and lawyer friends, my writing friends, some friends from decades past, people whose books and manuscripts I've edited, students from my workshops, dear neighbours from my housing co-op, and five of my parents' best friends showed up, too. That really blew me away: four of them I hadn't seen since my dad's unveiling in 2002. I dedicated my reading of "I Cut My Finger," the title poem, to them. I only wish I'd had more time to talk with them.

Beside me are Norma, Teddy and Eve, Stan and Anne. I really like all these people, but I also like that I have a connection to my parents through them. I sure was conscious of how strange some of my poetry was, as they sat looking up at me from a table in front of the stage. But I made sure to read two Razovsky poems, and I think they connected with those.

Launches, for me, are these blurs of interrupted conversations, moments that disappear, and a profound feeling of responsibility to be hostly with everyone who comes to celebrate with me. But I later found there were people there I never even saw at all! But I'm told that people understand that: they realize I'm working.

I did get dragged outside to the patio for about half an hour, which made me feel really conflicted: Seb Agnello, who I met on the Randy Newman listserv, brought along Bob Segarini, who was a local new-wave pop star in the late '70s. He's an older Bob now, and looks more like a grizzled blues singer than the pop star of my youth; but then I'm a fat old hunchback myself. Anyway, he'd brought me CDs of his three records from 78/79 and it was sorta exciting, and also I felt like, geez, I really ought to have a beer with him. Here are Seb and Segarini in recent years performing Bob's Randy Newmanesque "Love Story."

Another treat at the launch was a reunion with my friend from long ago, Gary Clement, who did the cover for I Cut My Finger. This guy is such a relentlessly brilliant artist and good guy. Also, we are döppelgangers, apparently.

As for the readings, Kate and I both got very warm receptions and we sold heaps of books (I broke my own record!). Kate has this amazing way of reading almost by memory: usually that puts me off, but she was so relaxed about it, and every page or two she'd glance at the book, which connected her utterances to bookness, which I liked. The story was great, laced with good humour and heavy human stuff, and I look forward to reading the whole book. (I don't know why I don't have a photo of me and Kate at the launch! Nor do I have a pic of me and Jen LoveGrove, who did a great job of hosting. Anybody?)

Kate's boyfriend Eric Bridenbaker performed after we both read. In bands he performs really loud heavy metal stuff. On his own, just him and acoustic guitar, he was gentle and sweet and heartfelt. Fantastic voice. After the launch, when a bunch of us moved to the front room of Clinton's, I found myself talking at length with his musician friends Paul Brennan and Lindy. They were funny as hell. And it's just great to know that non-writers sat through a whole literary event. Here's Lindy. What a great singer.

As for writers, there was a broad range of 'em there for me and Kate, crossing the boundaries of various communities and cliques. It was really, really gratifying. Rachel Zolf, Sandra Alland, Kevin Connolly, Howard Akler, Lillian Necakov, Alana Wilcox, Jon Paul Fiorentino, Alexandra Leggat, Angela Rawlings, Bill Kennedy, Susan Kernohan, Paul Vermeersch, Mark Truscott, Elyse Friedman, Lisa Heggum, John Barlow, Lynn McClory, David McFadden, Maria Erskine, Gary Barwin, and on and on. Geez. Please don't kill me for not listing you.

And with Charlie from This Ain't the Rosedale Library cheerfully selling books, it felt almost like a family affair.

And Rosalie Sharp came to the launch, just a few days after her extravagant blowout at the Four Seasons. She bought Dana and me a carafe of wine and was wonderfully supportive. Jack David, her publisher and once mine, when I was with ECW, was also there: a great gesture, too, since here I was publishing my poetry with Anvil. But it seems we've all gotten past the rough waters that followed the publication of Hey, Crumbling Balcony! Onstage, I had already planned to thank both Jack and Michael Holmes, who put out my first four spiney books of poems.

The day after the launch, I writhed in remorse, as always. I felt so bad about the people I hadn't really had the opportunity to talk much with. And I was maybe a little hungover.

And now I'm scrambling to get stuff together for my coming glorious stretch in the Kootenays, where I'll be teaching elementary school kids for a week, and then high school kids. And then my Vancouver launch, with good ol' Clint Burnham.

Over and out.

21 April 2007

Sunday's launch!

OK, the countdown for Sunday's launch has arrived.


Kate Sutherland, All In Together Girls
Stuart Ross, I Cut My Finger

Free bandaids will be provided.

Sunday, April 22, 8 p.m.
Clinton's Tavern (back room), 693 Bloor Street West

Contrary to rumour, you will not have to sign a petition in support of Alberto Gonzales at the door.

If you know anyone who would be interested in this launch, please give 'em the skinny on it.


Yesterday, I went over to Coach House, had a great chat with Alana, then picked up the board-bound special editions of the Ron Padgett book, along with the covers, and took them home. Spent a few hours gluing the covers onto the books, then returned them to Coach House for trimming.

Also had to make an emergency trip up to Dufferin and Steeles to pick up copies of my new book from a distribution warehouse. That took me really close to the cemetery where my parents and Owen are buried. Since today is the 12 anniversary (hard to believe) of my mom's death, thought I'd go visit and maybe read them the title poem from my new book, in which they are invoked. But it was Friday — Sabbath — so the cemetery closed early.

SHIRLEY ROSS, February 7, 1929 - April 21, 1995

Yesterday, received an exciting package from New York poet Bill Zavatsky, who was once editor of Sun publications and also put out Roy Rogers, the magazine of one-line poems that inspired my own Peter O'Toole. Thinking I should do a second issue of that mag. Anyway, Bill sent me a copy of an amazing, I mean amazing, 1975 book of his poems, Theories of Rain (Sun). Also, his new book, Where X Marks the Spot (Hanging Loose Press), which I'm looking forward to digging into. It's really weird when you come into contact with these people who had always just been legends to you.

And now, off to Buffalo for a day trip, which will be a nice way to avoid sitting around at home having daymares about no one showing up for the launch. Dana is meeting with a guy who chairs an international new-media curators' group. I'll go off to Talking Leaves, because I haven't bought enough books lately.

Over and out.

20 April 2007

I should know better...

... but I have high hopes for I Cut My Finger. Not really high, just maybe a few inches off the ground.

Over and out.

19 April 2007

First review, Rosalie, etc.

The first review of I Cut My Finger has appeared, by Brian Joseph Davis. Very kind review. Curious to see if this book gets much further attention.

Pretty nervous about Sunday's launch (Clinton's, 8 p.m.). I'm really relying on email invites and blog notices to get folks out.

Though I went to Rosalie Sharp's book launch at the Four Seasons ballroom (!!!) on Tuesday night, and she had printed up 300 copies of my launch invite and put them on s table with her new book, Rifke: An Improbable Life (I argued unsuccessfully for the original subtitle, "Just a Few Steps from the Shtetl"), which I edited for ECW Press. She also said very kind words about me from the podium, as did ECW's Jack David. The launch was unbelievable: must've been 500 people there, or maybe 700. Hundreds of hardcover books sold. Four big buffets of "Kensington market" food. A klezmer band. Garth Drabinsky. And I saw my parents' longtime friends Mike and Sue Feldman there. Hadn't seen them since my dad's unveiling in 2002. It was a little emotional. Their son is my childhood friend Steven Feldman (he, Mark Laba, and I appeared in the Books by Kids collection The Thing in Exile in 1976). Steve released a pretty amazing and strange CD, Living in a Picture Show, which was also reviewed very favourably in eye.

Meanwhile, I'm starting to enter panic mode as I prepare to head west for my Vancouver book launch (May 16 at Pulp Fiction) and for a couple weeks' teaching at elementary and secondary schools in the Kootenays. So much to do!

And just got word that the special editions of the Ron Padgett book are awaiting me at Coach House. I should get those into the mail before I leave. And then, when I return, I can launch the trade edition at the Small Press Book Fair.

Blah blah blah.

Over and out.

16 April 2007

I CUT MY FINGER (and you're invited!)

Finally got to see my new book and I'm thrilled with it!

Here's the launch info:


I Cut My Finger, by Stuart Ross (Anvil Press)
All In Together Girls, by Kate Sutherland (Thistledown Press)

Sunday, April 22, at 8 p.m.
Clinton's Tavern (back room)
693 Bloor West (near Christie subway)

Featuring readings by Kate and me

plus some live music by Eric Bridenbaker

plus some free munchies and a cash bar

plus some excellent spun tunes

plus hosting by Jennifer LoveGrove

plus many unfinished and fractured conversations, as tends to happen at these events.

I hope you'll be there.

* * *

Much has been happening since I got back from NYC. Last Wednesday's launch for the Bookthug titles by Sandra Alland and Tom Walmsley was fanastic! Sandra has never read so well, nor so bravely. I really admired how she put the most difficult stuff from Blissful Times first, and then moved into the sound poems and the more narrative pieces. Tom, meanwhile, said before his reading that he was nervous about it: he hadn't done a poetry reading in 30 years. But then he goes up there onstage and starts by singing "Da Doo Run Run" — and then does a really amazing reading, showing the breadth of his new work: from birds to God to fellatio.

On Friday, I popped over to This Ain't the Rosedale Library, as they'd just received a supply of my new book for the launch (they're doing the selling). Even though I'd seen the cover design, I was startled to see the actual book. Gary Clement's cover design is masterful. I feel so lucky to have been able to work with artist friends for every one of my book covers.

The same day, I received an email from a dancer/choreographer in Halifax named Lisa Phinney. She wrote me a few years ago, saying how much she liked my work and that maybe she'd like to do a dance piece inspired by my work. Well, it appears she's done so. She is debuting "Hell's Inventory" in Halifax in mid-May. It was inspired by my dorky little poem "Three Scoops, Waffle Cone," which once appeared in Toronto subways. Hopefully I'll get further details about the where and the when.

Then, on Saturday, I received a couple of sound files from Bradford, England. My friend Ben Walker has set two of my poems to music — well, he's reworked and edited the pieces to fit his purposes: "Hospitality" and "Ladies & Gentlemen, Mr. Ron Padgett." They're very different: the latter is jaunty and Randy Newmanesque, while the former is lush and complex. I love what he's done with them. So I phoned him up and told him that if he recorded a couple more, I'd make a CD of them. It looks like that'll happen.

Ben's website is right over here and on his myspace site there are audio recordings and videos of him performing. You can buy his CDs over here. He's really brilliant.

Oh yeah, Dana's friend Risa Horowitz, a very eclectic and excellent artist, also cut her finger! Check out her stitches here.

Over and out.

11 April 2007

Tonight: Sandra Alland and Tom Walmsley!

Back in Toronto after my NY education.

And very excited about tonight's BookThug launch at Clinton's Tavern.

New poetry books by two very dear friends: Sandra Alland and Tom Walmsley. Two more different (good) poets I cannot think of, but I've read both their books, and they're both terrific.

Interestingly, both of these poets have theatre connections: In fact, I met Sandra a buncha years ago when she was working the box office at the Theatre Centre on an evening when Gary Barwin was involved in some kinda theatrical shindig. (In a recent blog entry, she said that I came over to her place and made her my "bachelor" mac'n'cheese recipe. Actually, I made her mac'n'cheese according to my dear departed mom's recipe: made normally, then fried so there are all these little crispy bits. Only way I'd eat it when I was a kid.) Tom is probably best known as a playwright, though he's written three previous books of poetry, a couple of novels, and a screenplay or three.

Gonna be a great night tonight.

Over and out.

10 April 2007

Is this your bank card? You're crazy!

Some downtime on Sunday in the upper west side, near Columbia U, where I had lunch with Dre, a friend from the Randy Newman listserv. Nice chatting about U.S. politics, Randy, movies. Dre's from Austria, so he has some perspective on this country. After a while, we visited the bookseller with the copy of Bean Spasms. I hemmed, hawed, auto-rationalized, flipped it over and over again in hands. And then I bought it. The most expensive book I've ever bought. But I didn't know if I'd ever get near a copy again, and the only way to read it was to own it. (Today I wrote to Ron and told him I'd bought it: I could almost see him shaking his head sadly as he wrote back, "Keep in mind that it was written by two chimpanzees in bumper cars.")

We hopped the subway and went all the way downtown, to Wall Street station, because Dre had to meet some friends in Battery Park. This was the first time I'd made it to the financial district and I was sorta surprised: I expected wide streets and grotesque pomp, but those streets were like something out of Paris. Narrow and windy. Zillions of people were clustered around the stupid bull statue, which is supposed to represent the bull market. People were posing for photos on the ground underneath the creature's enormous testicles. Dre and I parted ways and I wandered around Battery Park and peered across at the Statue of Liberty. Yup, there it was. A monument in the park displayed Emma Lazarus's famous poem about the statue, and for the first time, perhaps, I understood the ideals this country purports to represent. But the wretched and the huddled masses have no part in this society. Hell, even the Bowery is getting gentrified: a Whole Foods has opened up where drunks once riddled the sidewalks. And Chinatown, once among the most affordable neighbourhoods, is being invaded by yuppies, with small apartments going for $1,700 a month.

A quick coupla trains and I was in Hoboken, New Jersey, where I met with Joel Lewis for an hour or so. Had a nice tour of the waterfront, some Frank Sinatra Landmarks, the gorgeous train station. I didn't get too many words in as Joel expounded on Naropa, Ted Berrigan, the New Jersey poets, and jazz.

Then back to the east Village for another mac'n'cheese croquet out of the wall and some excellent fries from Frites, followed by a tea in Veselka's, where I looked over my St. Mark's score: Starred Wire, by Ange Mlinko (blurbed by Ashbery, who seems to have blurbed just about every poetry book in the store!) (Coffee House Press, 2005), and The Outernationale, by Peter Gizzi (Wesleyan, 2007).

My last full day of the trip I visited the new location of the Teachers & Writers Collaborative, an amazing organization dedicated to promoting the teaching of writing in all levels of schools. All sorts of great poets have been connected with TWC. They've also published a whole lot of books about teaching writing, and I picked up a few I didn't have, including a guide to teaching Whitman that Padgett edited.

I went to Staples and bought a dozen padded envelopes to mail out contributors' copies of If I Were You to Berkson, Clark, Gallup, Veitch, Notley, and Yu Jian, plus the estates of Berrigan, Ginsberg, Oliver, and Schuyler (I'd already given Fagin his copies). I bought the wrong size. I went to the Poetry Project at St. Mark's and asked them if they wanted a bunch of padded envelopes, and I gave them a review copy of the book. When I left, a mildly scruffy guy chased me out into the hallway. He turned out to be Anselm Berrigan, the Project's artistic director, and he thanked me for the envelopes with a laugh, and for the book. I was a little awestruck, as I tend to be, and I told him about the workshop I taught where I played a couple of tracks from one of his poetry CDs and one of the participants got up, said, "I don't need this kind of abuse," and left the class. He seemed surprised and happy about that.

Back to St. Mark's to meet up with Charles George, an artist friend who moved from Toronto to New York seven years ago. He did the painting for my first ECW book, The Inspiration Cha-Cha. We had a great wander down to a dumpling joint in the very depths of NYC's vast Chinatown. Charles has a day gig doing graphics at a tabloid daily and when I saw him last a couple years back, he wasn't doing any art, seemingly worn by the paycheque grind. But now he's making art again: expanding on the insane sculptures he was creating in Toronto when he lived in what is now the Katherine Mulherin Gallery. He's a swell guy. It was good to see him.

Poked around the Strand, where I rarely find anything I want to buy, but this time did snap up a copy of Anne Waldman's Giant Night (Corinth, 1970), with a gorgeous cover by Joe Brainard. It looks like a lot of fun. Found a few good things at another used bookstore behind the Strand, including a book by Maureen Owen and a very old Padgett mimeo books I'd never seen before.

OK, I'm not buying any more books this year. Unless I have to.

I really lucked out with events on this trip: Anselm Berrigan and Eileen Myles were reading at the KGB Bar Monday night. I'd never been to the KGB and was a little scared: everyone there'd be really cool and I'd be this conspicuous grey-haired, hunchbacked Jew. Which is pretty much how it was, but it was also a comfortable place -- like Wall Street, a lot smaller than I'd imagined. Berrigan read in a low-key way, but quiet intense, largely from a project in progress where he's writing 200 poems all called "Have a Good One." His work sprawls from stuff not unlike his dad's Personismish poems to works that are sort of Languagey: but it's never dense, contemptuous, and impenetrable: there is always a very human entrance to his work. Eileen was hilarious and lively: I'd read with her and Gil Adamson at This Ain't the Rosedale Library in 2001 or maybe 2002, and I'd enjoyed her reading, but didn't remember her being *this* personable and entertaining.

It was a good night in that crammed little room. I spoke a little more to Anselm and urged him to come read in Toronto. He'd be a natural for Mark Truscott's Test series, I'd think.

I keep getting weepy after I have a nice exchange with a New York poet. I find it sort of overwhelming.

And the other evening I popped into a bank to use the ATM. I took out some money, then noticed someone had left her credit card lying on the ledge. The bank was closed, so I put it in my pocket, figuring I'd bring it back to the bank when they were open, and I left the ATM chamber, crossed Broadway. I hear a guy yell from the other side of the four lanes. He's waving his arms. I think he means me. So I wait as he scurries across the road. "Were you just in that bank, man?" he asks me. "Yeah," I say. "Is this your bank card? You're crazy -- you just left it right in the slot and the thing was saying 'Do you want to do another transaction?' Are you crazy?" I flipped open my wallet: he was right: I was so fussed over the card I found, that I forgot about my own card. I took the card from him and thanked him over and over: "Man, I'm so glad it was you who found my card!" He just shook his head, maybe the way Padgett shook his when he heard I'd bought Bean Spasms.

Over and out.

08 April 2007

Mac & cheese out of the wall

It occurs to me that I should spend some time doing some writing while I'm here in NYC. There's this constant impulse to be out, walking somewhere, poking into some bookstore or gallery. But I do love my little hotel room and should produce some poems therein.

Saturday's highlight was the Kenward Elmslie reading at the Bowery Poetry Club. He sat on the stage in front of a music stand and a small table, while paintings, collages and photographs were projected on a screen behind him. Some of the visuals were by Joe Brainard, and in fact the images ended with a great picture of Brainard, with really long hair and a very dapper suit.

Elmslie's reading was fast-moving, even though he reads slowly and articulates with care, in that deep and magnificent voice of his. His stuff is playfulness incarnate: incredibly clever, self-mocking, and full of delight in the weird words of our language. It's been a slow process getting into his poetry over the past couple of decades: there are some pieces I really like and some that are just too clever. But I feel like I'm finding my way in. There is no one else who writes like him. For me, the high points of the reading were the two songs he sang: the lyrics have some sentiment, which I don't find as often in the poems. And his tunes are so moving and heart-warming, his voice so goddamn rich, even now, at 76 or 77.

Opening for Elmslie in the packed room was a poet I'd never heard of: CAConrad. A very big young man with very long hair and sparkly-painted fingernails, he read some lovely stuff, alternatingly gentle and forceful in his delivery. After the reading, I bought his book, Deviant Propulsion (Soft Skull Press, 2006), and had him sign it. He spent an awful long time, pen in hand, book open to the title page. I just now looked at what he wrote: "Stuart — thanks! CAConrad" ... Had a look, too, at the Library of Congress CIP subject entries: "1. Marginality, Social -- Poetry. 2. Working class -- Poetry. 3. Gays -- Poetry." The book ranges from sweet sentimental little pieces to great, gonzo explosions.

Of Elmslie's, I picked up a hardcover copy of the old Z Press book Moving Right Along and a huge book Z Press book called 26 Bars, in collaboration with Donna Dennis. When I approached him for signatures, he seemed pretty tired after his masterful reading. Conversation was pretty much out. He asked me what the date was. I told him I thought it was the 7th, but I wasn't sure. In one book he wrote, "THE 7th," and in the other, "around the 7th." No month or year, though.

Had a brief but nice visit earlier in the afternoon with Kim Bernstein, who I met a couple years back in the Padgett workshop I took at Poets House. Had wanted some of her excellent poetry for Syd & Shirley, my poetry mag, but that didn't pan out, and neither has a second issue of my mag. The other thing that dissipated when I stalled with my mag was an interview with Elaine Equi. Ah well.

At St. Mark's later on, because I just don't have enough books, I picked up something that had a promising review in the Poetry Project Newsletter: Amanda Nadelberg's Isa the Truck Named Isadore, plus a gift for Dana, since I feel so guilty being in NYC while she's toiling away in Toronto. And at Kim's Video, I found a really nice two-DVD set called Avant-Garde: Experimental Cinem of the 1920s and 30s, with stuff by Duchamp, Ray, Eisenstein, Welles, and others. Gonna dip into that later tonight.

Oh yeah, I also "ate out of the wall," as they say in the Netherlands, where such an activity has been going on for decades. It's new here, though: a small place called BAM or something like that has opened up on the East Side: it's a sort of alcove with these vertical columns of glass-door-covered little chambers along the wall: you put in a buck or two and take out some godawful food. I had a macaroni-and-cheese croquet. In Holland they're called "krokets." It was pretty yummy. It didn't taste at all of wall.

Over and out.

07 April 2007

New York is Hell

This is my third day in New York City.

It is a poetry trip (Dana suggested I declare it so) I built around a Kenward Elmslie reading at the Bowery Poetry Club later this afternoon, but it also coincided with a showing of Joe Brainard's erotic art at the Tibor de Nagy gallery and with an opportunity to get Ron Padgett to sign the special edition copies of If I Were You, the book of collaborative poetry by him and his comrades that I've just published. (Some special editions still available at $50 a pop! Inquire within.)

Upon arrival on Thursday, I wasted no time in getting to St. Mark's Bookshop, and visited again yesterday. So far: Citizen Of, by Christian Hawkey (Wave Books, 2007); Kenneth Koch: Selected Poems, edited by Ron Padgett (The Library of America, 2007); The Curious Builder, by Paul Violi (Hanging Loose Press, 1993); Cadenza, by Charles North (Hanging Loose Press, 2007); Selected Prose, by John Ashbery (U of Michigan Press, 2005).

I was thrilled to discover an incredible new magazine, The Sienese Shredder (#1), edited by Brice Brown and Trevor Winkfield, and containing a huge selection of recent poems by Padgett, including some really long ones, and a big batch of prose poems by Larry Fagin — I haven't seen anything by him since 1980's Be Seeing You, and this new stuff is fantastic and very, very different. I'm so glad he's beginning to publish again. It's a huge and heavy magazine, printed in Italy on glossy thick paper.

I'm staying in midtown, in a shoebox-size room in the Herald Square Hotel. I really like the Spartan aspect of travelling: some clothes, a notebook, my computer, some books. And this room I'm in is so tiny it reminds me of some of the places I stayed in Guatemala. In fact, it's about the size of 62-cent room I slept in in Momostenango, except it's $69 and the bed has a mattress instead of straw. Oh, and there's a TV, crammed up near the ceiling on top of a narrow wardrobe. And I have a sink in my room, which also makes it not unlike the sleeper car I stayed in during the Via Rail Writers' Tour in 1997. It's a little less shakey, though.

In the afternoon, I went to Tibor de Nagy, and the Brainard show was wonderful. It was a great complement to the Buffalo show, which concentrated on the books and the comics, that I visited last month. In the space of just a few weeks, my whole understanding of what Brainard did as a visual artist has expanded exponentially. So, yeah, a big room of pretty raunchy drawings, paintings, and collages, and a smaller room of Joe's "regular" stuff. His visual art is much like his writing: lots of references to friends, lovers; lot of humour; and he tries out so many different forms and approaches. I picked up the catalogue for the show, and a nice catalogue of Jane Frielicher's abstracts. It was sorta awe-inspiring to be there, at the legendary de Nagy gallery.

Thursday night, I checked out a launch/reading for an anthology called Best New Poets 2006 (not to be confused with the David Lehman-edited series). It took place at the McNally-Robinson bookstore (Canadian-owned!) in SoHo. Lovely bookstore, with a great poetry section, and it was nice to see a bunch of chapbooks on display, including some from BookThug! The reading, though — oh, man, that stuff was really boring. And so earnest that I feel awful being critical. It just all sounded like bad workshop stuff. Really, though, that's what most poetry being written in North America is like, I guess. No crimes committed, so I won't press charges.

Picked up a little lit mag from Ugly Duckling Presse, called 6x6, mainly because there was work in there by Guy R. Beining, who I haven't read in many years, since the days that jwcurry published him regularly. As it turns out, all six poets in there are really interesting. Also bought a novel by Roberto Bolaño called Distant Star. Bolaño appeared as a character in the brilliant Javier Cercas novel I read recently. There's a nice feature on him in the new issue of BookForum. He died, after a measley 50 years, in 2003. I think my friend Anne met him once. Did you, Anne? Anyway, I've only read the first few pages, but wow, is this good stuff.

Friday started off with an early-morning breakfast with Larry Fagin, who generously made some time for me. He's a great guy, and like I said, I'm so excited that he's publishing again. He always has fantastic advice (unasked-for); I can see why he's such a busy poetry teacher. What gets me most is his complete devotion to good lines of poetry, and his enthusiasm. It's a real learning experience spending an hour or two with him. Always feel lousy that I have so little to offer in return, though I did give him his contributor's copies of If I Were You, which he thought looked great.

Then, lunch with Padgett. He signed and lettered the special editions of the new book. He let me look at his copy of Bean Spasms, a huge and now-rare book for which he collaborated with Ted Berrigan and Joe Brainard. I'd never looked through it. It is incredible. I've got an appointment tomorrow to check out a local book dealer's copy: if I buy it, it'll cost me about as much as a Toronto-New York flight (I flew from Buffalo, though, so I figure I can buy this book). Ron and I had some mediocre matzoh-ball soup at a nearby deli and talked about travelling. He's such a nice guy. And then Richard Hell walked in by chance and I got to meet Richard Hell. I guess this kind of thing happens in New York, where everyone is famous.

In the evening, I went to the Pink Pony West reading series at the Cornelia Street Café. It was packed. The open-mic list went into overflow. I got the last spot, at #31, and we'd only get there if time permitted. So I didn't expect to read. There was a lot of bad stuff in the open mic, and some pretty good stuff. The feature performer was Bruce Weber with two additional voices, and I just couldn't concentrate (or hear) from the back of the room. To my surprise, I got to read, and I read two short poems, which went over well. I gave out some poetry leaflets afterwards and a bunch of the regulars invited me to join them for dinner on Bleecker Street. I went. Among them was Bob Heman, whose work I knew but couldn't recall why. Turns out he has been published a lot in Joel Dailey's Fell Swoop, and in John M. Bennett's Lost & Found Times, magazines that I've also appeared in. And both he and I were in Bennett's Loose Watch anthology. He gave me a copy of his litmag clwn wr, and it's really good: all the poems are under 20 words in length. Nice buncha people, the Pink Pony regulars.

Moving right along, here's the cover for my new book. It's by the great Gary Clement. The launch info is on that vertical bar to the right.

Over and out.

02 April 2007

I spilled some poetry on my shoe

The first Patchy Squirrel Lit-Serv delivery went out tonight to 131 subscribers!

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Really enjoyed Camille Martin's Poetry as Plagiarism workshop last weekend. It was real nice to be able to concentrate on my own poetry for a whole day. And then on Thursday I wrapped up Get Your Hands On My Poems! at This Ain't: very pleased with how my first critiquing workshop turned out: it appears that not all workshops automatically turn their participants into Lorna Crozier clones. In fact, each of the participants in my workshop had very strong identities, which they honed and experimented with over the six weeks.

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Was glad to help celebrate the launch of Emily Schultz's first book of poetry, Songs For The Dancing Chicken, from ECW Press, at the Gladstone this past week. I was the copy-editor on Emily's book and she was a pleasure to work with. The first section of the book is built around the films of Werner Herzog, and the launch featured an onstage interview of Emily by Jason Anderson while Herzog clips flickered along in the background. I was saddened by the absence of The Strange Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser, my favourite Herzog. Emily's book is great, though, and really nicely designed.

The long, long journey of editing David W. McFadden's volume of selected poems is just about done. We're at the page-proof stage. David took me on quite a trip through the process, but a very educational trip, with lots of excellent visits to our local bar, Legends. Perhaps the toughest part for me was writing the introduction: but, in the end, Insomniac's copy-editor declared it "adequate." So that was a big relief. I strive for adequacy. The book should be released sometime in late May. It's going to be one of the most enjoyable and readable books of Canadian poetry ever.

In the meantime, I'm cheerleading Lillian Necakov as she puts together a new book of poetry. Some months back, Denis De Klerck nabbed me as I was leaving a Mansfield Press book launch. He'd read my Confessions Of A Small Press Racketeer, the essay where I whined about how some press should let me put a poetry book of my choice through, and he offered me exactly that opportunity with Mansfield. (Bev Daurio of Mercury also generously — and in a great leap of faith — took me up on my challenge a few years back, and the result was Mark Laba's brilliant book Dummy Spit, which sold probably in the, um, double digits....) Anyway, it was really exciting to mull over what book I would like to see exist. And I decided that a new book by Lillian would fill a void in Canadian poetry publishing. If things go well with this, Denis says he'll continue the experiment.

Another book that I had a light and early editorial hand in has just come out from BookThug: Sandra Alland's Blissful Times, which is an incredible departure from her first book, Proof Of A Tongue (which I edited for McGilligan Books). Sandra is an extremely brave writer, and this collection of 60 or so "translations" from a passage by Samuel Beckett is a wild conglomerate of writing approaches and results. It's going to confound a lot of people, and I think it still even confounds Sandra herself in ways, but it's also going to give a lot of readers an awful lot of pleasure.

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It's late. I must sleep. I need my energy for the Passover seder: the little finger puppets for the ten plagues are going to take a lot of concentration.

Matzoh and out.